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Headsets Buyer's Guide

Headsets Buyer's Guide

Posted by Jay Brant on March 17, 2021

Headsets provide hands-free communications with professional audio quality. They can connect to your desktop phone, smartphone, computer and more. Noise-cancelling headsets provide crystal clear audio, much better than the typical phone or computer provides. Office headsets come with productivity enhancing features like integrated call controls and on-call indicators.

Shopping for headsets can be confusing, what with compatibility, different connection options and wearing styles, and so on. In this guide, we go through all you need to know about office headsets, so you will know that you are buying the right headset for your needs.

 

What is an office headset?

A headset is a headphone with a microphone. It provides the private listening experience of headphones with improved voice reproduction and noise cancellation when compared with a phone’s or computer’s built-in microphones. And it keeps your hands free as you work.

Yealink WH66 Teams with WHC60 Wireless Charger

Yealink WH66 Teams is a wireless DECT headset with a base station that offers multiple device connectivity and an integrated USB hub. It's pictured here with the optional Yealink WHC60 Qi Wireless Charger.

Office headsets come with features specifically designed to improve productivity and the work experience. They offer connectivity options with a variety of business devices, like VoIP phones or laptops. They give you the option between mono and stereo sound. They might integrate seamlessly with business communications platforms like Microsoft Teams. We’ll get into all this stuff and much more in this guide.

We specify “office headset” to distinguish what we’re talking about from a gaming headset or a headphone you use for music and other media. You might find it called a “business headset,” “VoIP phone headset” or many other things. Often, call center headsets will be labeled as such. Most of the time, however, they’ll just be called headsets, so that’s what we’ll use for the rest of this guide.

We’re going to cover headsets and features from the leading headset manufacturers, including:

You can absolutely use your office headset for music, too. In fact, more and more headset manufacturers are emphasizing sound quality for media. If you want the best sound quality for music or movies, look for high-fidelity audio. We discuss about hi-fi audio quality in more detail below.

What is the difference between office headsets and gaming headsets?

Office and gaming headsets are essentially the same thing: headphones with a microphone. However, besides obvious design differences, they do emphasize different features. We go into detail about what features office headsets emphasize elsewhere in this guide, so let’s talk about gaming headsets.

Gaming headsets emphasize low latency, which means, in terms of your experience, that there is less of a gap between what you hear and what you see on your display. Low latency lets you react quicker and more accurately. Those microseconds can be vitally important when gaming, but they’re nothing to worry about for business applications.

Many newer gaming headsets now support spatial or positional audio, which means, in terms of your experience, that you will hear sounds above you, behind you, in front of you and so on. This can help you when there’s a zombie about to bite you from behind. But you don’t need to worry about zombies in a video conference (we hope), so it’s not a feature that has any real value for business meetings.

All that said, lots of people use their office headset for gaming and vice versa, and they are very happy doing so.

Poly Savi 7320 Office Connected to Laptop and Phone

Poly Savi 7320 Office offers simultaneous multiple device connectivity through its base station. This powerful wireless DECT headset offers military-grade privacy features.

The First Question: Compatibility

Here’s the first question you need to ask when shopping for an office headset:

Is this headset compatible with the device(s) and service(s) I want to use it with?

For device compatibility, you want to make sure that the headset interfaces with your VoIP phone, smartphone or computer. Do you need a USB dongle for Bluetooth connectivity? Does the DECT headset’s base station connect to multiple devices? What QD cable do you need for the RJ9 headset?

For service compatibility, you want to double check that your headset is compatible with your VoIP phone system, softphone or video conferencing service. USB and Bluetooth headsets offer exceptional compatibility.

Microsoft Teams is a service that has specific requirements for 100% compatibility with call controls and so on. Look for Microsoft Teams certified headsets. We cover Microsoft Teams headsets in detail below.

Many headset manufacturers provide updated compatibility guides. Jabra and Poly (Plantronics) are two of the most popular headset manufacturers. Here are links to their headset compatibility guides:

For more information about VoIP phone systems and cloud phone services, check out our VoIP Phone Systems Buyer’s Guide.

 

What is the difference between stereo headsets and mono headsets?

Headsets come in either stereo (binaural) or mono (monaural). Stereo headsets have two earphones while mono headsets have one. Let’s take a closer look.

Yealink WH62 Teams

This model of Yealink WH62 Teams gives you exceptional stereo Super Wideband audio quality and Acoustic Shield noise reduction.

What are the advantages of stereo headsets?

Stereo headsets have two earphones, which sit over, on or in both of your ears. Why would you go with a stereo headset? Here are some reasons to choose a stereo headset:

  • Noise cancellation. Because both of your ears are covered by earphones, stereo headsets naturally offer better noise cancellation than mono headsets. If you want active noise cancellation (ANC), the headset will always be a stereo headset. We cover active noise cancellation below. Noise cancelling headsets are particularly important in open-plan offices.
  • Audio quality. Stereo headsets typically offer better audio quality than mono headsets. Mostly, that’s because you have two earphones and two is better than one. But manufacturers might also design the stereo headset for use with music and other media in mind. Some headsets dynamically change between talk mode and music or media mode to provide better reproduction for each application.
  • Improve focus. Because they block out more noise, stereo headsets allow you to focus on your work better, which can improve productivity.
Poly Voyager 5200 Office

Poly Voyager 5200 Office is an ultra-lightweight Bluetooth headset with WindSmart technology and an adaptive digital signal processor (DSP) for exceptional audio quality.

What are the advantages of mono headsets?

Mono headsets have one earphone, which sits on or in either of your ears. Why would you go with a mono headset? Here are some reasons to choose a mono headset:

  • Stay in touch. The primary advantage of a mono headset is that it allows you to stay in touch with what’s happening around you as you work. This can be really important in an office environment.
  • Hear yourself. Some people appreciate not having both ears covered when they’re talking so they can hear how loud they’re talking. We’ve all had experiences with people talking too loudly when they’re listening to their headphones. A mono headset lets you hear yourself.
  • Price. Mono headsets are typically less expensive than the equivalent stereo model in a given headset series. If, for example, you’re outfitting a call center, this can add up to real savings.
 

What types of wireless headsets are there?

Wireless Headsets or Cordless Headsets provide professional audio with the convenience of having no wires, so you can wander with your headset on, and you never have to worry about the cable catching on anything.

What kinds of wireless office headsets are there? There are two types:

There are two features specific to wireless headsets that you should think about no matter which type you go with:

  • Talk time. Talk time refers to how long the battery can last when used for communications. Make sure the headset can cover how long you will use it on a busy day.
  • Wander range. Wander range refers to how far you can be away from the device you’re connected to while still having a stable connection. For Bluetooth, that might be a VoIP phone or smartphone. For DECT, that will be from the base station. Note that obstacles can significantly reduce wander range. Manufacturers tend to list maximum possible range.
Grandstream GUV3050

Grandstream GUV3050 offers dual device connectivity with Bluetooth. It comes with a USB adapter, so you can use it with smartphone, computer or compatible VoIP phone.

Bluetooth Headsets

Bluetooth Headsets use the popular wireless protocol to connect to your VoIP phone or smartphone. They also can connect to your laptop or PC, though you’ll need a USB dongle.

Why use a Bluetooth headset? Beyond wireless convenience, the biggest advantage is compatibility. It’ll be compatible with an enormous range of devices, so you might be able to use the same headset with your VoIP phone, smartphone, tablet, laptop and more. Some let you connect to multiple devices at once.

To use the headset with your VoIP phone, make sure the phone supports Bluetooth. You might need to use a Bluetooth USB dongle. Note that just because the phone has a USB port, that doesn’t mean it supports a Bluetooth dongle.

Poly Savi 7310 Office, Microsoft Teams Edition

Poly Savi 7310 Office takes full advantage of the potential of DECT with military-grade encryption, nearly 600 ft wireless range and 2x device density compared with other DECT headsets.

DECT Headsets

DECT Headsets use the DECT wireless protocol for wireless communications. DECT is a well-established protocol that offers several advantages over Bluetooth:

  • Reduce spectrum density. Today, there are an enormous number of wireless devices in the office. Most of these are Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. DECT uses a separate section of the wireless spectrum from those two, which means DECT headsets don’t interfere with your Bluetooth or Wi-Fi devices.
  • Extended wireless range. DECT offers a wireless range beyond what Bluetooth can offer. Some DECT headsets have wireless ranges of 600 ft line of sight. That’s two football fields! Even in typical office environments with their associated obstacles, DECT headsets provide the best wireless range for office headsets available today.
  • Excellent security. DECT can provide better communications security with advanced encryption and more. The new Poly Savi 7300 Office Series, for example, offers military-grade information security.

DECT Headsets use the DECT wireless protocol for wireless communications. DECT is a well-established protocol that offers several advantages over Bluetooth:

Are there Wi-Fi headsets?

Some gaming headsets now come with Wi-Fi connectivity. To the best of our knowledge, none of the major office headset manufacturers currently offer Wi-Fi office headsets. So the answer is, for now, no.

 

What types of wired headsets are there?

Wired Headsets or Corded Headsets connect to a device, as you might guess, via cables. They tend to be less expensive than wireless headsets. Wired connectivity can be more reliable and easier to setup than wireless connectivity, as anyone who’s had trouble with Bluetooth will know. There are three primary types of wired headset:

Jabra Evolve2 30

Jabra Evolve2 30 offers plug-and-play USB connectivity. The advanced digital chipset and noise-isolating microphone array provides first-class audio performance.

USB Headsets

USB Headsets provide plug-and-play connectivity with computers and VoIP phones using either a USB-A or USB-C plug. They are very easy to use, often have integrated call controls and work with almost any communications service or system.

Many VoIP phones now have a dedicated USB port for a headset. Just because a VoIP phone has a USB port, however, that doesn’t mean it supports a USB headset. Manufacturers will specify if the phone supports a USB headset or not. Make sure to check before buying.

They come with either USB-A or USB-C connectivity. USB-A is the familiar USB standard with the bigger, rectangular, non-reversible plug. USB-C is the newer USB standard with the smaller, pill-shaped, reversible plug. Make sure you get a headset with the USB plug that fits your devices. Sidenote: a USB-C headset might work with your smartphone if the phone has a USB-C jack, like most Android phones.

RJ9 Headsets

RJ9 headsets use a telephone cable style plug. The port on the phone might be called RJ9, 4P4C, RJ10, RJ22 or even just a “modular” jack. RJ9 is the most common label. Almost every VoIP phone has two RJ9 ports: one for the phone’s handset and one for a headset. These wired headsets are comparatively inexpensive and easy to use. They are only used with desktop phones.

QD (Quick Disconnect), EHS (Electronic Hook Switch)

You might come across the term QD headsets. QD (Quick Disconnect) is a cable technology that allows you to disconnect your headset without dropping a call. If you have to, for example, ask your manager about something, you won’t need to take off your headset. It is primarily used with RJ9 headsets, although there are options for USB and 3.5mm headsets.

Because RJ9 is not a set standard, RJ9 ports are not all wired the same way. This means that that QD cables or adapters are specific to the various manufacturers. Jabra and Poly (Plantronics) headsets, for example, use different QD cables. One of the secondary benefits of QD is that it lets you use the same headset with a different phone. If you need to switch phones, you only need to get the appropriate QD cable, rather than buy a brand-new headset.

You might also come across the term EHS (Electronic Hook Switch). EHS refers to another type of headset adapter that enables call control on the headset instead of requiring you to interact with the phone console. EHS adapters are also specific to the various manufacturers.

Remember: When shopping for QD or EHS cables, make sure to check the manufacturers’ compatibility guides.

Poly Blackwire 3315, Microsoft Teams Edition

Poly Blackwire 3315 gives you USB and 3.5 mm connectivity with in-line call controls at an exceptional price-point.

3.5mm Headsets

Some headsets also offer plug-and-play 3.5mm connectivity, which lets you use it with any smartphone, tablet or computer that has a standard 3.5mm jack.

Typically, 3.5mm headsets don’t only offer 3.5mm connectivity. They offer USB and 3.5mm connectivity. They’ll come with a USB cable that has an in-line call controller. The 3.5mm plug inserts into this controller, so you can connect via USB. Or you can skip the USB cable and use the 3.5mm headset directly with a device.

The primary advantages of 3.5mm headsets are simplicity and compatibility. Plug-and-play, works with anything? Not a bad choice at all.

You might come across 2.5mm headsets. Same deal as above, just with the smaller plug. Some wireless handsets, for example, still have 2.5mm headset jacks. These are quite rare nowadays.

 

What headset features should I pay attention to?

Here are some of the most popular features that people look for with headsets:

Poly Blackwire 8225

Poly Blackwire 8225 features class-leading Advanced Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation using a 4-microphone array. You can set the level of noise cancellation for how you want to work.

Active Noise Cancellation

Active noise cancellation (ANC) means the headset actively filters out ambient and background noise to provide a cleaner listening experience. A typical ANC system uses microphones to sense ambient sound. It then produces sounds that mask this ambient sound. You can think of it like audio camouflage. The effect for you is that you hear less noise.

ANC is especially important for open office workers. Home workers with pets, children or partners in the same space might find it necessary to even be able to focus on their work. And of course, people on the go love active noise cancellation for airplanes, buses, public spaces and so on.

Active noise cancellation headsets are by definition stereo headsets. There’s no point in cancelling noise for one ear when the other’s wide open. ANC is a premium feature, but one of the most highly valued by workers today. It makes a huge difference.

What is passive noise cancellation?

You’ll also see manufacturers use the term passive noise cancellation. This phrase typically refers to one of two things:

  1. The earcups block noise naturally by covering your ears.
  2. The microphone on the boom is directional, meaning it only picks up sound in one direction. The microphone points only at your mouth, limiting the amount of ambient noise it picks up.

In both cases, the noise cancellation comes from the headset design, rather than active technology, hence “passive” noise cancellation.

When people are looking for a “noise-cancelling headset,” they almost always mean one with active noise cancellation. However, manufacturers will sometimes call a headset “noise-cancelling” if it has passive noise cancellation. If you want active noise cancellation, make sure the headset is giving you what you want.

Noise Cancelling Microphone

Active noise cancellation typically refers to what you hear. But what about how you sound? Look for a noise cancelling microphone. We mention in the box above passive noise cancellation via a directional microphone. But headsets can do even more. Take, for example, Poly Acoustic Fence, which sets a virtual perimeter around you, eliminating background noise. It can lead to your voice sounding much better.

Hearing Protection Technology

If you’re on a headset all day long with the volume up for too long, hearing damage can become a real concern. Many headset manufacturers now offer volume-limiting features to protect your hearing. There are two primary types you should be aware of:

  1. Reduce average exposure. The headset system will take an average of the decibel level over a certain period of time and keep that time-weighted average below a certain threshold. This feature reduces long-term exposure to damaging noise. Usually, the limit is in the 80 to 85 dBA range. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends a maximum of 85 dBA over an 8-hour workday. Jabra calls this feature IntelliTone.
  2. Limit sudden noises. The headset system automatically cuts off any noise above a certain decibel level, usually around 115 dB. This feature, which is often called “anti-startle” technology, reduces short-term exposure to damaging noise. Australia has a regulation that specifies a 102 dB maximum; if you see “G616” protection, it’s referring to this Australian regulation.

These features have many names. Jabra calls time-weighted average limitation IntelliTone and sudden noise limitation PeakStop. The two together are called SafeTone. Poly calls sudden noise limitation SoundGuard. They don’t have a specific name for time-weighted average limitation. SoundGuard DIGITAL is the two together. Often, you can set the levels of hearing protection in the headset’s management application.

Jabra Evolve2 65, Microsoft Teams Edition

The on-call indicator of Jabra Evolve2 65 Mono, Microsoft Teams Edition, has been designed for 360° visibility. This Bluetooth headset has a 40mm speaker and integrated call controls, including a dedicated Microsoft Teams button.

On-Call Indicator

An on-call indicator is a light that is built into the headset that lights up to indicate whether you’re busy or not. Also known as a busy light, it lets coworkers know when you’re on a call or otherwise need to focus. Many offices find on call indicators useful to reduce distractions: workers will always know when they can talk with their colleagues.

Integrated Call Controls

Many headsets offer in-line call controls or call controls built into the headphones. Typical controls include volume up/down, answer/end call and mute. Microsoft Teams headsets have a dedicated button for launching the service to answer Teams calls and so on.

Integrated call controls streamline your communications experience. They’re a convenience that many workers greatly appreciate. Note, however, that just because your headset has call controls, it doesn’t mean it will work with every platform. It’s always worth looking at the manufacturer’s compatibility charts to make sure.

Jabra Evolve2 85

If you want first-class audio, check out Jabra Evolve2 85. The over-the-ear Bluetooth headset uses 10 microphones for first-class active noise cancellation and dual 40 mm speakers for exceptional sound quality.

High-Fidelity Audio

Why buy a headset for business and headphones for music when you can have one device for both? That’s the idea behind headsets offering hi-fi audio. The average human can perceive sounds between 20 Hz and 20 kHz on the audio spectrum. Human voices fall along a comparatively narrow band of this spectrum, so, for speech, a headset typically reproduces sound in that band.

We can hear music, however, across this entire spectrum. So hi-fi audio means the headset covers the whole range, giving you exceptional sound quality. The headset will sound as good for speech as it will for music. Some headsets offer a “music mode” or “media mode,” which means it will switch between optimizing sound quality for speech vs music. You may have to manually select hi-fi mode in the headset’s management application.

Audio Pass-Through

What if you want to hear what’s happening around you without taking off your headset? Some newer headsets offer audio pass-through. Essentially, this technology does the opposite of active noise cancellation: it uses microphones to sense sound around you, then broadcasts that sound at an acceptable level into your ears. It’s a quality-of-life feature, one that many people really like.

 

When would I want to use a headset?

Headsets are an increasingly popular choice for workers. There are many options with many different features. Here are some common scenarios where people use headsets and what features you should look for:

Poly Voyager 4220 Office

Poly Voyager 4220 Office is a stereo Bluetooth headset with rich sound quality. The on-call indicator helps coworkers know when you need to focus.

Open Office Headsets

Open-plan offices are built for increased collaboration. While many workers appreciate the creativity and energy created by the looser atmosphere, there are two possible sources of friction: noise and privacy. If you want an open office headset, look for a stereo headset with good noise cancellation. To increase privacy, get a headset with an on-call indicator to let coworkers know when you need to focus or you’re on a call.

Video Conferencing Headsets

As more and more work is done over video conferencing, voice quality and background noise reduction have become very important. For a video conferencing headset, look for these features. A noise cancelling microphone in particular is highly useful. Integrated call controls make it easy to mute your microphone when you’re not speaking to help reduce noise.

Make sure your headset is compatible with your video conferencing service. USB headsets are compatible with pretty much every service, as are 3.5mm headsets, but you’ll want to double check anyways.

Want to know more about video conferencing? We go deep in our Video Conferencing Buyer’s Guide.

Microsoft Teams Headsets

Microsoft Teams Certified Headsets are automatically identified by the service, making them plug-and-play. They will have a Microsoft Teams button that lets you launch the service with one click. Some Microsoft Teams headsets meet the Open Office requirements for noise cancellation, which is one of the highest noise cancellation standards you can find.

For more on Microsoft Teams headsets, check out our blog: Headsets That Work with Microsoft Teams >

Jabra Evolve2 40

Jabra Evolve2 40 offers plug-and-play USB connectivity with integrated call controls and an on-call indicator. The 3-microphone array provides first-class sound isolation to improve voice quality.

VoIP Phone Headsets

VoIP phone headsets keep your hands free while you’re on a call. Many headsets support call control, so you can, for example, answer a call by just tapping a button on your headset.

You can use wired or wireless headsets with VoIP phones. Most phones have a dedicated RJ9 headset port in the back. Many now have USB ports that support USB headsets. If the phone has a USB port, you’ll want to make sure that port supports a USB headset, as not all of them do. Many phones support Bluetooth, either natively or by using a USB dongle. DECT headsets connect to a phone through their base stations. The base connects to the VoIP phone.

For an in-depth look at VoIP phones, check out our VoIP Phones Buyer’s Guide.

Yealink YHS34 Mono

Yealink YHS34 Mono is a cost-effective wired headset with QD connector. AcousticProtection technology reduces long-term hearing damange.

Call Center Headsets

Call centers require lots of headsets that are durable enough and comfortable enough for all-day use without breaking the bank. Simplicity is essential to reduce learning time and user error. Call center headsets are typically wired headsets for cost-savings. They should be lightweight, feature ear protection technology and versatile. Call controls on the headset or the headset’s cable can streamline the call agent’s workflow. On-call indicators let workers know when someone is a on a call, another convenient feature to look for.

Home Office Headsets

Headsets are excellent options for communications in your home office. If you have a noisy household with children, pets or partners, active noise cancellation (ANC) can be a big plus. USB headsets are simple to use and work with almost every softphone and unified communications platform. And let’s be honest: at home, you can listen to your music and podcasts all day long, if that’s the kind of worker you are. So go ahead, emphasize audio quality with your home office headset.

Mobile Worker Headsets

Mobile workers have specific needs that many headsets don’t need. Bluetooth headsets are convenient, because you don’t have to worry about wires catching on anything and you can use it just fine with your smartphone. Active noise cancellation (ANC) is highly prized, although many people prefer an ultra-lightweight and discreet earhook Bluetooth headset so you can always be connected. If you use your mobile worker headset outside often, look for weather resistance, so if you get caught in a rainstorm, your headset won’t be ruined.

 

What are the different headset wearing styles?

Headsets come in a number of different form-factors. Which one you go with is entirely a matter of personal opinion, although some do have certain advantages.

Headband, Over-the-Head Headsets

The headband is by far the most common form factor. And why not? They’re secure and allow you to have larger earcups and a longer microphone boom for better audio quality. Because of the larger earcups, you can have call controls on the headset itself.

Earbuds, In-Ear Headsets

Earbuds sit in your ears. They are ultra-lightweight. They might not, however, have as good microphone sound quality as other varieties. If you’re looking for AirPod-like earbuds that don’t have a cable between them, look for the term “true wireless.” It’s a bit clumsy, but that’s what we’ve settled on for now.

Earhook, Over-the-Ear Headsets

Earhooks fit over your ear, like the classic businessman Bluetooth headset. Earhook headsets are ultra-lightweight, monaural and, often, extremely portable.

Jabra Engage 75 Convertible

Jabra Engage 75 Convertible is an elite wireless DECT headset that lets you choose between earhook, headband and neckband wearing styles.

Neckband, Behind-the-Head Headsets

There are a few headsets that come with a neckband, which means that the earphones are connected behind your head. Some people like neckbands because they don’t mess with your hair. If you have a large hairstyle, a neckband might be for you.

Convertible Headsets

When you see the term “convertible headset,” it means that the headset comes with a variety of wearing styles that you can select from and change between. A typical selection includes headband, earhook and neckband.

 

Headset Management Applications

Many headset manufacturers offer free applications for managing headsets on your computer. These apps let you customize features, update firmware and more. Here are links to the manufacturers’ websites to download their applications:

 

What are the benefits of an office headset?

Here are 6 important reasons why headsets are so popular in offices today:

  1. Hands-free communications. Headsets keep your hands free when you’re on a call: no need to awkwardly pinch the phone between your head and shoulder.
  2. Improved voice reproduction. Compared with a computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet, a headset provides better voice reproduction. This means your voice will sound fuller and more natural to the person you’re talking to. Improved voice reproduction has been shown to increase comprehension. It also presents you in a more positive light to your customers or clients, because you sound better.
  3. Private audio. Most of use, when we’re working, aren’t by ourselves. In an office, on the road, in a café or at home, there’s almost always someone around. If everyone just broadcasted their calls publicly, it would be chaotic, not to mention that everyone would hear your conversation. Headsets give you privacy and reduce noise.
  4. Mobile convenience. Rather than being tied to the desktop phone, a wireless headset lets you wander around while being ready for a call. And features like in-line or on-headset call controls make it even easier.
  5. Portability. It’s much easier to carry around a USB or Bluetooth headset for business-class communications with your laptop or smartphone than it is to setup a desktop phone.
  6. Versatility. On top of its business applications, you can use a headset for music and media, too. If you fly a lot, you can get a headset with active noise cancellation.
 

If you have any questions or for additional help, please contact us at 888.201.9056 or email us at service@ipphone-warehouse.com.