Closed-back gaming headphones are a staple of the gaming sphere.
In the tournament world, you’d want to maximize focus on all your moves and what your teammates are saying.
Having any external interruptions is a no-no.
But what if you’re not a tournament player, just a casual gamer who likes to spend weekend nights wielding your katana in Sekiro?
Would you still need a gaming headphone?
Would you like to filter out the booms of your neighbor’s party beats while you jam in a few rounds of PuBG?
If so, closed-back gaming headphones might be for you.
Quick List: Top 6 Closed Back Gaming Headphones
- SteelSeries Arctis 7 Closed Back Headphones – Best for PC Gaming
- Razer Kraken Chroma Gaming Headphones – Best With Mic
- Sennheiser Game Zero Closed Back Headphones – Best With Noise Isolation
- HyperX Cloud Stinger Gaming Headphones – Best Budget Option
- Runmus K2 Gaming Headset
- Logitech G633 Artemis Spectrum Closed Back Gaming Headphones
Scrutinizing Closed Back Gaming Headphones
What makes a great gaming headphone?
Naturally, the first thing you’d look for is a great sound. In gaming, you’d usually want a good balance of voices versus ambient effects and music. So we looked at headphones that could generate clear, concise sounds. If they were good at playing music and movies, that would be a bonus.
We looked at the kind of acoustics and sound technology being offered. Closed-back headphones lack that wide, natural soundstage that comes with open-back headphones. But it trades that off for some fair amount of noise isolation. Some come with virtual surround, so you’ll still be able to gain an advantage with positional audio.
And of course, comfort. How useful would a headphone be if you could only wear it for 5 minutes? One major disadvantage of closed-back headphones is heat accumulation in the ear cups. If you’re the type that sweats a lot, the discomfort could be even more.
Some headphones press too tight on the top of the head, some put too much pressure around the ears. We looked at materials being used and whether users generally found the headphones comfortable.
So, what are the best closed-back headphones for gaming?
The 5 Best Closed Back Gaming Headphones in 2020
1. SteelSeries ArSteelSeries Arctis 7 Closed Back Headphones – Best for PC Gaming
Want a wireless headset for gaming but worried about latency? Take a look at the SteelSeries Arctis 7 and you might just find a solution.
✔️ What we like: Clean audio with the ability to mix chat and music
❌ What we don’t like: Iffy mute button?
? Standout Features:
- Great surround audio
- Good looks
- Durable build
Normally we’d be somewhat nervous about picking up wireless headphones for gaming. It’s that word – latency. That’s the issue that every gamer dreads when it comes to wireless audio.
But with SteelSeries Arctis 7, this isn’t something you need to worry about. These good-looking headsets come with a 2.4GHz lossless wireless connection. That means it’s a dedicated connection and not the usual Bluetooth. You plug in the USB dongle at your source, and voila! Lossless sound.
Talking about sound, is any good as the hype of the reviews?
Do you like crisp, clean audio? The Arctis 7 comes with a balanced audio output that works great for gaming, with deep bass and bright mids. Surround sound is pretty awesome, though only available on PC – sorry PS4 people! Hear those footsteps, almost feel the wind rushing behind you. And what more, these cans can mix regular audio with chat. So if you’re stuck in a boring conference call, you can blast some wake-up tunes in the background.
The noise-cancelling mic is phenomenally clear. Hey, that Discord certification has to mean something. If there’s something to gripe about, it’s probably the mute button, which is kind of iffy, and the volume can seem a little soft.
Otherwise, did we say they’re good-looking? The simplicity of the lines on the Arctis7 is attractive. They’re solidly built, comfortable to wear for hours. Battery usage on paper is 24 hours, but you should be able to get at least 15 hours of real work on these. It does depend on usage style.
Compatible with PC, PS4, Switch via USB wireless or a 3.5mm jack, you won’t have to worry about which platform you’ll be using. So, if you need a solid wireless headphone with reliable wireless connectivity, the Arctis 7 is a great option.
2. Razer Kraken Chroma Gaming Headphones – Best With Mic
When you hear the word Kraken, you think of this giant octopus-thing that terrorizes ships at sea. Well, the Razer Kraken Chroma doesn’t have any tentacles but they can still grip your ears for many good reasons.
✔️ What we like: Retractable mic with quick mute by pinching.
❌ What we don’t like: Can get warm on the ears after a while.
? Standout Features:
- Retractable, noise-cancelling mic
- 7.1 virtual surround sound
- Durable, aluminum build
So you need a good gaming headphone with even better mic? Let the Razer Kraken Chroma jump into the spotlight.
With a lightweight aluminum frame and cushy leatherette earcups, the Kraken Chroma should give your hours of comfortable wear. Noise isolation is good, but as with any closed-back headphone, your ears will get heated after a while. And that’s about the only con we have for the Kraken Chroma.
Now to the good stuff. Sound? Deep punchy bass with crystal clear mids and highs. Those 50mm drivers are a workhorse. And yes, amazing 7.1 virtual surround sound. Hear everything around you, get all those positional cues. Run before the monster snaps out of the ground to bite. Surround is only available on PC. but don’t despair oh-PS4-gamers. The stereo is great too. The stereo soundstage is fairly mapped and will still give you good positional audio if that’s what you need.
As for the neat mic — it’s retractable (tucks into the side if you don’t need it), with active noise-cancellation (on PC only), and the sweetest feature is the pinch. As in, pinch the end of the mic boom to mute it, and a little red LED appears to indicate you’re muted. Snack away without fumbling for a mute button. That’s such an intuitive design.
Noise isolation is pretty good, but the Kraken Chroma comes with mic monitoring. You can adjust how much of yourself you want to hear in chat, so you don’t wake up everyone by yelling into your mic.
These headsets are easy to use. Plug in the USB and you’re all set. The Chroma lighting is another neat add-on, adjustable via Razer Synapse. If you need a good mic on a great gaming headset, don’t wander too far from the Kraken Chroma.
3. Sennheiser Game Zero Closed Back Headphones – Best With Noise Isolation
Sennheiser has its own series of gaming headsets. The Game One is open back, and the Game Zero is closed back. We’re looking at the closed-back version.
✔️ What we like: Excellent noise isolation with very comfortable earcups
❌ What we don’t like: Volume wheel that doesn’t drop to zero
? Standout Features:
- Clean, crisp sound
- Great noise isolation
- Quality build
Want a headset with great noise isolation? The Sennheiser Game Zero does it very well. The leatherette, memory foam earpads were designed for acoustic sealing, blocking out all that external noise. These are good headsets for people who live in busy areas and want silence to focus on their games.
The earcups are comfortable enough to wear for hours. They’re XXL size, so even very big ears should be cradled quite nicely in them.
The build quality of Game Zero is remarkably solid. The earcups are clearly marked L and R, just in case you’re one of those who put headsets the other way round. You won’t be the first to be guilty of that sin.
These are Sennheisers, so you can expect the sound to be above average. And they are. Clean, crisp sound which is great for gaming. The bass is a little underwhelming if you like the heavy, deep type, but these work very well if you’re looking for balanced audio. Some users report that they’re even better if plugged though a good soundcard or if your motherboard has premium sound chips. The only nitpick here would be the volume wheel – which doesn’t drop to zero – which is strange.
The noise-cancelling mic is another neat feature of the Game Zero. Audio quality is very good for chats and conference call sessions. Just raise it to mute it. It’s a good visual cue for people around you to know that you’re not talking to anyone at that moment.
The Game Zero closed back headphones by Sennheiser will fold flat so it’s easy to port around and is multi-platform compatible (PC, Mac, consoles, mobile). With great sound quality, excellent noise isolation, and mic that performs well, you can’t go too wrong with the Game Zero.
4. HyperX Cloud Stinger Gaming Headphones – Best Budget Option
HyperX makes a wide range of headsets at different price ranges. The Cloud Stinger is one of their simpler options that would fit a tighter budget.
✔️ What we like: Overall good headset at a budget price
❌ What we don’t like: Thin, flimsy cord that seems fragile
? Standout Features:
- Good sound
- Budget price
If you’re looking for a decent, lightweight headset for gaming, you don’t have to look any further than the HyperX Cloud Stinger. At 279g, it doesn’t place too much weight on the skull, which makes it easier to wear for long hours. The comfortable memory foam earcups add to extended wear, though being closed-back, they will get warm after a while.
The 50mm driver pushes well-balanced audio, with good lows and highs and decent mid for those gunshots. Noise isolation is pretty awesome too, with a nice soundstage for audio positioning. You’re not likely to get interrupted by your neighbor rattling their drums anytime soon. Just immerse and focus on that game.
Volume can conveniently be controlled by a slider on the right earcup, and that’s a plus. The boom mic works fine and conveniently mutes when you raise it. You might not hear yourself well with the noise isolation though. There’s no mic monitoring.
The Stinger runs on virtually all gaming platforms – PC, PS4, XB1, Nintendo Switch. So that’s one less thing you need to concern yourself about. If we have a complaint, it would be the cord that does seem a tad flimsy. Don’t let your cat near it if kitty likes to chew wires. Don’t think that cord will survive an assault.
The HyperX Cloud Stinger is one of the best-selling gaming headsets in the US, and for good reason. It’s budget-happy and it works. What else could you ask for?
5. Runmus K2 Gaming Headset
The market is full of low-to-mid range gaming headsets, so where does the Runmus K2 stand? Somewhere in the front, of course, where everyone can notice it.
✔️ What we like: Great quality at a budget price
❌ What we don’t like: Short USB lighting cord
? Standout Features:
- Good gaming sounds
Not everyone is interested in splurging on a badass big-boy gaming brand. We like it when something doesn’t dent your wallet and still works. This is where the Runmus K2 waves a shiny hand hello.
Interested in comfort? The K2 is very comfortable, even for small heads. OK, so it’s not the lightest on scales, but that’s a trade-off for a robust build that ought to survive plenty of wear. That weight will likely be noticeable after a couple of gaming hours (or not… if not, then lucky you), but that cushy padding on the headbands helps distribute that weight.
Like most closed-back headsets, there’s going to be a fair amount of noise isolation. Good bass, clean mids, some of the highs are a bit weak so the chink of glass breaking in the game might not be so sparkly. But the overall audio quality is fine for music and movies too. The surround sound also works very well too, to help you pinpoint those footsteps and screams, so you know which direction to run – we usually run away from the screams if it involves zombies in any way, just saying.
The mic is surprisingly good, with clear accurate chat. That’s more than can be said for plenty of cheaper mics out there. Easy setup for both PC and consoles, just plug and play. There’s a Y-splitter supplied for the PC, to split audio into headphone and mic jacks. Note that the LED lighting needs a USB connection to work, though we’re going to complain that USB cord length ought to be a bit longer.
With a solid build, good sound quality and mic that doesn’t fail you, the Runmus K2 closed back gaming headphones could very well be the budget option you’ve been scouring for.
6. Logitech G633 Artemis Spectrum Closed Back Gaming Headphones
The G633 Artemis Spectrum is another gamer favorite. We’re taking a closer look to see why.
✔️ What we like: Audio mixing capability
❌ What we don’t like: Fragile earpiece joint
? Standout Features:
- Great sound
- Multi-source audio mixing
Can we say the G633 Artemis Spectrum is a rather spectacular headset for its price? With 7.1 Surround in Dolby and DTS support, you get this wide soundstage that pretty much meets all the positional audio requisites. Hear the bushes rustle to your left and ready your weapon, only to see a cute bunny hop out.
But there’s a caveat – surround sound only works on the PC via USB connection. Consoles and mobiles get stereo. Don’t underestimate the stereo, it still sounds good.
The G633 Artemis Spectrum comes with two separate connections. Game on your PC and answer calls from your phone. Or game on your console and play your personal fight theme off the PC. The volumes are separately adjustable, which is seriously neat.
The mic mutes when flipped up, so you don’t have to worry about your teammates hear you taking a snack break. Performance-wise, it does seem to be a little clearer on the USB connection compared to the 3.5mm plug. The Artemis Spectrum supports mic monitoring so you can hear yourself talking. That’s another plus.
The Artemis Spectrum comes with some RGB lighting, though they’re located at the back. You won’t see them reflected off a darkened monitor. The lighting is adjusted via Logitech’s G-HUB software.
If there’s a slight downer, it’s the all-plastic construction, which may not hold up very well after extensive use. The hinge where the earcups swivel seem particularly fragile. We would have liked to see a more robust structure.
To take advantage of all it has to offer, the G633 Artemis Spectrum headphones work best with the PC. But if you’re interested in the idea of audio mixing, even without access to those extras (like surround sound and RGB light customization), these are a pretty good buy.
Choosing Your Closed Back Gaming Headphones
Before you even start looking, you might as yourself – are closed-back headphones good for gaming?
You’ll probably find closed-back headphones more common for gaming than their open back headphone siblings. Both are good for gaming, it’s all a matter of preference. But if you want noise isolation, the closed back is a better option.
So what else should you look for in closed-back gaming headphones?
Gaming Headphones vs Non-Gaming
Are they the same thing?
Gaming headphones tend to be more colorful or have unique shapes. They usually come with a mic for in-game chatting however headphones for gaming with no mic are still quite popular. Non-gaming headphones are generally more sedate compared to their gaming cousins.
But audio-wise? Not much difference there, to be honest. Gaming or non-gaming headphones are just as likely to be acoustically good or bad when playing a game.
The bottom line is, don’t get drawn in by the ‘gaming’ tag.
Sound Quality & Surround
Gaming headphones are designed to output gaming sounds. That means handling voices, music, and effects. This would place some emphasis on a balanced frequency output, with maybe extra bass for those explosions or rumbling cave-ins.
The ability to generate good virtual surround is a plus, especially for FPS games. We’re looking at you – Fortnite and PuBG gamers. It’s great for the adventure and RPG genre too, creating an immersive environment with some Dolby or DTS surround capability.
The flip side of this is that your gaming headphone may not be so great for music. You could always switch from surround to stereo, but the drivers could be a little bass-heavy. Just keep that in mind.
Wireless or Not
If you prefer to go wireless, just pay attention to what wireless technology is being used. Wireless connections usually come as Infrared, Radio Frequency (RF) or Bluetooth. Bluetooth is the most common for headphones.
Most Bluetooth codecs will have some latency issues unless it’s aptX LL. For music listening, latency isn’t a big deal. But if you’re gaming or watching movies, the desync between audio and visuals can be very jarring. Just make sure your headphone and source both support the same Bluetooth codec.
Wireless gaming headphones could also be built with dedicated RF wireless connections. This will convert to virtually zero lag. So, this could be the one time you should pay attention to whether a headphone is meant for gaming or not, because a wireless gaming headphone will very likely seek to eliminate latency issues.
Whether you’re into flashy RGB lights or simple basic black, you’d still want it to be the most comfortable gaming headset to wear for several hours. The downside to closed-back headphones is the heating of your ears. Have a look at the materials used to see if there are any heat-transfer elements to help with cooling. What kind of padding is used for earcups? Memory foam is a good comfort-option.
Gaming headphones may not support all platforms. Some may only support certain functions (like surround sound) on a specific OS. Pay attention to the small print. Sometimes that’s where the conditional options are noted.
If you do a lot on chat, you’ll want a good gaming mic – one that generates clean vocals to your chat channels. See if there’s any noise cancellation to help optimize your input signals.
This could be your ultimate buying driver. Cost. A hefty price tag won’t guarantee awesome sound. There are great budget options out that could work just as well. Figure out your priorities, then check the price.
Closed-Back Headphones Have Got Your Back
Closed-back gaming headphones are here to stay.
You’ve got some pointers on what to look out for when buying one, some ideas for awesome headphones that are currently in the market if you want to cut the search. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other great options out there for you to test.
As for that eternal argument – open back vs closed-back headphones for gaming?
Only you can answer that.
It’s probably a debate that will hang around a long time. Just like closed-back headphones will continue to adorn gamer’s ears.