The 10 Best Headphones With Mics
10. Jabra Move
9. Voyager Focus
8. Sennheiser HD 4.50
7. MPow 059
6. Sennheiser Culture
5. HyperX Cloud II
4. Sony WH-1000XM2
3. Avantree Audition Pro
2. Crossfade LP2
1. Audio-Technica BPHS1
Where’s That Noise Coming From?
In order to better understand how a set of headphones functions, we have to dig a little deeper and discuss the nature of sound itself. Sound is vibration, an on again, off again pulsation that can physically travel through a medium such as air or water. This is why it’s said that no one can hear you scream in space. In a vacuum, no one can hear anything because there is no medium through which sound can travel.
What we call sound waves are actually series of vibrations of specific frequencies. An individual tone or frequency is determined by the length of space between the peaks in its projection. This is where the term wavelength comes from, and it corresponds explicitly to this distance. The volume is often expressed in the height of those peaks.
So what does this have to do with headphones? Well, in order for a pair of headphones, or any speaker for that matter, to create sound, it has to be capable of reproducing a massive breadth of tones at varying frequencies, many of them simultaneously. The quality of the sound produced by a given pair of headphones has a great deal to do with their ability to express these different frequencies individually, so that they don’t begin to sound muddy.
To make this happen, your audio player, phone connection, or gaming device translates a digital sound file into analog electrical impulses using something called a digital-to-analog converter. These impulses travel the length of wire to (or through the air as radio signals in the presence of a Bluetooth connection), and interact with a length of copper wire wrapped around a magnet in the headphones. The vibrations of this magnet result in corresponding vibrations in the cones of the headphones, and those vibrations, when they meet with the air between your headphones and your ear canal, become the sound you hear.
As you can deduce from that admittedly rudimentary description, the quality of the copper coiling, magnets, and speaker cones or diaphragms used in a given pair of headphones will make the biggest difference in the quality of sound from one pair to the next.
How To Choose The Best Pair Of Headphones With A Mic For You
When evaluating the wide variety of headphones with built-in mics on the market, the most important thing you need to know is how exactly you intend to use the cans. A close examination of the marketplace will show you that almost every pair of headphones currently for sale has some kind of microphone involved in its construction. Many of these are what are called in-line mics, which are microphones built into the control node that exists along the model’s cable. These are fine for taking phone calls, but they are usually pretty low in quality, especially compared with mics built into the cans themselves.
That said, if all you need a microphone for is interacting with people over the phone, there are completely wireless headphones with small built-in mics that can readily get the job done. These are ideal if you’re on a budget or if you’re not making calls where the content of your conversation could have serious business implications; they’re best suited for casual wearers who want to be able to take calls at the gym or wherever else you like to listen to music.
If you have more serious business to attend to, whether that’s building up an investment empire or toppling an opponent's empire in an addictive MMORPG, you might want a model that has a more serious microphone option. The better mics in this category typically exist at the end of boom arms that plug into the bottom of the headphones. Occasionally, these mics are not removable, which can be a pain if you want to just relax and listen to some tunes, but most readily unplug from a standard 3.5mm jack. That also means that if anything should ever go wrong with the microphone, you can easily replace it without having to buy a whole new set of headphones.
Concerning comfort, most of the options on the market are what’s called superaural, or over-the-ear headphones, which completely enclose the outer ear inside their bodies. These provide a subtle amount of natural sound isolation, which can be great if you’re in a noisy environment, but they also have a tendency to be uncomfortable over large ears, and they can get hot fast. Supra-aural headphones, on the other hand, sit on top of the ears. They’re usually a little smaller, which can be good it you’re traveling with them, but they don’t provide the same sound isolation qualities as their over-the-ear counterparts.
A Brief History Of Headphones And Their Mics
The earliest headphones were developed for use with radio communications devices, and were used primarily for military purposes in the early part of the 20th century. These devices were a little on the dangerous side, however, as many had the ability to give the user an electrical shock if he touched the wrong component at the wrong time.
Since they were intended for radio communications, these early headphones did exist alongside microphones, but these mics were in no way integrated to the cans themselves. Rather, they were the tabletop variety common to mid-century CB radio designs.
As the recording industry grew alongside the reach and power of the telephone companies, both industries came to rely heavily on the most advanced headphones of the time. Consumers, on the other hand, had very little use for them. That changed largely in the 1960s and 70s, when home stereos began to infiltrate the average American’s life, and listening through hi-fidelity headphones became an enjoyable pastime.
Again, there was a bit of a gap in development and consumer demand until the Sony introduced it’s Walkman cassette player, and the small, metal-banded headphones that came with each one. This revolution would be mirrored in the release of the Apple iPod, which, like the Walkman, came with a pair of sub-par headphones, opening the markets in the 1980s and 2000s respectively to an influx of high-quality, third-party options. In the more recent case, many of those models included in-line and eventually integrated microphones.