Which USB headset is best?
USB headsets are a popular option for those looking to enjoy high-quality, immersive audio or conversation without disturbing nearby family members or coworkers. Most USB headsets include adjustable headphones and microphones, allowing them to comfortably fit a wide range of users.
The SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless Gaming Headset combines tough construction and a long-lasting battery for up to 20 hours of private, crystal clear listening. The headset’s excellent sound and easily accessible controls make it the best choice for everyone from video game enthusiasts to office workers.
What to know before you buy a USB headset
What you will be using it for
While USB headsets are often marketed towards gamers, they are useful for anyone who needs the ability to listen to and discreetly communicate with others.
- Gaming: Gamers, whether they play on PC or console, often require USB headsets to voice chat with other players or opponents.
- Meetings: Those who sit in on video or audio meetings will find that a USB headset can help them better hear other parties by blocking out background noise. USB headsets also provide audio quality that is superior to most computers’ built-in speakers.
- Media: USB headsets do not require the use of the microphone to operate. Music, audiobooks and movies can all be better enjoyed with the benefit of headphones.
- Call centers: Call centers are often loud environments with many employees sharing the same space. USB headsets allow each worker to filter out the noise and focus on their own conversations.
How USB headsets work
USB headsets plug directly into the USB port of PCs, game consoles and other devices. The cable provides the headset with both power and data. Wireless USB headsets contain a battery that allows them to be used without being directly plugged in. These models require regular charging either via their USB cable or proprietary charging dock.
Most USB headsets are simple to set up and merely require being plugged into an available USB port to work as intended. However, users with older devices or those that need an update will have to carefully check the headset’s packaging to ensure compatibility.
Some USB headsets prompt users to download required drivers or software, and those who purchase wireless models will also need to familiarize themselves with the headset’s Bluetooth connectivity instructions.
What to look for in a quality USB headset
Earcups, also sometimes called ear pads, cushion users’ ears while they wear the headset. They also form a seal around the ear to help insulate against outside noise.
Comfort is one of the most important considerations when comparing USB headset earcups. Earcups should be oversized and filled with cushioning such as memory foam or gel. Headsets that have hard pads or put excessive pressure on the ears should be avoided, as this will result in discomfort and pain during use.
USB headsets designed for gamers will include two oversized earcups. This is because video games are best enjoyed while fully immersed in their sound design, music and effects.
USB headsets marketed towards professional users typically will only have a single earcup. These headsets are designed to allow the wearer to focus on their communication and work hands-free while still being able to listen to those around them when their attention is needed.
Inexpensive USB headsets often sound thin or tinny, meaning that those seeking a premium audio experience will have to purchase more expensive models.
Higher-end USB headsets with large, fully enclosed earcups can achieve deep bass and high fidelity sound. Many provide 7.1 surround sound, allowing the listener to hear audio coming from different directions and distances. This feature is highly sought after by video game players, as modern games are designed to take full advantage of this immersive feature.
Design: USB headset models cover a wide range when it comes to microphone design. Some feature microphones that have a limited number of usable angles while others have them on fully flexible arms that can be bent to the wearer’s preferences. Other models include microphones that can be folded into the headset’s earcups or rotated completely out of the way while not in use.
Sound quality: USB headset microphones are not known for their high fidelity sound, with many low-priced models experiencing crackling, distortion and drops in audio.
High-end USB headsets, however, often include features that address this problem by canceling background noise or applying adjustments to incoming audio that emphasize vocal clarity.
How much you can expect to spend on a USB headset
Simple, budget models of USB headsets can be $25, but it may cost $350 or more for fully-featured units designed by premiere audio engineering companies.
USB headset FAQ
Q. How can I adjust the settings on my USB headset?
A. Most USB headsets allow users to customize their settings with buttons located on the unit itself, a control dongle built into the cable or via the headset’s software. Many devices such as PCs or tablets will also have their own volume adjustment options.
Q. Why do some headsets include a 3.5-millimeter jack in addition to a USB cable?
A. Some USB headsets include this jack to allow them to be plugged into smartphones, handheld video game consoles or tablets that do not include a USB port. However, not all headsets equipped with a 3.5-millimeter jack are fully compatible across all such devices.
Q. What is the best USB headset for travel?
A. Many USB headsets are collapsible so you can fold them down for easy storage or transport. Models that include this feature often come with a convenient, protective carrying case. Travelers who prefer to use USB headsets that are not specifically designed for transit should invest in a shell case with a padded interior to ensure that their device is not damaged.
What’s the best USB headset to buy?
Top USB headset
SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless Gaming Headset
What you need to know: This wireless USB headset features rugged, reinforced construction and great audio quality.
What you’ll love: The battery in this headset can last up to 20 hours on a charge. Its steel headband is strong and customizable. The device’s volume and microphone controls are easily accessed on the earphones.
What you should consider: This USB headset’s high price may turn off some potential users.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top USB headset for the money
What you need to know: The best choice for people who work in call centers or otherwise spend a great deal of time working on the phone.
What you’ll love: This USB headset is highly compatible across a variety of setups and is comfortable enough for extensive use.
What you should consider: Users have noted that this USB headset does not excel at blocking out unwanted background noise.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
SADES Multifunctional Gaming Headset
What you need to know: These earphones block outside noise but provide powerful bass and excellent audio fidelity.
What you’ll love: Soft, memory foam earpads and a rotating microphone provide hours of comfort. This headset’s subwoofers allow for powerful bass that is great for gamers and movie fans.
What you should consider: This USB headset is on the larger side, which may cause some discomfort for children.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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