It me — I’m back with a pile of gaming headsets at my desk, working for the gamers out there wondering what is even worth spending $199 at most on a single bass-bumpin’ peripheral.
Well, there are six competitors: Razer Barracuda ($159), HyperX Cloud III Wireless ($169), Corsair HS80 MAX WIRELESS ($179), Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Max ($179), SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7X Wireless ($179), and Razer BlackShark V2 Pro ($199).
Let’s see if these can be even considered some of the best gaming headsets, and if so, which one comes out on top.
The Razer Barracuda is a wireless gaming headset that features 50mm Razer TriForce Titanium audio drivers, integrated noise-canceling mics, a pleather headband, fabric memory foam ear cups, and 2.4GHz and Bluetooth connectivity. Overall sound is clear, but muted.
“Remnant 2” — Running around N'Erud, fighting Abomination for the umpteenth time, my revolver shots were clear, albeit a little soft. When the boss made that soul-sucking noise it does, it wasn’t very threatening. Even when it was rolling toward me and smacking me around, the attacks didn’t sound impactful. However, I heard everything clearly, from my character cursing under their breath to the intense sci-fi music highlighting the boss battle.
“Final Fantasy XVI” — Despite mowing through hordes of baddies, you could have convinced me I was attacking the air, because my sword slashes and phoenix flame sounded like background noise. Even when I fought Typhon in my massive Ifrit form, the physical attacks were muted and did not represent the visual intensity I saw on screen. The dialogue sounded OK, but even then, it wasn’t very present.
“Afterlife” by Holding Absence — The opening vocals are supposed to blow my head off, but all I got were some muted vocals. Meanwhile, the background guitar is designed to be noisy, but all of that blends into a soft, non-abrasive sound, which is not the intended effect. Ironically, it’s because of that the guitar blends in the background, making it difficult to hear the riffs. The drums were clear, but suffered from a similar issue as the vocals.
“SLEEP WHEN IM DEAD” by Kami Kehoe — Opening vocals were clear, but not crisp. The following guitar was also clear, but it missed that bright and noisy vibrancy that you’d expect from an electric guitar. The percussion had a similar issue, where I could hear it clearly, but there wasn’t enough bass to make it shine. All of the instruments sounded distinct from one another, but none of them stood out.
HyperX Cloud III Wireless
The HyperX Cloud III Wireless is a wireless gaming headset that features 53mm neodymium drivers, a detachable microphone, a pleather headband, pleather memory foam ear cups, DTS:X Spatial Audio for PC, and 2.4GHz connectivity. Overall sound is loud, but hollow.
“Remnant 2” — I unloaded my revolver into the Abomination’s face once more, and the gunshots were loud and even a bit sharp. The music was blaring in my ear as I was swarmed by ads in the boss arena, but the horned instruments sounded hollow. When I was getting whacked by Abomination, the blows were meaty and thick. Even when I shot an explosive on the ground, it hit me with a pretty solid oomph.
“Final Fantasy XVI” — Every slash and swipe wasn’t as present as I wanted it to be, but they still produced satisfying effects ranging from meaty to crunchy. The dialogue was loud and clear. Meanwhile, the music was consistent, but there wasn’t a lot of oomph. When fighting as buff-boy Ifrit, the attacks I landed had a similar issue to my normy attacks, where it was satisfying, but not as full as it could have been.
“Afterlife” by Holding Absence — The opening vocals were decent, but they took a backseat to the opening electric guitar. Throughout the song, the guitar got a little noisy and muddled itself with some of the other instruments. However, the percussion was impactful, and the cymbal was especially noticeable. And the background vocals almost matched the level of the main vocals, which sounded weird.
“SLEEP WHEN IM DEAD” by Kami Kehoe — Clear vocals kick off the song, and the following electric guitar was bright. It wasn’t as crisp as I wanted to be. The percussion was on top of every beat, accenting the other instruments at the right intensity. However, the background vocals also sounded more forward than it should have been. Despite that, all the instruments were distinct, if a bit hollow.
Corsair HS80 MAX WIRELESS
The Corsair HS80 MAX WIRELESS is a wireless gaming headset that features 50mm drivers, a flip-to-mute microphone, a ski-goggle headband, cloth memory foam ear cups, Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio for PC, and 2.4GHz and Bluetooth connectivity. Overall sound is pronounced, but compressed.
“Remnant 2” — When Abomination hurled a stack of bombs my way, the clink of metal on metal was sharp. Firing my pistol and rifle created a strong sound, making combat feel more weighty. It screeching at me from across the room was clear and disturbing. I could even hear the rippling of water as it rolled behind me. The dialogue was loud, but the music melted into the background against the rest of the sound effects.
“Final Fantasy XVI” — I turned into a ball of fire and rammed into a group of enemies, which sounds awesome, but the ride offered low bumps and a medium finish — not what I’d call intense. My Garuda attacks were pleasantly sharp, but the regular sword attacks lacked that meaty hack I’ve been waiting to hear. The dialogue was loud and present. My attacks as Ifrit, however, were so compressed that it blended in with the overall noise of combat. The music had a hard time keeping up, too.
“Afterlife” by Holding Absence — It’s like someone was holding their hand over the singer’s mouth while singing the opening. This headset can get hella loud, but that doesn’t stop the intense compression across the board. I want full sound, but I don’t want to go deaf. Despite all that, I could hear subtle guitar notes throughout the track I never noticed before. And the percussion was popping off with big beats.
“SLEEP WHEN IM DEAD” by Kami Kehoe — The vocals were loud, but the richest parts of Kami’s voice sounded like it was compressed. I was impressed with how distinct the guitar riff was, and especially how thick the percussion came off. Each instrument was easily distinguishable from one another, but they were suppressed from providing their full sound.
Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Max
The Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Max is a wireless gaming headset that features 50mm Nanoclear neodymium drivers, a flip-to-mute microphone, a pleather headband, pleather memory foam ear cups, and 2.4GHz and Bluetooth connectivity. Overall sound is crisp, but finicky. Unfortunately, I experienced some connectivity issues. I adjusted the volume on the headset and I noticed the audio cut in and out, which is when I realized that’s where the antenna was. So if you cover that small portion of the headset, where your hand is going to be to adjust the volume, the audio will cut out. A major design flaw to consider.
“Remnant 2” — Gunshots were crisp, but it sounded crunchy instead of booming. When I popped the metal plates off of Abomination, it produced satisfying clanks. However, I noticed with louder sounds, the headset sounded congested. The dialogue was clear, but the music was overshadowed by the sounds of battle. The boss also didn’t sound threatening either, as its screeches and attacks were low.
“Final Fantasy XVI” — While my attacks were still a bit low, they were present. Finishing an enemy off with a sword to the chest sounded heavy. Some of my abilities, however, still sounded way softer than their visual impact would lead me to believe. Meanwhile, the dialogue was clear. When fighting as Ifrit, my physical attacks and fireballs were distinct and meaty, albeit a bit on the low end.
“Afterlife” by Holding Absence — There’s a subtle crispiness in some audio devices where you can hear how the vocalist’s mouth moves when they sing — that’s what the opening sounded like on this headset. The guitar was bright and heavy, while the drums were bassy and present. The piano was difficult to suss out during the chorus, overshadowed by the guitar.
“SLEEP WHEN IM DEAD” by Kami Kehoe — Crisp vocals opened the song followed by an insistent percussion. The electric guitar was explosive, filling the stage with sound while hitting every distinct note clearly. Across the board, the instruments were distinct and on point, but the sound was a little dense — on the verge of getting muddled.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7X Wireless
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7X Wireless is a wireless gaming headset that features 40mm neodymium drivers, a retractable microphone, a stretchy overhead band, AirWeave memory foam ear cups, and 2.4GHz and Bluetooth connectivity. Overall sound is present, but soft.
“Remnant 2” — Smashing my head against Abomination once more, my gunshots sounded like they were tuned properly, but were just too soft to feel like I had any control in this fight. Even when an explosive hit the wall behind me, I wasn’t impressed. Knocking the metal plates off of the boss did produce that satisfying clang. I could hear everything clearly, from the boss’ screeches to my rolls around the arena, but it was just a bit soft. The dialogue, however, was sharper.
“Final Fantasy XVI” — Every slash and teleport I made around the arena produced a solid sound. Again, it’s soft, so I wasn’t getting the full range. However, when I blasted a wave of enemies with my charge attack, I could hear the short, but intense burning followed by a big meaty slash. The dialogue was solid, not too soft or too sharp. When charging in as Ifrit, the distinct snarls beneath the thick slashes were satisfying, engaging me in the fight. Even when I staggered Typhon, there was a pleasant crack that followed.
“Afterlife” by Holding Absence — It opened with clear vocals, but was followed by a soft electric guitar — tough to nail down the specific notes it was reproducing. Between the intense vocals, vibrant guitar, and consistent percussion, the track was decently balanced and each of the instruments were distinct. However, I can’t help but notice there’s some detail lost in how soft the sound attempts to be.
“SLEEP WHEN IM DEAD” by Kami Kehoe — Clear vocals with a bit of pleasant reverb carried the sound as if I was at a concert. The electric guitar was vibrant and present, every note accenting the vocals, but not overtaking them. I could hear every beat that percussion pushed through. All of the instruments were distinct, in harmony with one another. Maybe the guitar could have been a little sharper, as it does lose some clarity because of how naturally noisy it is.
Razer BlackShark V2 Pro
The Razer BlackShark V2 Pro is a wireless gaming headset that features 50mm Razer TriForce Titanium audio drivers, a detachable microphone, fabric headband, fabric memory foam ear cups, and 2.4GHz and Bluetooth connectivity. Overall sound is immersive, but unbalanced.
“Remnant 2” — The bombastic track that plays when you’re battling Abomination was at the forefront of this confrontation, matching the intensity of my rifle rounds, which were on the higher end. I could hear this flesh ball gurgle more than I would have liked, but I’ll give credit to the headset for catching that. The blasts of poison that landed near me were explosive, highlighting the danger of the fight. The dialogue afterward was not as loud as it could have been.
“Final Fantasy XVI” — I was immediately into what was happening when I heard my Flames of Rebirth pop off and explode the enemies around me. The music was front and center of all the action as I spun my way through enemies with Garuda’s claws. The dialogue matched with the level of the music, for better or worse (I would have liked it to be more crisp). When Ifrit took the wheel, the dodging and racing around the felt got my blood pumping as I could hear the flames vibrate. When blasting Typhon with combos, the fire blasts were heavy, but not overbearing.
“Afterlife” by Holding Absence — Opening vocals were clear, but the electric guitar was less of a background star this time around. When the chorus kicked off, the guitar and vocals were fighting for first place. And while the percussion was concise, it got overshadowed by the rest of the instruments. However, it would occasionally trade places with the guitar during other bits of the track, but either one kept pace with the vocals.
“SLEEP WHEN IM DEAD” by Kami Kehoe — Loud vocals were followed by a bright electric guitar that was at the forefront. The percussion kept up with the guitar, hitting some solid bassy beats. However, keeping up with the guitar means keeping up with the vocals, so they were all at pace with one another. I liked the sound, but it was fundamentally unbalanced, so for better or worse it’s like you’re hearing a different version.
The overall winner is Razer BlackShark V2 Pro.
I could say this was a tough decision, but it really wasn’t. The Razer Barracuda and Corsair HS80 MAX WIRELESS died off immediately because I cannot stand compressed or muted sound. The next one to go was HyperX Cloud III Wireless — despite offering a wide soundstage, there were a lot of holes in it.
I wanted to love the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7X Wireless because of how present everything was, but it was just too soft, losing vital parts of combat and music. Then there was the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Max, which is honestly great and I would recommend it as second best, except it had issues that went beyond sound. Nothing would get me to rage quit faster than a headset with poor connection. Meanwhile, as soon as I heard the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro throw me into the world of Final Fantasy, I was sold. It was the only headset to actually capture the intensity of combat in that game. Yeah, it has balancing issues, but it was also the most immersive of the bunch.
The aforementioned headsets all have their pros and cons, and you might want a different audio profile than me, but my favorite headset is Razer BlackShark V2 Pro.
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Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.