Whether you’re strategizing with your gaming crew or talking to your clients on Skype, you’ll need a good headset. More specifically, you’ll need one that will carry your voice loud and clear and allow you to hear the other side of the conversation as well. However, finding a good headset is tricky — which is why I’ve decided to compile a list of the best noise-canceling microphone headsets.
Now, before we begin, we ought to establish a working definition of what we’re talking about. What’s the difference between headphones and headsets? Let’s find out.
First of all, both kinds of devices have audio drivers — or speakers. Headsets just also have a microphone built into the device. However, while all headsets can be considered headphones, headphones without microphones can’t be considered headsets.
Still, in this particular case, we’re talking about finding a specific kind of headset: one with a noise-canceling microphone. In noise-canceling headphones, the technology limits the amount of ambient noise that makes it into the user’s ear. In cars, it removes road and engine noise to create a more pleasant driving experience.
However, when it comes to noise-canceling microphone headsets, the priorities of the active noise control technology are somewhat different. Namely, it’s supposed to make the user’s voice come across crisp on the other side of the line. So the system is reducing the ambient noise around you in order to make the person you’re talking to understand you better.
But how does it all work? As I have explained in previous articles, there are several key components in every active noise control system:
- A microphone picks up the low, continuous sounds around you
- A machine inverts the polarity of the frequencies
- Speakers play the opposite frequencies of the ones around you, thereby canceling out the extra noise
The difference between regular noise-canceling headphones and a headset with a noise-canceling microphone is the location of the speakers. However, there are other properties of recording devices that make for a great microphone. But we’ll talk about that later. For now, let’s discuss the benefits of using a noise-canceling microphone headset.
Why You Need a Headset with a Noise-Canceling Microphone
Obviously, the main reason you might need a noise-canceling microphone headset is if you often need to talk to people on your computer or even over the phone. But as you can imagine, many different kinds of people have that same need.
If you work at a call center, your employer has already provided you with a headset. However, circumstances might necessitate getting a better one. After all, your sales may depend on your being able to hear your clients and vice versa. A quiet environment is especially difficult to achieve in open-plan offices, where all the workers are in each others’ spaces.
Alternatively, you might need a good headset if you’re a freelancer working from home. Even if you don’t work in a crowded office, you might still need to talk to your clients over Skype. However, if your roommates or family members are always around, it might be a good idea to invest in a noise-canceling microphone headset. That’s also why students who live in dorms could benefit from having a noise-canceling microphone headset.
Furthermore, a headset will certainly come in handy if you like playing multiplayer games. Counter-Strike and World of Warcraft practically require you to have a microphone in order to coordinate with your teammates. We all know what happens when you don’t pay attention to your group’s strategy meetings. Nobody wants to be the Leeroy Jenkins of their guild, at least not because they didn’t have a functioning headset.
Ultimately, using a noise-canceling microphone to reduce the noise around you will make it so the people you’re talking to don’t have to damage their hearing by turning up the volume of their headphones. And the same thing applies to you.
Features to Look out for When Shopping for Headsets
So we’re clear on the many benefits of having a noise-canceling microphone headset, but how can you go about finding a good one? As always, certain features can indicate that a product is of high quality. Here are some of the factors I used when looking for the products on my list.
One of the most important features of the headset’s speakers is the way they prevent noise from reaching your ears. That is the principle of passive noise isolation, which I have explained in previous articles about headphones. There are three types of those headphones that all perform very differently when it comes to isolation:
- Earbuds are essentially like earplugs, in that they close off your ear canal — so they’re excellent at noise isolation. However, the kind of in-ear headphones that just sit inside the shell of the ear are less proficient at blocking sound.
- On-ear headphones are probably the worst sort of devices when it comes to noise isolation. However, active noise-canceling technology could help them perform better. So don’t rule them out just yet.
- Lastly, over-ear headphones are by far your best option, especially if you’re deciding between devices that don’t have active noise control.
Additionally, the isolating properties of a headset also depend on whether they have open or closed-back speakers. Open-back headphones have been known to leak sound outwards, and let ambient noise penetrate to the user’s ear. Fortunately, closed-back headphones are much better at handling noise.
Of course, if you’re looking for an above-average headset, you’ll want to find one with excellent audio reproduction. There are some indicators you can check to ensure that the devices you’re looking at have decent audio reproduction.
Mainly, though, you may have to rely on user reviews. Still, here are some questions you can ask when looking for the perfect headset for you:
- Are the high frequency sounds crisp? If the audio drivers are low-quality, high frequencies may emit a buzzing noise.
- Do the mid-tones sound well rounded, or are they a bit flat? If you’ll be using the same headset for talking over Skype and, say, music production, you know how important the middle register is.
- Do the lowest frequencies sound rich? Low-end speakers tend to butcher bass tones and instead just vibrate on your ears. Or worse, you could end up with a completely flat audio reproduction with no bass to be heard.
- Lastly, you’ll want to find out whether there is distortion coming through the headset when you turn the volume up.
Overall, if sound quality is something that matters to you, you may need to dig a little deeper to find your winner. However, if you’re just looking for a headset for work, that may not matter as much.
Naturally, the thing we’re looking for here is a headset with a noise-canceling microphone. But, since I’ve already explained that feature, let’s see which other properties determine the microphone’s performance.
First, you should see whether the device you’re looking at has a unidirectional or an omnidirectional microphone. As the name suggests, omnidirectional mics pick up sounds from multiple directions. So they’re not that great at sending crisp audio — generally, they tend to pick up surrounding sounds as well. Generally, unidirectional microphones are your best bet, since they only transmit the sounds that are closest to the mic itself.
What’s more, headsets generally have one of three types of microphones:
- Wireless headsets usually have built-in microphones. On- and over-ear devices usually store them right in the part that goes over your ear, while wireless earbuds have them in the cable.
- Corded headsets typically store their mics in the cable, so they are near your throat or on your chest. The obvious advantage that these kinds of microphones have is the fact that you can pull them closer to your mouth. However, both built-in and in-line mics are generally omnidirectional.
- Lastly, some on- and over-ear headsets also have boom mics, which are by far the best option if you want your voice to carry clearly. These are the kind of microphones that are connected to the headphones but are still movable. Boom mics curve around your face to reach your mouth, so most of them are unidirectional as well.
Basically, if you want to have your voice come across clearly, you’ll look for headsets with boom microphones.
When it comes to connectivity features, headsets actually have more options than headphones. Generally, most devices have either a wireless Bluetooth connection or 3.5mm jack cable. On top of those options, some headsets also have USB connectivity which is a better option for devices without a regular audio jack.
If you’re really worried about lagging, you should definitely avoid wireless headsets. Additionally, most wireless headphones don’t give you a good indication of when the batteries will run out. So they’re not a great option if you need a good headset for business purposes.
Conversely, if you tend to walk around while you’re talking, get a wireless headset with a great battery life. Most brands provide some sort of estimate as to how long their wireless models can last in playback mode.
Of course, there’s another problem you might have to deal with if you get a wireless headset — interference. Some wireless headsets can accidentally connect to other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the area. Obviously, you don’t want to get disconnected in the middle of an important call.
Comfort and Portability
Finally, the last consideration you should have when choosing a headset is how comfortable the model is. Generally, that is determined by two factors:
- The design of the headset
- The materials the headset is made of
The headset you end up choosing should ideally be lightweight. Most likely, it’ll have to be plastic, which should make it pretty flexible and therefore comfortable. Another thing that might factor into how comfortable the headset it is the amount of cushioning it has.
There’s another aspect of the headset’s design that can impact your ability to store and transport it. For example, on- and over-ear headphones, which are certainly larger than earbuds, could be foldable.
Many headsets have speakers that rotate and collapse towards the headband. Some of them even have foldable headbands. These features further flatten the headset and reduce the amount of space it takes up in your bag or your office drawer. So they’re especially important if you have to transport your headset between your home and the office.
Top 10 Best Noise-Canceling Microphone Headsets
Keeping in mind the factors I’ve just explained, I went looking for the best headphones with a noise-canceling microphone. I’ve chosen to present 10 of the best ones in groups, starting with in-ear ones, then moving on with on-ear and over-ear examples. The devices I’ve picked all come with different kinds of microphones, too. So I’ll start each category with built-in mics, then mention devices with in-line and boom mics.
1. Jabra Evolve 75e Wireless In-ear Earphones
The first device on my list may not have a truly noise-canceling mic, but what it has is still pretty good. The Jabra Evolve 75e headset is a wireless, in-ear model with a neckband design. Basically, it has a sturdy, U-shaped plastic part that goes around your neck, with cords going off the front of the band and ending in ergonomic earbuds.
The microphone system is built into the right earbud cord. There are three microphones in the device, which is a common feature in these kinds of headsets. That system essentially filters out surrounding sounds and highlights the user’s voice. You’ll even be able to use the mic to activate Smart controls and access apps like Siri and Google Now.
Furthermore, while the mic itself doesn’t have noise-canceling technology in it, it plays the double role of providing you with noise-canceling speakers. So in addition to the earbuds’ impressive passive isolation properties, you’ll also be able to activate noise control. When you do that, the headset has an integrated busy light, which will indicate to your coworkers that you’re not to be disturbed.
This particular model can reach a full charge within 2 hours, after which you’ll be able to actively use it for about 14 hours. It comes with several earplug tips and EarWings, so you can adjust the headset according to the size of your ears.
2. Mpow Jaws Gen–5 Wireless Neckband Headset
The Mpow Jaws Gen–5 wireless headset is the latest in the Mpow Jaws line — so named after the unique shark-like earbud design. Unlike its predecessors, it can give you 18 hours of playback after a 3-hour charge. That’s 5 hours more than the previous iterations could achieve. The manufacturer has also made the controls easier, going from a 5-button system to a 3-button one.
The headset is similar to the previous one in some respects. It, too, has a neckband made of harder plastic that thickens toward the front. However, the earplug cord doesn’t come out of the tip, but the sides of the device, below where your ear would be. The Jaws Gen–5 headset also has an improved bass and treble range.
- Wireless noise-canceling in-ear headphones
- Built-in noise-canceling microphone
- 3 hours to full charge
- 18 hours of playtime
When you’re not using the earbuds, they should magnetically snap into the grooves at the front of the neckband. And don’t worry about missing calls while your headphones are out. The neckband will vibrate to notify you. The device will take about 3 hours to charge fully, but then you’ll be able to use it all day long.
The built-in noise-canceling microphone is on the right side of the neckband. As with the previous device, you’ll be able to use this headset to activate some smart devices, such as the Amazon Echo.
3. Plantronics Voyager Focus Headset with Active Noise-Canceling
The Plantronics Voyager Focus headset is another wireless model — but this time, it’s an on-ear one. Though the speakers are very cushiony, the headband has minimal padding. However, it’s pretty flexible, so it should fit on the head of any size. While you won’t be able to fold the headband for easy storage, the speakers can rotate into a flatter shape, allowing you to put the device into its travel pouch.
In addition to the travel pouch, the headset comes with a magnetic charging stand. When you’re not using the device, you can just keep it on the charging station. Furthermore, the headset comes with a mini USB Bluetooth adapter you can use to connect to your PC.
The rigid boom mic attached to the right speaker packs a familiar three-mic system. Even though it’s not a noise-canceling model, it should do a good job of isolating your voice during calls. You’ll be able to listen to music for up to 15 hours or talk for up to 12 hours on a single charge.
On the underside of the left speaker, you’ll notice a small button with the letters “ANC” next to it. That activates active noise control. As you know, on-ear headphones can’t offer much in the way of passive isolation but that should help alleviate the issue.
4. Logitech USB Headset Stereo H390
The next on-ear headset I was impressed with was the corded Logitech H390 model with the unidirectional noise-canceling boom mic. The headband is adjustable for different head sizes, with slight padding on the bottom side of the band. Meanwhile, the sides of the headband slope towards the speakers which have thicker cushioning.
Unlike with the previous device, the shape of the headphones is pretty much set. So you won’t be able to collapse the device and stuff it in your bag. Additionally, the design of the model will tell you which way you’re supposed to wear them. That much will be evident in the position of the noise-canceling mic, which comes down from the left speaker and reaches all the way to the front of your mouth.
- Corded on-ear headset
- Noise-canceling rigid boom microphone
- 64-ft USB cord
- In-line controls
Unlike the other on-ear devices, though, this one is a corded model. Still, that’s not to say that you won’t have some freedom of movement. After all, the USB-A cord is 7.64 feet long. The cord also features 3-button in-line controls to adjust the volume or mute calls.
5. Vtin On-Ear Headset with Microphone
This on-ear headset from Vtin is certainly sturdier from the previous ones on this list. Most of the outer shell of the device is made of hard plastic, which isn’t to say that it’s uncomfortable. You’ll be able to adjust the size of the headband, which has thick, soft protein memory foam cushioning.
The earcups are similarly cushiony, as well as rotatable for better storage, but the boom mic isn’t. So you won’t be able to flip it out of the way. Still, the headset should be able to fit into your office drawer while you’re not using it. The microphone itself has built-in noise-canceling technology, though, which should be enough to recommend it.
The headset has a 7.9-foot long cord with a traditional 3.5mm audio jack. Additionally, the device comes with a USB adapter cable which also has in-line controls you can use to activate the mic, adjust the volume, and mute the speakers.
6. Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II Wireless Noise-Canceling Headset
Now, the Quiet Comfort 35 II headset takes us into the over-ear product category. As you’ll recall, these kinds of headphones have the best passive isolation properties. In this case, that feature gets an upgrade in the form of an active noise control system as well. There are 3 levels of noise cancelation you can use, depending on whether you still want to hear some of the surrounding sounds.
In addition to the active noise canceling in the speakers, the device has two built-in noise-rejecting microphones. Although built-in mics aren’t as great of an option as boom mics, this one is as good as it gets.
Aside from the microphone system, the speakers house other features — notably, the control buttons. You’ll find the Bluetooth activation switch on the exterior of the left speaker, with the volume controls on the underside of the same speaker. The middle button between the volume controls will allow you to access Siri, while the corresponding button on the other speaker can access Alexa.
The battery indicator light is also on the left. However, the headset should last up to 20 hours on a full charge. If you use the 3.5mm audio cable, you should be able to get up to 40 hours of use. The battery will still be used for active noise reduction, but you can use the mini USB cable to recharge it whenever you need to.
7. SteelSeries Arctis 7 Wireless Gaming Headset
The next two products on my list are both advertised as gaming headsets. So let’s start with the wireless SteelSeries Arctis 7 model. Even though this headset may not have conventional headband padding, it has a comfortable, flexible band that should make it a breeze to wear for hours at a time. The speakers, however, have pretty thick yet breathable AirWeave cushions.
Since this is primarily a wireless model, most of the controls are built into the left speaker, with the power button on the right. There are two outlets on the left, one for the 3.5mm jack cable that comes with the set and another for the mini USB charger. But you won’t even need to use it that often since this headset has up to 24 hours of playtime.
Since the boom mic is retractable, you may not even notice it right away. When you need to use it, you can just pull it out of the left speaker, but don’t expect it to reach all the way to your mouth. Still, the noise-canceling function should make sure that your voice remains clear.
8. RUNMUS Gaming Headset with Noise-Canceling Mic & LED Light
Now, the RUNMUS headset looks more like the rugged piece of equipment you’d expect a gamer to use — right down to the LED backlighting. Unlike the previous headset we saw, this one connects with a 7.22-foot durable cable with a 3.5mm audio jack, though it has a USB attachment as well.
Furthermore, the black exterior shell of the headband is sturdy yet adjustable. The padding on the underside of the band and around the 50mm audio drivers is thick and breathable. Basically, it’s perfect for long Fortnite sessions.
The model has 7.1 surround sound speakers with noise-canceling features. What’s more, the noise-canceling technology also enhances the mic performance. As with some of the other products we’ve seen, this headset has a boom mic that descends from the left speaker in a straight line to your mouth. Still, if you don’t need it, you can just flip it up.
9. Audio-Technica BPHS1 Broadcast Stereo Headset with Dynamic Cardioid Boom Mic
The Audio-Technica over-ear headset takes us from the gaming portion of this list into the category of products that would even suit professional audio engineers. One of the main indicators that this is a serious piece of equipment comes in the form of the 10.8-foot cable. There’s an 8-pin connector on the headset end of the cord, so you’ll be able to take the cable off and fold it up. There are also multiple outlets, with a 3-pin XLRM connector for the mic, and a 6.3 mm jack for the headphones.
The adjustable headband doesn’t have much in the way of cushioning — just enough to be comfortable. However, the padding around the 40mm audio drivers is the standard, soft foam. It’s certainly enough to create a decent seal around your ears.
While the speakers don’t have active noise control, the microphone has something close to it. The boom mic is flexible and reversible, so you can have it on either side of your face. Between the mic’s polar pattern and foam windscreen tips, the device should pick up only the nearest voice and reject the surrounding noise.
10. Bose A20 Aviation Headset
Lastly, we have another Bose headset — but this time with a proper boom mic. Even if you didn’t know the name of the product, you’d be able to see that the A20 Aviation headset is a high-end device just by looking at it. After all, Bose issued the famous noise-canceling headsets used by the pilots of the Rutan Model 76 Voyager in 1986.
The A20 headset delivers on the promise of that legacy in terms of comfort, durability, and sound quality. Even though the device has a cord, it’s actually a battery-powered and Bluetooth-enabled model. However, you can also choose the version of the product without Bluetooth support. The 2 AA batteries that come with the device can last you more than 45 hours.
You’ll find the device exceedingly comfortable. Unlike some other aviation models, this one has minimal clamping force due to the foldable headband. Instead of the typical protein cushioning, this headset has sheepskin cushioning on both sides of the central hinge.
Though the speakers use noise-canceling technology, the boom mic uses active equalization to achieve vocal clarity. Additionally, the microphone is actually reversible, so you can have it on either side of your face.
Ultimately, any of the products I’ve mentioned would be a great choice for people looking for headsets with a noise-canceling microphone. However, there may be other steps you can take to ensure a quiet environment during your conversation.
If you’re trying to find a peaceful place to play video games, you can make sure that your gaming room is quieter. Alternately, if you’re trying to work from home — there are ways to go about soundproofing your home office.
On the other hand, if you work in an office building, you may have to put in some effort. People who work in open-plan spaces certainly have it worse than those who have their own offices. Still, there are a few ways to go about soundproofing your cubicle. You may even be able to set up some acoustic partitions and call it a day.