There are a number of pretty reasonable options when it comes to finding some cheap gaming headphones.
Not everyone has a big budget, and often, you will get more bang for your buck with headphones that are 1/2 or sometimes even 1/3 the price of the more expensive, well known brands.
With that said, below are what we think are the 5 best gaming headphones for Under $50
Best Gaming Headphones Under $50
ONIKUMA K5 GAMING HEADSET
The Onikuma Gaming Headset is a little-known but well-reviewed closed circumaural headset powered by a large 50mm driver.
The design boasts memory foam ear cups and adjustable cup angles, compensating for the bulk of a heavily-built unit which if worn during a lengthy gaming session might contribute to neck pain.
The set includes a built-in noise-canceling microphone and connects to the audio source with a single 3.5mm connector and a separate USB connector for the built-in LED lighting.
Both cords are a respectable 2.1m (7’), and Onikuma includes a splitter that separates the speaker and microphone signal.
The headphones are pretty solid, weighing in at 390g, and the added weight helps to develop the bass response from the drivers, which are nearly 2” in diameter.
The design team has had a field day with this set–blue LEDs on the side illuminate the earpieces, and the style closely approximates a pilot’s headset, albeit with a futuristic take.
The headrest, where the set contacts the top of the head, is large and well-padded.
Considering the bulk of the headphones, this is definitely a necessity – in an age where everything including headphones is getting smaller and wireless is becoming the norm, manufacturers of proven, no-nonsense designs like Onikuma’s have to make the classical option more ergonomically appealing.
Their choice of a large, solid driver harkens back to the headphones of old – it’s no coincidence that many of the pioneering headphone manufacturers still use this approach to this day.
The Beexcellent GM-2 is another large-format, telescoping circumaural headset, and slightly heavier than the Onikuma at a beefy 405 grams.
The well-padded ear cups are exceptionally comfortable, and the set adjusts to fit the shape of your head and ears without being flimsy – in fact, it’s pretty hard to damage this headset, even if you’re trying.
It fits pretty snugly around your ears, and for a headset of its size, it is surprisingly inconspicuous in your peripheral vision.
It is powered by a carefully positioned large-format 50mm neodymium driver, and the frequency response is excellent from 20HZ to 20KHZ.
The cord on this set is also 2.1m, and includes an inline volume adjustment on the cord.
The noise-cancelling mic rotates an impressive 120 degrees, allowing you to adjust the headphones to suit you during a long gaming session.
There are separate connectors for audio (3.5mm) and the integrated LEDs (USB), and this headset boasts compatibility with all major phones, media players and consoles.
The design looks like something out of a Recaro catalog – red padding on a black frame, with mesh-pattern screen between the drivers and the ear cups.
A brushed steel spring holds the cups tight to your ears, helping to prevent sound from intruding while you’re trashing your opponents and listening for their frenzied surrender.
The Bengoo’s large driver and fun design make it a good choice for games requiring a strong bass response.
The microphone on this headset is also a high-sensitivity component, allowing for clear communication during games as well as noise cancelling to complement the circumaural design’s innate noise reduction properties.
The memory foam ear cups on this model are covered by leather, which is a nice change from the rubberized fabric or vinyl that are typically found on gaming headphones in this price range, and the headphones can stretch to fit even the most knowledgeable audiophile’s big head.
The microphone and the earphones share a 3.5mm connector, and the included Y-splitter turns this into two cords at the end of a 2.1m long cord in case the device you’re plugging into requires separate inputs.
The X-40 features universal cross-platform compatibility.
The X-40 is a bestseller, particularly among Mac users, and its brushed nickel and blue light appearance is a close match to the matte aluminum and white light of modern Mac computers – it is a very well-designed unit.
Its audio specifications closely match the other units, and the retro ear cups are a throwback to the model’s lineage in the classic headphone designs it emulates.
Inline volume control and microphone muting signal the model’s intended purpose, however – don’t let the classic design fool you, these are headphones for scattering your enemies before you, and in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan, hearing the lamentation of the women.
The E1 is a premium-quality, economy priced unit that more closely resembles designer headphones than gaming headphones.
Slick, well-stitched leather-look material stretches across the padded headband and earcups, and above the headband two tensioning beams help hold the earpieces tight to keep outside noise out.
The round ear cups give these headphones a more urban look; where the other headsets in this series are designed for casual, social gaming, this model whispers “professional.”
Both the 50mm permanent magnet drivers and the built-in LED lighting are powered by the single 2.1m USB connector.
No setup or driver software is required; they are ready to go right out of the box.
XIBERIA is a little more well-established than its competitors, having been the official partner of the World Cyber Arena in 2016.
Several other designs round out their repertoire, and all of them are high performers that ooze class.
The wire microphone stalk on the E1 is less rigid than those of its competitors, making it infinitely positionable – a plus if you’re playing a game that requires clear voice communication every time.
The noise cancelling functionality of the microphone combined with the excellent frequency response of these headphones makes their sound comparable to that of the larger-format models in this guide, but for those of us who prefer lower-profile gaming headphones, the E1 is hardly noticeable on your head and certainly not in your peripheral vision.
Rimila Stereo Gaming Headset
The Rimila is a new take on the bread and butter of the headphone world: classic matte black with few attention-grabbing details.
It’s the workhorse of this lineup, carrying much of the same functionality as its peers without the aesthetics to draw those of us who seek high design value over measurable acoustical performance.
In a way, these are more representative of the market – they are bringing the old into the new.
There are no flashing lights on this set, but it does feature an integrated noise-cancelling mic that shares a 2.1m long cord and gold-plated 3.5mm connector for maximum versatility.
An inline volume control and microphone mute round out the full functionality of these gaming headphones.
The 90-degree adjustable microphone is efficient and effective without being too extravagant and the whole design is somewhat subdued despite the excellent sound quality that its large driver delivers.
These are not your father’s earphones, but they’re close – a classic and modest design, built heavily enough to withstand abuse but not so overdesigned as to invite it.
If you’re something of a purist, or just plain suspicious of the level of detail that goes into the design of some headsets on this list, these are the headphones for you.
Affordably priced at just under $23, this kit is a good entry into the market for gaming headphones that doesn’t have to shout to the world, “I’m a hardcore gamer” to get the job done.
Marketing doesn’t always work the way it’s intended to, especially when a new design challenges the wisdom of decades of research with a product that looks like ninety-nine percent of its development budget went into its marketing.
So it is with gaming headphones – sleek, curvaceous earpieces with names like Focal Utopia, Razer Electra, or my personal favorite the HyperX Cloud Stinger, purport to know better than decades of acoustical research with overdesigned products that promise to improve (or, in a dead giveaway that the marketing department has gone wild, “enhance”) your gaming experience.
Surely a certain amount of the product filling out this relatively new niche is preying on our weakness for stylish peripherals, but they can’t all be placebos, can they?
In this article, we compare the hyped-up design of modern gaming headphones with their functionality.
But first, it’s important to understand where these designs originate.
Before you invest in a pair of gaming headphones, it’s a good idea – no, an absolute necessity – to get yourself caught up on headphone history.
Headphones emerged as an evolution of the earliest, one-speaker, one-channel handheld telephone earpieces, and were used exclusively by the United States Navy for some time.
Nearly five decades later, John C. Koss developed the first stereo headphones, and the hearing-aid predecessors of earbuds were developed around the same time.
There were several false starts in the intervening years, most notably offerings by Beyerdynamic in the 1930s, but headphones didn’t take off in earnest until Sony released the Walkman in 1979, two decades before the first among the readers of this article ever slapped on a pair of earphones to play Counter-Strike into the wee hours of the morning while our parents snored away obliviously in the next room.
Over the years several different designs have been tried, each pushed by audiophile designers’ hunger for higher fidelity, a measure how closely playback of sound resembles the original recording.
The earliest headphones were circumaural (around the ear, or “closed”) headphones powered by a tiny speaker outside the ear and employing a seal around the ear to block out other sounds.
Superaural designs came into vogue shortly after, resting on the outside of the ear without enclosing it, followed more recently by intra-aural earbuds and in-ear headphones which fit snugly inside the ear.
The former sit outside the ear, perching a tiny driver outside the ear canal, while the latter fit snugly into the ear and focus the sound directly into the ear.
Both have some noise-blocking abilities, and the latter is definitely a more comfortable option.
It is important to remember that some of these designs are a century old – speaker drivers have improved immeasurably since then.
With some firms (Koss and Beyderdynamic, for example) having been in the business for almost a century and still continuing to offer circumaural, external driver earphone designs, it’s evident that this particular layout has some value and potential for a high degree of fidelity.
The superaural designs of the 90s are all but gone, and try as they might, the intra-aural design simply does not allow for a large enough driver to produce a frequency response range that dips into the deep bass range that a circumaural design will allow.
(For a more detailed history of headphones, see the Smithsonian Magazine’s “A Partial History of Headphones”)
It is with this in mind that this buying guide looks at the latest circumaural designs from five relative newcomers, each taking advantage of the best and latest technologies for comfort, fidelity, and style.
These headsets use an external driver positioned outside the ear, sealed in by around-the-ear noise isolation, to produce a wide frequency response that extends well into the low bass ranges that super-aural and intra-aural gaming headphones simply cannot match.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, the five contenders:
Style vs Substance – the Never-Ending Struggle
By incorporating tried and proven acoustical design and technology with newer innovations like noise-cancelling, many of the headphones on this list combine the old with the new to create gaming headphones that are at the same time futuristic and classic.
From the matte black of the Remila to the bright blue LEDs of the Onikuma, all of these headsets deliver premium quality sound from a price range that is both narrow and well within the budgets of most gamers.
The chief difference between all of these headsets, beyond minor differences in their sound quality and connectors, is what the buyer is saying about themselves by wearing them and what they bring to the games themselves. Immersion is king in the market for gaming peripherals, and each gamer immerses themselves in their game of choice in different ways and with different roles.
While the most advanced, cutting-edge audiophile technology will doubtless change the way you interact with the games you play, if you don’t have a set of professional-grade studio monitor headphones already, you’re probably not going to notice the difference between them and these more attainable offerings.