Best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls you can buy in 2021.
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 in the world.
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.
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 – not only will this ensure a great match between audio and video (so it doesn't look like your caller is lip syncing), 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.
Looking further ahead? The AirPods Pro 2 are rumoured to launch very soon indeed. They promise built-in microphones for hands-free calls, which is something to look forward to for homeworkers and mum-callers alike.
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 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 predecessor 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
The name of Bose’s latest 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 new 2021 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
If you're looking for a decent pair of cable-free earbuds for music and calls, and you're an Apple user, the AirPods Pro are the obvious choice. They're light, easy to wear and fitted with superb noise-cancelling technology.
They also work flawlessly in terms of their wireless connection, so you won't have to worry about dropped calls, and they come with elliptical silicone tips that comfortably sit in your ears without burrowing into the ear canal.
Each bud has a force sensor on the stem – squeeze it to activate Siri, answer calls or skip a track. Inside, Apple's H1 chip enables the buds to switch seamlessly between iOS devices and allows for a stronger connection.
Sound wise, they're not the best-sounding in-ears money can buy. But what they lack in punch and dynamism compared to, say, the Sony WF-1000XM4, they make up for in natural, crystal clear tone (a sound profile that's ideal for voice calls).
In terms of features and convenience, these much-improved AirPods are a great choice for Apple users – at home or out and about.
Read the full Apple AirPods Pro 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 a 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award. 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
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately 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
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
The CX 400BT may not have the sleekest name, the fanciest design or even the most generous feature set, but they are more sonically gifted than most at this quite affordable price. That's good news for music fans, but also for anyone looking to use them for voice calls.
They're not water- or sweat-resistant, so we would be wary of taking them out in a downpour. But they do boast Bluetooth 5.1 support and mobile app features, neither of which is a given at this level. The former promises high-quality, far-reaching Bluetooth transmission, while the latter opens doors to EQ adjustment and control customisation.
The controls are simple for voice calls, too. Just tap the right earbud once to activate your phone’s voice assistant or accept incoming calls, twice to jump forward a track or rejects calls, or hold it down to increase volume.
There's no noise cancellation, and battery life is bested elsewhere. But if you're looking for a smart, true wireless pair that will do you proud on calls, look no further.
Read the full Sennheiser CX 400BT 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
Apple's second-generation AirPods sound much better than the originals and pack in plenty of features including better pairing, which makes switching connections between Apple devices effortless.
These Bluetooth 5.0 buds are powered by Apple's H1 chip, so call quality is clear and connectivity solid. The improved audio quality makes for a sophisticated, musical sound that benefits from a neutral sonic balance.
Battery life is superb: five hours of listening plus another 19 hours available via the supplied, non-wireless charging case (you also have the option to splash out on Apple's wireless case). Another nifty feature, for devices running iOS 13 or later, is Audio Sharing, which allows a second pair of AirPods to connect to an iPhone and listen to whatever you're playing.
Downsides? There are no interchangeable ear tips so you'll just have to hope that one size does indeed fit all. But if you're an Apple fan, these sleek buds are fantastic value for money, and a great bet if you're after some of the best headphones with a mic around.
Read the full Apple AirPods (2019) 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
The 2021 Award-winning Y400 are a little smaller than the previous model (the splendid Y500), with smaller drivers. The controls will be familiar to anyone well-versed in AKG's line-up, and they come with a cable complete with in-line controls and mic, for when you don't want to run down the battery with a wireless connection – during a long call, say.
They're colourful, too, coming in shimmery pink, green, blue and goldish-yellow finishes.
There's no noise cancelling, but we wouldn't expect it at this price. There is Ambient Aware mode, however, which lets in outside noise like dogs barking and car engines. Handy if you want to avoid being bitten/run over. They automatically detect when you take them off and pause the music, too, saving you precious battery life.
The sound has much to like, being pleasingly spacious and three-dimensional. There’s impeccable timing throughout and the headphones deliver bass weight and power in spades. It's zealous to the point that some might prefer a slightly leaner listen, but in our eyes (and at this level) the Y400 get the balance just about right.
Read the full AKG Y400 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
You'll be delighted to discover that despite the affordable price, these dynamic on-ear cans are winners of multiple What Hi-Fi? Awards. They offer impressive detail and an excellent level of clarity over Bluetooth, meaning they're great for music as well as voice and video calls.
Features, design and build quality are superb. The 20-hour battery life is very respectable, but you can also use them with a wire when they run out of juice. Intuitive earcup controls are the icing on AKG's attractively-priced cake.
Whether you're watching a movie or on a video call, the soft earpads are extremely comfortable (although over-ears will give you a slightly tighter seal). Sound is superb for the money, with enough dynamic power to shift effortlessly between frequencies. They're a seriously entertaining listen.
It's rare to find a pair of Bluetooth headphones that match their wired counterparts for performance, but the Y50BT rise to that challenge. High-quality cord-cutters for those on a budget.
Read the full AKG Y50BT review
The third-generation Momentum Wireless cans follow in the footsteps of two models that knocked it out of the park, and this new pair continues the trend. Build quality is exceptionally good, with plush sheepskin leather earpads and stainless steel sliders. The on-ear controls have been improved too, giving you more control of music playback and voice calls.
But the main attraction here is the noise-cancelling technology, which eliminates most external frequencies with brutal efficiency. And via the Sennheiser Smart Control app, you can customise the intensity of the noise cancellation (‘Anti-Wind’ mode should prove its worth during outdoor calls).
Sound is energetic, dynamic and insightful and there's support for aptX, AAC and SBC Bluetooth. The Momentum Wireless also support aptX Low Latency, which aims to improve the synchronicity of audio and video content. The impressive sonic capability is backed by a 17-hour battery life and, while not all over-ears are suitable for use on the go, these fold-up for commuting.
If you want a pair of premium over-ears that don't skimp on features, these deserve a place on your shortlist.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum Wireless review
They might feel a little cheaper than previous B&W headphones but the PX7 offer a high degree of all-day comfort, making them a great go-to for both Netflix binges and extended video calls.
They combine proprietary driver technology and Qualcomm’s new aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec to great effect, serving up a solid, balanced sound, plenty of clarity and a tad more enthusiasm than their peers.
They're clever, too, with the proximity sensor pausing the music when you lift an earcup – return it to your ear and the music restarts. The PX7’s inability to fold into a more compact form for slinging in a bag is a shame, but they do come with a carry case in the box. Battery life has been upped to 30 hours, there's USB-C connectivity and 15 minutes of juice will deliver five hours of playback.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 (top of this list) convey music in a more authentic way, but the upbeat PX7 are still a fine bet.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review
Bose pioneered active noise-cancellation technology for the consumer market, so it's no surprise that QC 35 II are mighty impressive in that respect. And because they've been out a bit longer than the 700, you can pick them up at a very competitive price.
Aside from three levels of noise-cancellation, they're ultra-comfy and deliver a detailed and entertaining sound. The fact Google Assistant is built-in just adds to their appeal – it means you can control your tunes hands-free, or make calls to your contacts without fishing your phone out of your pocket.
Musically, the Sonys, B&Ws and Sennheisers towards the top of this list will impress you more. But as some of the best headphones with a mic for making voice calls as well as listening to music, the Bose QC 35 II are a solid bet.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort 35 II 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
Sony's wireless noise-cancelling headphones are some of the most comfortable over-ears we’ve ever tested, so they're perfectly suited to extended voice and video calls, not to mention box-set binges. The open, spacious soundstage provides plenty of room for sparkling vocals and ensures that the person on the other end of the call can be heard clearly.
They also sport Bluetooth 5.0, meaning they have an outstanding 40m indoor range, giving you the freedom to pace around the room or gesticulate without getting tangled up in a cable. The quick-charging battery is impressive, too: it goes from empty to full in three hours, while a 10-minute charge returns five hours of playback.
Perhaps the most impressive feature here is the noise-cancellation, the intensity of which can be adjusted to suit your surroundings. There's also an Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser (which boosts the noise cancellation when you're flying), plus intuitive touchpad controls and Sony's Headphones Control app.
They've since been replaced by the XM4 at the top of this list, but that should mean they can be snapped up at a bargain price.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM3 review