Updated: July 2022
If you work remotely—and during the pandemic more of us had this experience that ever before—chances are you spend a lot of time on the phone, on web conferences, and presenting at or attending virtual meetings. For you to be productive, the other end of the call has to be able to hear you clearly. There can't be much in the way of background noise. You've got to be able to hear them. And the headset can't be uncomfortable or you'll be distracted to the point of missing important conversation.
Note: I selected, purchased, and tested all of the products in this review myself after extensive research based on my specific requirements.
The 2022 Winners
For those of you who want to skim and find a quick answer, here are my picks. For the first time, I have more than one, based on situational usage.
For daily work, conference calls, and hours of voice chat
I prefer the HyperX Cloud Stinger Core. It's not perfect: it shuts off if there's no sound coming through. However, it otherwise did the best in my tests against my requirements. And, at a $70 price point, it's a great buy.
The sound is solid and you can use them while they're charging. But, the best thing about them is that they are super light and so comfortable that it's easy to forget you're wearing them and you can mute yourself quickly by simply raising the boom mike.
For presenting, on-camera
You can't beat Soundcore Liberty Neo wireless ear buds (in black) paired with the Samson Go Mic on a tripod in front of you, just out of camera sight. Together, the sound is spectacular both in and out. You can't see the buds in my ears and they're comfort-adjustable.
My partner sounds fine using the mic on the earbuds, but my recorded sound isn't as good when the microphone isn't directly in front of me, so I use both.
How did you choose?
I've written extensively on the importance of knowing your requirements before you purchase and why asking someone for their pick, without understanding their requirements, is a big, big mistake.
I tested a dozen different headsets, including
- Semi-high end: Bose Soundlink II
- Gaming headsets: Corsair Void Pro, Logitech G933 and G533, Avantree DG59 and Aria Pro, and HyperX Cloud Stinger Core
- Camera friendly: Soundcore Liberty Neo, Elgato Wave 3, Samson Go Mic, Blue Yeti, and Klipsch R6i II in-ear headphones
I tested all of them on a Skype call (a live person and with the Skype Test Call function), a Slack call, Discord voice channels, a Camtasia recording, a recorded Zoom meeting, and Facetime, since these are the use cases I care about.
Well, when it comes to headsets, I've got REQUIREMENTS
That's right. Requirements. In all capital letters.
First, I'm a conference call power user.
Some days it feels like I spend the entire day on audio and web conferences with my customers. I like to be able to virtually look over their shoulders to see what they're doing. Often that's the key to helping them out.
Because some days I wear my headset for hours on end, comfort is key. Earbuds are not an option: They hurt my ears after only a few minutes. For all-day wear, on-ear, cushioned ear cuffs are essential.
In addition, if you're going to be wearing a headset all day long, they must be light and comfortable. Ideally, they're so light and comfortable that you forget you're wearing them.
Second, I'm a pacer.
I pace when I talk and get distracted when I can't get up and move around because I'm tethered to my computer. For me, a wireless USB headset is a must.
Because I'm a pacer and wear them all day, they must have a reasonable range and not fail due to interference. I should be able to go anywhere in the office without interruption or getting spotty coverage during a call.
When you're on the phone all day, you sometimes you wander during a call to get a cup of coffee.
Third, they have to be able to hear you, clearly.
Both the Bose wireless headphones and the Avantree DG59 have the microphone housed in the earcup. In my tests, everyone said there was an echo, a hollow sound, coming from my side of the call. They could not hear me clearly.
When I tested these two in Camtasia and Zoom, I heard the same background noise. As a result, I decided that the mic-on-ear-cup configuration wasn't good enough for customer calls and disqualified both of these from further testing.
I can't say I was completely surprised. Over the years, I've noticed is that a boom microphone can make all the difference in picking up women's voices.
The microphone on the typical cell-phone headset will often not pick up my voice clearly. For example, with the Klipsch In-Ear headphones, no matter what I try, I always have to hold the microphone part up to my lips for the other side of the call to hear me clearly.
Even though boom mics are overall a better option, not all of them are created equally. The Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum has a boom mic but it also has a weird echo with a hiss that results in a very tin-can sound. I confirmed this when I did a test recording with Camtasia. You can absolutely hear the background hiss on the audio recording. (Another disqualification)
A boom mic is better than on-ear, but you've got to make sure it's a quality mic.
In 2016, my go-to headset for the office was the Plantronics GAMECOM 818 and my backup, travel headset was the Logitech G930 Wireless Gaming Headset. The Plantronics GAMECON is discontinued and both of these can be hard to find (even reasonably priced refurbs).
In 2018, I switched to the Corsair Void Pro, but the microphone failed in late 2020. The replacement pair I bought —when when literally everyone else was looking for headsets too—I found that they had seriously degraded in quality. They'd degraded enough that I couldn't use them for calls and definitely not for webinar presentations or podcasting. I was had to find yet another replacement, at a time when demand was surging and remote-office video and audio devices were hard to find.
Fourth, I use a Mac, an iPad and a PC.
Ideally any headset I have would work with all three. Buying an os-specific headset is just wasteful.
However, because I've tried a variety of them, I end up with some that work better with one than the others. This time around the exception is the Avantree Aria Pro. The Ari Pro was one of the only bluetooth wireless headsets I tried, so it works with the iPad. It also has a boom mic, which means when I Facetime with older relatives with hearing problems, they have no trouble hearing me on their end, no matter what device they're using. I ended up keeping the Aria Pro for this reason, even though it's of limited utility elsewhere.
Fifth, I'm a headset power user for the office not for gaming.
Where other reviews focus on Dolby ratings and uncompromising sound quality, I don't. Those requirements aren't mine and aren't as important as the others I've listed.
I've had several occasions where I forgot to plug in my headset in at the end of the day, failing to make sure they would be ready first thing the next morning.
A wireless headset for the office must be able to function while charging, so you can get through that first call or two.
Quick muting/un-muting can be essential in an office, so I always look at the user experience regarding the mute indicator. The best indicator is both auditory and visual: a light on the end of the boom microphone and different tones for muting (down) and unmuting (up).
In a pinch, if there's no light indicator, the boom mic itself often serves as the indicator: when the boom is fully raised, you're muted; when it's down, you're not.
Lastly, cost is a factor.
In my case, cost is a bigger factor than many of the factors that most reviewers care about for gaming or music listening.
Except for the Bose and the Elgato, everything I tested wereless than $150 new. Most were under $100.
Summary of product performance, for remote workers
Because of the large number of items tested, I had to split the products into two groups.
|Clear Sound||Yes||Hollow*||background noise*|
|Range||20 feet||15 feet, vulnerable to interference||NA|
|Mic type||boom||boom||on-ear cup|
|Speaker type||padded, over-ear||padded, over-ear||padded, on-ear|
|Mute Indicator||raised boom||beep tones||raised boom|
|Brand||Avantree Aria Pro||Avantree DG69||Logitech G933||Logitech G533|
|Clear Sound||background noise||background noise, hiss||Yes||Yes|
|Range||15 feet||NA||15 feet||15 feet|
|Mic type||on-ear cup||on-ear cup||boom||boom|
|Speaker type||padded, on-ear||padded, on-ear||padded, over-ear||padded, over-ear|
|Mute Indicator||no way to mute on device||audible ("muted", "unmuted")*||inconsistent*||inconsistent*|
Potentially disqualifying events
- HyperX: it can shut off without you noticing. It turns itself off when there's no sound coming through. I get that their audience is primarily gamers and this is their way of protecting battery life; however, it's a serious negative if you're not expecting it and are using it as your main headset at work. Either you need some kind of audio streaming constantly or you need to remember to turn it back on after it turns itself off.
- Corsair: Decline in sound quality. Since 2020, the sound does not come through as crisp; it sounds like I'm in a big empty room on the recording.
- Avantree DG59: Audible mute. Because it speaks the word "muted" or "unmuted" slowly and clearly whenever you activate or deactivate the device's mute function, you can miss chunks of conversation.
- Avantree Aria Pro: Moving the boom mic turns off the headset. You can accidentally turn the headset off if you hit the boom and cause it to move.
- Logitech G933: Inconsistent mute. This one shuts off (not truly off, but it turns off and disconnects the microphone) on a regular interval during the day (less than an hour). I'm guessing this is an attempt to save battery on a wireless headset. The problem is, this makes it an inappropriate choice for office use: You can't leave it on, ready to pick up calls, or while you're waiting for someone else to join the call, if chances are it's going to be off when you pick it up.
- Logitech G533: Inconsistent mute. This one is worse than the G933. Not only does it also shut off, but doesn't make it easy to turn back on without pushing the microphone all the way up then all the way back down. (Something I figured out after trying everything else.) This disqualifies it for office headset wear. Again, you can't leave it on, ready to pick up calls because of the significant delay in reconnecting the microphone, and the constant disconnection.
- Bose: Background noise. When I used these, everyone said that there was an echo/hollow sound coming from my side and that background noise was clearly audible.
For presenting and broadcasting (in the office)
After nearly two decades of giving webinars and presentations and training online, I added podcasting to my repertoire. For me, presenting is never one-way: I need to interact with the attendees and other presenters. I'm a professional and don't want a big, bulky headset on camera. I need more than webcam and a headset.
During the pandemic, I spent a lot more time on-camera. Eventually I reconfigured my office to support streaming and online broadcasting. It's not a setup that's portable, but I can adjust to compensate for my travel schedule (once I have one again). More importantly, though, it allows me to maintain and stable and professional setup for video production and online broadcasting.
There are three components that :
First, the Logitech C930c webcam is reasonably priced for the quality of its video capturing capability. It has a standard camera mount on the bottom, so you can either perch it on top of your monitor or mount it on any standard tripod.
It's kind of a dead heat between the Samson Go Mic and the Elgato Wave 3, but only when I remember to disconnect the HyperX before I connecting the Elgato (with pop filter). When I forget, sometimes my mac will spontaneously switch over to the HyperX and the Elgato suddenly stops transmitting. Still, if you're looking for something that gives great sound, doesn't require any additional equipment, and isn't in conflict with another device, it's definitely a solid choice.
The Samson Go Mic is not one of the microphones you hear about if you do any kind of reading about podcasting or video casting equipment, but it's a trooper with solid quality at a low price point. it's small enough that you can put it directly in front of you (on a tripod or mounted on the top of your laptop screen, and you'll get far better sound than with the built-in microphone on your computer—and it will stay out of camera range.
Although both the Samson and the Elgato have a standard jack for wired earphones on the side, I find that the Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo wireless earbuds are a far superior choice. The ergonomic fit of the soft, interchangeable earbuds make these comfortable for me to wear all the way through a webinar or podcast. And it's so small that it doesn't appear on camera. They come with 4 sizes of ear tips and ear wings, to help keep them in your ear as you talk. Before I found the right fit, I'd find that one would manage to wiggle itself out of my ear and drop out. Being able to switch to one of the other ear tips reduced those occasions considerably.
Together, all three give me a good audio track, the ability to interact with the attendees, and a clean, uncluttered video image. And when I put my backdrop up behind me, it's even better!
Summary of product performance, for presenters
|Range||20 feet||NA||must be held close*||NA||NA|
|Mic type||in earbud||direct||on wire||direct*||direct|
|Speaker type||in-ear||standard audio jack||in-ear||standard audio jack||standard audio jack|
|Mute Indicator||beep tones*||NA||None||NA||NA|
Potentially disqualifying events
- Samson: Requires tripod or other support device. Billed as a portable USB microphone, it's not stand alone. Samson expects you'll attach it to the top of your laptop or, in my case, a tripod.
- Klipsch: On-wire microphone doesn't always pick up voice. No matter what I try, I always have to hold the microphone part up to my lips for the other side of the call to hear me clearly. I don't know if it's an issue between men's and women's voices, but I have this issue with all wired headsets where the mic is on the wire, well below my mouth.
- Elgato: Can lose connection. This is an odd one that's easily addressed. Unless the Elgato is the only microphone attached to my iMac, the system can spontaneously switch to another input device. Otherwise, it's a superior device that doesn't require an additional tripod to use.
- Blue Yeti: I never got clear sound out of the Yeti, and I tried/read a lot. Eventually it just stopped working for no discernible reason.
- Soundcore: This was a surprising discovery. While I sound better with a stand-alone mic that's directly in front of me, my partner gets great results using the mic when podcasting. It's small and disappears on camera which looks great.
- Samson: Great sound, great price. Sound recording with the Samson device is as good as the sound on the HyperX, with it's boom mic.
- Elgato: The Wave 3 can edge out the Samson when I use the pop filter and the desktop application in those situations when I need to extra control over my sound (when I remember to disconnect the HyperX first).
Want more articles like this?
If you want to read more articles about requirements gathering, how it's done, and a few examples of how to make sure you get the right tool for you, you should read these:
None of the products in this review were provided without cost in exchange for a review; I purchased and tested them all myself, after selecting specific items through extensive research and based on my initial requirements.
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