Budget headset review roundup: We test five sub-$100 entry-level models

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With the advent of multiplayer voice chat comes the rise of headsets. This once-luxe peripheral is now about as standard as a mouse and keyboard when it comes to the core PC gaming crowd.

And like mouse and keyboard, there’s a lot of competition. Boutique brands have skyrocketed the headset, with the Astro A40 and SteelSeries Elite priced at $200 and the wireless Astro A50 at $300.

This need not be! Whether you’re a gaming headset veteran or just want to test the waters without breaking the bank, there are plenty of affordable, entry-level headset options to get you going in the heat of the game for well under $100. dollars can give orders.

As 2014 drew to a close, we rounded up a handful of headsets under $100 and engaged them in a five-way brawl. At the lower end of the price spectrum — the entry-level, entry-level headset — was the SteelSeries Raw Prism, available for a budget-friendly $60.

The other four headsets we tested all cost $80: Kingston’s HyperX Cloud, Corsair Gaming’s newly rebranded H1500, GX Gaming’s scorpion-esque Cavimanus, and a special glossy white edition of Razer’s Kraken Pro.

We put the headsets through a series of tests, both design and audio oriented.

Design is a tricky business when it comes to headsets, encompassing everything from the shape of the earcups to the durability of the headset and the materials used for overall comfort. It also tells us to look out for some “luxury” features – in-line controls, for example, or controls built into the headset, allowing for on-the-fly volume control and muting.

Then there’s the headset itself. While the focus in gaming is always on the graphics, audio is just as important. The sharp crack of a gunshot, the deep, ominous notes of a cello as you enter a haunted house, or even just the meaningless chatter of Sims – all of these add to your gaming enjoyment, and you’d better listen to the best of what the game has to offer has to offer. And hey, you might not only want to use this headset for gaming, but also for music and movies! How does this experience sound?

We tested each headset with a variety of sounds, from test tones to TV to movies, music and games. As far as games go, we primarily tested with shooters, which tend to have the most elaborate sound design of any modern experience. battlefield 4 is a great reference when you’re trying to put on a new headset and put it through its paces.

And then there’s the microphone, which turns a headset into a headset and not just a simple headphone. Detachable mics, retractable mics, omnidirectional knobs—we’ve got them all in this roundup, and it’s a factor that weighs just as heavily as the audio.

Without further ado, let’s dive in. We’ll have a roundup of more extravagant headset buys soon, but for now, here’s your guide to the budget-friendly headsets of 2014: SteelSeries’ RAW Prism, Kingston’s HyperX Cloud, Corsair Gaming’s H1500, GX Gaming’s Cavimanus, and the white Razer Kraken Per.

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