Working from home is a must for many people at this point, and so are the inevitable video conferencing meetings that go along with it. If you’re just starting to work online, you’ll probably want something better for talking to people than the dinky microphone in your laptop or mobile headphones.
We’ve made selections for the best general headset at a few price points if all you need is a better way to hear and be heard in meetings and video chats. Since we know people often use their computer for more, we’ve also made a few selections that focus on performance for music and gaming. We also chose a headset that can connect to both a landline phone and a PC at the same time, for those who need to juggle multiple types of calls.
Editor’s Note: We do our best to make sure roundups like these stay up to date, but with constant stock issues across online stores due to COVID-19, that’s not easy right now. We’ve defaulted to manufacturer’s stores here instead of Amazon to potentially relieve some of that stress, but keep in mind that any of these could go out of stock at any point.
What Makes a Good Headset?
There are a few elements that go into a quality headset, but manufacturers tend to zero in on some features that are less important than others. Here’s what you should be focusing on, in general order of importance:
- Microphone quality: This helps your coworkers to understand you. Audio quality for your ears is nice, but less important since the audio you hear is compressed anyway. You can have it as a secondary feature if you want to use the same headset for music or gaming.
- Comfort: You might be in online meetings for an hour or more every day, so generous padding on the ears and headband is a major plus.
- Stereo earphones: Some headsets have a speaker driver for only one ear. This design is handy for call centers, but less so if you’re in your own office and don’t need to listen to people around you. Stereo offers more comfortable listening.
- Connectivity: Most computers have the option of either USB or headphone and microphone-in ports, so you’re covered with almost any headset. If your PC only has USB-C, you might need an adapter cable. Some desktops might need a wireless Bluetooth dongle for wireless headsets.
- MS or UC certification: this is of least concern. MS is short for “Microsoft Skype for Business.” “UC” means “Unified Communications,” a competing platform. The headsets with these labels are pre-configured to be used with their respective platforms. But any modern headset will work with any modern audio or video conferencing software, the only change might be a physical pick up/hang up button. Go for an MS option if you depend on Skype and it’s available for your chosen headset, otherwise don’t worry about it.
Best General Headset: Jabra Evolve 40
The Evolve 40 is in the mid-range of Jabra’s lineup, focusing on ease of use, clarity of voice recording, and comfort. It uses a standard USB connection with an in-line controller for volume and mute controls, which is ideal for more infrequent use since there’s no battery to charge. Alternately, you can use a standard headphone jack and manage calls on your computer. It’s also available in standard stereo and mono (a speaker in only one ear, the other left clear) if you need to hear what’s going on around you. It even includes an external “busy” light for when you’re on a call. It’s a great choice for those who need a general improvement in audio.
Best Upgrade Headset: Jabra Evolve 80
If your budget can take a little extra, check out the Jabra Evolve 80. This upgraded headset is more like a conventional pair of around-the-ear headphones and features active noise cancellation to block out the sounds around you. Generous padding on the cups and bands should keep your head comfy all day long, and it has the option for either USB-A or USB-C connections or a standard headphone jack.
Best Budget Headset: Logitech H151
Tight on funds? Logitech has you covered. The H151 is pretty bare-bones with only a standard headphone jack connection, but it still includes basic noise cancellation in its rotating boom microphone and an in-line mute button. It’s compatible with all standard desktop-based communications programs, and as a bonus, its combined mic/headphone cable also works with most smartphones (though you may need a USB-C or lightning adapter for newer models).
Best Headset for Music Lovers: Sennheiser MB 360 UC
For those who listen to music at their desk all day and don’t want to switch to a dedicated headset, the Bluetooth-enabled Sennheiser MB 360 is a great choice. Its active noise cancellation and 25 hours of battery life make it ideal for a long day in a (possibly) noisy home, but it also has folding hinges and an included carrying case for travel with your phone. An old-fashioned headphone connection with in-line controls is included in the package, as is a Bluetooth adapter (USB-A) for desktops that lack wireless capability.
Best Headset for Using With Landlines: Plantronics Voyager Focus UC (With Switch)
For users who need to make both conventional landline calls and online conference calls, the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC is the jack of all trades. The package’s switch system connects to a standard landline and a USB port with the ability to switch between them at any time. The base station is also the wireless charger, and the on-ear headphones include basic noise cancellation.
Best Headset for Gaming: Sennheiser Game ONE or Game ZERO
For those whose gaming PC has suddenly become their work PC, we recommend Sennheiser’s Game series. The ONE is an open-back design, identical to the PC37X, which offers an incredible sound profile while featuring the usual boom microphone and USB connection. The Game ZERO is a closed-back design for a more standard (but equally hi-fi) sound profile. Both headsets are compatible with VOIP and conferencing applications as well as multiplayer PC games.
Also Consider: Blue Yeti USB Microphone
If you already have a pair of headphones that you love, you might just need a better microphone. If that’s the case, you can’t go wrong with Blue’s Yeti, the top choice for podcasters and streamers for years. Its USB-based connection is easy to set up, and it doubles as a wonderful recording mic, too. It’s compatible with standard mounting equipment if you need to get it into an ideal position.