In the work-from-home era, a good headset can make all the difference between being able to focus on your work and, well, sharing distracting or embarrassing background noise with everyone on an important call. But what makes a good headset? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, especially for Windows users, but we’ve got some guidance that will help you make the best choice for you.
Our quick recommendations:
Wired headsets with a USB connection are easiest to use – they’re literally plug-and-play. We like the Logitech H390 and the Polycom Blackwire 5220, both of which are popular with several of our clients (and employees!).
Wireless headsets let you wander away from your desk while you talk, which can be really convenient. Look for models that are marked Teams Certified or UC Certified, like the Jabra Evolve2 65 and the Polycom Voyager 4220 UC, to ensure that they work well with Windows 10.
Tell me more about all my options!
With so many headsets on the market, you may want to explore the available features and dive deeper into the pros and cons of the different technologies before making a choice.
Wired USB Headsets
- Simple and straightforward. Plug one into your computer’s USB port and Windows will recognize it and start using it, no configuration required.
- Offer the best microphone and speaker quality for the price.
- Less expensive than wireless headsets.
- You’re tethered to your computer.
- You can find a perfectly good USB headset for less than $40.
- For more features and better-quality audio, expect to spend around $100.
The three most common wireless technologies on the market are 2.4GHz wireless, DECT, and Bluetooth. Each one delivers a significantly different experience, so we’ll address each one separately.
These headsets use a a 2.4GHz USB dongle/transmitter to transmit data wirelessly between the headset and your computer. They’re designed for gaming, so their technology and appearance may not meet your work needs. Their performance also degrades as the number of 2.4GHz devices in the area increases, which is less than ideal if you’re sharing space with multiple other headset users. Makers with highly rated offerings include Sennheiser, Razer, and the Arctic line from Steelseries.
- Can use one headset for both work and play.
- Designed to be worn for long periods of time.
- High microphone quality.
- Tend to come with software for customizing sound quality and reducing unwanted noise.
- No onboard call controls.
- Over-ear design may not be comfortable for some.
- Large headset may not convey your desired image to clients.
- If you have a discerning ear for music, you’ll want a higher-end model.
- $100 and up.
DECT headsets use the same technology that cordless phones have used for decades. In fact, they will remind you of a cordless phone, with a base unit for transmission and charging. They have a long range so you can step far from your desk while you talk, but as with other wireless devices, the more similar devices in the area, the worse performance will get. Examples include the Logitech H820e, Plantronics’ Savi headsets, and offerings from Leitner.
- Easy to use.
- Looks like a traditional headset.
- On-device volume controls and mute button on most models.
- Performance degrades in busier environments.
- Smaller headsets have smaller batteries that will not hold a charge all day long.
- Fewer options.
- Audio quality is generally low, so look elsewhere if you listen to music while you work.
- $200 and up.
The way that Windows PCs handle Bluetooth devices makes using a Bluetooth wireless headset complicated, and often less than ideal. In simple terms, Windows treats a single Bluetooth headset as three separate devices – headphones, microphone, and headset – and associates different codecs with each. Because it can’t use all codecs in all situations, Windows tries to switch among them as needed, but it doesn’t always do that well. If you want to use a Bluetooth headset, therefore, you need one that includes a dedicated USB adapter that handles device and codec management so Windows doesn’t have to. Windows will see these as dedicated I/O devices. Jabra, Plantronics, and Sennheiser all offer Bluetooth headsets that meet this requirement.
- You can pair and share your Bluetooth headsets with multiple devices at once, including PCs, Macs, and mobile devices.
- On-device controls for calls, volume, and music.
- More options for style and configuration than other technologies
- Long battery life.
- Models with dedicated adapters offer audio quality almost as good as wired headsets.
- Require an additional adapter for optimal experience on a Windows PC.
- So many options and controls that it can be hard to choose.
- Device switching sometimes fails.
- Headsets with the best audio quality are expensive.
- $200 and up.
What are Teams Certified devices?
Designed specifically for workplaces that use Microsoft Teams, these devices have a dedicated Teams button to let you bring Teams to the forefront, join an active meeting, and check missed calls. (Some wireless headsets have Teams and non-Teams versions in which the main difference is the lack of a dedicated Teams button.) The Teams certification also indicates that a device has a high-quality microphone and is intended to function well even in noisy environments and open offices. If Teams compatibility is a priority for you, refer to Microsoft’s most recent list of Teams Certified devices.