If there’s one thing that we love here at RipTen, it’s gaming audio. Meaty explosions, sweeping composition and masterful voice acting can elevate a good game to epic status. As a community, we obsess over the television sets and PC monitors we use to view our favorite titles, but it seems that fewer aficionados respect the soundscape in the same way.

With the advent of voice communication for online gaming, even home theatre systems don’t really do service to intricate aural designs. Sure, the game sounds good, but you’re often left with a crummy packed-in headset for talking with your friends. Enter the gaming headset.

If you’ve never used one of these high-end, designed for gaming solutions, you probably have no idea what you’re missing out on. They offer mixed chat and game audio, so you can hear your friends footsteps sneaking up on you right before their exclamations of dread when they realize you have the drop on them.

RipTen’s Managing Editor, Michael Futter, and Features Editor, Stephanie Gutowski, have both gone through the research and purchase process for personal acquisition. They independently realized the same thing: there is no good resource for gamers when trying to figure out what product meets their needs. We’re here to help you out with some basic education, product evaluations and feature analysis so you can find the best headset match.


There are a number of ways to access the in-depth reviews of the products in the RipTen Gaming Headset Buyer’s Guide. If you have a particular manufacturer that you are fond of, you can scroll down for the list of participating brands. Those links will take you to a page with some basic information about the companies and a list of their products included.

You can also use the comparison guide at the bottom of this page to match up the features you want and use the links (underneath the picture of the product) to go right to those reviews.

Finally, at the bottom of most product analyses, we’ve included “Products to Compare” with links to similarly priced/featured units. There are a number of ways to find the product you’re looking for whether you’re looking for first gaming headset or need to replace the one you have.


As we planned to create the buyer’s guide, the first thing we decided on is that these would not be standard reviews. You won’t find scores or bullet points at the end of each writeup. Instead, we’ve broken down each product, focusing on the following categories:

  • Basic product information (from the manufacturer)
  • Basic description of the product
  • What’s in the box?
  • Aesthetics and durability
  • Ease of setup and use
  • Sound quality and performance notes*
  • Comfort
  • Differentiating features
  • Accessories required/recommended that aren’t included in the base price
  • Concluding summary
  • Comparable product

* In order to standardize our testing environment, we’ve chosen the following samples:

  • Xbox 360: Mass Effect 3
  • Playstation 3: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
  • PC: Fallout: New Vegas
  • Movie: Hot Fuzz
  • Music: Mass Effect 3 End Credits
  • Additional samples will likely be used in addition to these standardized selections.

For the RipTen Gaming Headset Buyer’s Guide we have not put scores on the reviews. There are so many different features, configurations and platform alignments covered that we believe it’s more important to find the right feature set. Simply purchasing a product based on a numerical value isn’t the best use of your money.

Before we get started, there are a number of terms that we’ll be using throughout the process that you should be familiar with.

Stereo – This is the most basic of sound output in gaming headsets. The audio is split into two channels, Left and Right.

5.1 Surround – The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 both output in 5.1 Surround. PCs may or may not, depending on your sound card. This means that there are center (front), a left-front, a right-front, a left-side and right-side channels. Additionally, there is a subwoofer (bass) channel (that’s the .1 part) to create extra depth to the sound field. This creates a more immersive experience, especially through a headset. For instance, in first-person perspective games, turning your character will rotate the positioning of the sound to more easily help you identify incoming foes or quest objectives.

7.1 Surround – In addition to the 6 channels included in 5.1 Surround setups, this configuration includes two rear channels (left and right). There are some games that output natively in this format, but for many titles that only are designed with 5.1 Surround in mind, processors included with 7.1 Surround devices further artificially split the channels to create an the fully enveloping sound field.

Bass Boost – This feature enhances the bass output in a headset for additional depth.

Voice monitoring – Many models include this feature that allows players to more easily moderate the volume of their voice. This is especially useful for headsets that do a superb job of blocking out external noise. The outgoing chat channel is subtly mixed into the soundscape to ensure that it isn’t intrusive.

USB – Headsets with this connection method draw power, input/output chat and/or draw the audio signal through a standard USB port on a PC or game console. Only a stereo signal can be output through this connection method, but some headsets have advanced processing software to simulate surround sound..

Toslink (Digital Optical) – Headsets with this connection method draw surround sound (5.1 or 7.1) via a designated port on the back of the console or on the sound card. Your PC/Mac sound card may be equipped with a combination analog (stereo)/digital optical (surround) port. You will need an inexpensive adapter or Toslink-to-miniToslink cable to take advantage of this hookup.

Analog Surround – Available on some PC sound cards for use with wired headsets. There are three separate ports for sound output: Front Center/Subwoofer/Rear Center (for 7.1), Rear Left/Right, Front Left/Right.

Virtual vs. True Surround – Wireless headsets typically use virtual surround sound, which users a single driver (speaker) in each ear to mimic directionality of sounds. This is typically out of necessity, as more drivers would require additional battery consumption, thereby increasing weight. It would also necessitate transmission of 8 channels and four separate stereo receivers in the headphones. Put simply, it’s not practical. Some wired headsets also use this method, but some do have multiple (up to 10) drivers positioned around the ear for a “true” surround experience.



We’re pleased to be partnering with the following manufacturers for the creation of this buyer’s guide. Each link will take you to the our manufacturer landing page for each, where you can drill down further to the individual products we’ve reviewed. Additionally, we have a handy comparison chart (below) with direct links to each product page in the buyer’s guide.

Astro Gaming







Turtle Beach



We’ve created a handy comparison chart to match up buyers with the features they care about most. Please use the “Fullscreen” link at the bottom to get an expanded view of the chart.



  1. good article, many gamers REALLY need to adapt to 5.1 headsets if they want to appreciate good sound fx.

    I will keep supporting PX21 Turtlebeach because I’m happy with it.
    As for the PX21 comfort wear, as Good which I agree with. Fortunately Turtle Beach has created an updated version of the PX21 that feels newer. The comfort for the newer PX21 I will rate Excellent. (new PX21 uses red logo)
    Due to the fact that my ears does not get too hot unlike the old design PX21 (blue logo) after limited usage.
    Also the ear cups do cover your ears pretty tight and comfy.

    I’m glad I didn’t pay for the newer version.

    But seriously, the turtle beach DSS 2 is what the gamer needs!
    With Dobly Surround Sound processor 1 or 2, it will turn any good headset/headphone into a 7.1 headset/headphone.

    Having a turtle beach PX21 model is fine but really need to adapt to 5.1/7.1 with DSS 1 (I recommend DSS 2), although DSS works with any headphones you have.

  2. In speaking with Turtle Beach, they suggested that we not use the XP500 on a PC and that they have de-emphasized that feature. We honored their wishes and labeled it as a console only system.

  3. I’ve had a an XP400 for several weeks now and I thoroughly enjoy it.  While not designed for PC, it works quite well if you have a sound card with a Toslink port.  In order to connect the voice chat channel, you either need the Turtle Beach audio cable (not included with the XP400 but can be purchased separately from Turtle Beach) and a 2.5mm to 3.5mm jack converter to connect to a computer’s microphone port, or you can connect a wired XBox 360 controller to your PC as a gamepad (even if you still use keyboard and mouse controls) and use the included Bluetooth puck to connect it.  I have a wireless adapter that I connect an XBox 360 controller to my PC with, and the voice chat works just fine through that as well.  

    In my opinion, Turtle Beach may have asked that the XP500 not be listed as PC compatible due to it possibly lacking features/software support that their full PC models may have.

    • If you have a Bluetooth adapter on your PC, you could sync to it as well for voice chat.  Connecting through an Xbox 360 controller prevents you from having to resync the Bluetooth connection every time you switch from PC to Xbox 360.

    • When we had our conference call about this feature with TB, we asked about the cable. Given that this feature is about connecting buyers with the feature sets they need/want and TB’s preference, we chose not to test it on PC.

      It is, officially, a PS3/360 product and was reviewed as such. We are going to continue adding to this guide, and we’ve already got a Roccat headset (yay for having a 5th manufacturer!).

      TB will be sending us more of their lineup, too. We expect that Tritton will be, as well. We have some hints that there are new products coming from a couple of different makers to be announced next week, so this feature will be growing and changing over time.

      • I understand where you’re coming from, I was just saying that despite not being designed/intended for it, the XP400 (which is basically the XP500 without the more “gimmicky” features) works quite well for PC if you’re willing to do a little work to connect it.  In my experience, it’s easier to find a Console headset that also works well for PC than it is to find a PC headset that also works well for a Console. (Xbox more so than PS3 due to lack of native Bluetooth connection)

  4. I have the newer version of the Turtle Beach PX21 and I got my monies worth. TB is always going to be my headphone brand of choice. They just don’t dissapoint.

  5. Thanks for the good options man, i’ve been looking for a new headset ever since i’ve been screwed over by Turtlebeach. I bought a MW3 headset and it shorted out on me, and they had to exchange it 3 different times before i gave up on it so i wasn’t happy. I take good care of my headsets too,, it would just stop working in the middle of use and be DOA. But again, thanks for the options.

  6. For PC, the better option is generally to go for a high-end dedicated headphone and then just buy a cheap decent clip-on mic for voice communication. For the same prize as an Astro you can get significantly better headphones with a decent mic if you just buy’em seperately. The mixamp also doesn’t serve any purpose on a PC if you have a good dedicated audio card from for example Creative.