Xbox headsets have come a long way. Where once, the only choice for Xbox communication was little more than a glorified cellphone headset, the market now offers wide variety of options that run the gamut from tiny Bluetooth earhooks to over-the-ear programmable surround sound headsets designed for hard-core console gamers. As this is a list of the five best Xbox 360 gaming headsets, the focus will be more on the latter than the former.
One important aspect of Xbox gaming headsets for aspiring upgraders to understand is the definition of wireless in Microsoft-ese. Microsoft, being extremely protective of its proprietary technology, doesnt allow third parties to tap into the 360s RF frequencies. That means the only way for a third-party headset to communicate on Xbox live is via connection to your Xbox 360 controller. So, even headsets that feature wireless in-game audio will still use a cable for communications purposes (with one notable exception, which also happens to occupy the top spot on this list). The 360s controllers are wireless for the most part, so its not usually a huge issue, but it is something to be aware of.
While not every selection below will have the specs to satisfy the most serious gamers, the following five headsets offer the best audio performance, comfort, build quality, and real-world value available for Xbox 360 gamers.
The Turtle Beach XP500 improves on the industry leader's flagship PX5 headset by adding wireless Xbox Live chat functionality. Not only is the XP500 the first headset made by a third-party manufacturer to have this feature, but it also retains all of the quality, flexibility, and comfort that made the PX5 so good. While it is a bit pricey, the XP500 is far and away the best headset Xbox 360 gamers can lay their hands on. Read Full Review
If youve read the review of Turtle Beachs excellent PX5 headset, which took the top spot on the Best PS3 Gaming Headsets list, this review might seem a little familiar. The PX5 is Xbox-compatible, and would have had a strong shot for the top spot on this list as well, but for the introduction of the XP500. The XP500 is basically the same headset as the PX5, but with one added bonus wireless Xbox Live chat.
The XP500 is actually the first third-party headset that is completely wireless. No audio cables, no USB cables, no communication cable to the controller this headset allows you complete freedom of movement. Turtle Beach worked around Microsofts RF secrecy by simply using a Bluetooth transceiver rather than a cable to connect the headset to the controller. The small transceiver has a 2.5mm plug that clicks into the 360 controller, and it pairs with the headset for totally wireless communications. The system also conveniently allows the headset to be paired with other Bluetooth devices, like mp3 players and mobile phones, so that your intense gaming sessions wont cause you to miss any important calls.
Setting up any wireless Xbox gaming headset requires a few simple steps to get the audio from the Xbox to the headphones. In the case of the XP500, an optical audio (TOSLINK) cable connects either directly from your Xbox 360 Slim, or from the optical output on your older 360s AV cable, to the XP500s audio transmitter. Those using older 360s who use HDMI to connect their consoles will need to use an optical output from their TV or AV receiver, or a separate HDMI audio adapter, so keep that in mind. The transmitter also needs to be connected to AC power. Throw some AA batteries into the headset and pair it with the transmitter (as well as the aforementioned Bluetooth transceiver) and you are ready to do wireless battle.
The headset itself is sturdily constructed and while Turtle Beach does little bragging about the XP500s padding or ergonomic design, the headset is profoundly comfortable, even after hours of play. Its sound quality is rivaled by very few headsets, and the Dolby Headphone surround sound emulation effectively creates a spacious 360-degree soundstage and generates localized sound effects with pinpoint accuracy and directionality. The sound can further be tweaked using eight pre-programmed audio presets supplied by Turtle Beach, or download the XP500s programming software on your PC, connect it to your headset via USB, and create your own unique sonic profile that suits your exact needs.
The XP500 is one of the more expensive Xbox 360 headsets on the market with street prices in the $250 range, and for many casual gamers, all of its features and programmability may seem a bit overwhelming. Keep in mind its not required or necessary to use all (or any) of the programming options this headset sounds phenomenal right out of the box. Whether youre a casual gamer and just want a totally wireless headset solution, or a hard-core online warrior who wants to tweak every aspect of your audio profile, or, like most of us, you lie somewhere in between, the breath-taking sound quality, all-day comfort, and comprehensive programmability of the XP500 make it, even with its high price tag, the best Xbox 360 gaming headset on the market today.
The Logitech F540 has a ton of high-end features, is an excellent performer, and with its newly reduced MSRP of $74.99 it is an exceptional value. While it does have its drawbacks, that low price, along with its built-in rechargeable batteries, extreme comfort, and absorbing in-game audio makes this headset one of the top five available for the Xbox 360. Read Full Review
While not on quite the par of their superb G35 and G930 PC gaming headsets that won accolades on their respective best headset lists, the F540 is a very respectable performer in its own right.
Setting up the F540 is as simple as any headset on this list. The F540 features wireless in-game audio (but requires a communications cable between the headset and controller for chatting on Xbox Live). The audio transmitter gets connected to AC power and to RCA-style audio connectors for left and right audio. The audio can come from your television, AV receiver, or directly from your Xbox (although if you use HDMI for video, youll need to purchase the 360s optional HDMI audio adapter to connect the console directly to the F540s transmitter). Once the power and audio connections are made, simply connect the 2.5mm audio communications cable between the headset and your Xbox 360 controller (if you want to chat, that is), and youre in business.
One aspect of the F540 in which it equals its PC-compatible brethren is comfort. You could literally fall asleep wearing this headset. The earpads are not too plush, so they offer a great noise-isolating seal, but they keep your ears cool and dry even over extended gaming sessions.
The sound quality of the drivers is excellent with in-game audio. The 40mm drivers produce midrange and high frequencies with great detail and clarity. While the F540 doesnt exactly produce eardrum-crushing low frequency effects, its bass response is very satisfying. Although this is not a surround headset, the soundfield is very spacious and feels enveloping even though localized audio effects are not truly directional.
Where the audio falters just slightly is when using the F540s communications capabilities. There is a slight hiss introduced from the connection between the headset and Xbox 360 controller. Also, the microphones noise-canceling feature was not as effective as others on this list, and since signal from the mic is monitored in the headphones, you have to mute the mic if you are not using the chat feature to prevent background noises from contaminating your in-game audio. Neither of these issues is really perceptible during frenetic online multiplayer action, but its something to keep in mind when considering your headset purchase.
As the set-up procedure indicated, another area where Logitech sets the F540 apart from other headsets in its price range is that its rechargeable. Battery life is excellent, but in the case that you go for several prolonged gaming sessions and forget to recharge it, the F540s USB charging cable can be connected to any nearby laptop or AC-to-USB charger and you can continue to use the headset while its charging.
In all, the positive attributes of the Logitech F540 far outweigh its drawbacks. It is light but sturdily constructed, offers some features not found on headsets that cost three or four times more, and is now an even more outstanding value than ever. This headset would have secured a spot on this list for its original list price of $149.99, but now that Logitech has recently cut its MSRP in half to only $74.99, the F540 is an absolute steal.
The Tritton AX Pro's excellent audio quality and implementation of Dolby Headphone surround sound make it an absolutely compelling experience to use from the moment you place its plush earcups over your ears. It's a bit complicated to set up, and it does tether you to your console with its hardwired connection, but you'll soon forget those drawbacks once it immerses you in its pristine 360-degree soundfield. Read Full Review
The AX Pro is the flagship headset from Mad Catz-owned Tritton. This Dolby Headphone equipped headset incorporates four drivers into each earpod to simulate a 7.1 surround speaker system, and offers one of the most straightforward systems for balancing front, center, rear, and subwoofer volumes of any headset on the market.
Connection of the AX Pro may seem complicated at first, and in fact it is more complicated to set up than most Xbox 360 headsets, but taken step by step, even less technically-inclined users will be able to get it working. First the control box needs to be connected via optical audio cable to your 360. Xbox 360 slim users will find this easy enough. Those with older Xboxes who connect their consoles with HDMI cables will need to purchase a separate HDMI audio adapter, and connect the optical cable to it. Then the headsets ten-foot connection cable gets plugged into the control box. Both the control box and headset require power, so the supplied AC power brick has two outputs one gets connected to the control box itself, and the other to the headset connection cable. Finally the headset itself is plugged into the other end of the connection cable, and youre on your way.
As this procedure reveals, the AX Pro is a totally hardwired headset, meaning cables run all the way from your 360 to your seating position, and moving around the room with the headset on is a precarious proposition at best. On the upside, the system eliminates any batteries and can be left connected to your 360 so it will always be ready to use when you power up your console.
The headset appears a bit bulky, but it adjusts well for a firm but comfortable fit. The interchangeable earpads and headband pad further enhance the fit and give the wearer a choice between soft fabric for heightened comfort, or leatherette for better noise isolation. Theres no metal reinforcement in the headband, but despite the AX Pros all plastic construction, it still seems sturdy and has quite a bit of heft, mostly from the four discreet drivers in each earpod.
Its with those drivers that the Tritton AX Pro really excels. The headset truly showcases the capabilities of Dolby Headphone surround technology with sound quality that rivals any headset on the market, including this lists number one pick. The AX Pro produces a soundfield that is full and rich, with distinct, clear highs, smooth and undistorted midrange, and ample amounts of tight, punchy bass that surpasses not just any headset on this list, but also many audio-only headphones as well. The in-line volume control on the headset connection cable lets you take full advantage of that pristine audio in your gameplay, allowing you to instantly give priority to the rear channels so you can easily hear advancing footsteps and gunfire.
The Tritton AX Pro has a ton going for it. Its worthy of consideration despite its drawbacks, and if it werent for the complicated connection process and the jumble of wires tethering the wearer to the console, the AX Pro would be a strong contender for the number one spot on this list. With Trittons new 100% wireless Warhead headset hitting stores any day, dont be surprised to see a Tritton headset topping the list of best Xbox 360 headsets in the near future.
The Plantronics GameCom X95 is a lightweight, comfortable, and affordable wireless headset that makes a great upgrade from the 360's stock headset for the casual gamer, or even for more serious gamers who might want a lighter and less complex headset to kick back with when they're feeling a bit less competitive. The X95's combination of great sound, long-term comfort, and a street price as low as $60 make it an excellent option for a wide variety of gamers. Read Full Review
The Plantronics GameCom X95 doesnt have the bells and whistles of the other headsets on this list. But not everyone is after the highest tech, most expensive, most feature laden headset available. For the more casual gamer or even a hard-core gamer that just wants to kick back sometimes with a lightweight, comfortable, great-sounding headset, the X95 is a great option.
The X95 is a straight-ahead stereo headset, with no surround sound simulation or multi-speaker earpods. The two 40mm drivers produce sound that is loud, clean, and nicely balanced across its dynamic range, and the convenient earpod-mounted volume controls allow for independent control of in-game audio and chat, so you can stay in contact with your teammates or silence foul-mouthed pre-teens with equal ease.
Setup is as simple as the headset itself; the wireless transmitter gets connected to the 360s USB for power and has RCA-style audio inputs for left and right audio. If you use an HDMI to connect your Xbox, you can use the stereo audio outputs from your TV or AV receiver to supply audio to the X95. If your TV and AVR dont have the outputs, youll need a separate HDMI audio adapter. A 2.5mm audio cable connects the headset to your 360 controller for chat purposes. The headset itself takes three AAA batteries, and the headsets simple design contributes to impressive battery life.
Its definitely not the only headset a serious gamer would want to own, but the Plantronics GameCom X95 does the basics so well for a really down to earth price (the MSRP was just reduced to $74.99), its likely to appeal to a wider variety of gamers than just about any other headset on this list. If youre in the market for a simple, straightforward stereo headset thats comfortable and sounds great, the GameCom X95 may be the best match for you.
The Sennheiser X320 is one of the more expensive entries on this list. It's stereo, rather than surround, and it's hardwired rather than wireless. Listen to it once and you'll understand why the X320 still deserves a spot on this list. Classic Sennheiser audio performance and build quality, along with the decades of know-how that went into producing one of the best noise-canceling mics in gaming, make this headset an excellent choice despite its connection method and price tag. Read Full Review
The Sennheiser X320 is a wired, USB-powered, stereo gaming headset with an MSRP of $149.95. It sounds pretty unremarkable, but the performance of this headset is anything but.
Connecting the headset is fairly straightforward, with connections needed only for power and audio. The power is drawn from one of the Xbox 360s USB ports, and the audio is connected via RCA connections. These can come from the 360s AV cable, the RCA audio outputs of your television if it has them, or with the included RCA-to-3.5mm adapter to the headphone output of your TV or AV receiver. The inline volume control on the headset cable has separate volume controls for chat and in-game audio.
Sennheiser has taken their decades of experience building microphones and headphones for sound reinforcement applications and used it to create a gaming headset with pro-audio quality. The ear capsules implement Sennheisers Open-Aire technology, using vented ear cups to reduce sound deflections in the interior of the ear cups themselves, resulting in clear and precise imaging. The vents have the added benefit of dissipating heat from your ears.
Sennheisers 60-year pedigree in manufacturing headset and lavalier microphones for concerts and broadcasting obviously gives them a leg up on the communications side of headset design. The noise canceling microphone on the x320 reproduces the users voice with crystal clarity, and filters ambient noise from gaming chat more effectively than any gaming headset Ive used.
While $150 is a steep price for a simple stereo wired headset, if sonic performance on both in-game audio and chat is a high priority for you, you cant do much better than the Sennheiser X320..