How we test headsets on GamesRadar

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When we recommend a gaming headset on GamesRadar, we want that to actually mean something. That’s why we test the headsets we recommend, and use them thoroughly, so you know exactly what to expect when you buy one. We actually have a team that tests hardware for the site, and they’re all very particular about what they put in and around their ears. We know that good audio can make or break a game, on or offline, so having a great headset is vital to the experience. Here’s how we separate the best from the rest.

We use them… a lot

Ok, this seems obvious. But we actually use the headsets for gaming. Where possible we test them with PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, PC and Switch (although some aren’t compatible with all these consoles), and we try out a range of games. Many gaming headsets are designed to enhance louder noises and surround sound, so playing an action game is a must. Spider-Man proves to be a good test of surround sound, and the Battlefield games are excellent for spacial sound - like when you try to pinpoint gunfire, the type of weapon being used, and where that sound is in relation to you. We usually try out 3-4 different games, to test the different ranges of each headset. Some games are heavier on the base, some on treble. Some games are very noisy, some filled with music, whereas others thrive on minimal sound. Headsets need to cater to all kinds of games. When considering the richness of the sound, we look at the headset’s frequency response range, which determines the range of sounds it can output. While some just look at the size of the drivers in the earphones (bigger drivers mean louder sounds), we consider not just how loud they get but what range of sounds they can produce.

We use them for non-gaming things

If you’re spending $200+ on a headset, you’d like to be able to use it for more than just gaming. Unless you’re Scrooge McDuck, swimming in your money pool. So, we always watch a movie and TV show or two too, so see how the headset performs here. It’s amazing how many gaming headsets sound weird or even hollow when faced with an episode of Game of Thrones or a good Star Wars movie. After that, we listen to music too, usually via a mobile phone, and we try to test out a range of songs. For what it’s worth, we even try to make sure the headset has been tested on an Apple and an Android device.

We shout into the mic

Well, not super loud, but we test out the microphone by playing online and making sure people understand what we’re saying. If there are on-headset options for it, we mute the mic, and we unmute it to see how the easy it is to do that kind of thing. If the mic is good at cancelling out background noise, we tell you about it. And if the headset doesn’t actually have a mic, we let you know about that too.

We take our time

There’s a huge difference between wearing a headset for ten minutes, and spending three hours playing Red Dead Redemption 2 while wearing them. We try and keep headsets on for a few hours, to see how comfy they really are, and whether they make your ears toasty. And yes, we test them while wearing glasses too, because we know loads of you have to wear them, even if some of us are lucky enough not to need them. Do your ears get hot over time? Does the headband start to hurt? Are there any problems from prolonged use? This is the stuff we’re looking for when we test the headsets for a lengthy period of time.

We don’t break them, but…

...we do mess with them quite a bit to test how well they’re built. If there’s a problem with any of the components or the parts, we tell you about it. If it feels like the ear-cushions are about to fall off, we check for that. And if there are waaaaaaay too many wires, we pick up on that too, because we know how important a tidy gaming set-up can be.

We rank them according to value and performance

When we create our lists of gaming headsets, we don’t just put the most expensive ones at the top. Sure, they might have the best sound quality, but do they represent the best value for money for what you actually get? Just because something costs $300, does that make it $200 better than a headset that only costs $100? That’s the trade-off. We know how expensive headsets can be, we know it’s a big investment for you, so we want to make sure you’re getting value rather than just spending money. With that in mind, here are our headset guides on GamesRadar.

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