Time was, long-distance calls were a luxury. Nowadays, they're essential. Thankfully, voice and video calling apps such as Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and WhatsApp have shrunk the world, enabling us to virtually meet up with friends, family and colleagues no matter where they are.
Whether you're working from home and need to do a conference call to Singapore or just have a video catch-up with your mum, you'll need one of our best headphones with a mic. They'll bump up audio quality and help you hear every word clearly.
And with the Sony WF-1000XM5 rumoured to launch as soon as May, we could see a new entry high up this list soon.
How to choose the best headphones with a mic
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But what are the best headphones with a microphone for voice and video calls? Choose wisely and you'll be rewarded with the best call quality. The latest wireless models are a good bet as they allow you to go hands-free. And many feature Bluetooth 5.0 or later – not only will this ensure a great match between audio and video (so it doesn't look like your caller is lip syncing out of time), it also has a huge indoor range of 40m (compared to Bluetooth 4.2's paltry 10m). That means you can stray to the other side of your residence from your device and still stay on the call. Unless you live in a palace.
If it's in-ears you're after, you'll want a pair with decent battery life and an in-line remote control for answering calls. And if you tend to make calls outdoors or in busy offices, noise-cancelling technology will block out external sounds such as wind, rain, rumbling trains and open-plan banter.
To help you make the right choice, we've recommended the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls. Read on to find a pair that matches your budget.
The 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award winning XM5 sound much better than their predecessors for music, but also for calls. Sony’s Precise Voice Pickup technology uses four beamforming mics and AI-powered noise-reduction, plus wind-noise reduction to help your calls sound as clear as possible. The result? Your voice comes through the WH-1000XM5 clearly and without distortion. They also do a great job of suppressing general noise and any gusts of wind that can threaten to drown you out when using lesser headphones.
The XM5 can also pair wirelessly with more than one device at a time, letting you effortlessly switch between music on one and calls on another.
When we saw the official pictures of the Sony WH-1000XM5, we were more than a bit surprised. We wondered whether it was a wise move to give one of Sony’s biggest success stories in recent memory a major redesign. But it's paid off.
The Sony XM5 headphones might feel a little less premium than before, but the jump in sound quality from the previous generation is a big one, and rivals once again have their work cut out. If you are looking for a new pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones for calls as well as music, your auditioning should start here. The older XM4 (below) were already the best around, but the XM5 are undoubtedly better for those who can afford to pay the premium.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM5 review
The name of Bose’s wireless headphones doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, but it does reflect the company's focus on improving noise-cancelling technology. The 700 (as they're destined to be known) use a new noise-cancelling system with everything from new acoustics to new digital signal processing – all running off Bose’s own NC chip.
The four-microphone system picks up and isolates your voice while cancelling out external noise around you, so you shouldn't have to raise your voice to be heard when calling friends or family. The person on the other end of the call should be able to hear you clear as a bell.
For a hands-free experience, there’s built-in voice control; press a button on the earcup to summon Google Assistant or Alexa. As for listening to tunes, we found the sound is bold, clear and upfront.
The Sonys above offer a more dynamic performance. But if you want the most sophisticated and versatile noise-cancelling tech around, the 700 are hard to beat.
Read the full Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review
The Melomania 1 were already some of the finest wireless earbuds with a mic that you could buy, so the 1 Plus have big shoes to fill. But we're glad to say that they do so admirably.
What's new? The 1 Plus come with additional app support, customisable EQ settings and the British audio firm's innovative High-Performance Audio Mode. There’s a new colourway, too – gone is the ‘stone’ grey hue we lovingly dubbed ‘NHS Grey’.
Again, the real selling point is battery life. Like their predecessors, the 1 Plus last nine hours from the earbuds, plus an additional four charges from the carry case. That gives a staggering 45 hours of total run time. Though it's worth mentioning they're not a noise-cancelling model, which explains the marathon battery life (noise cancelling is a real battery drain).
They perform well for voice calls, and the musical performance is impactful and expansive. Whether you're using them for tunes or calls, you won't be disappointed.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review
With the 2021/2022 What Hi-Fi? Award winning WF-1000XM4, Sony's managed to build on the huge success of the WF-1000XM3 and produce a sensational pair of true wireless 'buds that are perfect for music and calls alike.
They have dynamics and detail in spades and put in a balanced performance, with taut, precise bass notes and refined, sophisticated vocals. You can't help but be carried away by their sense of musicality.
Those who prioritise battery life in their AirPods alternatives should find the eight hours promised by the Sonys more than sufficient. The wireless charging case also extends this by a further 16 hours.
The Sonys are comfortable to wear too, with touch-sensitive controls and ear tips that provide excellent noise isolation (which should come in useful when you're trying to focus on the call at hand). Combine this with brilliant noise cancelling courtesy of Sony's Integrated Processor V1 and the WF-1000XM4 are difficult to fault.
IPX4 water resistance is included, as are clever features such as Quick Attention and Speak-To-Chat which both allow you to have a conversation without removing the earbuds. They're just as adept at handling conference calls as they are at pumping out tunes. If you buy one true wireless pair this year, make it the WF-1000XM4.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM4 review
Apple's in-ear AirPods have always been decent, but unremarkable – something their string of four-star reviews attests to. But with the AirPods Pro 2, Apple has made a pair of true wireless buds capable of cracking that fifth star.
How? Better noise-cancelling, better battery life, new features and, more importantly, better audio performance. They also cost the same as their predecessors at launch, which helps.
For calls, they're still decent, just like the first-generation Pro. But throw in all these other improvements, and they're a real step up.
A new XS size of eartips should help with fit, and thanks to their vents, they feel a lot less intrusive than some in-ears. Apple has finally added on-bud volume controls, which is a lot more intuitive than digging out your phone or barking commands at Siri.
The noise-cancelling blocks out twice as much background sound as their predecessors, while Adaptive Transparency muffles loud noises when letting in ambient sounds. And the sound quality? With added weight, greater detail and even greater dynamic subtlety than the original Pro, they really are a class act.
Looking for the original AirPods Pro? Apple no longer sells them, but you can still find them at other retailers.
Read the full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review
With a noise-isolating design (no noise cancellation tech), wired connection and 3.5mm headphone jack, you might think these Shures are a little out of step with most modern headphones. And that price! They'll have to do something pretty spectacular to convince us they're worth considering.
Thankfully, they do and they are, winning back-to-back 2021 and 2022 What Hi-Fi? Awards. They time nigh-on perfectly, able to separate strands and knit them together in one glorious musical tapestry. The sense of rhythm and timing needs to be heard to be believed.
The same can be said of their dynamic ability. In the nicest possible way, they're the kind of headphones you can put on and just forget about. There isn’t a single element that sticks out – bass notes don’t protrude and highs don’t cut too deep. They're honest, transparent and true to the original recording. There’s detail and analysis, but never at the expense of the music's life and emotion.
They're comfortable and lightweight, too, and with nine different pairs of eartips, you're guaranteed a good fit. An in-line mic seals the deal, serving to make calls clearer than many rivals.
Read the full Shure Aonic 3 review
The WH-1000XM4 succeeded the Bose-baiting, Sennheiser-slaying, What Hi-Fi? Award-winning WH-1000XM3, one of the most popular pairs of headphones on the planet. They are quite a big deal and – spoiler alert – these 2021/2022 What Hi-Fi? Award winners live up to the hype.
How? They’re as comfortable as ever, making them perfect for long video calls; they introduce useful features that elevate the user experience; and, most importantly, you’re getting a serious hike in sound quality.
Their sense of musicality and enthusiasm remains as addictive as ever, but you can also hear big improvements over their predecessors across the board. They're confident and composed, especially when handling lower frequencies, and dig up lots more detail. Not only is that good news for music, it also makes them ideal for conference calls on Zoom or Skype.
And when you really need to focus, there's an impeccable noise-cancelling feature that uses a new algorithm and new System on Chip (SoC). The perfect headphones for voice and video calls, be they for work or play.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM4 review
Panasonic isn't a brand that springs to mind when you think of headphones with a mic. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company's first wireless noise-cancelling buds and they're sensational performers for the money.
In fact, they picked up a 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award.
Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and a battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs from the charging case). A 15-minute USB-C quick-charge can deliver 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive, allowing you to control your music and switch between noise-cancelling modes with zero fuss.
You also get five sizes of ear tips to help with fit. We found this a little hit and miss, so we'd definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.
Both noise-cancelling and sound quality are excellent. There's plenty of agility through the low end and loads of texture across the frequencies. Music sounds clear and there's a great deal of refinement on show, which is to be welcomed at this price level.
Superb for the money, both for music and calls alike.
Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review
Bose's buds – winners of the 'Best wireless earbuds over £200' at the 2022 What Hi-Fi? Awards – are wonderfully refined and set a new benchmark for noise-cancelling wireless earbuds.
Smaller and lighter than the original QC Earbuds, the Earbuds II provide a comfortable fit and lots of features. Bluetooth 5.3 is a big bonus, and the Bose app is excellent.
Noise-cancelling is very good, and capable of automatically adjusting the amount of ANC so your music isn’t drowned out by particularly loud noises. As for sound, it's balanced and neutral to the point that you feel you can almost touch the instruments.
Downsides? It's a shame there's no support for high-quality wireless audio codecs such as LDAC or aptX HD, and the actual quality of the calls is bettered elsewhere. But that's small beer when you consider that these classy buds ooze sophistication and deliver everything you’d expect from a high-end Bose product.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review
Google's latest true wireless earbuds come with a stacked feature set and very low price, making them a seriously appealing prospect for many.
They're light and comfortable, and while they don't offer noise cancelling, they do isolate noise well thanks to the snug fit. Though with their vents, some background noise inevitably creeps in. That's no bad thing – it can make crossing the road a lot safer when you're deep in conversation with someone using the buds as a handsfree kit.
Battery is a healthy five hours of music time from the buds (or two-and-a-half hours of talk time), plus another 20 or so from the carry case in four charges. They pair with your device very easily indeed, too, especially if you're using an Android phone or tablet with the Fast Pair feature.
Tired of Zoom calls? We can't blame you. Thankfully these put in an admirable performance come music time, with a clean, balanced sound that doesn't lean too far into any part of the sonic spectrum. A great offering at a great price.
Read the full Google Pixel Buds A-Series review
This Pro variant takes the standard – and excellent – Earfun Air and adds active noise cancellation (ANC), more mics and larger drivers. That all adds up to a better sonic performance as well as clearer voice calls – very handy if you're out and about in noisy environments.
And considering the spec sheet, the price remains jaw-droppingly low – a staple of Earfun's approach.
The newer headphones also get a new case. Unlike its older sibling, it opens like a suitcase, instead of a backpack, and is pebble-shaped as opposed to looking like a premium box of dental-floss.
The headphones pair easily, and they're comfortable enough for even the longest of conference calls. The controls are a doddle to use, too. Two taps on the right bud pauses or resumes playback; three skips to the next track. Double tapping the left earpiece accesses Siri on your iPhone and also answers or ends a call. The crucial function you’ll want to practise is a triple-tap of that left earpiece, as this scrolls between the Earfun’s noise-cancelling, ‘normal’ and ‘ambient sound’ modes.
They're built to survive a downpour, too. All in all, it’s a lot of tech and durability for the money.
Read the full Earfun Air Pro review
With the third incarnation of the AirPods, Apple has edged its true wireless earbuds ever closer to its more premium offering, the AirPods Pro. How? With the inclusion of spatial audio, Apple's dynamic head-tracking technology that makes the audio react accordingly as you move your head. True, it's more effective when watching something on a screen than listening to music without a picture, but it's still quite a feat of engineering.
Apple has also worked to improve voice call quality, firstly by bringing in support for a codec called AAC-ELD, specifically designed to enhance speech, and secondly by covering the beamforming microphones on the earbuds with an acoustic mesh in an effort to reduce wind noise. It works – calls sound clear even in the busiest of surroundings.
You also get extra battery life – 30 hours, up from 24 on their predecessors. It's the icing on the cake.
Read the full Apple AirPods 3 review
The Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds are Sennheiser's answer to the Apple AirPods Pro. They make a great alternative for non-Apple users, with impressive features, decent battery life and an enjoyably balanced sound.
They're more comfortable and nicer to use than their predecessors, and noise-cancelling is now included as part of the package, so they provide decent voice pickup in noisy environments.
Customisable touchpad controls are built into both buds and they're comfortable enough for a movie marathon or an extended video call. The addition of noise-cancelling also comes in handy when summoning Siri or Google Assistant, as you'll be able to hear their AI-powered answers loud and clear.
Sound is taut and controlled with a fine sense of precision and focus. It's a tonal balance that works well with video content as well as voice calls. And there's little chance of the battery dying unexpectedly: these buds promise seven hours of playback, together with an additional 21 hours from the charging case.
If your budget stretches, you'll be impressed by both the audio quality and the craftsmanship of these sleek, long-lasting buds.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review
Overkill? Almost certainly. If you only need a pair of headphones for calls, you really don't need to spend £549 ($549, AU$899) on the AirPods Max, even if they did win a 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award. But if you're looking for a mighty fine pair of over-ear noise-cancellers that also work as a handsfree kit, look no further.
They boast pristinely machined, single-piece anodised aluminium ear cups connected by a stainless-steel headband. Between the cups and your head are memory-foam cushions that easily surround even the largest ears, creating a seal that’s both gentle and surprisingly effective at physically blocking out sound, leaving you to focus on the call at hand.
They're significantly heavier than rivals. But thanks to the weight-distributing design, you can wear them for hours with no discomfort. Sound quality is superb, as is the noise cancelling, and they're a dream to use.
Downsides? You'll need an Apple device to use them to their full potential. The battery life is shorter than some rivals. And of course, there's that price...
But if you want a superb pair of headphones that can work on voice and video calls, the Max are for you.
Read the full Apple AirPods Max review
Headphones in Sennheiser's Momentum line-up are known for their plush, luxurious style, but for the fourth instalment, it's all change. Gone are the premium touches in favour of a more traditional design – we're all for minimalism, but it's a bit of a shame all the same.
They have two microphones per side, with beamforming for noise reduction. Which helps you hear the person on the other end of the line, especially if you're in windy conditions.
Bluetooth 5.2 comes as standard, so you can wirelessly connect to more than one device at once, and they support aptX Adaptive, which is one of the highest quality codecs around.
The fourth-generation Momentum Wireless’ ANC is very decent indeed. Walking along a busy road, we find traffic nicely shunned – reduced to being only a visual distraction, not an audible one. And the sound quality? Clear and direct in a way that demands your attention.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review
The Px7 S2 have an advanced array of microphones that not only enable noise-cancellation, but also help voice calls. There are six mics in all: four for noise-cancellation and two enable crystal clear voice calls with enhanced noise suppression – ideal if you're making calls in noisy environments.
They're very comfortable to wear, which is good news if you're using them for hours of video calls a day. And the noise cancelling is effective, with consistency and minimal sound colouration across the different settings.
The app lets you tweak the EQ settings, though we found no need to do so, as they were set up perfectly. And the sound? Very good indeed, with the S2 always sounding forthright thanks to their angled drivers. The sound does verge on the analytical though, which can make the music less engaging.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 review
Check this out – a pair of headphones that are even pricier than the AirPods Max. But the Px8 are worth every penny.
They offer superb build quality with real luxury flourishes, like the soft-touch Nappa leather elements on the headband, earcups and earpads. They're lighter than Apple's pair. And they feature a new cone material in the drivers, giving them more transparency and less distortion than the Px7 S2 (also on this list).
The 30-hour battery life is 10 hours more than the Max's, and they give you more runtime from a shorter charge, too. B&W's mobile app has been refreshed, and is now easier to use with more features. And it works with Android! Take that, AirPods Max.
But the real highlight is the sound quality. There's precision and clarity and spades, and it feels like a real step on from the AirPods Max. Not a sentence we thought we'd be writing any time soon. Call quality is pretty decent too.
Downsides? Sound quality suffers at low volume, and the wearer detection is a bit hit and miss. But otherwise these are standout – if expensive – headphones.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review
Bose pioneered active noise-cancellation technology for the consumer market, so it's no surprise that QC45 are mighty impressive in that respect. Though they're still not as premium a proposition as the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
To look at, the QC45 are virtually indistinguishable from their predecessors, the QC35 II. They're just as comfy to wear, and again, they fold up, making them the ideal travel companions. Tick.
They have more mics, with more of those beamforming, meaning a real step up in terms of noise cancellation and for call clarity. And the battery now lasts 24 hours, instead of the 20 of their predecessors.
Multi-point pairing means you can easily flick between a Zoom call on your laptop and listening to music on your phone. The feature isn't unique to these headphones, but it is especially well implemented here. It all goes towards making these some of the best headphones with a mic for making voice calls as well as listening to music.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort 45 review
Very similar in look and feel to the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones, these are light and comfortable enough to wear through even the most epic-length conference calls. Battery life is strong and the Bluetooth 5 connectivity provides plenty of wireless range. There are three levels of noise cancelling, which you can toggle with the press of an ear cup, plus a solid 30-hour battery life.
Sound-wise, there's plenty to get stuck into. There's a good dose of warmth at the bottom end to provide solid sound effects and enough subtlety in the midrange to give dialogue some real character. There could be more treble detail and, dynamically, they're just short of creating truly powerful swells and silences, but there's still a lot to like for the money.
Read the full Philips PH805 review
How we test headphones
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.
Of course, testing headphones don't often require such facilities (though we do often try audiophile headphones in our reference hi-fi system). What is important in our headphones reviewing process is that each pair is compared to the best in its price and style class – whether that's one standout pair or a few we favour the highest among the 100+ pairs we listen to each year for reviews and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can always compare new products to ones we know and love.
We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at their very best, so we'll try plenty of different types of music and give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in), while the wired headphones that might warrant being used with a DAC are tested with a suitable one. It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a pair has active noise cancellation – increasingly the case these days – we'll ensure part of our testing involves using them in different environments.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
They are propably sponsoring whathifi.
I also have a pair of AKG Y500s that worked great up to the point a Microsoft update stopped the microphone working in Windows and Samsung (who own the AKG brand) just shrugged.
If this list is really about the best headphones for use with a video call they really should only include those with effective microphones and that work with the most common operating system for video calls in the professional world.
My Plantronics V5200 (yes, a 1-ear device) with 4 noise canceling mics and - *gasps* - a MICROPHONE IN FRONT OF YOUR MOUTH - will provide far superior voice quality and noise cancellation than any single device on this list.
If you're looking for "the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls in 2022", not a single one on this list will fit your needs. Maybe "Best headphones if you're using your own condenser mic and don't need noise cancellation in 2022" perhaps.
But on every single one of these devices, the microphone is an afterthought and is in a really sub-optimal position.