The SteelSeries Tusq excels where it really matters: microphone quality. With the boom mic attached, you’re getting the performance of a full-size headset in a tiny form factor. While the build could use some improvement, this is a very strong pair of wired gaming earbuds.
Excellent boom mic
Strong gaming performance
Useful dual microphone design
Underwhelming multimedia performance
Materials feel a little cheap
Why you can trust TechRadar
The SteelSeries Tusq gaming headset ranks among some of the best gaming earbuds right now thanks to its superb detachable boom microphone. This offers clear communication in multiplayer games and while using online chat services like Discord with a useful secondary microphone if you prefer a more covert look. The headset’s overall sound quality impresses, too, with crisp and clean audio suitable for top titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Counter-Strike 2.
Its wide compatibility makes the SteelSeries Tusq easy to recommend no matter your choice of gaming platform, though the lackluster performance when watching movies or listening to music means that it falls short of being a better all-rounder.
There’s also the matter of the overall design, which is very compact and comfortable to wear but feels noticeably cheaper than other SteelSeries products overall. This is likely in an attempt to ensure that the headset stays a comfortable weight, but it’s still a little disappointing given the brand’s superb reputation and the product’s relatively high asking price.
Price and availability
The SteelSeries Tusq gaming headset costs $39.99 / £44.99 / around AU$74.99. This price is higher than competing products like the Turtle Beach Battle Buds, which are priced at $29.95 / £24.99 / around AU$44.99, but significantly cheaper than premium wireless options.
Compared to the Turtle Beach Battle Buds, you’re getting far better audio quality, a more streamlined design, and an improved microphone that makes the additional cost quite a compelling prospect if you have the budget.
The headset is available to buy via the SteelSeries website or at third-party retailers like Amazon in the US, UK, and Australia.
Design and features
When it comes to gaming earbuds, the SteelSeries Tusq boasts a very understated design. The earbuds themselves are on the larger side but rest comfortably and securely in the ears thanks to a rigid section cable that doubles as an over-ear hook. This can be shaped to your liking with a small amount of pressure for a tighter or looser fit. This, alongside a set of alternate larger and smaller ear tips that are included in the package, ensures that they stay comfortable over extended periods of use.
Although the earbuds are plain, black plastic, the sides have a small shiny plate adorned with a SteelSeries logo which helps elevate the overall aesthetic. Unfortunately, this plate is also plastic rather than metal and leaves the earbuds feeling a little less premium in the hands than they might otherwise look.
The left earbud has a small jack on its front that allows you to attach the miniature boom microphone. While I never experienced the boom mic becoming detached or falling out of position while playing, its physical connection feels somewhat weak and could stand to be more secure. Luckily, the design of the microphone itself is much better as it’s constructed of a flexible wire which means it can be easily adjusted and positioned as you play.
In addition to a mute switch and pause button, the SteelSeries Tusq has a second integrated microphone for when you don’t have the boom mic attached. Although the quality of your voice will suffer with the boom mic removed, this greatly enhances the earbuds’ portability. Playing on the go with the boom microphone can be quite awkward, especially if you don’t want to stand out from the crowd on public transport, so the option to remove it while still being able to chat is welcome.
The package also includes a basic black carrying bag: a solid bonus that makes it easier to store the headset in a pocket without the risk of losing any parts.
The SteelSeries Tusq performs well across the board for gaming. The 3.5mm jack ensures plug-and-play compatibility with all major consoles in addition to PC, and I found that the light weight made them a very pleasant alternative to traditional wired gaming headsets.
The audio quality is high, delivering solid sound across multiple genres. Key audio cues like footsteps and voice communication are clear in first-person shooter (FPS) titles but there’s also more than enough bass for sound effects like explosions and gunfire to feel suitably punchy.
Thanks to the secure fit, the passive noise cancellation was effective and could block out much of the commotion when I tested them with the likes of Fire Emblem Engage and Pokémon Shining Pearl on the Nintendo Switch Lite during my commute.
It’s only when you attempt to use the SteelSeries Tusq for applications outside of gaming that any audio issues become apparent. While listening to music, the audio has almost sharp quality thanks to some very harsh midrange frequencies. This is not an uncommon configuration in audio products geared heavily towards gaming (as it allows certain sounds in games to be heard more easily) but it does negatively affect the experience if you intend to use the headphones for more general listening too.
Where the SteelSeries Tusq really cements its position ahead of the pack is in terms of microphone quality. With the boom mic attached, your voice is loud and clear with little background interference. It’s not flawless, but it’s easily comparable to a full-size gaming headset in the same price range (such as the Nacon RIG 300 Pro HX wired headset) which is an impressive achievement for such a small form factor. It’s also a substantial improvement on the crackly DualSense microphone, making this a very worthwhile upgrade for players who are currently relying on it.
On PC or mobile, it’s ideal for voice calls, and the all-black aesthetic means that it won’t look too out of place in a work meeting. The integrated microphone of the SteelSeries Tusq is less impressive, however, as it’s much quieter on the whole and does not provide close to the same level of clarity. It’s an incredibly useful backup option, but there are better all-in-one alternatives like the HyperX Cloud Earbuds if you don’t intend to make use of the boom mic most of the time.
Should I buy the SteelSeries Tusq?
The SteelSeries Tusq is a fantastic choice if you’re searching for a pair of wired gaming earbuds. It's portable, widely compatible, and comfortable to wear. The boom mic provides superb audio quality considering the tiny size too, which more than makes up for some complaints regarding the build.
Buy it if…
You want a lighter alternative to a wired gaming headset: The SteelSeries Tusq is perfect if you want a much lighter alternative to a full-size wired gaming headset without sacrificing sound quality or compatibility.
You will use the boom microphone: The impressive boom mic is easily one of the strongest aspects of the SteelSeries Tusq and an area where it is firmly ahead of the competition.
Don’t buy it if…
You want to listen to music too: This pair of wired gaming earbuds performs well in games but is much less suited for other media. If you want something for more general use, consider earbuds not geared towards gaming instead.
You want a more robust design: Although I didn’t experience any issues in my testing, the materials of the SteelSeries Tusq don’t feel like they can hold up to much abuse. Look at other options if you often find yourself accidentally breaking peripherals.
How we reviewed the SteelSeries Tusq
I used the SteelSeries Tusq as my main pair of earbuds for over a week. In addition to attending meetings and taking calls with friends, this included plenty of gaming across consoles such as the Xbox Series S, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch where I was careful to test compatibility.
I also used the headphones with my iPhone 13 Mini and a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter, playing mobile titles like PUBG Mobile and League of Legends: Wild Rift. I took the earbuds out and about with me on several occasions to test their performance in various public settings using both my phone and a Nintendo Switch Lite console.
Dash is TechRadar Gaming's Hardware Writer. Before joining TechRadar, he was a print journalist writing articles for some of the UK's biggest gaming magazines including PLAY, Edge, PC Gamer, and SFX. Now, when he's not getting his greasy little mitts on the newest hardware or gaming gadget, he can be found feverishly devouring the latest Nintendo Switch otome.