A good gaming headset is an essential part of every PC gamer’s arsenal. But while it might be tempting to focus on eye-catching features and design, the most important aspects of any headset are microphone and sound quality. That’s what our picks for the best gaming headsets under $100 center around.
These gaming headsets from Roccat, SteelSeries, HyperX, and Logitech succeed at offering high quality sound and impressive microphone quality for affordable prices. We think the $50 to $100 price bracket is where you get the best combination of value and quality. But enough preamble, let’s get to our picks.
Our Favorite Gaming Headphones Under $100
There’s a lot of competition in the sub-$100 wireless gaming headset space; companies like SteelSeries, Logitech, and Corsair all have strong products that we’d be happy to recommend. But Roccat’s Elo 7.1 Air Wireless gets our pick here for its features, sound, and 24-hour battery life.
Sound-wise, the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air starts on the right foot with strong midrange and treble frequencies that make up for its boomy bass. It’s not a neutral pair of headphones, but it still has above-average audio quality for a gaming headset. The Elo 7.1s are more balanced than a lot of cheaper gaming headsets.
A Note On Frequency Response Graphs
We’ve included frequency response graphs for all the headphones on our list. They won’t replace auditioning a pair yourself, but they can help provide a rough idea of how a pair of headphones will sound.
Frequency response graphs have two axes: the horizontal axis shows the frequency. Bass notes are to the left, the midrange is in the middle, and treble is on the right. The vertical axis indicates the volume of each frequency, as shown by the squiggly line. The higher the line, the louder those frequencies are when you’re listening to music or games.
For a more in-depth explanation on frequency response graphs, click here.
Of course, nothing’s stopping you from using Roccat’s Swarm software to tweak the sound to your liking. The software also lets you adjust the relatively subtle RGB lighting on the brand name and logo.
However, we think the most notable feature in Swarm is what Roccat calls “Superhuman Hearing™.” Superhuman Hearing “automatically boost[s] critical in-game sounds” by compressing audio and boosting the Elo 7.1’s midrange. This boost helps highlight footsteps, reloads, voices, and other sound cues important in competitive FPS. Superhuman Hearing is available for both stereo and 7.1 surround modes.
The Elo 7.1’s noise-canceling microphone also impresses, offering a balanced sound that doesn’t cut out the bass from your voice for the sake of clarity. If mic quality is critical for your needs, this is the pair to check out first.
The gaming headset also has a dedicated mic monitoring knob that lets you hear your own voice. This is particularly handy for making sure you’re not speaking too loud and interrupting (or drowning out) your teammates’ comms.
We’re also impressed by the Elo 7.1’s metal construction and “ProSpecs™ Glasses Relief System.” The Glasses Relief System uses softer foam in the section that rests against glasses frames, making the Elo 7.1 Air a safer buy for glasses-wearing gamers.
Roccat’s Elo 7.1 Air has a lot going for it. You get a metal body (rare at this price point), solid sound, an above-average mic, and 24-hour battery life. There’s also the handy Superhuman Hearing feature if you’re a competitive gamer. It’s a great product and easily one of the best wireless gaming headsets you can buy right now.
Logitech makes a wide range of gaming headsets, but the one we like the most at this price point is the Logitech G533. While it technically MSRPs for $150, it can regularly be found for under $100 which qualifies it for this list.
The Logitech G533 has an exciting sound signature with a lot of sub-bass. While most other gaming headphones either cut the sub-bass or at least avoid boosting it, Logitech has gone full-on with it. If you’re a bass head looking for the maximum amount of rumble, this is the gaming headset for you.
The G533 complements its huge bass with a bright, in-your-face treble. The midrange isn’t bad, but it is a bit recessed compared to the bass and treble. The G533’s default sound signature lends itself more to cinematic single-player gaming than ranked matchmaking in CS:GO.
Since it’s a wireless headset with its own companion software, you can adjust the G533’s EQ with Logitech’s G Hub software. G Hub also lets you set mic sidetone, mic volume, and 7.1 surround sound settings on a per-game basis.
Like the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air, the Logitech G533’s microphone has active noise-canceling to ensure your comms are always crystal-clear. Logitech tuned the microphone to emphasize clarity over mic sound quality, resulting in a tinnier sound than the Roccat. It’s decent enough for voice comms, but you’ll want something else for streaming or voice calls.
One aspect where the Roccat Elo 7.1 has the Logitech G533 handily beat is in battery life. Logitech claims 16 hours of battery life for the G533, which trails significantly behind the Roccat’s 24. While it’s not a huge issue, we think it’s worth considering when you’re choosing between the two.
All in all, the Logitech G533 is still one of the best wireless headsets, and it only loses out to the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air by a tiny margin. We don’t think you can go wrong with either.
HyperX’s Cloud Alpha is often considered one of the best gaming headsets, and it’s not hard to see why. Unlike many gaming headset manufacturers, HyperX has avoided overstuffing the Cloud Alpha with features or gimmicks.
The Cloud Alpha simply offers good sound quality and an above-average build, both of which set it apart from the competition. Sound-wise, the only issue with the Cloud Alpha is a significant dip in the treble. This will make some audio and instruments sound duller than they should be. Thankfully, it shouldn’t affect the midrange detail essential for the best gaming headsets.
Beyond that, though, the HyperX Cloud Alpha is as neutral as you’re going to get at this price point. The bass hump helps add body to the action without drowning the rest of the spectrum out.
HyperX has opted for aluminum hinges and leatherette ear cups, adding durability and a slight premium feel to the Cloud Alpha. It also sports a detachable braided cable with an inline microphone and audio controls. A detachable cable might not seem like a big deal, but it means that it’ll be a lot easier to swap cables if you ever break one.
The Cloud Alpha’s detachable mic is also above-average. While its noise-canceling is relatively standard, the Cloud Alpha’s mic boasts a fuller sound that captures bass better than most competing mics. If you’ve always felt that gaming headset mics make your voice sound tinny, then the Cloud Alpha has the mic for you.
While we appreciate the HyperX Cloud Alpha’s simplicity, some may miss the software-based EQ or mic adjustments you get with some other gaming headphones. The Cloud Alpha can also be somewhat uncomfortable for glasses wearers or those with wide heads. If you fall into either camp, we’d suggest testing a pair first if possible.
Beyond those potential drawbacks, there aren’t really any issues with the HyperX Cloud Alpha. What you lose in gimmicky features and customization you gain in build and audio quality. We’d much rather take the latter at this price point, which is why we consider the Cloud Alpha one of the best gaming headsets under $100 right now.
That said, if you want more customization and software control, check out our next pick.
The SteelSeries Arctis 5 is essentially the philosophical opposite of the HyperX Cloud Alpha. Instead of a sole focus on versatile sound, the Arctis 5 tries to combine excellent sound with extra features such as DTS 7.1 audio, RGB, and software EQ.
The SteelSeries Arctis 5 has a similar sound to the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air that we named our best wireless pick. However, the bass boost is even more significant, and there’s also a bit more treble to be had here. The boost bleeds into the low mids, making guitars and voices sound boomier than they should be.
There are also some dips in the high mids and treble that make the Arctis 5 less ideal for competitive FPS than HyperX Cloud Alpha and Roccat Elo 7.1 Air. That said, it’s not the end of the world since you can EQ the Arctis 5 using SteelSeries’ Engine 3 software if you connect via USB.
Beyond EQ, Engine 3 lets you adjust microphone volume, microphone sidetone, and the level of compression on your voice. You can also set your lighting colors and patterns in Engine 3 and enable or disable the Arctis 5’s DTS 7.1 surround sound.
The SteelSeries Arctis 5 also comes with a hardware ChatMix dial that works over USB. The dial lets you adjust the balance between game and chat audio. It isn’t necessarily a killer feature, but it’s a nice feature to have if you rely on voice comms regularly. You’ll no longer have to Alt-Tab out of a game just because your teammates’ mics are too loud.
Of course, all of these features (including the ChatMix dial) aren’t available if you connect the Arctis 5 via the 3.5mm headphone jack. The headphones still work fine without the USB features, so long as you’re ok with the standard sound signature and don’t need surround sound.
One thing you will have to watch out for is the plastic around the ear cup hinges. We’ve come across many complaints about broken plastic, a weak point of the Arctis 5’s design. While it’s not widespread enough for us to consider it a total deal-breaker, it’s one of the main reasons why the Arctis 5 isn’t our number one wired headset.
Another reason is the extra-long 10-foot cable that tends to get quite messy and unruly. While it’s OK if you plan around it, we prefer headsets with shorter cords that we don’t have to spend too much time managing. The mic quality also isn’t quite up to par with the HyperX headphones.
These complaints aside, the SteelSeries Arctis 5 is still a feature-rich alternative to the HyperX Cloud Alpha that’s worth investigating. Interested in the Arctis 5 but can’t reasonably afford to spend that much? SteelSeries has you covered with our next pick.
SteelSeries’ Arctis 3 retains most of the Arctis 5’s sonic characteristics but removes the USB features to hit a cheaper price point.
Sound-wise, you get the same positives and drawbacks as the Arctis 5. There’s a lot of bass that runs the risk of sounding boomy in some situations. A weak midrange is present here, too, negatively impacting the clarity of voices and important sounds in competitive FPS games.
Unlike the Arctis 5 though, you’re stuck with the Arctis 3’s sound signature. Since it connects using an analog 3.5mm jack, you don’t get access to SteelSeries Engine 3 and its EQ tweaks.
The Arctis 3s are more similar to the HyperX Cloud Alpha in their no-frills approach, albeit without the overall sound quality and metal frame of the pricier HyperX headset. The lack of a USB connection means you also lose out on the ChatMix feature on the Arctis 5, as well as its RGB lighting. We don’t consider either to be massive losses, but it is something to be aware of.
You still get surround sound audio with the Arctis 3, albeit via Windows Sonic and not the DTS solution of its pricier sibling. It’s not a huge drawback, as even the best surround sound solution is still a bit gimmicky. But it’s still something to note if you like 7.1 audio.
The Arctis 3’s mic is much the same as the one on the Arctis 5. The mic quality isn’t exceptional but it also isn’t awful. It’s adequate for PC gaming, but we think you’ll be better served by a standalone mic if you plan to stream regularly.
Overall, we think the SteelSeries Arctis 3 is a step down from the Arctis 5 and other picks on this list. But it’s also cheaper, and the roughly $70 price makes it a solid choice for a good-value gaming headset. Are you trying to keep your spend down without going too cheap? Maybe these are the headphones for you.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get decent sound quality. While you’ll definitely benefit from spending more on a pair of great audiophile headphones for gaming, there’s nothing wrong with limiting yourself to a more reasonable budget. We think you’ll be surprised by how much a gaming headset under $100 has to offer.
We’d recommend checking out Roccat Elo 7.1 Air and HyperX Cloud Alpha first. While all five of our picks are solid, both stand out for their construction, good sound quality, and features. Looking for smaller and more portable solutions? Check out our list of the best gaming earbuds.