Wireless audio used to be something of a taboo in the gaming world. Mention getting a wireless headset around other gamers and you were bound to hear one word — latency. There’s nothing worse than your sound lagging behind the rest of your gameplay, especially in competitive games where hearing footsteps could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
There are, however, modern connectivity options that are much faster than the laggy Bluetooth of old. One of the more popular frequencies is 2.4GHz. Most headsets that utilize this technology skew toward the expensive side, but there are a few available in the sub $100 market.
AOC has recently thrown their hat (or should I say, headset) into the ring with their new GH401 Wireless Gaming Headset. They offered to send us one for a fair and unbiased review to see if it deserves a place on our list of the best gaming headsets under $100. Here’s what we found.
- 2.4 GHz wireless connection via USB dongle
- Wireless compatibility: PC, Mac, PS4/5, and Switch
- 3.5mm wired compatibility: Xbox One/Series S/X and mobile
- Detachable noise cancelling unidirectional microphone
- 2.0 Stereo sound
- 50mm drivers
- 17-hour battery life
- Aluminum frame
- Price: $79.99
Build Quality and Comfort
In the box, you will find the headset, instructions, 2.4GHz USB dongle, 3.5mm audio jack and a USB Type-C to USB Type-A charging cable. The headset itself is surprisingly light and very comfortable. Part of the problem with a lot of wireless headsets is that their battery makes them heavy and cumbersome — not so with the GH401! The leatherette earcups are soft and comfortable to wear during long gaming sessions. There is a layer of memory foam padding along the aluminum arch to pad the top of your head for additional comfort. This arch is also adjustable to ensure the headset fits a variety of sizes.
The GH401 has power and microphone mute buttons, a volume dial, the 3.5mm jack, and charging port all on the side of the left cup. One criticism is that the microphone was very difficult to remove initially. I nearly thought I was going to break it trying to get it out of the headset. It did eventually come loose, however, and has gone in and out of the headset much easier ever since.
Using the GH401 wirelessly is easy. Simply plug the USB dongle into the device you wish to use and turn on the headset. I tested it both on my PC and my Nintendo Switch and got a clear signal without any noticeable interruptions or latency.
The signal seems fairly strong as well. The official range wasn’t listed on their website, but I found that the audio only cutting out when I got around thirty feet away from the dongle. The 17-hour battery life also gives the headset plenty of juice for most users to get a full day’s use without having to stop and recharge.
While the build quality of the GH401 is great, the audio quality is slightly less impressive. It has a decent balance of low, high, and mid-tones that are as good as can be expected of a wireless headset in this price category. Unfortunately, directionality can be important in gaming, and that’s where the GH401 falls short. It features 2.0 stereo sound, which means sound only comes from two directions: right and left. That can be problematic if you’re playing Valorant or Resident Evil and need to keep your ears open for the sound of footsteps or shuffling zombies. Knowing precisely where your enemies are coming from can be extremely advantageous in those situations.
The other issue with the audio is that there is a faint buzzing sound when the volume dial is turned up really high. This wasn’t a problem for me on PC, as the headset could get quite loud without ever needing to be turned up that high, but I found the native volume was much quieter on the Nintendo Switch. I needed to turn the volume on the console itself all the way up so that I could keep the volume on the headset low enough that the buzzing went away.
The unidirectional microphone is probably the weakest thing about the GH401. For starters, the arm of the mic is floppy and doesn’t hold its shape well. This can be frustrating when trying to position the mic where you want it. One nice thing about it is that it’s removable, so you can take it out of the headset if you plan on using a nicer USB microphone instead.
Sadly, the sound quality from the microphone is pretty poor. The audio we captured from it sounds tinny and weak. We also found that there was a faint clicking sound that we could hear intermittently with no clear source. People will be able to understand you, but that’s about it.
Is the GH401 Worth the Money?
There aren’t a lot of name-brand wireless headsets under $100, and even fewer that feature 2.4GHz connectivity. There are a few that stand out as serious contenders to the GH401, however. The Razer Barracuda X, Corsair AS70 Pro, and HyperX Cloud Stinger Core are all at the same $80 price point as the offering from AOC and all of them offer 7.1 surround sound.
The AOC GH401 is comfortable to wear and offers pretty decent sound quality, but it’s hard to recommend when other headsets in the same price point offer more features.
Zoom Out: Verdict
The AOC GH401 is a comfortable wireless gaming headset with decent sound quality and easy, plug-and-play functionality across multiple platforms. It has a weak microphone and only offers stereo sound, however, which puts it behind some of its similarly priced peers.
- Low-latency 2.4GHz wireless connectivity
- Lightweight and comfortable design
- Poor quality microphone
- Stereo only, no surround-sound
- Buzzing sound at high volumes