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Best Bluetooth headphones for conference calls
Let’s face it: conference calls are rarely ever smooth. Best-case scenario, you only say, “what” a few times, and worst-case scenario, you spend an hour of your day parodying an old Verizon commercial. Seeing how many of us are forced to stay in for the foreseeable future, telecommuting is becoming even more prevalent. We’ve put together a list of the best headphones for conference calls to make work a little less frustrating.
Editor’s note: this list of the best Bluetooth headphones for conference calls was updated on September 28, 2022 to add the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) to the Top Picks, and add some notable mentions.
Why is the Sony WH-1000XM4 the best headphones for conference calls?
Sony’s flagship noise cancelling headphones receive plenty of praise, all of which is well deserved. The Sony WH-1000XM5 is one of the best all-around headphones you can buy and has a great microphone system for hands-free calls. Sure, the headset is pricey but is a smart investment for anyone beholden to telecommuting in these odd times.
Compared to its predecessor, the microphone on the WH-1000XM5 is much better. A speaker’s voice comes through clearly with the XM5 microphone system, even in sub-optimal conditions like a windy day or typing at the office. This is about as good as embedded mic systems get, and if you want something better, you’ll need to attach an external boom mic.
Microphone quality aside, this is a great headset: it supports a slew of high-quality Bluetooth codecs such as AAC and Sony’s proprietary LDAC. No matter what device you’re streaming from, you’re guaranteed to enjoy optimal sound quality here. If you want to kick it old school and plug-in via the 3.5mm cable, you can do so for high-resolution audio. This is great for anyone who wants to enjoy lossless FLAC files from Amazon Music HD or Qobuz.
For anyone who works in an office, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is a wonderful pick. Take a listen to our samples below.
Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Ideal):
Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Office):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Noise cancelling is the best in the business. The WH-1000XM5 is reliable and combats external noise more effectively than the WH-1000XM4 or Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 from Bose. Even if you’re just a casual commuter, the headphones attenuate subway hums and chatter well too. Out of the box, you’ll enjoy a more neutral frequency response than its predecessor, meaning you won’t get that slight emphasis in the low-end—as common among consumer headphones.
Get the Jabra Elite 45h for the occasional Zoom call
For some of the best battery life on a wireless headset and useful tactile buttons, get the Jabra Elite 45h. So long as active noise cancellation is not a concern (because there is none) the Elite 45h offers around 67 hours of battery life, meaning you’re unlikely to need to charge it once during the workweek.
One feature that’s handy for calls is with the Jabra Sound+ app, you can enable a sidetone effect in order to hear your own voice during a call. While possibly jarring for some, once you’re used to it, hearing yourself can help with adjusting your delivery during a call. Though the tactile buttons may require some adjustment, there’s an extremely helpful mute button, meaning you can concentrate on your call and not futzing with your device to mute and unmute yourself.
While Apple users reap the benefits of the AAC codec, Android users will have to make do with the SBC codec, which is a shame because the frequency response on the Elite 45h is pleasant and fairly neutral, if a little low on clarity for music. That said, for phone calls it’s solid. Bluetooth connection is strong, and if you’re doing occasional calls in quiet environments (because, again no ANC), the Jabra Elite 45h is really an excellent pick for under $100.
Jabra Elite 45h microphone demo (Ideal):
Jabra Elite 45h microphone demo (Office):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The microphone is clear and above average in sound quality. Jabra is a trusted manufacturer of professional headsets, so this is no surprise. During a heavy wind, you may pick up some clipping, but on the whole, the Elite 45h performs very well.
The Shure AONIC 50 is comfortable and has a host of high-quality Bluetooth codecs to choose from
Shure makes some of the best microphones on the market, so it’s no surprise that its AONIC 50 headset has made its way to the best headphones for conference calls. Voices are relayed loudly and clearly, so long as you’re in a relatively quiet environment. Shure even attenuates low-end frequencies through the microphone to actively combat the proximity effect. Unfortunately, this mic falls short when outside, but this shouldn’t be an issue for extended conference calls that you’ll take from a home office anyway.
Noise cancelling is quite good: virtually all sounds, no matter the frequency, are reduced by way of Shure’s ANC technology. This is great news for anyone who’s stuck working remotely or just wants to block out the sound of chatty roommates while trying to study. Sound quality is excellent, too. Shure amplifies upper-bass notes and low-mids to make vocals stand out from instrumental din.
What’s more, you benefit from a host of Bluetooth codec support (aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, AAC, LDAC), meaning all devices can stream high-quality audio to the headset. This extreme range of support also makes the AONIC 50 a great pick for anyone who streams videos from their laptop. You can even connect to two devices at once thanks to multipoint functionality.
Shure AONIC 50 microphone demo (firmware 0.4.9):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Have an iPhone? Get the AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
iPhone users should consider the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) for its compact build, H2 chip integration, and noise cancelling properties. Not to mention, the microphone array is very good for a set of true wireless earbuds.
Ever since the nozzle-less AirPods, Apple has impressed us with its mic quality. This is the headset to get if you plan to take a lot of phone calls. Pretty much anyone who uses the AirPods Pro for calls will sound as they do in real life with minimal distortion.
As far as sound quality goes, Apple’s buds have a fairly neutral frequency response where it matters from 100-1,500Hz. This is where most instrumental frequencies lie, particularly fundamentals. Most music will sound good so long as you’re able to get a proper fit.
The charging case is compact and compatible with Qi wireless chargers. The AirPods Pro’s compact size is definitely a big plus, and great for people who onebag their way through life. The AirPods Pro is also a great option for travel due to ANC performance, which is even better in this new generation than the last. Heck, Apple even throws in a special DSP to optimize noise cancelling if the seal isn’t ideal. Pretty intelligent stuff there, Apple.
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Ideal):
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Office):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset is as comfortable as it gets
Worker bees who just want the most comfortable thing on the market should go with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset—it has “comfort” in the name! This headset takes the Bose QC 35 II and adds on a boom microphone. Though the package is pricey, if you want the luxury of these headphones for everyday use along with a high-quality detachable boom mic for your calls, it’s worth the price.
Bose also supplies you with a large volume dial that’s shaped like a puck and takes up a bit of space on a desk. You don’t have to use the dial, but it does have a few features like toggling through different microphone monitoring modes. When your job takes you away from the desk, you can detach all the cables, remove the boom mic, and use it like the standard QC 35 II. Of course, when you remove the boom mic, you’re left with the sound quality of the internal microphones and you can tell the boom is much better.
The ANC performance is identical to the Bose QC 35 II, meaning it’s very good at blocking out most frequencies to make them sound one-half to one-twelfth as loud as they would without the headset on. Sound quality is great too, though you can’t EQ it from the Bose Connect app. If you want a versatile headset that works just about anywhere, the Bose QC 35 II is as comfortable as it gets.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset boom microphone demo (Ideal):
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset boom microphone demo (Office):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Can you use the Logitech G435 Lightspeed gaming headset for work?
Yes, you absolutely can use the Logitech G435 Lightspeed as a pair of work headphones thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity and low latency USB-A RF adapter. When you enable Bluetooth you get your pick of just SBC and AAC, the latter of which works more reliably on Apple hardware than it does on Android hardware. The headset really stands out when it comes down to value. For much less than $100 USD, you get a solid microphone and comfortable headset with 24-hour battery life. We wish you could enjoy wired playback over the G435 Lightspeed but you can’t win everything.
Logitech G435 Lightspeed microphone demo (Ideal):
Logitech G435 Lightspeed microphone demo (Office):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Is the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 worth it?
If you value sound quality and noise cancelling, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is a great pick with a futuristic design. We like that Bose is frequently adds features to its headset through the Bose Music app. Initially, you couldn’t EQ this headset, but Bose resolved that with a quick update. The ANC is very good, though not as good as the company’s Bose QuietComfort 45.
The microphone system is very good but can’t quite keep up with the other picks. Take a listen below.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 microphone demo (Ideal):
Bose NCH 700 microphone demo (Office):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The best Bluetooth headphones for conference calls: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Life Q35: The incredible battery life of well over 40 hours can get you through an entire week of conference calls. With AAC- and LDAC-powered sound, multi-device pairing, ANC, and great noise isolation you’ll also enjoy these headphones during your off hours.
- Apple AirPods Max: Is your job subsidizing your headset? If yes, take the opportunity to pick up the AirPods Max, assuming you have an iPhone and other Apple devices to use with it. This has great microphone quality on the right device.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M50XBT2: If you’re looking for no-nonsense Bluetooth headphones that sound great, last forever, and give you the option of wired listening, get these. Microphone quality isn’t perfect but you won’t find much to complain about especially relative to cheaper headsets like the Anker Soundcore Vortex.
- Jabra Elite 85h: Try this if you like everything about the Elite 45h, but you really just want ANC and a more comfortable fit.
- Microsoft Surface Headphones 2: Microphone quality is fine, but the Surface Headphones 2 made it on our list because Microsoft included a dedicated mic mute button. This is a must-have feature for anyone who spends their days clicking in and out of various Zoom calls.
- Razer Barracuda X (2022): Don’t let its light weight fool you. This pair of gaming headphones packs a punch. We loved the great sound quality and the solid battery life of almost 60 hours. You can connect the Razer Barracuda X (2022) via a 3.5mm audio jack, the included USB-C dongle, or Bluetooth.
- Shokz OpenComm: This bone conduction headset looks a lot like the popular AfterShokz Aeropex but it also has an external boom mic for better mic quality. If you already like all the perks of bone conduction headphones and want to bring it to the office, get the OpenComm.
- Sony WH-1000XM4: This headphone is hailed for its active noise cancellation performance, sound quality, comfort, and a good microphone with accurate vocal reproduction. With its successor on the market, keep an eye out for when these cans eventually go on sale.
- Sony WH-XB910N: The “XB” here stands for “extra bass,” so if you’re a bass head, this is the option for you. It doesn’t have the absolute best mic quality on the market, but it’s good enough to get you through regular meetings and family calls.
- Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2: This Bluetooth-enabled gaming headset has a very good boom microphone and bass-heavy frequency response (typical of gaming headsets). You can connect this to your phone over Bluetooth 4.2 or to your PC with the 2.4GHz USB RF dongle adapter.
If you want a more portable headset, check these options out
- Beats Powerbeats Pro: These wireless earphones have an uncommonly good mic array for their product type, but as they’re true wireless earphones—battery life may be a concern if you’re in meetings all day.
- Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: These earbuds are very good all ’rounders with stellar noise cancelling, similar to the Jabra Elite 85t.
- Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC: If you’re looking to cancel out the office air conditioner or the din of your daily commute, the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC can help. Active noise-cancelling easily combats low-pitched frequencies, and as far as sound quality goes, vocals are pleasantly emphasized.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Another pair of wireless earbuds with a great microphone, these are a great alternative to the AirPods Pro for people with Samsung phones. This pair of earbuds also has excellent ANC and a good microphone, so you can focus on your calls and come through loud and clear.
Hold up! Something’s different:
Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
What you should know about Bluetooth headphones for conference calls
No matter what headphones for conference calls you’ve decided to run with, the odds are pretty high that your conference call will still sound bad even if you sound good.
There are plenty of reasons for this poor audio quality and transmission, one of them being a consequence of limited bandwidth: dynamic range compression. This processing reduces loud sounds’ volume levels while increasing quieter ones, effectively stripping the unnecessary frequencies from your voice. This is great for efficiency purposes but can make people, especially those with cheap headsets, sound bad. To get a better idea of issues surrounding telecommuting and how you can improve call quality, read on here.
To optimize audio quality, get a proper fit
To get the best sound quality during your call, you need to find a proper fit. When external noise permeates your headphones’ barrier, auditory masking occurs. This can result in poor audio clarity and make it difficult to perceive detail from your music or during a call.
When using over-ear headphones, finding a proper fit requires that your ears fit within the ear cups. On-ear headphones are a different story: you want the ear cups to lay flat against your outer ear. This positioning will lessen any chance of background noise masking your music. Bespectacled workers may need to invest in third-party ear pads. SoundGuys recommends velour material as it’s forgiving and still wraps nicely around eyewear arms.
What makes a good headset microphone?
The best wireless headset microphone is one that is separate from the headset itself, so the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC or the V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex with its proprietary BoomPro attachment. The main benefit of having an external microphone is that it more effectively mitigates the proximity effect. This way, your voice won’t be unevenly amplified across the frequency spectrum. When irregular emphasis does occur, your voice sounds unnatural and could be considered “echoed” or “distant.”
If you opt for one of the more versatile headsets without an integrated boom mic, the quality will still be good but there are some things to be aware of: clothing may rub against the microphones and transmit an irritating crinkle sound to the person on the other end of a call. An easy way to fix this is to forgo your style inclinations and un-popping your collar. It’s also good practice to be aware of hoods that could do the same thing.
What’s more, make sure you’re placing the left ear cup on your left ear and the right cup on your right. It sounds silly but if you’re in a rush, there’s a good chance for you to accidentally flip the directions here. Wearing the headphones incorrectly can have a huge negative impact on microphone quality, since the mics operate under the assumption that users wear them the right way.
There are a few things we prioritized when picking out headphones for conference calls. Although background attenuation is important, and all picks perform above average in this regard, it’s second to raw microphone quality. Yes, reducing external noise by way of an advanced system is great but if the actual microphone still isn’t up to snuff, it doesn’t matter how well tertiary mics cancel ambient noise.
What’s more, amplification doesn’t always mean better sound quality. There are plenty of headset mics that use loudness as a crutch at the expense of clarity. We made sure to avoid adding those products to the list of the best headphones for conference calls.
Keep your expectations realistic: headsets rarely have a passable microphone, making every listed pair of headphones for conference calls an exception to the rule. Even though there are some great options highlighted, the fact remains that microphone quality won’t compare to a dedicated XLR or even USB mic.
These picks are headphones first, conference call tools second
Although we do have one specific set of professional headphones listed, the fact remains that most of us are looking for a versatile pair of headphones for conference calls, something that does it all well. That’s why most of our top picks are consumer headphones with top-notch mic systems built-in. If you’re looking for more professional, office-oriented headsets, we have some great options in the notable mentions section.
You may not expect a gaming headset to be a great option for conference calls, but the fact that most models include external microphones makes them ideal candidates for calls. The downside is sometimes, the microphones aren’t removable or the headsets have a specific aesthetic that won’t please most users. However, if you just want good microphone quality in your headphones, a cheap gaming headset will be a good bang for your buck.
Headphones can cause tinnitus but if you’re using them properly and listening at safe volumes, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Plenty of people experience what the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) classifies as a normal degree of hearing loss. This happens with exposure to loud sounds over time and age. There are also more specific variants of hearing loss (e.g. sensorineural and conductive hearing loss) that are preventable. With regards to headsets, the easiest way to prevent auditory damage is by keeping volume levels below a dangerous output. It’s unlikely that you’ll crank up the volume to dangerous levels during a conference call, but you may be tempted to do so when listening to music. We encourage you to avoid this and either invest in one of the noise cancelling options or go to great lengths to find a proper fit.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
We strive to educate our readers on the perpetually evolving world of consumer audio. When approaching any audio product, we acknowledge that assessing it requires a combination of objective testing and subjective reflection: not everyone wants a studio sound and that’s just fine. At the end of the day, we want you to be happy with your purchase if one is made. Although SoundGuys does use referral links, none of our writers may benefit from awarding one product over another.
Frequently asked questions about the best Bluetooth headphones for conference calls
It depends on what you’re doing while teaching. If you’re going to be sitting at the computer the whole time, you may want to opt for a standalone mic for better audio quality, but you’ll probably also want to be wearing headphones so that, when your students speak, it doesn’t echo through your microphone.
If you’re going to be standing and drawing on a whiteboard, having a wireless headset might be a more ergonomic solution. The long and short of it is this: a standalone mic will almost always have better quality than a headset, but a headset is usually more convenient.
For one thing, having a headset improves ergonomics because it frees up your hands and allows you a larger range of movement. Call quality is also better with a headset because you can hear through both ears rather than one, and speakerphone is typically low quality too. Additionally, if your headset has a dedicated boom microphone your colleagues will be able to hear you crystal clear.
Whether a pair of headphones fits you well depends on your particular ear shape, if you wear glasses or have ear piercings, and, of course, the build of the headphones themselves. If you are wearing headphones for many hours at a time, you’ll probably want to go with over-ear headphones because they don’t squish your ear in any way. Of this list, we recommend the Shure AONIC 50 because of their thick memory foam ear cups and headband adjustability for any head size.
To answer your question, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series is pretty good true wireless headphones, however, because you’re using a Macbook there are certain features you may miss: for example, Siri won’t work, and you won’t have Google Assistant either. For a true wireless earbud, the microphone is surprisingly decent. There’s no noise cancellation, which may or may not be important for your environment.
With that said, for the price, there are other options that might suit you better and lend some Apple functionality, like the Jabra Elite 7 Pro which has a great microphone for a wireless earbud, and you get the Apple compatibility via app support.