Gaming Headset Comparison Review


Three PC Gaming Headsets Compared

There are several things to consider if you’re shopping for a new computer gaming headset. Most mid-to-high-end headsets from familiar brands deliver sound that’s pretty good. But do you want wired or wireless connectivity? Do you also want it to work with your Xbox or Playstation? Is it worth paying extra for fancy features like simulated surround sound? And what about aesthetics? Do you want a headset that looks like it could be used to land an alien battlecruiser, or something understated enough that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear it on a quick trip to the corner store?

As with many products, a lot of what makes a gaming headset great at least partially comes down to personal preference. What feels comfortable on your head may be too tight on someone else’s, and one person’s have-to-have-it feature may be something another user may use once or twice, or not at all.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been testing a trio of mid-to-high-end gaming headsets on a few different gaming PCs, while playing several titles, from shooters like Borderlands 2 and Wolfenstein: The New Order, to indie titles like Defense Grid 2, and BioWare’s latest narrative-driven role-playing title, Dragon Age: Inquisition. All three headsets had their own perks and quirks, although one in particular was disappointing—at least to me. Below I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each, to help you decide which one might be the best choice for you.


Mad Catz Cyborg FREQ 5 Gaming Headset

At $189, Mad Catz’s Cyborg FREQ 5 is the most-expensive headset I’m looking at here, and it definitely feels like a well-built piece of hardware. The band, as well as the earpiece anchors and hinge mechanisms are made of metal, while solid-feeling plastic and rubber are used at the top of the headband, and for the buttons and housings of the earpieces. The ear cups are large enough to cover my ears, and while the headset is somewhat heavy, it felt comfortable on my head during extended use.

The FREQ 5 has a mic mute button on the left earpiece, near the nicely flexible microphone arm (which is detachable), and a volume wheel sits on the bottom or the right ear section. When the mic is muted, a ring around the tip lights up, to let you know. This is a nice feature, which is similar to one found in the Logitech headset below. Also on the left earpiece is an EQ toggle that optimizes sound for games, music, or chat.

This is a wired headset, but the cable has a detachable section, several inches down from where it connects to the left earpiece, which allows you to attach either a USB cable or a standard audio jack (both included in the box). Either will work with a computer, but the audio jack means you can also use the headset with a smartphone. The headset doesn’t, however, work with an Xbox or a Playstation, unlike many other wired headsets.

Some other considerations: If you don’t use the USB cable, the volume control and buttons on the headset don’t work. The audio cable is also fairly short, at about 100 cm long, while the USB cable is about twice that. The cable with the audio jack seems mainly designed to allow the headset to be used with a smartphone or a music player. Some will appreciate this feature, but the headset is a bit large to be used on the go with a portable device.

Overall, this headset feels solid, sounds great, and was the most comfortable to wear for long periods, of the three I tested. It also worked flawlessly when I tested it. The main downsides are its price, which seems a bit high, given the wireless Logitech headset costs less and has more features, and the fact that even though it’s wired and has an option for a standard audio jack, it lacks support for current gaming consoles.


Logitech Wireless Gaming Headset G930

The biggest stand-out feature of the G930 is the fact that it’s wireless. It uses a 2.4GHz signal and a USB dongle to transmit sound that’s surprisingly clear and high-quality. Listening to all three headsets in succession, the other two sound ever-so-slightly better, but the G930 still sounds very good. I would not have suspected it was wireless if I hadn’t set it up.

This headset also advertises 7.1 surround sound. Since there aren’t, actually, seven separate speakers in each earpiece, the surround sound is simulated. It works well enough. For instance, dialogue from characters to the left and behind me sounded like it was coming from those areas. But I actually found this more of a distraction than actually useful. It may be more helpful in a stealth action game. But for most users, I wouldn’t recommend choosing this headset over others just because of its advertised surround sound.

Of course, a wireless connection brings potential connectivity issues, and I had mixed results on that front. Many users online complain that this headset frequently drops audio for a few seconds, which could certainly be a problem when you’re trying to communicate with your team in the midst of a heavy firefight.

At first, on a custom-build AMD-based PC, I had no audio issues at all. Sound came through loud and clear, without interruption, even two rooms away, over several hours of use. It was only when I moved three rooms away from the PC, or about 40 feet from the transmitter that the sound started to drop out. Logitech claims you’ll get up to ten hours of playback between charges, but I got about eight. You can also charge the headset while you’re using it (effectively making it wired), and the company includes a handy cable-spooling disk in the box with a USB port on top for the transmitter.

When I plugged the USB transmitter into a second PC (this one Intel-based) the sound dropped out for three or four seconds after about ten minutes of gaming. Then about 20 minutes later, it happened again, and continued to happen three or four times an hour when using the headset with the second PC. I then used the headset with a small Alienware PC (also Intel-based) that I’m testing, and didn’t notice the sound dropping out at all. All three PCs were used within 15 feet of each other, so I’m not sure why I had audio issues with one computer and not the other two. The 2.4GHz wireless band can be crowded, and I live in an urban neighborhood, so interference could be an issue. But again, it worked on the first PC without issue. At the very least, you’ll want to hold on to your receipt if you opt for the G930, in case you have issues with the sound dropping out and want to replace it with a different headset.

As for the G930 headphones themselves, they’re a little lighter than the FREQ 5s, because they’re made of plastic (compared to the metal band). They still feel fairly well-built and solid, but they weren’t as comfortable on my head as the FREQ 5. In particular, the ear pieces made my head sweat after prolonged use. But I also tend to sweat easily, so this probably won’t be an issue with everyone.

The G930 headset has the nicest set of extra features of the three I’m looking at here. The microphone isn’t as flexible as that on the FREQ 5, but it still works very well; it flips up (and mutes) when you don’t want to use it. And it also has a red light on its tip to let you know when it’s muted.

All of the headset’s buttons are on the left earpiece, and there are several, but the most important ones are easy to find. There’s a volume rocker and mic mute button, just like on the FREQ 5. But there are also a trio of programmable buttons on the side of the earpiece. Using Logitech’s Gaming Software (PC and Mac), you can program these three buttons to any key combination or mouse press, just as you would program macros on a gaming keyboard.

If you’re a serious gamer—especially if you don’t have a keyboard with programmable buttons, this can be a very handy feature. I found it particularly useful, even when not playing games. By default, the buttons work in Windows to control music playback. The only thing I didn’t like about the G930’s buttons is the small power button. It’s located on the rear edge of the left earpiece, and it’s small and recessed. This is most likely to keep you from hitting it accidentally while gaming. But it also makes the headset annoyingly difficult to turn off and on, as you have to press the button and hold it for a few seconds.

This headset isn’t officially supported by gaming consoles, but several users claim that it does work on the Playstation 4, but not the Xbox One. Unsurprisingly the buttons and jog wheel don’t work when plugged into the console, but gamers claim the sound comes through just fine. I didn’t have a PS4 on hand to test this, though.

Aside from the annoying audio-dropping issue I experienced on one of three PCs I tested it on, the Logitech Wireless Gaming Headset G930 was easily my favourite of the three I tested. It’s smartly designed, has handy programmable buttons, sounds good, and is wireless. That’s a lot of nice features for a headset that, at $159, is the cheapest of the three I tested. Of course, if the audio drops out regularly for you, it could be a deal-breaker. So be sure to save your receipt.


Sennheiser PC 330 Closed Stereo Gaming Headset

I had high hopes for the Sennheiser PC 330 G4ME headset, as the company has a long history of great-sounding headphones, and I’ve owned more than a few over the years with no major complaints. This wired headset is also the only one of the three that expressly supports both PC and Mac (as the other two do) as well as the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One. This is definitely the most versatile headset here.

But, as soon as I put the headset on, I was surprised by the comfort level. The ear cups are too small to fit over my ears (which for the record aren’t overly large or small). Instead, the headset presses onto my ears, which is made worse by the fact that the band is actually quite tight. There’s a surprising amount of pressure pushing directly on either side of your head when wearing the PC 330.

It’s possible that, over several weeks of use, the band may loosen up. But I used it over a couple weeks, while intermittently trying to stretch the band out a bit, and the PC 330 was still uncomfortable on my head for anything more than 15 minutes or so. Again, my head isn’t huge, and the other two headsets were much more comfortable and less tight, without feeling loose or ever falling off.

The features of the PC 330 are also fairly lean, given its $179 price. There are no extra buttons, programmable or otherwise. There’s a somewhat flexible mic, which flips up when you don’t need to use it (no mute light indicator here). And the right ear piece has a volume control wheel built into the flat disc of the back of the earpiece. But the wheel is stiff, which is made worse by a small, too-shallow depression that you’re supposed to press your finger into to turn the wheel.

The sound quality of the PC 330 headset is good, but I would say that the FREQ 5 actually sounds better. In particular, the Sennheiser headset seems to accentuate mids and highs, while lows sound a little muffled and underpowered. I’m generally not a fan of heavy bass, but here the low-end just seems lacking in both power and crispness—especially for a headset this expensive and feature-sparse.

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Matt Safford

Matt Safford spends his days testing gadgets and writing about technology. He has written for Popular Science, Smithsonian, Consumer Reports, and Wired.

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