Zoom call

The Best Headphones and Earbuds for Calls in 2021

By Jordan Nottrodt Sound

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Many headphones and earbuds, no matter the price, will advertise their quality while making calls, but that doesn’t mean they’re all alike.

Microphone quality in headphones and earbuds varies significantly between similar-looking models, and the advertised specs can be difficult to understand if you’re not an expert. In the worst cases your voice will sound tinny, echoey, and choppy, if the person on the other end can hear you at all. 

When making an important business call, no one wants their voice drowned out by noisy traffic or a baby’s piercing cries. Through no fault of your own, you’ll come across unprepared and unprofessional. With more and more businesses moving toward work from home and remote options, voice call quality is increasingly vital. 

There are plenty of headphones and earbuds out there that are fine for a quick chat with a family member, but don’t offer enough when it comes to professional work calls. If you take a lot of business calls, it’s pretty much true across the board that you’ll need to spend for quality. 

If budget is a concern, choose cheaper headphones and add a USB or Bluetooth microphone—but keep in mind that this solution won’t be quite as portable. 

These are our recommendations for the best headphones and earbuds for calls in 2021. Note that we haven’t included single-ear headsets in this list: if you don’t need or want stereo sound, one of the options in our roundup of the best Bluetooth headsets may be a better bet.

Best Headset for Calls: Plantronics Voyager Focus UC
  • Battery life: Up to 12 hours
  • Active Noise Cancellation: Yes
  • Charging: Micro-USB or bundled stand
  • Connection: Bluetooth, USB-A

Best General-Purpose Headphones For Calls: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
  • Battery Life: Up to 20 hours
  • Active Noise Cancellation: Yes
  • Charging: USB C
  • Connection: Bluetooth, 3.5mm

Best Budget Headphones For Calls: Sennheiser HD 450BT
  • Battery Life: Up to 30 hours
  • Active Noise Cancellation: Yes
  • Charging: USB C
  • Connection: Bluetooth, 3,5mm

Best Earbuds For Calls: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2
  • Battery Life: Up to 7 hours
  • Active Noise Cancellation: No
  • Charging: USB C, wireless
  • Connection: Bluetooth

Sale
Runner Up, Best Earbuds For Calls: Apple Airpods Pro
  • Battery Life: Up to 5 hours
  • Active Noise Cancellation: Yes
  • Charging: USB C, wireless
  • Connection: Bluetooth

Sale
Best Budget Earbuds For Calls: TaoTronics SoundLiberty 80
  • Battery Life: Up to 4 hours
  • Active Noise Cancellation: No
  • Charging: USB C
  • Connection: Bluetooth

Best Headset for Calls: Plantronics Voyager Focus UC

Poly - Voyager Focus UC with Charge Stand (Plantronics) - Bluetooth Dual-Ear (Stereo) Headset with Boom Mic - USB-A Compatible with PC and Mac - Active Noise Canceling - Works with Teams, Zoom & More

Whether you’re working from home or wandering around outside, the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC is a great choice for making calls. Comfortable and lightweight, with excellent sound quality, you’ll get up to 12 hours of active talk time on a single charge.

Unusually for an office-style headset like this, it’s a stereo device that provides audio in both ears. This helps keeps the outside noise level down, helped significantly by the inbuilt active noise cancellation. While the Focus UC wouldn’t be our first choice for listening to music, it does a reasonable job of it given it’s not the main focus.

The noise-cancelation continues into the three microphones, help to reduce the amount of background noise that makes its way into your calls. Your co-workers will thank you, especially if you’re prone to being interrupted by barking dogs, traffic noise, or other disturbances.

Charging is handled either by a traditional micro-USB cable, or unusually, a desk stand that’s bundled with headset. This provides the best of both worlds, letting you power the headset on the go when you need to, and ensuring a full charge and convenient storage when you’re back at your desk.

While our focus in this article is on the Bluetooth side of things, it’s worth noting that the headset also comes with a wireless dongle that plugs into the USB-A port on a Mac or Windows machine if you’d prefer to use that instead.

The only thing we don’t love about the Focus UC is that it’s predominantly made of plastic, which means that durability isn’t quite as high as we’d like it to be. Treat it with a degree of care, however, and you’ll get a high-quality headset that provides impressive sound quality for both you and those you’re talking to.

Pros
  • Comfortable for all-day wear
  • Strong battery life
  • Excellent voice quality
  • Compatible with Microsoft Teams, Zoom and more
  • Active noise cancelling (ANC)
Cons
  • Durability could be better
Buy on Amazon

Best Headphones For Calls: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, Bluetooth, Over-Ear Wireless Headphones with Built-In Microphone for Clear Calls & Alexa Voice Control, Black

If you’re more after a premium set of general-purpose headphones that also do a great job on calls, look no further than the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.

Along with their high-quality noise cancelation, these headphones were designed with voice calls in mind. There are eight individual mics in the system, six of which cancel the noise around you, so you can hear the caller better.

Four of the eight work together to make your own voice as clear as possible by isolating it from surrounding noise and suppressing everything else, even in very loud environments. Some background noise will still break through when you speak, but it’s greatly reduced compared to other models. 

You can control the headphones with voice commands for Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant, or there are touch controls included on the earcup. Another useful feature is the adjustable sidetone, which lets you hear your own voice in the headphones so that you’re aware of how loud you’re speaking on calls. Nobody likes a meeting shouter. 

The design is sleek and sturdy, the fit is well-cushioned, and the Bose 700’s are lightweight, so they’ll stay comfortable even during the longest, most boring conference call. In fact, the large, plush cushions help make these some of the most comfortable headphones you’ll find for all-day wear.

The headband is made from stainless steel, which means the 700’s don’t fold up. As a result, the protective carrying case is built large enough to lay the headphones flat, with an included compartment to store the USB C charging cable. 

While this makes the case a bit on the bulky side, the stainless steel headband is vulnerable to scratches if the headphones are placed in your bag without it, so it’s worth using. Although the 700’s come with basic splash protection (IPX4), its better to put them back in the case if it really starts to pour. 

The 700’s provide twenty hours of wireless battery life on a single charge, a bit less than other headphones in this price class, but still fine for most situations.  

Music sounds great, with clear details and strong bass, but perhaps not quite as incredible as you might expect for such expensive gear. That said, if your chief use of these headphones is to drown out the outside world and/or make important business calls in potentially noisy or distracting environments, these are definitely top of the line. 

Pros
  • Excellent call quality
  • Great noise cancellation
  • Super-comfortable
  • Adjustable sidetone lets you hear your own voice volume
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Music doesn’t sound quite as great as some similarly-priced models
  • Battery life could be a little better
  • Case a little bulky
Buy on Amazon

Best Budget Headphones For Calls: Sennheiser HD 450

SENNHEISER HD 450BT Bluetooth 5.0 Wireless Headphone with Active Noise Cancellation - 30-Hour Battery Life, USB-C Fast Charging, Virtual Assistant Button, Foldable - Black

Not everybody wants to spend a few hundred bucks on headphones. We hear you. The thing is, while there are some great budget headphone options out there in terms of audio quality, none of them are going to blow you away when it comes to making calls. 

With that in mind, our budget pick in this category is the Sennheiser HD 450BT. About half the price of many top-tier offerings, the sound quality is excellent (as usual with Sennheiser), with crisp detail and bass that’s deep but not overpowering.

Bassheads may feel differently, but for the average person, these are a great pair of headphones for listening to music. The battery life is also higher than the two Bose options listed above, with up to 30 hours of play time.

The earcups are somewhat smaller than other models, however, so those with an above-average ear size may find these headphones uncomfortable, and the headband doesn’t have much cushioning to speak of. 

The ANC does a pretty good job of cutting out background noise, although you can’t compare it to top-tier noise-canceling headphones. Of course, it’s also a lot cheaper than those models as well, so it’s pretty good for headphones in this price range. 

When it comes to phone calls, though, the 450BT scores a solid ‘meh’. That is to say, it meets the minimum requirements, but no more than that, and ambient noise can be a problem. It’s an unfortunate reality that when it comes to making quality calls, you’re going to need to spend some money.

These are solid headphones worth trying out, but if the call quality doesn’t live up to expectations, we recommend either returning them and upgrading to one of our top picks above, or pairing them with a USB microphone. Of course, this approach is best suited for making calls from a home or office rather than when on the move.

If you’re curious about other budget headphone options, we covered the best cheap headphones in more detail, with options for noise-cancelation, gaming, and sleeping. 

Pros
  • Reasonably priced
  • Decent noise cancellation
  • Good battery life
  • Music sounds very good
Cons
  • Can be uncomfortable for extended wear
  • Call quality is fine for the money, but not comparable to our top picks
Buy on Amazon

Best Earbuds For Calls: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Wireless Earbuds, Diamond-Inspired Drivers, Bluetooth Earphones, 4 Mics, Noise Reduction, 28H Playtime, HearID, Bluetooth 5, Wireless Charging, for Calls, Home Office

If you prefer earbuds to headphones, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 earbuds have an excellent microphone system, and given they typically sell for under a hundred bucks, they’re not nearly as expensive as the top-tier headphones mentioned above. 

These buds have a four-microphone array with noise reduction technology that helps zero in on the speaker’s voice while minimizing background noise. 

They don’t come with active noise-cancelation, so being able to hear your caller over the background noise can be a concern is loud environments. The buds do come with five different-sized eartips from XS to XL, so one of them should at least be able to provide a tight seal to help with noise reduction.

Music-wise these buds are decent, but may leave audiophiles wanting, which is to be expected of pretty much any earbuds in this price range. The companion Soundcore app (available for iOS and Android) does at least let you somewhat customize and improve your listening experience. 

The battery life is impressive for wireless earbuds at seven hours of play time, and the charging case extends that to 28 hours. The case can be charged via USB C or by setting it down on a wireless charger, and LEDs on the front indicate how much battery is left. When the earbuds do run out of juice, it only takes ten minutes in the charger to gain two hours of play time. 

They also have some water resistance, and while we still wouldn’t recommend listening to them in heavy rain, it’s less likely to end in disaster if you do. If a decent listening experience and strong performance on calls at a very reasonable price is what you’re after, these buds won’t let you down.

Pros
  • Good battery life
  • Well-priced
  • Surprisingly good call quality for the money
Cons
  • No active noise cancellation
Buy on Amazon

Runner Up, Best Earbuds For Calls: Apple Airpods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro

The Apple AirPods Pro earbuds are typically two or more times more expensive than Anker’s Liberty Air 2 buds, but they do come with fantastic active noise-cancelation that dramatically reduces ambient sound levels around you. That’s a major bonus when taking calls in noisy environments, at least for the wearer.

As far as the person on the other end of the call is concerned, the AirPods Pro have three microphones on each bud that are designed to isolate the speaker’s voice from the surrounding din. Combined with the ANC, calls are clear and reliable for both parties. 

They come with three different ear tips to ensure a tight seal. The secure fit and sweat-resistance (IPX4) make them easy to exercise and move around with as well. 

Music sounds nicely balanced, with a good amount of bass and clear vocals. The earbuds have a solid amount of play time per charge (about five hours), and the wireless charging case provides up to 24 hours of play time. 

That said, while these are probably the best earbuds for calls, they’re not dramatically better than the Liberty 2 Air buds despite being significantly more expensive. That’s why the AirPods Pro are (just) our runner-up pick rather than taking the title. If you don’t mind the price or want buds that are equally good for listening to music or your work colleagues, however, you may want to go with these instead for the active noise-cancelation.

Pros
  • Good call quality
  • Impressive noise cancellation
Cons
  • Relatively expensive
  • Battery life isn’t especially good
Buy on Amazon

Best Budget Earbuds For Calls: TaoTronics SoundLiberty 80

TaoTronics SoundLiberty 80

Here’s where we run into a bit of a problem. Budget earbuds just don’t make the cut when it comes to making voice calls, at least not professionally.

The TaoTronics SoundLiberty 80 wireless earbuds are definitely a good budget option when it comes to calls, but they don’t compare to the models listed above. That said, the microphone noise-suppression technology is solid and reasonably effective at filtering out background noise, which means these buds are fine for calls with friends and family.

 Instead of silicone eartips, the earbuds have a vertical housing made of molded plastic, which makes for a comfortable fit. They have voice-control for basic skip track and volume adjustments, and you can ask them directly how much battery life is left.

The earbuds have inbuilt motion sensors that will automatically pause whatever you’re listening to as soon as you remove the buds from your ears, and audio will start up again as soon as the buds are put back in. 

A downside to these budget buds is the battery life. Those who listen to loud music may only get three hours of playtime per full charge, though the case at least provides an extra five charges.

Pros
  • Well priced
  • Call quality isn’t bad for the money, although not really professional-grade
Cons
  • Poor battery life

Curious about more options? We’ve covered the best wireless earbuds, best earbuds for sleeping, and the best noise-canceling headphones


Main image via Charles Deluvio, product images via Amazon

About the Author
Jordan Nottrodt

Jordan Nottrodt

Jordan works remotely, from home or abroad, to help businesses conquer their online messaging. When she's not working or relaxing outside, she's watching movies and shows to contribute to her goal of creating the largest database of online drinking games. Spark an immediate and detailed conversation by mentioning Mad Men or Game of Thrones.