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Best headphones for work
Whether you enter data into spreadsheets all day or write up reports, having some tunes or a podcast playing through a pair of headphones helps pass the time. If you’re looking for the perfect pair to toil along with or help you focus, here are some of our picks for the best headphones for work.
- This article was updated on October 1, 2023, to adjust formatting, add more notable mentions, and answer more frequently asked questions.
- If you really need to block out the office noise, check out our list of the best noise canceling headphones for work.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is the best pair of work headphones for most people
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is the newest revision of Sony’s long-successful flagship line of noise canceling headphones. It’s a fully wireless headset with Bluetooth multipoint, enabling you to use it with multiple devices. The noise canceling is great, especially for office environments with noisier coworkers as well as long, noisy commutes. The sound quality is bass-heavy, but you can EQ it using the official app should you wish to do so (you won’t need to do much to get it to sound great). We suggest turning down the “Clear bass” option two ticks.
The build quality is on par with the other ANC headphones on the market under $400, with the price being immediately apparent in the performance. The microphone is also quite excellent (you can listen to it below) and also features a system to automatically mute your media while you’re talking. On-ear controls work well, allowing you to play, pause, move forward and backward, and control the volume using the touchpad on the side of the ear cup.
Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone in office conditions:
If it’s a bit too expensive for you, the previous generation Sony WH-1000XM4 is still a solid choice and can often be found for cheaper.
What you should know about work headphones
When you’re shopping for a pair of work headphones, there are a number of factors to consider. Doing a little research and thinking a little about what your specific needs are can help you avoid a lot of frustration down the road.
Why are headset microphones important?
If you make lots of calls during your workday, your headphones need to have a good microphone. There’s a lot that goes into making a mic sound good, but most mics in headphones are close to your face. That might sound obvious, but it does mean that your voice will sound “boomier” and “bassier” than it should unless the mic setup in your headphones is configured to deal with this.
That usually means the headset must tone down some of the low end so you don’t sound wonky and people on the other end of a call can still hear you. If your ideal work headphones have a boom mic, make sure it sits in the proper position. That is, don’t put it too close to your mouth, counterintuitive as that seems—avoiding a position where you’re breathing directly on the microphone is key.
Why is headphone battery life so variable?
You might have noticed that our headphone reviews have a trend: over-ear headsets boast longer battery life than in-ear ones. If that matters to you for those long days grinding away, over-ears might be a better option.
That’s because the tiny housings of in-ear buds just cannot accommodate bigger batteries. Physics dictates that means they will hold less charge and deplete faster. That also gives earphones a limited lifespan. Still, if you need to minimize the tradeoff between size and battery life, neckbuds such as the Beyerdynamic Blue BYRD (2nd generation) can strike a good balance here. Otherwise, over-ear cans will serve you better.
What are Bluetooth codecs?
Bluetooth codecs are what turn electronic signals in your device into wireless signals that can be sent over the air. Then they also convert that data back into sound in your headphones. That matters because it takes time and computing power to do all that. If it takes too long, latency might mean a mismatch between people’s lips and what they’re saying. Or your voice may not arrive in a timely fashion on the other end of the call.
You can avoid all that with a wired connection, but really it likely won’t be too bad for someone seated in an office chair at a PC. If you are at work, audio quality during a call needs only to be good enough to clearly transmit voices. And then, when you switch back to listening to tunes, you likely won’t be watching music videos anyway to notice any lag. Still, if you want to use your work headphones for other tasks, choosing a pair with LDAC or aptX codec support is an important factor to consider. Apple users, however, can rest easy with AAC for everything.
Need good noise canceling on a budget? Get the Bose QuietComfort 45
If you just want stellar noise canceling but don’t want to shell out buckets of cash, the Bose QuietComfort 45 makes for a great choice. The QC 45 boasts some excellent noise canceling, thanks to a shared pedigree with its elder siblings, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and the Bose Noise Canceling 700. The headset lives up to the “comfort” part of its name, too, so you can keep it on for hours while you’re in the zone and not worry about pinching and poking.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 doesn’t skimp on some handy features, either. For instance, the Bose Music app (iOS/Android) lets you EQ the sound as long as you have the latest firmware installed. You also get USB-C charging for quick battery top-ups and a wired listening option. Our testing shows that these over-ears last for almost 25 hours, so you can listen all day long. The QC 45 doesn’t have touch controls, but it does have multi-function button controls. That makes it a bit better in colder temperatures, too.
You don’t get any other Bluetooth codecs than AAC and SBC from the Bose QC 45, though. So if you’re on Android, you won’t have access to any reliable high-quality options. Still, if you’re popping on a playlist or audiobook in the background and then focusing on work, you probably won’t notice anything wrong. And the excellent noise canceling of these cans will help you focus for hours. Here’s how their mic sounds in an office:
Bose QuietComfort 45 microphone in office conditions
The new Bose QuietComfort Headphones share many similarities in design and comfort to the QC 45. However, despite being from the same line and having a similar price point, they fall short in the crucial area of sound quality. The new headphones have a troublesome frequency response, including an over-emphasized sub-bass and inconsistent highs, which muddles the audio experience.
While both models offer competent noise cancelation, the QC 45 stands out as slightly superior in this department. Given that they are now more affordable and the QC 45 offers better sound and comparable noise canceling, it’s hard to recommend the newer model over its predecessor.
So, if you’re contemplating which to choose, the QC 45 still provides a more balanced package in terms of sound quality, comfort, and noise cancelation. It simply remains the more compelling choice. Of course, this could all change with sale pricing, so be sure to keep an eye on our deals posts.
The best work earphones for iPhone users is the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)
If you already have an iPhone or Mac, then the best work earphones for you are the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen). Apple’s portable noise canceling earbuds integrate well with the Apple ecosystem, and now that they’ve been refreshed with a USB-C port, you won’t be hard-pressed to find a spare charging cord. Plus, the buds and case’s compact size means the AirPods Pro won’t get in the way. The mics do a reliable job of reproducing voices, so you can use these earphones to chat away during conference calls.
These buds have a design that stays in your ears, so if you move around a lot at work, that’s a reassuring feature. And if you tend to break a sweat while you work, the buds’ IPX4 rating is also handy. You can also take advantage of the Apple H1 chip and get automatic device switching, as long as each device is also from Apple (and under the same iCloud account). That way, you can answer a call on your iPhone and go right back to listening to podcasts on your Mac seamlessly. Speaking of which, compared to other AirPods, the Pro has a relatively neutral frequency response, so your content will sound good whether it’s spoken word or pop tunes.
Here’s how the mic sounds:
Apple AirPods Pro microphone demo (Office):
The best pair of wired work headphones is the Logitech G Pro X
If you want something that uses a reliable old wire to connect to a phone or computer, then the Logitech G Pro X is a good option. This is technically a gaming headset, but don’t let that dissuade you from buying it: gaming headsets make for great conference call headsets. You get comfortable ear pads and a nice sound profile from the G Pro X. You can also use the company’s Blue Vo!ce software to take advantage of plenty of useful features.
This is designed to be worn for long hours while you use a PC, so it’s well-suited to seated tasks at your desk, too. The boom mic makes sense both for chat rooms and conference calls, and the replaceable velour ear pads are great for people with glasses. You even get different cord options, including straight and coiled, to suit mobile and stationary tasks. As for that mic, here is how it tends to sound when in an office:
Logitech G Pro X microphone demo (Office):
The best work headphones value is the Jabra Elite 45h
You don’t have to spend lots of cash just to get a good set of work headphones, and the Jabra Elite 45h definitely proves that. For anywhere from $70 to $90, you get excellent battery life, a great microphone, plus a warranty that protects against rain and dust.
You can also keep the headphones on during the commute home, so there’s no need to bring a second pair if you just want to enjoy some tunes. Since it is an on-ear design, you may find that how well it sits on your ears has a big impact on how it sounds. It does have a great-sounding microphone, and though this headset may not be perfect for everything, it makes for a good choice at a great price. Plus, it’s compact, so toting it around won’t be too much of a hassle.
Here’s a sample recording of their mic:
Jabra Elite 45h microphone demo (Office):
The AfterShokz OpenComm lets you stay aware of your surroundings
If you work the kind of job that requires you to be aware of your surroundings, the AfterShokz OpenComm fits the bill well. This bone conduction headset leaves your ears free to hear your surroundings because it uses the bones in your skull to transmit sound to your ears via vibrations. You don’t get any isolation, and you might experience auditory masking, but for scenarios in which you need your ears free, opting for bone conduction could still be a good idea.
The headset also has a multifunction button, which is useful for when your hands are full and a call comes in, or you need to ask your voice assistant something. You get around 16 hours of battery life from the OpenComm, so it should last you through a day at work, too.
The Anker Soundcore Life Q35 makes multitasking easier
Multitasking might never be a breeze for many folks, but the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 can make it easier. This pair of headphones has a decent microphone for conference calls, plus Bluetooth multipoint. Though you can only use one sound source at a time, switching between them is pretty easy. That way, you can finish a work call on your phone and then tap play on your PC again without much hassle. And because the mic is pretty decent, hopping into a call means people will hear what you say clearly the first time.
Furthermore, Anker Soundcore’s headphones have NFC pairing, so it is super easy to place them next to an Android device and get them synced up. On top of all that, you get the LDAC Bluetooth codec for better media playback. Battery life is pretty stellar, clocking in around 52 hours on a single charge. Fast charging also means you can pick up the Life Q35 to use after just a short stint tied to a power cord.
What about the Anker Soundcore Q45?
The Anker Soundcore Q45 is a perfectly competent headset that you could pick up for the office—we just didn’t pick it for our recommendations because more expensive than the older Q35 and only offers slightly better ANC below 1kHz. If you do want to spring for the newer model, it can be had for around $150, but you’ll largely just be getting design changes with the new headset and relatively few substantive ones. That’s not to say it isn’t worth the money, but we tend to favor bang-for-buck when it comes to comparing very similar headphones.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset bridges two worlds
If you use your souped-up PC for gaming and your job, then the Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset will bridge both of those worlds. Picture a Bose QuietComfort 35 II with a boom mic tacked on, and that’s how it’ll mostly function. However, you must use this headset in wired mode for the mic to actually function (which makes sense because Bluetooth latency isn’t great for gaming).
Once the workday is over and you need to get away from your desk, though, you can detach the cable, and these headphones will go right back to being a pair of noise canceling cans. If that sounds like the perfect niche for you, and you need excellent noise canceling to drown out the din of daily life, this makes for a solid choice. Plus, you get all the features of the standard QuietComfort 35 II, including the button controls and consumer-friendly frequency response.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro makes for good in-ears on Android
If you want an in-ear noise canceling option for Android, then the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro makes for a good set of work earphones. These buds boast the ability to switch between Samsung Galaxy devices automatically, too. So, if you’re immersed in the Samsung ecosystem, you’ll enjoy a pretty seamless workday to boot. These buds boast really good ANC to block out distractions, which is handy for busy days when you need to focus.
The earbuds merit an IPX7 rating, so getting stressed and sweaty won’t harm them. Plus, the Galaxy Wearable app (Android) has an EQ to customize the way your music sounds and enable automatic voice detection, another boon to frantic days. Furthermore, compatible Samsung Galaxy devices, including smartphones and tablets, will allow these buds to switch automatically between sources, much like the AirPods Pro. These earbuds also have a very good microphone for in-ear. Your conference calls will convey your voice clearly, which is handy for not repeating yourself in a stressful meeting.
The Shure AONIC 50 is a premium pick
If you anticipate using your work headphones daily for lengthy calls and during long bus rides, then the Shure AONIC 50 makes for a solid option. This set of over-ears is pretty pricey, but you get removable ear pads that you can swap out as needed and clean thoroughly to keep your ears healthy. They boast a robust and reliable build, so you can count on the AONIC 50 standing up to years of use as well.
You also get noise canceling to block out distractions and focus. And if you ensure you’ve got the latest firmware installed, the mic will sound quite nice too. Tack on to that plenty of Bluetooth codec options, good frequency response, and a wired listening option, and these headphones make for an audiophile’s dream work headset. If you want a similar design for a bit less, the Shure AONIC 40 may be more your style.
The best work headphones: Notable mentions
- Apple AirPods Max: If you live in the Apple ecosystem and already love your AirPods Pro, then the AirPods Max will feel right at home as a pair of over-ears noise canceling headphones.
- Beats Studio Buds: Small, lightweight, and colorful, these earbuds make for a fun choice to pep up your workday. Though they don’t do noise canceling that well, their mic works pretty well for conference calls.
- Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700: While the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 can’t beat the Sony WH-1000XM5 at active noise canceling, they still do a great job. These cans also sport a beautiful design, and the excellent sound quality will attract many music lovers.
- Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: If you want the noise canceling Bose is known for in a smaller format, these expensive IPX4-rated earbuds are it.
- Monoprice BT-600ANC: For most casual listeners, these are the best bang for your buck headphones. The combination of great isolation and noise cancelation, decent sound, and premium features provide a lot of value for the price.
- Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC: If you want to wander during your conference calls with your camera off but are worried you’ll be blabbering with your mic on mute, this set of neckbuds will prevent that from happening thanks to the dynamic mute alert feature.
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.
Frequently asked questions about the best work headphones
Our top pick for the office is the Sony WH-1000XM5. They offer excellent active noise cancelation, are completely wireless, and can pair with pretty much any device. Still, you can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list.
Not with pure vanilla Bluetooth multipoint, but the AirPods Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro can both do this if you use it on the respective manufacturer’s devices. For AirPods, that means iOS devices, and for the Buds Pro, that means Galaxy devices.
Yes, most models of ANC headphones come with an app you can use to control how much ANC you get. Ambient-aware modes often strike a good balance between listening to your tunes and being aware of outside alerts too.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset is basically the Bose QuietComfort 35 II with a boom mic tacked on. The boom mic only works in wired mode (because Bluetooth latency makes using it for gaming a non-starter), but the rest of the headphone is basically the same as the QuietComfort 35 II.