Updated: August 2019
If you work remotely, chances are you spend a lot of time on the phone, on web conferences, and 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.
In 2016, when I wrote this article originally, I had two headsets: my go-to headset in the office was the Plantronics GAMECOM 818 and my go-to travel headset was the Logitech G930 Wireless Gaming Headset.
In late October 2018, my Plantronics headset died and the Logitech stopped charging. I went to get another, but I couldn't find the Plantronics (or a reasonably priced refub) available anywhere and went off to find replacements.
In a pinch, while I was headsetless, I tried using the Blue Yeti USB Microphone for calls, but people on the other end of those calls said the sound was weird, hollow.
I knew I'd have to investigate a replacement. It took three months to find one. While I have settled on a replacement, nothing I tested came close to the Plantronics I had in 2016, I have compromised. But have a replacement I can live with.
The 2018 Winner
For those of you who want to skim and find a quick answer, here's my pick:
The Corsair Void PRO has an over-abundance of old-school packaging, but did the best in my tests, against my requirements. It is frequently on sale for $20 off the regular price, putting them under $100. They have solid sound, are light and very comfortable. The ear pieces fold and rotate so these can double as a travel headset as well as office use.
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.
For all the headsets, I tested sound on a Skype call (a live person and with the Skype Test Call function), Camtasia recording, and on a recorded Zoom meeting, since these are the three main use cases I care about.
Here are my results.
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, I have a pair of 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.
Fourth, I use a Mac, a PC, and a Chromebook.
Any headset I have must work with all three. I'm not buying an os-specific headset. That's just wasteful.
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, all of the headsets I tested are less than $150.
|Brand||Corsair||Bose||Avantree DG69||LogitechG933||Logitech G533|
|Clear Sound||Yes||background noise||background noise, hiss||Yes||Yes|
|Range||20 feet||NA||NA||15 feet||15 feet|
|Mic type||boom||on-ear cup||on-ear cup||boom||boom|
|Speaker type||padded, over-ear||padded, on-ear||padded, on-ear||padded, over-ear||padded, over-ear|
|Mute Indicator||light, raised boom, beep tones||beep tones||beep tones||inconsistent*||inconsistent*|
|Charge duration||Several days, off/on||DQ||DQ||DQ||DQ|
Potentially disqualifying events
- 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.
- Avantree DG59: Background noise, hiss.
- Corsair: When I did the initial testing, I found that the microphone would disconnect whenever you turned the headset off (Windows 10) and I could not find a fix for it anywhere at the time. Since then, they updated the iCUE software and added a toggle that would stop this from happening, making me even happier that I'd made this choice initially. Mid-2019, I moved off Windows and to MacOS and the move couldn't have gone smoother. I have no disconnection issues, the sound is solid with one exception. The microphone is more sensitive on the Mac than it was on Windows when using Camtasia (only). When recording with Camtasia, the sound does not come through as crisp; it sounds like I'm in a big empty room on the recording. Neither Zoom or Skype had that problem.
- Corsair: it's lightness is a plus and a minus. The ear pieces fold and rotate and that, when combined with the lightness, makes it a little awkward to put on when it's new to you.
- Corsair: power consumption. I've found that if I'm diligent and turn it off when I'm done for the day, it can go for about a week on a charge.
For Web Broadcasting (in the office)
For video/audio podcasting, I'm sticking with the configuration I developed in 2016. I have no reason to change it.
I use this final configuration when broadcasting or recording video. I've included it here simply for completeness. I don't travel with this set up but that's because I can adjust to compensate for my travel schedule and I want to keep my video production stable and professional.
I give webinars and video training frequently. My training isn't one-way. I need to be able to hear questions from the attendees. I don't want a big, bulky headset on camera. I need more than webcam and one of the headsets described above.
This configuration solves that problem. There are three components:
First, the Logitech C922x webcam is reasonably priced for the quality of it's 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.
The Blue Yeti USB Microphone is one of the microphones you hear about if you do any kind of reading about podcasting or video casting equipment. One of the big keys for me is that it's sensitive and can be directionally focused, meaning you can have it off camera and still pick your voice up strong and clear.
The other thing the Blue Yeti has is a standard earphone jack on the bottom. Just earphones. The microphone function is part of the Blue Yeti. This means you've got a wide variety of standard music listening earphones available to you to use. I like these. The ergonomic fit of the soft, interchangeable earbuds make these comfortable for me to wear all the way through the webinar. It's also got a reasonably long cord that I can tuck behind me so it doesn't appear on camera.
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!
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: