The Best Surround Sound Headphones in 2021: A Full Buyer’s Guide

The Best Surround Sound Headphones: A Full Buyer's Guide
The Best Surround Sound Headphones: A Full Buyer's Guide

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Surround sound headphones have become very popular as of late, and it’s no wonder considering that they appeal to so many different people and are useful in so many ways, for movies, music, gaming, education and more.

More than with most other consumer electronics products, though, there is a huge range of quality among surround sound headphones, with even some bigger names producing headsets which are, well, let’s just say not up to their usual standards. Build quality and reliability, as well as overall sound quality and in particular the quality of the surround image, are the biggest victims.

But the more surround headsets we try, the more we realize that there are a few really great sets out there, which offer big and almost eerily precise three dimensional imaging and beautiful sound overall, have great designs and useful features, and are really built to last. And so we’ve assembled this detailed buyer’s guide for the best surround headphones on the market in 2021, to help you find the good ones even while surrounded by so many that are maybe not so good…

What Are Surround Sound Headphones?

Surround sound headphones are designed to give the same immersive listening experience that you would get from a full surround sound home theater system – with its front, back, side, center and subwoofer speakers all around you – but with headphones instead.

There are two main types of surround sound headphones – Virtual Surround and True Surround, and so a couple of questions repeatedly come up:

  • What is the difference between true surround headphones and virtual surround headphones?
  • Which is better, true surround headphones or virtual surround headphones?
  • What are the advantages of true surround headphones versus virtual surround headphones?
  • Should I get true surround or virtual surround headphones?

True Surround Sound Headsets vs Virtual Surround Sound Headsets

True Surround headphones have several different audio drivers (essentially small speakers) on each side, located in various places in the casing, and literally give a true surround experience, with front speaker information coming from the tiny front drivers in the ear cup, back speaker sound coming from the drivers located in the cup toward the back of your ear and so forth. They won’t give you the same spacious and open listening experience as a good home theater system, but the best true surround headphones can give a quite convincing and immersive aural environment.

Virtual Surround headphones have only two drivers, one for each ear, and so they cannot produce actual front, rear, side or center channel sound. Instead, they use time delay, relative volume and phase manipulation to simulate the physical placement of surround speakers, and the best of them are actually incredibly convincing, and offer a really immersive listening experience. They are also far, far more popular than true surround headsets.

Why do so many serious gamers and home theater enthusiasts use virtual surround headphones instead of true surround? True surround systems are either pretty poor quality, with glaringly obvious transitions between speakers and an overall uneven sound and incohesive surround sound image, or they are quite expensive – and even the really expensive ones can still have these problems, although at markedly lower levels.

Virtual surround systems, however, are so advanced that they can often provide even more precise, accurate and convincing surround images than most true surround headsets. There are never any awkward or audible problems as sound switches from one driver to another – annoying for gaming, music and movies! – and the overall sound is smoother. And as they tend to have a single large and very high quality high fidelity driver, the sound is often quite stunning, even with the less expensive virtual surround ‘phones. In addition to the often better surround image – especially for the money – and the better overall sound quality, virtual surround headsets tend to have better construction quality and better comfort (they are generally smaller and lighter), and so appeal to people playing games, watching movies, listening to music or doing anything else.

What Are Surround Sound Headphones Used For?

Again, the main reason surround sound headphones are so popular (besides, of course, their inherent coolness as a gadget) are that they are used by so many people in so many ways, including for:

  • Gaming
  • Home Theater
  • Audiophile Music Listening with Surround Sound Recordings
  • Distance Learning Virtual Schooling
  • Telecommuting
  • Business Meetings and Presentations
  • Training and Simulation Programs

And while gaming, home theater and surround sound music have long been big, recent events have made distance education and telecommuting far more widespread, or even mandatory, so the appeal and popularity of good surround sound headphones have skyrocketed. As a result, there are seemingly thousands of sets of surround headphones on the market today, and choosing one can seem like an impossible task.

How to Select a Great Pair of Surround Sound Headphones

There have been a lot of changes in the surround sound headphone market lately, and many of the buyer’s guides (even if they say they are updated for 2021) are recommending headsets from a few years ago even though the manufacturers have updated and replaced those models, often with better and cheaper ones.

Many people find researching and shopping for the best surround sound headphones super-confusing anyway, but with new models and changes in the market it gets even more exasperating. So we have cut through the confusion and the bewildering proliferation of choices, brands, technologies and other factors and, based on our own experience and countless customer and user reviews from around the web, we’ve narrowed it down to the few very best surround headphones in these categories:

  • Best Virtual Surround Headphones in 2021 – including best budget, best mid-priced and best overall
  • Best Wireless Surround Headphones in 2021 – including best value, best overall and best for audiophiles
  • Best True Surround Headphones in 2021

So whether you are in the middle of an epic gaming battleground, a symphony hall, a virtual classroom or a slightly boring corporate meeting, any one of our recommendations will make the experience truly immersive, and a wee bit more exciting as well.

The Best Surround Sound Headphones in 2021

Best Budget Surround Sound Headphones in 2021

Our Pick
RUNMUS Gaming Headset Xbox One Headset with 7.1 Surround Sound
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At a Glance:

  • Connection: Wired :: 3.5 Mini Headphone Jack (with USB for Lights)
  • Compatibility: Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo 3DS and Switch, PC
  • Surround Type: Virtual 7.1 Channel

An incredibly popular and well liked surround headset, the Runmus K2 is also incredibly inexpensive. The K2 ‘phones have powerful bass, tons of detail and low distortion, and their musical energy is extraordinary. The overall experience – with movies, music or games – can be quite thrilling. And while more expensive surround headphones will give more precise imaging, for the money these headphones are amazingly spacious and precise, and as impressive for gaming as for well recorded movies.

Gamers love the cross-platform compatibility of the Runmus K2 virtual surround headphones – they work with Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo 3DS and Switch, and PC games – and everybody raves about the comfort, quality construction and premium feeling of the K2.

An amazing value, with great performance, comfort, durability and surprisingly high overall quality, the Runmus K2 is our choice for best budget virtual surround headphones in 2021.

Best Mid-Priced Surround Sound Headphones in 2021

Our Pick
Razer Kraken Ultimate – USB Gaming Headset
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At a Glance:

  • Connection: Dual Wired :: USB & Standard 3.5 Mini Headphone Jack
  • Compatibility: PlayStation, Nintendo Switch (Docked Mode), PC
  • Surround Type: Virtual THX Spatial Audio 7.1 Channel

Razer is the biggest manufacturer of gaming gear on the market today, and their Kraken Ultimate is a good example of why they are so popular and beloved among gamers. The Kraken is also one of the best examples we’ve ever found of exactly why the best gaming headsets can also be the best for movies, music and other uses.

With incredibly clear, clean, low distortion sound, plenty of fast, tight bass, sweet mids and shimmering highs, and tons of detail, the Kraken Ultimate make music, movie soundtracks and game audio sound absolutely amazing. And while the Runmus K2 headset listed above is really great for the price, the Kraken Ultimate offers a whole new level of surround sound performance, with amazingly precise an accurate placement of all elements in the three dimensional field, fluid and believable movement and a highly coherent overall image.

Compatible with all major gaming platforms as well as PCs, with THX spatial sound,  a crystal clear noise-canceling microphone, super comfortable gel earpads and an overall construction that is strong but very light, the Razer Kraken Ultimate surround sound headphones are absolutely ideal for gamers, but are equally attractive for distance learning, telecommuting, music and movies and much more. They are a wonderful product, and our choice for best medium priced wired surround sound headphones in 2021.

Best Premium Surround Sound Headphones in 2021

Our Pick
CORSAIR Void Pro RGB USB Gaming Headset - Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound Headphones
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At a Glance:

  • Connection: Dual Wired :: USB & Standard 3.5 Mini Headphone Jack
  • Compatibility: PlayStation & PC
  • Surround Type: Virtual Genuine Dolby Headphone 7.1 Channel

The Corsair Void Pro wired surround headphones have obtained a bit of a legendary status among gamers, and after trying them for even a few minutes it is easy to understand why. The Void Pro concentrate much less than other gaming headsets on gadgets or gimmicks, and much more on the fundamentals – build quality, comfort and superb sound from the drivers and the microphones. 

This is, in fact, a philosophy of Corsair in general, but with the Void Pro this all hits a new level, with a beauty, power and accuracy in their sound that is unlike any other gaming ‘phones, an overall energy and excitement that enhances any gaming experience and Dolby 7.1 surround sound that is so spacious, precise and rock solid. The sound is so good, in fact, that the Void Pro headphones end up being really superior for movies and music as well, and their much more understated design and styling certainly appeal to a wider audience.

 Though not compatible with Xbox (Playstation and PC gaming only), the Corsair Void Pro are nonetheless one of the most popular of all gaming headphones at the higher price level, and for our money they are the best. Incredibly comfortable, strong and durable and with knock-out sound, they are our choice for best premium wired surround sound headphones in 2021.

Best Virtual Surround Sound Headphones for Audiophiles

Our Pick
Ultrasone PRO 900i S-Logic Plus Surround Sound Professional Closed-Back Headphones
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At a Glance:

  • Connection: Wired :: Standard 3.5 Mini Headphone Jack 
  • Compatibility: Any Device with Line-Level Audio Output
  • Surround Type: S-Logic Plus

The Ultrasone Pro 900i audiophile headphones take a fundamentally different approach to virtual surround sound, combining a deep understanding of acoustics, physiology and human hearing to engineer headphones which use, rather than complex algorithms involving phase, sound level and time delay, simple driver placement and angle to simulate surround sound with incredible effectiveness.

This S-Logic virtual surround is not ideal for gamers, and these are not gamer headphones, but for movies and music – especially really good quality audiophile recordings, the effect is so strong and convincing that users again and again say that the Ultrasone Pro 900i make all of their listening more engaging, musical and enjoyable. Not only is there a clear and open surround sound experience, the Pro 900i ‘phones also have a much more open sound – more like speakers in a good room – than virtually any other headphones, even the most expensive.

The Pro 900i headphones don’t just have great surround sound, but reference quality sound overall, with superb detail and dynamics, remarkably deep, fast and tight bass, liquid midrange and sweet, extended highs, super-fast transient response and an overall sound that is at once musical and exceptionally neutral – a true audiophile reference product, the Ultrasone Pro 900i S-Logic Plus are our choice for best wired virtual surround sound headphones for audiophiles.

Best Wireless Virtual Surround Sound Headphones in 2021

Best Budget Wireless Surround Sound Headset

Our Pick
Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 2 Wireless Gaming Headset for PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4
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At a Glance:

  • Connection: Wireless :: USB Transmitter
  • PlayStation Version (Link Above) Compatibility: PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, any PC, Smart Phone or other Bluetooth device

Xbox Version (See Link Below) Compatibility: Xbox, any PC, Smart Phone or other Bluetooth device

  • Surround Type: Virtual 3D Audio 7.1 Channel
  • Battery Life: 15 Hours

Turtle Beach enjoys incredible success among gamers for their products’ superb sound quality and immersive listening experience, intelligent and useful design and extreme comfort, and for the value they offer – and especially their wireless surround sound headphones.

And while the higher priced Stealth 700 II, listed just below, could just as easily be chosen as the best value in a wireless surround headset, our actual choice – the brilliant Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 2 – offers the same amazingly rich and detailed sound quality, precision spatial placement, features and functionality but with slightly less battery life (15 Hours vs the 700 II’s 20 Hours) and perhaps a slightly less “premium” look overall – though the same level of strong and rugged construction.

So we can say that the best value in surround headphones overall is simple – Turtle Beach – and to be more specific, the levels of performance, sound quality, design and features, comfort and overall quality and durability for under a hundred dollars make the Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 2 headset the very best value in wireless surround headphones in 2021 – for movies, music or gaming!

If you are using Xbox, make sure to get the correct 700 II for full Xbox functionality (link just below), but either version will work great with PCs, home theater systems, phones or any other device with Bluetooth connectivity.

Xbox Version: Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 2 Wireless Gaming Headset for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Best Mid-Priced Wireless Surround Sound Headset

Our Pick
Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Premium Wireless Gaming Headset for PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4
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At a Glance:

  • Connection: Dual Wireless :: USB & Bluetooth
  • Compatibility: PlayStation, Nintendo Switch (Docked Mode), any PC, Smart Phone or other Bluetooth device
  • Surround Type: Virtual 7.1 Channel
  • Battery Life: 20 Hours

Sure, there are much more expensive wireless surround sound headsets out there, some actually hundreds of dollars more than this brilliant Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Series 2, but whether they are hundreds of dollars better (or offer any real advantages at all) is quite another story.

The Stealth 700 wireless headset has absolutely glorious sound quality, with deep bass, clear and shimmering highs and tons of detail all throughout the audio spectrum, and fully immersive and ultra-precise holographic surround-sound imaging, making both movies and music real high resolution experiences and giving you a real advantage while gaming.

The wireless is also extremely stable and reliable, and the Stealth 700 II has excellent battery life – up to 20 hours on a full charge. The Stealth 700 also has excellent material and construction quality and a premium look and feel, and with gel-infused memory foam earpads and a great overall design these are very comfortable for even long sessions and very usable overall.

If you are using Xbox, make sure to get the correct 700 II for full Xbox functionality (link just below), but either version will work great with PCs, home theater systems, phones or any other device with Bluetooth connectivity. And either version is our choice for best mid-priced wireless surround sound headphones in 2021.

Xbox Version: Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Premium Wireless Gaming Headset for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Best Premium Wireless Surround Sound Headphones

Our Pick
ROG Strix Fusion 700 Virtual 7.1 LED Bluetooth Gaming Headset
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At a Glance:

  • Connection: Dual Wireless :: USB & Bluetooth
  • Compatibility: PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, any PC, Smart Phone or other Bluetooth device
  • Surround Type: Virtual 7.1 Channel
  • Battery Life: 17 Hours (without lights)

Perhaps the most highly regarded wireless gaming headphones on the market today, the Asus Rog Strix Fusion 700 have mind-blowing sound, with extremely high levels of detail, tonal accuracy, incredible dynamic power and the ability to resolve even the slightest changes in dynamics, and the best virtual surround sound image we’ve ever heard – really clear and specific placement of any and all elements and perfectly flowing movement around the playing field.

These wonderful Strix Fusion 700 ‘phones are, for all of the same reasons, are equally fantastic for movies and music that we’ve ever heard. The way movie soundtracks or well recorded SACD surround sound audiophile recordings open up, with dynamic ease, immense and eerily precise spatial presentation, beautiful and accurate tonal character, intensely deep and powerful bass and wide, flat frequency response makes these not only some of the best surround headphones on the market today, but also among the best wireless headphones of any type.

In fact, with their built-in 24/96 high resolution DAC (digital to analog convertor), superb amplifier and high resolution drivers, not to mention the best wiring, casing and overall design, the Asus Rog Strix Fusion 700 are some of the very best sounding headphones we’ve heard period, a great choice for audiophiles, videophiles and hard-core gamers, and our choice for best premium wireless surround sound headphones in 2021.

Best Wireless Surround Sound Headphones for Sound Quality

Our Pick
EPOS I SENNHEISER GSP 670 Wireless Gaming Headset
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At a Glance:

  • Connection: Dual Wireless :: USB & Bluetooth
  • Compatibility: PlayStation, any PC, Smart Phone or other Bluetooth devices
  • Surround Type: Customizable Virtual 7.1 Channel
  • Battery Life: 16-20 Hours

At this point you may well be wondering “what about sound?” Yes, the best gaming headphones will have really beautiful sound quality and really precise surround imaging, which are not only necessary for serious gamers to hear and respond to everything happening on the game field but great for movies and music listening too.

Nonetheless, you still may be asking a few basic questions, like:

  • What are the best sounding wireless surround sound headphones?
  • What are the best wireless surround sound headphones for music?
  • What are the best wireless surround sound headphones for movies?

What are the best wireless surround sound headphones for audiophiles?

Well, we hate to break it to you, but for either the best sound quality or the best home theater experience we have to return once again to, yes, a gaming headphone. Not just any gaming headphone, though, but one from one of the most respected and beloved names in hi-fi audio today – the Epos I Sennheiser GSP 670 wireless surround sound headphones.

It turns out that the very values that the audiophile product engineers at Sennheiser have always striven for – pure transparency, honest, neutrality, detail and openness – are the same things that make a gaming headset great – not the lights or the mic or the fancy features, but the ability to hear perfectly every single thing that is happening on the gaming field – or in the concert hall or recording studio. And with this level of customizable virtual surround sound, you can also perfectly know where it is coming from.

Of course the GSP 670 gaming headset is a technological marvel, with low latency Bluetooth, dual connectivity, independent chat and game sound controls, and a superb professional quality microphone. It is superbly designed and built to last, and is exceptionally comfortable to wear – even for long gaming or listening sessions.

But more than all that, the Epos I Sennheiser GSP 670 wireless virtual surround headphones are delightfully musical, honest, open and energetic, and allow music to come through with detail, dynamics, ease and accuracy – easily equal to many excellent music headphones at this price, and far better than any other gaming headphones we know – our choice for best sounding wireless surround sound headphones for music, movies or gaming in 2021.

Final Thoughts: Are There Any Good True Surround Sound Headphones?

If you’ve shopped for headphones, you will have already noticed that for every true surround headset you find you will see about a hundred virtual surround headsets, and so this leads most people to ask a couple of questions:

  • Which Are Better – True Surround Headphones or Virtual Surround Headphones?
  • Should I Buy Virtual Surround or True Surround Headphones?
  • Are True Surround Headphones Any Good?
  • Why are there So Many More Virtual Surround Headphones?

To be honest, we love the idea of true surround headphones for gaming, movies, music, or anything else, but in our repeated experience they just don’t work that well and can be a real hassle to use. Theoretically, they should present a much more immersive and accurate three-dimensional sound field, and a couple of them do, but the vast majority (regardless of price) suffer from poor integration of speakers (that is, you can clearly hear sound moving from one speaker to another, which ruins the effect), not to mention poor overall sound and, often, even quite shoddy build quality.

Timothy Scott
Timothy Scott
Hey there, I am Timothy and I am an aspiring bass guitarist and lover of high-quality speakers. Music has been my life. I've owned several high-quality speakers over the last few years and have become obsessed with them. At Speakergy.com I share my knowledge on choosing and using speakers. I hope you enjoy my articles!

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