Headset: Sennheiser PC 350
I have a love/hate relationship with gaming headsets. They almost always wind up in one of two categories: great voice quality with mediocre (or worse) audio quality and fabulous audio quality with lackluster voice. Premium gaming headsets tend to run on the expensive side, especially if you want a headset that claims to transmit crystal clear voice while playing high-quality audio.
Sure, there are plenty of cheap headsets that you can buy if you don't want to spend the money on a premium product, but the premise here is whether or not a premium gaming headset actually helps your game. To answer that question, I pitted Sennheiser’s PC 350s and a pair of Razer Megalodons against a combination of cheap desktop speakers and a generic microphone.
The headset is sturdy and feels solid on your head. The ear bands are wide, which removes the risk of their snapping or breaking over time as you put the headset on and take it off in between gaming sessions. They click solidly as you adjust them to fit your head. The cups are cushioned and comfortable, fit over even the largest ears, and swivel around and fold in on themselves for easy storage.
The Sennheiser PC 350 is an analog headset, meaning there are 1/8" audio input and microphone output jacks you'll have to plug in to your computer. The headset doesn't do any audio processing of its own, so the quality of the sound depends largely on your computer's audio hardware. With that said, the headset is no slouch and serves up respectable sound quality if your PC is up to the task. The PC 350 handles bass relatively well and avoids the tinny, thin sound typical of cheaper, more flimsy headsets and earphones.
The microphone folds down with a little resistance, which is good. You don't want the mic to flap around and get in the way or rest next to your mouth when you're not planning to talk into it. Voice quality depends a great deal on the application you're using to record or transmit audio, but I've never once had to adjust the gain on my microphone or tweak the microphone settings of Skype, Ventrilo, TeamSpeak, or Steam in order to make sure my teammates can hear me clearly. Similarly, other gamers I know who own PC 350s come across clearly when they speak.
All in all, Sennheiser deserves its well-regarded name in audio. The PC 350s list for $229, but you can find them for as little as $150. The set's only drawback is that it has an exceptionally long cord designed to reach from your head to the back of your computer, even if it's unusually far away. Even so, some gamers might find the cord unwieldy. With that aside, the PC 350s are likely some of the most comfortable and best-sounding headphones I've ever used.