When it comes to choosing gaming audio gear, it’s often a toss-up between headphones and earbuds. Each has its pros and cons, but we prefer earbuds for their portability and improved noise isolation. You might also find some of the best gaming earbuds we’ve listed here to be more comfortable than bulky headphones.
There are a ton of earbuds out there vying for your attention (and money), so choosing a pair can be trickier than you might think. While it’s impossible to cover every set of requirements, we’re confident you’ll find something interesting on our list. So why don’t you stay awhile and listen?
Our Picks for Best Gaming Earbuds
A Note On Frequency Response Graphs
You’ll notice that we’ve included frequency response graphs for all the earbuds in our list. While these won’t replace auditioning earbuds for yourself, frequency response graphs will help give you an idea of how each pair of earbuds sounds. If auditioning isn’t an option, these can help narrow down your choices immensely.
We explain frequency response graphs later in this article but feel free to click here to jump straight to that section first.
If high-quality active noise cancellation is your main priority, look no further than the Bose QuietComfort 20. Admittedly, they don’t have the best sound quality out there, which might be disappointing given the price. However, this isn’t to say that the QuietComfort 20 earbuds sound bad.
On the contrary, they have a reasonably balanced sound signature that avoids over-emphasizing any part of the frequency spectrum. The QuietComfort 20 offers more than enough bass for most users without sacrificing treble response. The only noticeable issue is a dip in the midrange frequencies that may impact instruments such as electric guitar and female vocals.
They have decent sound quality, but you can get better for the price. That said, if you’re gaming in noisy environments, you may find the active noise canceling more critical than that final 10 or 20 percent of audio quality.
While noise-canceling might be the QuietComfort 20’s main calling card, Bose has also included an “Aware” mode that disables two of the four noise-canceling microphones. This lets some ambient noise in, helpful if you plan to use these on the go and need to be aware of your surroundings.
While you’ll need to charge the QuietComfort 20 earbuds to use the active noise cancellation, they’ll still work fine even if the battery’s flat. You’ll just be without the active noise-canceling. This is a big plus for gamers, as it means a dead battery won’t ruin your game.
Do note that Bose has different versions of the QuietComfort 20 for Android and Apple devices. So if you want to use these with your phone, be sure to get the correct version. The Android version is also the one you need if you plan to use the QuietComfort 20 with your PC or laptop, provided it has the correct TRRS port.
EPOS has made quite a name for itself over the past few years with its GSP series of gaming headsets. So it’s no surprise that the company’s true wireless (TWS) offering, the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid, is a solid option for gamers looking for a pair of high end gaming earbuds.
The GTW 270 Hybrids have a solid frequency response that emphasizes some bass notes without going too overboard into boomy, indistinct bass like many cheap earbuds. Unfortunately, a significant dip in the treble will make instruments such as cymbals and woodwinds less vibrant. As a result, you probably won’t want to make these your main music earbuds, which stings a bit given the price.
The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrids’ best feature is arguably the included USB-C dongle. This dongle lets you connect the GTW 270 Hybrid to non-Bluetooth devices like the Nintendo Switch. In addition, the dongle uses an aptX low latency connection to bring the latency down to 30 – 60 milliseconds. That’s significantly better than the 200 milliseconds you tend to get with a regular Bluetooth connection.
There is, however, one big caveat. The built-in mic won’t work if you’re connected via the dongle. So while you’ll be able to game wirelessly with low latency on your Switch, you won’t be able to chat with your teammates. This isn’t a big deal on desktop since you can just use a separate mic, but it is a negative for mobile gaming.
If the lack of a mic is a deal-breaker, you could look into GENKI Audio’s Bluetooth 5.0 adapter. It uses the same aptX low latency connection as the EPOS dongle and comes with a boom mic that you can plug into your Switch. You’ll need to supply your own wireless earbuds or headphones, though.
If you can live with the lack of mic support via the dongle, EPOS’s GTW 270 Hybrid is definitely one of the best pairs of wireless gaming earbuds available. Guaranteed low-latency audio on any USB-C device is a significant plus point that sets these apart from their TWS competition.
3. QCY T5
There are several budget-friendly TWS PC gaming earbud options out there from companies like Razer. As we’ve mentioned before, though, many affordable earbuds tend to be overly bassy. They lack detail and aren’t that great to listen to in the long run. That’s why we’ve gone for QCY’s T5 earbuds, which have a more balanced sound.
Sure, explosions won’t sound quite as massive with the T5s, but we think having more detail in the midrange and treble is more than a worthwhile tradeoff.
Another bonus for the QCY T5s is a gaming mode that drops latency to a relatively manageable 65 milliseconds. Of course, that’s still no match for wired earbuds, but it should make the QCY T5s good enough for casual gaming. You’ll probably want a pair of wired earbuds for ranked matchmaking, though. And that goes for most wireless earbuds, in our opinion.
Of course, the QCY T5s aren’t even in the same league as premium products like the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid above. They feel cheap, and you sacrifice luxuries like the low-latency dongle and high-quality materials. But that’s no surprise, given the price point.
Also, don’t be fooled by the “up to 25 hours playtime” the company quotes. The 25 hours is a measurement that includes the recharges you’ll get from the case. So instead, expect three to five hours of battery life on a single charge.
The QCY T5s aren’t perfect, but they’re also super affordable. So we think the shortcomings are relatively easy to live with. Need a cheap set of wireless gaming earbuds to get you through a boring commute or casual matches? Check these out. At this price, you almost can’t go wrong.
Going by audio quality alone, the Turtle Beach Battle Buds aren’t anything to get excited about. The Battle Buds have overpowering bass and are quite muddy, making them less-than-ideal for detailed listening or female vocals.
However, the Turtle Beach Battle Buds have an ace up their sleeve in the form of a detachable boom mic. Most in-line microphones are generally mediocre at best, so the Battle Buds stand out by offering a better-quality microphone without sacrificing portability.
Reviews indicate that the boom mic handles noise quite effectively, making them one of the best choices if you need a pair of gaming earbuds with a quality mic.
Since they’re wired earbuds, The Turtle Beach Battle Buds are also compatible with more than just PCs. You can plug these into a Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox, or Android phone and get full functionality without any hiccups or configuration. If you frequently switch between multiple gaming platforms, these are an excellent choice of lightweight earbuds.
The ear hooks included with the Battle Buds are a helpful inclusion for gaming on the go, as they’ll ensure the Battle Buds stay in your ear no matter what. Overall, they’re a solid option if voice quality is critical for the games you play, and you don’t want to (or can’t) get a standalone mic. You’ll probably want another pair of earbuds for music, though.
Turtle Beach makes the Battle Buds in two colors: black and silver (pictured above) and teal and white.
Need a set of versatile earbuds that are great for gaming and music? There are quite a few affordable options, but our favorite pair by far is the Tin HiFi T2 Plus. They combine good bass response with a high amount of detail in the higher frequencies.
Unlike many cheap earbuds, the Tin HiFi T2 Plus doesn’t sound muddy at all. Instead, their clarity will allow you to pick out all the detail you need, whether you’re enjoying music or listening out for audio cues in CS:GO.
The smooth aluminum housings help make the T2 Plus a comfortable pair of gaming earbuds, too. That said, it might take a while to get used to wearing the cables over your ear, which is how they’re designed to be worn. Some users also report issues with over-ear cables and glasses. I’ve never had any problems with that myself, though.
While the sound and fit are excellent, especially for the price, the T2 Plus has one possible disadvantage: they don’t come with a mic by default. However, we don’t consider that a massive drawback for desktop gaming. USB microphones like Razer’s Seiren Mini are affordable and will outperform even the best in-line microphone for PC gaming.
That said, if you absolutely must have an in-line microphone, you can get a third-party replacement MMCX cable that has an in-line mic. The Tin HiFi T2 Plus’s cables are detachable, making replacement a snap. This cable should do the trick without breaking the bank. If you need high-quality voice comms on the go, though, you should probably check out the Turtle Beach Battle Buds above.
All in all, the Tin HiFi T2 Plus is an excellent set of budget audiophile earbuds that also happen to be good earbuds for gaming. While you do lose out on the convenience of an included mic, we feel the versatile sound signature more than makes up for it.
Before You Buy
Set to buy one of these earbuds, or plan to do a bit of shopping around to find the best pair for you? Either way, there are a few topics to discuss before you get started on your quest to buy the best gaming earbuds.
Let’s go a bit more in-depth into frequency response graphs and how they can give you an idea of how a pair of earbuds (or headphones) sound.
Let’s revisit the frequency response of the QCY T5 as an example.
The horizontal axis indicates the frequency: bass notes are to the left, the midrange is in the middle, and treble is on the right. The vertical axis indicates volume. The squiggly line shows you how loud the bass, midrange, and treble frequencies are for a pair of earbuds or headphones.
So, in the case of the T5, we can see that it has an elevated bass response and a peak between 2 kHz and 3 kHz. This peak adds a bit of emphasis to guitar and voice, which may or may not suit your preferences and needs.
Having a chart of musical instrument frequencies handy will help. It’ll give you a better idea of the types of sounds or instruments that a pair of earbuds emphasizes. This should do the trick:
Note that since different reviewers use different methods to generate their frequency response graphs, you can’t compare products across reviewers. Ideally, you’ll want to use data from the same source to compare earbuds if you can’t listen to them in person.
If you already have a pair of earbuds or headphones that you like, you can look up the frequency response of those and find gaming earbuds that match those as closely as possible.
Noise Cancellation vs. Noise Isolation
It’s vital to keep external noise out when gaming so that you can hear things clearly and stay on top of the game. The best gaming earbuds achieve this with either active or passive noise cancellation.
With active noise cancellation, the earbuds have microphones that pick up external noise. The earbuds then use the signals from these microphones to generate an inverse signal that cancels out the external noise.
Passive noise isolation doesn’t use any circuitry to block out ambient noise. Instead, passively-isolating earbuds physically block sound from reaching your eardrums when the silicone ear tips sit securely in your ear canal and form a seal against background noise.
All earbuds and headphones will offer some passive isolation. However, models that have ear tips that go deep into the ear canal will provide the best isolation. An example would be the Eytmotic Research’s ER2XR.
Do Your Earbuds Really Need A Microphone?
It depends. If you’re gaming at home on a desktop or laptop, buying a dedicated microphone is probably the better choice. A standalone microphone will almost always sound better than an in-line mic, and it opens up your earbud choices beyond those with built-in microphones.
Want to hear how much better even an entry-level dedicated microphone can sound? Here’s a comparison between an iPhone, an in-line mic, and an affordable lavalier mic:
MAONO makes a USB lavalier mic that should sound similar (if not identical) to the one used in the video. It’s very affordable, too:
Of course, you can also get a desktop USB mic if you’re going to go the standalone mic route. We linked the Razer Seiren Mini above, but there are many affordable options on Amazon that should do the job fine.
Of course, a dedicated mic probably isn’t a great option if you regularly game on the go or use multiple consoles. So it’ll all depend on your needs and set of circumstances.
When shopping for the best gaming earbuds, reviews and frequency response graphs will only get you so far. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and there’s no better way to find out whether a set of gaming earbuds will work for you than testing them out yourself.
To that end, we recommend buying from Amazon for the robust return policy. Even the most experienced headphone and earbud fans have had to return products that didn’t work for them, so don’t be discouraged if your first purchase or two doesn’t quite work out. Use our recommendations as a starting point, but don’t be afraid to branch out to find the exact pair that’ll work for you.