As technology advances, more and more video games rely on binaural audio and player communication for immersive gameplay. For those reasons, a quality headset can make or break your gaming experience — but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to drop $300 to find a great pair. The best gaming headsets under $100 have tons of advanced features to keep you immersed and in the loop; you just need to know what to look for.
Whether you're headset-shopping for your PC, PS4, Xbox, or Switch, the best options have four essential qualities in common: They produce clear, high-quality sound, they have a reliable microphone, they keep game sounds in and external sounds out, and they're still comfortable after a few hours of wear. Extra perks include wireless designs, active sound-canceling capabilities, and futuristic aesthetics.
First, consider the sound. Dynamic drivers made from neodymium magnets are common in affordable (but quality) gaming headsets because they create low-end frequencies for immersive gameplay. Most modern headsets will offer surround-sound capabilities (also known as dual-speaker) — but be sure to double-check for this feature, especially if you play games that rely on directional sound cues. A 1.0-mono headset will put you at a huge disadvantage, since you won't be able to hear the direction from which an enemy is approaching — while advanced 7.1 stereo has seven speakers and a subwoofer, which improve spacial awareness and enhance depth. A 5.1-stereo set is somewhere in between, and is generally considered good enough for newer games.
Next, pay close attention to the materials, as this will determine both durability and comfort levels. Unfortunately, most affordable headsets will utilize plastic frames; they can be surprisingly durable, but aren't always the best in terms of comfort. Aluminum-frame headsets will be much lighter and less constrictive, but they'll also be pricier — though it's not impossible to find one under the $100 mark. The ear cushions should be made of foam or another shock-absorbing material that not only provides ample comfort, but also creates a seal that boosts isolation (and therefore blocks outside sounds).
Finally, the last major factor is compatibility. Most modern headsets offer multi-platform abilities, meaning that they can be used for various consoles. This is great news for those who game on all different platforms. That said, most come with standard headphone jacks and may require an adapter; pay close attention to whether or not the adapter for your preferred console is included, or if it'll need to be purchased separately. (Wireless headsets often have limited cross-compatibility, and should therefore be purchased for your primary platform.)