Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

Best headset for conference calls: The best USB and Bluetooth headsets with microphones

Will Georgiadis Ben Johnston
17 Jan 2022
Advertisement

Don't settle for subpar audio – here are our favourite USB and Bluetooth headsets to improve your next conference call

The best headset for conference calls isn’t necessarily the high-end business model your office supplies to its front desk workers and salespeople. There are all kinds of different headsets, headphones and earphones that provide a fantastic Zoom or Teams call experience without breaking the bank, and many also happen to be great for listening to music, watching movies or even gaming.

Of course, if you want a high-end business headset, you can have one of those too, and for less than you might think.

Before you rush to the nearest online retailer, however, there are a few burning questions you need to answer. For example, do you want a monaural or binaural model? Do you need DECT, or is Bluetooth okay? How about Teams integration? And is ANC important in your office/home office environment?

The world of conference headsets is more complex than you might think, but don’t worry: we’ve tested a healthy selection of products to help sort the good from the bad (and the ugly).

Below, you’ll find a detailed guide to the conference headset jargon and, further down the page, our full roundup of the best headsets for conference calls you can buy today.

READ NEXT: The best monitors for your home office

How to choose the best headset for your next conference call

How much do I need to spend?

It’s a good idea to set a budget before you go hunting for a headset. Work headsets like the ones on this list can range in price from £20 to well over £200. In terms of features and design, this range jumps from basic Bluetooth earpieces to over-ear noise-cancelling headphones with enough oomph for listening to music while you work.

This means you’ll need to think about how you’re using your headset. If you like to take work calls while you walk, you can probably settle for the simple Bluetooth earpiece. If you’re chained to your desk and inundated with meetings in a noisy environment (be that at work or at home), it makes sense to spend a bit more on a proper over-ear model that can at least passively block out external noise.

What kind of headset should I buy?

In-ear Bluetooth earpieces are good for taking work calls on the move, as we’ve already mentioned. They’re cheap, simple and tend to work best with a smartphone, but they won’t block out outside noise and offer little in the way of long-term comfort or extra features.

Monaural headsets (or Britney headsets, colloquially) are the sort you might imagine a telemarketer, call centre employee or legendary pop singer wearing. They only have one earpiece, which makes them a good compromise if you don’t need to completely block the outside world out while at work. They often offer similar features to traditional headsets at a reduced cost, making them great value.

Binaural headsets are your traditional on-ear or over-ear headsets. Technically, any pair of headphones or gaming headset you might own counts as binaural. They’re the only variety to offer full active noise cancellation (ANC) and the only variety suitable for listening to music; they also tend to be the most expensive, but compensate with plenty of features and supreme comfort.

READ NEXT: The best noise-cancelling headphones to buy

Wired or wireless?

You’ll also need to decide whether you want a wired or wireless headset. Bluetooth earpieces are exclusively wireless, but monaural and binaural headsets come in both varieties.

Wired models can support standard USB, USB-C or 3.5mm headphone jacks, so be very careful to check that the headset you intend to buy is compatible with your laptop, PC or smartphone. The benefit here is that you don’t have to worry about battery life or inexplicable disconnects.

Wireless headsets can support Bluetooth and digital enhanced cordless telecommunications technology, or DECT for short. DECT is a communications standard most commonly used by cordless landline phones – in brief, it offers superior range and security compared to Bluetooth.

Battery life will vary depending on the product and the time you spend using it, so we’ve listed both a talk time and a standby time in our reviews below, where possible.

READ NEXT: The best gaming headsets to buy

What else should I look out for?

Unified Communications, or UC for short, is a label you might find tagged onto the end of a product name. It just means the headset in question will work unhindered with multiple devices and virtual conferencing applications, rather than being tailor-made for something like Skype for Business.

If you do exclusively use a platform such as Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams, however, you might want to invest in a certified compatible headset. Most headsets will work with most applications, but you might find that additional features (such as volume/mic controls) don’t function as intended. We’ve listed compatibility as a key specification in each of the reviews below.

Active noise cancellation doesn’t just mean blocking out external noise while you’re listening to music on the train. High-end headsets also offer microphones with noise cancelling, keeping unwanted background chatter out of your conference call without forcing you to mute yourself constantly.

READ NEXT: The best laptops to buy

The best headsets to buy for conference calls

1. Plantronics Voyager Focus UC: Best conference call headset (with ANC)

Price: £150 | Buy now from Amazon

Hoping to block out a bit of outside noise? The Plantronics Voyager Focus UC is an on-ear headset with built-in active noise cancellation technology, engaged via a simple switch on one of the earpieces. The ANC isn’t flawless, as the headset can’t offer the same level of passive noise cancelling you’d get from over-ear or in-ear headphones, but it still manages to keep human voices to a minimum. This is ridiculously useful if you’re constantly joining calls with colleagues/spouses/children in close proximity.

ANC aside, the Voyager Focus is a fantastic headset. Build quality is superb and the cup-mounted controls are straightforward, with audio playback controls mounted within a volume wheel on one earcup. You can rotate the microphone over 180 degrees - allowing you to wear the headset either way around - and mute it via a small button embedded in the stalk.

Audio quality is definitely good enough for a bit of casual Spotify listening, and mic clarity is as impressive as you’d expect from a high-end headset built for conference calls (very). Our only real complaint is that the assistant that helpfully tells you how much battery you have left when you pick up the headset and informs you when you’re muted can be a little too vocal, interrupting meetings quite consistently to keep you updated. Otherwise, this is a remarkable headset.

Key specs – Headset type: Binaural on-ear; Connection type(s): Bluetooth; Compatibility: UC; Noise cancellation: Mic and headphones; Battery life: 12 hours (talk); Dimensions: N/A; Weight: 155g

2. Jabra Evolve2 65: Best conference call headset (without ANC)

Price: £149 | Buy now from Amazon

If you need a well-equipped headset and don’t mind foregoing active noise cancellation, the Jabra Evolve2 65 is one of our favourite on-ear Bluetooth headsets. The Evolve2 65 will run for up to 35 hours of talk time and 37 if you’re just listening to music. Memory foam cushions and a low weight keep the headset feeling comfortable on your head for the entirety of that impressive battery life, while a built-in Busy light will let your colleagues/spouse/children/pet know that you’re on a call.

Ease of use is clearly a priority: beyond the comfortable design and long-lasting battery, the Evolve2 65 is also incredibly easy to pair with the device of your choice and has a straightforward selection of cup-mounted audio controls, including Teams-specific buttons for joining and ending meetings, which is a useful touch.

Fellow Zoom callers reported that the flip-to-mute mic worked well, and audio quality is certainly good enough for listening to music while you work. If you’re not satisfied, however, you can download the Jabra Sound+ app and adjust EQ levels to your liking. This headset really does do it all, ANC notwithstanding; if you don’t mind splashing out a tad, you won’t be disappointed.

Key specs – Headset type: Binaural on-ear; Connection type(s): Bluetooth; Compatibility: UC; Noise cancellation: Mic only; Battery life: 35 hours (talk); Dimensions: 186 x 157 x 60mm; Weight: 180g

3. EPOS Adapt 135 USB-C: Best monaural headset

Price: £66 | Buy now from Currys

Sitting at the cheaper end of EPOS’s expansive Adapt range is the Adapt 135, a monaural headset with a reasonable price tag and an impressive feature set. The model we tested connects to your PC primarily via USB-C, but the cable is designed in such a way that you can split it in half, revealing a 3.5mm jack in case of port-related emergencies (if, say, your sole USB-C port is in use) or if you need to connect to a smartphone.

Plug the Adapt 135 in via USB-C, however, and you’ll have access to the excellent in-line media control bar. On it, you’ll find volume controls, a mute button and a call management button. The model we tested had a dedicated Microsoft Teams button; this is specifically designed to save you from having to navigate the Teams user interface to accept and decline calls or join and end meetings. Other models support Skype for Business or UC.

The Adapt 135’s mic is clear and effective at cancelling outside noise, and it can swivel over 270 degrees, so you can wear the single ear piece on either side of your head. Audio quality is very good, as you’d expect from an EPOS product, although obviously listening to music might be a less immersive experience. But in spite of the monaural design, the Adapt 135 is comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, helped immensely by its low weight and large, firm, foam ear piece.

Key specs – Headset type: Monaural on-ear; Connection type(s): USB-C, 3.5mm; Compatibility: Microsoft Teams/Skype for Business/UC (model dependent); Noise cancellation: Mic only; Battery life: N/A; Dimensions: 194 x 160 x 58mm; Weight: 62g

Buy now from Currys


4. EPOS Adapt 260: Best multi-connection headset

Price: £101 | Buy now from eBuyer

A solid and affordable pair of wireless headphones that can handle multiple concurrent connections, The EPOS Adapt 260 can simultaneously connect over Bluetooth with a phone and with a PC via the provided dongle.

The noise-cancelling microphone works extremely well, subduing background noise to an indistinct hum. EPOS prioritises clarity over nuance, but your voice will be heard even if you’re in a busy café. This mic can also swivel in either direction, so you’re free to wear it on whichever side suits you best.

The battery life is astonishingly good, with EPOS’s claims of 27 hours per charge proving accurate. Meanwhile, the soft leatherette finish will keep you comfortable for long periods of time.

The physical controls tie in well with apps like Spotify, for example. Press down on the multifunction button and it will play or pause a track; press up or down to adjust the volume; a double-press skips to the next track. It takes a little longer to master the other buttons. The top one is geared towards calls, including Microsoft Teams for which this headset is certified; for example, you can use it to reject or accept a call depending on how long you press it for. The bottom one is for power, Bluetooth pairing and to mute the mic.

Despite Sennheiser’s involvement – it was part of the joint venture that eventually spun out to become EPOS in its own right – bass is subdued and I wouldn’t turn to the Adapt 260 if I wanted to sink into an album. Still, they’re perfectly fine for work scenarios where people simply want to listen to some music between calls and meetings.

Key specs – Headset type: Binaural on-ear; Connection type(s): Bluetooth, dongle; Compatibility: UC; Noise cancellation: Mic only; Battery life: 27 hours (talk); Dimensions: 200 x 165 x 58mm; Weight: 121g

Buy now from eBuyer


5. Jabra Talk 25: Best budget headset

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

The Jabra Talk 25 isn’t quite the cheapest earpiece we’ve ever tested, but it’s well worth the extra few quid. This is primarily thanks to a high-quality omni-directional microphone that supports HD voice, a universal standard for delivering crystal-clear audio from your mic to your colleagues.

Hanging comfortably from one ear, the Jabra Talk 25 weighs a mere 8.2g and comes with a selection of gel ear tips and two ear hooks to help you find a good fit. On the earpiece itself you’ll find a power button, answer/end call button and volume controls, which is a fair amount of functionality to pack into such a small frame. That small frame does limit battery life a little, but with a total of eight hours of talk time and 10 days of standby time, the Talk 25 is certainly better than most budget earpieces.

If you’re after a high-quality mouthpiece for minimal cash, the Talk 25 is easy to recommend.

Key specs – Headset type: Earpiece; Connection type(s): Bluetooth; Compatibility: UC; Noise cancellation: Mic only; Battery life: 8 hours (talk)/10 days (standby); Dimensions: 47 x 17 x 20.5mm; Weight: 8.2g

6. Plantronics Voyager 5200 UC: Best Bluetooth earpiece

Price: £112 | Buy now from Amazon

You might want the mobility of a Bluetooth earpiece and the feature set of a high-end headset rolled into one. Plantronics (now Poly) feels that this is a fair request, and the Voyager 5200 has been designed to deliver the goods. This is a Bluetooth earpiece with four microphones jammed into a single array, all four of which benefit from six layers of “WindSmart” wind protection and echo cancellation technology. In short, call quality is excellent, even in the busiest of environments.

This is quite an intelligent headset, as the noise-reduction tech would indicate. It will recognise voice commands such as “answer” or “ignore” and react to an incoming call accordingly, and it supports virtual assistants Siri or Google Assistant when paired with a smartphone. It can even help you dictate a text message. Battery life sits at a comfortable (if uninspiring) six hours of talk time, with another 14 hours available if you buy the UC version that comes with a bundled charging case.

Comfortable, reasonably light and brimming with features, the Voyager 5200 UC is a great choice for anyone who likes the idea of a portable powerhouse headset for work.

Key specs – Headset type: Earpiece; Connection type(s): Bluetooth; Compatibility: UC; Noise cancellation: Mic only; Battery life: 6 hours (talk); Dimensions: 67 x 23 x 23mm; Weight: 20g

7. Aftershokz OpenComm: Best bone conduction headset

Price: £150 | Buy now from Amazon

If it’s something different you’re after, the Aftershokz OpenComm will scratch your itch. Aftershokz is a big brand in the world of bone-conduction audio tech, and the OpenComm is its first pair of headphones to offer any features relevant to workers. The headphones themselves are similar to other Aftershokz offerings, with flattened “pads” that sit on the bone adjacent to your ear canals connected by a plastic headband.

The noise-cancelling microphone is fully adjustable and relayed our voices clearly in testing. Embedded in the right earpiece is a multipurpose button that controls audio playback and incoming calls, while the battery and magnetic charging port sit behind your left ear. The battery runs for a very impressive 16 hours of talk time, and you can gain a further two hours by leaving the OpenComm on charge for five minutes.

Audio is delivered via your cheekbones, meaning the OpenComm is a bit less ideal for listening to music, but if your ears are prone to tiring after a long Zoom call with over- or in-ear headphones, this is an ideal solution.

Key specs – Headset type: Bone conduction; Connection type(s): Bluetooth; Compatibility: UC; Noise cancellation: Mic only; Battery life: 16 hours (talk); Dimensions: 17 x 13 x 6.5cm; Weight: 33g