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For work calls and virtual meetings, video conferences like Zoom, WebEx, Teams and Skype are the new norm. In other words: if you don’t have one already, you’re going to need a comfortable pair of headphones with a good mic if you want to clearly hear and be heard.
You may already be using your regular music earbuds for work communications, and they’ll get the job done. But what exactly is the difference, and advantages, of headphones over buds, and does it even matter?
Headphones vs. Earbuds for Work
First off, in order to really isolate your voice for others to clearly hear, a microphone at mouth level is a huge help, and wireless earbuds just can’t compare there. Wired earbuds with a mic that hangs down or juts out a little is a better bet, but still, nothing matches talking right into a headset-type mic.
Bigger headphones often mean bigger drivers too, which provides a wider, deeper range of sound. Even the best sounding earbuds are likely to get uncomfortable after a while, and that’s where a big, pillowy set of over-the-ear headphones boasts another benefit. They’ll also let you find the fit that’s more precise to your head’s shape, unlike buds that can’t really be adjusted much at all besides a few sizes of foam tips. Not just that, but a set with a high-functioning noise cancellation option can completely block the noise of the outside world, letting you zone in and focus on that big project you need to get done.
Wired vs. Wireless Headphones
A wired pair of headphones with an old-school 3.5mm jack connection might get you better sound quality and less lag, but it also means you’re tethered to your workstation. A set with a Bluetooth connection can let you get up, move around (sometimes up to 90 feet away), and multi-task, all while staying on the call or keeping your audio playing. If you’ll be using multiple devices that you need connected to your headset, double-check that it can handle two (or more) at once. Not all headsets have the ability to maintain connections to more than one device without having to disconnect and reconnect, which quickly becomes annoying and can drop your voice out while speaking.
What Are the Best Headphone Mics for Calls?
For calls and presentations, the mic might be the most important. A noise-cancelling mic is a must, as it blocks out any audio that’s going on around you, sending only your voice out to the others on the call. A mic that flips up and away from your mouth adds an element of privacy, but a conveniently-placed mute button is a necessity in case of any confidential info that you don’t want the other participants to overhear. Voice command confirmation helps here too, telling you clearly that the mute, or other features, are now turned on or off. Most sets feature Ambient Noise Cancellation (ANC) now too, for when you’re in a particularly noisy environment.
What is Considered Good Battery Life for Headphones?
Headsets generally should be able to go a full workday (at least 10 hours) on one charge. Other helpful extras are a battery life meter that’s represented with LED lights, and of course comfort – think: a set that’s not going to get sweaty if you know you’ll be using it for hours on end with no break. Finally, an often overlooked audience by manufacturers are those respected bespectacled people: glasses wearers. If you’ll be wearing a pair all day, big headphones can feel tight against your head, which gets irritating and even painful. The best headphones for work are likely going to be a pair with some space under the headband that creates room around the top of your ears, with enough airy cushioning on the pads to slip your glasses through without issue.
What Are the Best Headphones for Working From Home?
Looking for a great pair of work-from-home headphones? We’ve selected four of our favorites here that can handle work calls loud and clear, and then some much-needed music or gaming afterwards.
1. Jabra Evolve2 65 UC Wireless Headphones
These wireless Jabra headphones have a build quality that feels solid, and the padded memory foam is firm but soft. The moveable mic automatically mutes when flipped up — an efficient way to switch from privacy right back into the call (though it only flips down when worn on the right-hand side).
Sound quality is high here with Jabra’s three-mics. Voices on the other end come through loud and clear, while making sure your own voice is unbroken and lag-less.
The combination of being wireless and having a 37-hour battery life on one charge means this is ideal for audio calls where you can pace around and multi-task, without worrying if the set’s about to die.
“Superior Passive Noise Cancellation” is included too, and since the set ergonomically envelopes your entire ear, it does a nice job of blocking out all other sound. There’s also a “busy light” — a red indicator visible from all angles — to let others know when you’re on a call and don’t want to be disturbed.
2. Plantronics Voyager Focus UC
Headsets are what Poly (formerly Plantronics) does best, and they’ve been doing it for nearly seven decades now.
Their UC Certified Voyager Focus set sounds great, and connects seamlessly across laptops, Bluetooth-enabled desk phones, mobile phones and tablets. The triple-mics are precision-tuned with enhanced DSP for superior background noise canceling, as well as Active Noise Cancelling (ANC), but the OpenMic button is there when you need it – allowing you to instantly hear your surroundings whenever you need to.
The stretchy rubber band up top creates a snug but not-too-tight fit for all-day wearing comfort, and built-in smart sensors can automatically answer calls by simply putting on the headset, while auto-muting when you take it off. The Dynamic Mute Alert is also a nice touch, alerting you when you try to talk while muted, and unmistakably clear voice-alerts announce things like caller ID, connection status, and talk-time level.
In-between calls, other audio like music and podcasts sound nicely full, with thick bass and shimmering highs, all balanced and crisp thanks to the powerful drivers inside. And for the left-handed users, this set can be worn either way, since the well-designed mic conveniently flips both forward and backwards, and big buttons on the outside let you customize and control commands with a simple tap.
3. Logitech Zone Wireless Bluetooth Headset
These Logitech headphones are light, collapsable, and lined with leatherette earpads for extra comfort, as well as wireless Qi charging. This can connect to two devices at once with zero issues, using Bluetooth or the included dongle.
Volume, mute, and ANC buttons are within easy reach, right by the mic, and the set can last around 14-16 hours on a full charge when using the ANC. The mic automatically mutes when you swing it up too.
An advantage of this set over the others in the bunch is the foldability. It’s somewhat rare to find this feature in a good headset, and it’s really practical for portability. Plus, this comes with a nice nylon travel bag as well. Once it’s back on your dome, the headband is adjustable, and the mic can flip both ways for use on either ear.
The downloadable Logi Tune app is also a neat way to have more control over the set, giving you the power to manage pre-set EQ levels, mute the mic, and more.
4. Yamay Bluetooth Headphones with Microphone
For those hunting for a more standard set, or in need of a headset for just the occasional work or family call, these get the job done nicely.
With a bendable, flexible feel and soft padding over the ears, they’re comfortable to wear for long stretches, and provide decent noise cancellation too. A handy mute button is easily accessible when you need it, and other control buttons are within reach like volume, track skip, a multi-function to activate a phone’s AI assistant and more.
Bluetooth 5.0 connects up to most any devices (even two at the same time) and remains clear, with a decently long range.
Battery life is a bit lower than the others, at around 15 hours, but still plenty (and up to 100 hours of standby time). The good news: charging up to 100% only takes around two hours, and an LED indicator lets you know when it’s fully refueled.