How to Choose the Right Headset
There are lots of factors to consider when choosing the right headset. Keep these things in mind.
Do You Want a Headset or Headphones & a Microphone?
A headset is generally headphones with an attached microphone. A pair is very convenient for making phone calls, video conferencing, video gaming, and more—but a headset isn’t necessary. You can get away with using headphones and a stand-alone microphone, earbuds and a stand-alone microphone, or even earbuds and the built-in microphone on your laptop or phone. It just depends on the quality of sound you get from your built-in microphone, the quality of sound you want for listening to calls, and how much money you want to spend.
Pro Tip: A mid-quality headset will run north of $100. Budget brands can be found for around $50 in Canada, but lower than that and you run into the territory of your item falling apart. You can get good earbuds for a lot less.
How Will You Use Them?
Will this be a headset for work? For gaming? For calls on your computer, phone, or both? Will you want to take them to the gym?
Clearly, how you plan on using your headset matters. Narrowing this down will let you determine what kind of connection you need, whether you want a removable microphone or not, and how much money you’re willing to spend.
Pro Tip: You can absolutely use headphones with a removable mic at the gym and then just reattach the mic when you plug into a video conference, but keep in mind that lots of leatherette and foam earpads will pick up sweat and take on odours.
Additional Pro Tip: Be sure to note the compatibility of the headsets you consider.
One Ear vs. Two Ears
Some people like having one ear open to the rest of the world, even if it’s just to hear their own voice when they’re speaking. Others like to be cut off when working. It’s really a personal preference.
Pro Tip: Go to the store and physically try on headsets you’re thinking of buying. Even if you end up ordering elsewhere, you want to ensure a comfortable fit.
On-Ear vs. Over-Ear
On-ear headsets sit atop your ear, whereas over-ear headsets cup and encase your entire ear. Neither is really better—they’re just a matter of personal preference and comfort.
Wireless vs. Wired
Wireless headsets don’t have wires to catch on things and cramp your style, but they do need batteries. Wired headsets usually don’t need batteries (although some noise-cancelling ones do), but your cable can snag.
Pro Tip: If you do get a wired headset, spend a few extra dollars on a braided cable. It’ll hold up better when faced with the regular wear and tear of daily life.
Open Back vs. Closed Back
Open-back headsets have holes or perforations in the outside cup to create a better sound. Closed-back headsets don’t. They’re generally used by gamers and audiophiles who want to listen to something via headset but aren’t worried about projecting sound. Most people want closed-back headsets if they’re going to use said headsets around others and don’t want the sound to travel.
Pro Tip: Some models of headset or headphones come in both open-back and closed-back format, so double-check what you’re buying.
Active noise cancellation isn’t just about extra foam. The headphones or headset will actually listen to the ambient sound and then project sound of the opposite wavelength into your ear to cancel out the ambient sound (here’s a more technical explanation).
Pro Tip: If you plan on taking your headset travelling or work in an environment full of noisy people, spring for the noise cancellation.