I use my Nintendo Switch almost exclusively as a handheld -- particularly because I can get lost in Breath of the Wild or sharpen my Arms skills while commuting to work or taking a cross-country flight.
But it's hard to get fully immersed in Hyrule while surrounded by crying babies, loud talkers and all the other unpleasant noises that come with public transportation. So I raided our labs for some of the best gaming headsets out there, and did the hard, selfless work of playing hours and hours of Switch games with them.
Here's how I found the perfect one.
Starting the Search
The Switch works just fine with any pair of 3.5mm headphones, from high-end sets like the $350 Bose QuietComfort 35 to an everyday pair of cheap earbuds. I decided to focus on dedicated gaming headsets, as I wanted something I could also use with the PS4 or the Xbox One.
To narrow my search, I focused on three key parameters: cost, comfort and travel-readiness. The Switch doesn't support Bluetooth (unless you pay extra for an analog adapter (opens in new tab)), so wireless headsets were out of the question.
Looks were also a huge factor; after all, I didn't want to be seen with a big red rock of alien technology on my head while I rode the subway. I set my budget to under $100, because, hey, the Switch already took a $300 chunk out of my wallet.
Making the Cuts
The lowest-end headsets were among the first to get dropped. The $50 HyperX Stinger, $60 Astro A10 and $70 Logitech G231 Prodigy offer great sound for the price, but their nonremovable mics and fairly garish designs made them a no-go for the road. Turtle Beach's $70 XO Three (opens in new tab) proved to be wonderfully lightweight and cozy, but its admittedly nice design is just a bit too gamer-centric for my subway rides.
With those entry-level models off the list, I was left with a handful of slick headsets that just looked like cool pairs of headphones.
The $100 Lucidsound LS30 was exactly the kind of unassuming companion I needed during my recent 6-hour flight to E3, but it lacked the overall oomph for me to get fully sucked in to games like Zelda and Mario Kart.
I was initially smitten by the $100 Logitech G433, which comes in a variety of fun colors and is supremely lightweight. However, the headset’s somewhat rough earcups made it a tough sell for long trips — especially at a hundred bucks.
Then I put on the $80 SteelSeries Arctis 3, and never looked back.
Reading my colleague Marshall Honorof's glowing reviews of SteelSeries' Arctis headsets was encouraging. But actually wearing one for the first time was revelatory.
The Arctis 3 is one of the few headsets you'll actually forget you're wearing, thanks to a feather-light frame and soft-fabric cushions that feel specifically designed to handle my big, sweaty head. It's also arguably the nicest-looking gaming headset you can buy, with slim earcups and a cozy ski-goggle headband you can swap out (opens in new tab) to suit your personal style. I'm not just comfortable wearing the Arctis 3 out — I actively want to.
As the cheapest and simplest member of the Arctis family, the Arctis 3 eschews the RGB lighting and wireless capabilities of its bigger brothers. That said, it's still incredibly versatile, with a short 3.5mm cable that's perfect for my Switch as well as a longer splitter cable that provides plenty of slack for gaming on a computer. In other words, it's the only headset I need for any type of gaming.
Will the Nintendo Switch work fine with any pair of headphones you plug into it? Sure. But if you're like me and use Nintendo's console primarily as a handheld, you deserve something that looks, sounds and feels good enough for multi-hour trips filled with conquering dungeons and speeding through colorful racetracks.
And now that I've found something that delivers on every front in the Arctis 3, those crying babies and noisy New Yorkers don't stand a chance.
Photo credit: Tom's Guide