While sound and comfort are arguably the most important factors when buying a pair of headphones, their performance as a headset for making phone calls has become a key feature as we use headphones to communicate on the go — or working from home — in a world where we’re no longer tethered to the office.
I’ve created a list of, but this one is a little different. That list includes more “work” or “business” headphones that you’re more likely to use with both a phone and computer and features some enterprise headphones with boom microphones. Some of those are Microsoft Teams-certified and are also designed to work with Unified Communications applications. This list is less business focused and includes only consumer wireless Bluetooth headset that works well for making calls on the go with your cell phone (and yes, most of these work just fine with video-conferencing applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams).
So, what makes the best earbuds for phone calls? Well, for starters, theor headphones are able to reduce ambient sound even in loud environments, allowing people to hear you clearly when you speak during conference calls. Needless to say, you’ll want to hear people clearly, so sound quality — and often noise isolation (so you don’t hear external noise) — are also important. And finally, comfort is essential along with decent battery life and touch control.
To that end, we’ve tested a bunch of Bluetooth headphones specifically for their audio quality during calls and wireless charging features. Here are our current top picks for the best Bluetooth headphones for calls. We’ll be updating it regularly as we review new products.
The QuietComfort 45 has virtually the same design as its predecessor, the QuietComfort QC35 II. It has the same drivers, according to Bose, and the buttons are in the same place. However, there are small but notable changes. First off, these thankfully have USB-C instead of micro-USB.
Secondly, the microphone configuration is different. Not only have the mics been shifted on the headphones, but there’s now an extra external mic for voice pick up, which means the QC45 has a total of six microphones, four of which are beamforming and used for voice. By contrast, the QC35 II has a total of four, two of which are used for voice. (The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 also have six microphones total.)
The result is that these are excellent for making calls and offer good microphone quality. They’re very close to the Bose’s Headphones 700 in that regard and also feature top-notch noise cancellation, as well as multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect these with a PC and your smartphone simultaneously. Read our Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones review.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the long-awaited successor to Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II model, may not be a quantum leap forward, but these headphones offer slightly better sound and noise cancellation along with top-notch headset performance for voice calls. They’re a strong all-around audio performer with up to 20 hours of battery life and a more durable design than their predecessor (some find the QuietComfort 35 II headphones slightly more comfortable).
At launch, they cost $400, but they’ve recently come down in price. We’ve seen the white version dip as low as $299 while the black and silver versions have hit $340. That said, the new Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, their closest competitor, have also seen nice discounts
Read our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review.
Even if they don’t sound quite as magical as you’d hope a $249 model would, the Apple AirPods Pro still manage to be a great pair of truly wireless premium earbuds. That’s largely due to their winning design and fit, solid sound quality, effective noise canceling and excellent voice-calling performance — and now these true wireless headphones have been updated with spatial audio, a new virtual-sound mode for watching movies and TV shows (only works with iPhones and iPads running iOS 14).
Yeah, they’re expensive at $250, but the good news is they tend to sell in the $190 to $210 range. Despite all the competition, they remain hard to beat for their great sound quality, particularly for iOS users.
Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.
Released in mid-2020, the Jabra Elite 45h was essentially billed as the best on-ear headphone for the money. While there’s nothing terribly fancy about this bluetooth headphone, it is one of the best on-ear headphone values right now, with good sound quality, a sturdy design and comfortable fit (for on-ear headphones, anyway). Additionally, this wireless headphone performs well as a headset for making calls and includes a sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the headphones so you don’t talk too loudly. Battery life is also good and it has multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect to both your computer and your smartphone at the same time and easily switch between the two should a call come in on your phone (it mostly works).
Available in multiple color options, it lists for $100 but sometimes gets discounted to as low as $70.
Note that the $250 Evolve2 65, which has an integrated boom microphone, is essentially the souped-up office version of this headphone.
No earbuds are perfect, of course, and not everybody will love the fit of the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds or be able to afford their high price ($280). But if you’re looking for great-sounding earbuds with great noise canceling, solid voice-calling capabilities and good battery life, these sets of Bluetooth earbuds check all the boxes.
Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds also have top-notch noise canceling and sound quality, but the Sony is right there with the Bose for noise canceling (and some might say it’s a touch better in that department). The Sony offers slightly better sound quality and also has a more compact design, particularly for the case (though the Sony buds certainly aren’t small).
While the earlier WF-1000XM3 was a bit lacking in the voice-calling department, Sony has made significant improvements in this model’s voice-calling capabilities, making it a strength rather than a liability. Alas, these earbuds don’t have multipoint Bluetooth pairing that would let you connect to a phone and computer simultaneously, but that’s the only real missing feature.
Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review.
Available in four color options, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 hew more closely to the newer Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds Live, both of which have eye-catching glossy curved designs and the same compact charging case as this new model. In fact, it’s the Buds 2’s design and fit — they’re 15% smaller and 20% lighter than the Buds Plus — that make them a potentially more likable alternative to the slightly better-sounding Buds Pro.
Like the Buds Pro, the Buds 2 are equipped with active noise canceling. That means all the latest Galaxy Buds models now feature some form of active noise canceling, though it’s slight with the Buds Live, which have an open design sans ear tips. While the Buds 2 look more like shrunken versions of the Buds Pro, I found them more akin to the Buds Live in that they barely stick out of your ears and are fairly discreet. Because they sit more flush with your ears — and have that curved design — they also pick up less wind noise.
I found the Buds 2 to be very good for voice-calling, with excellent noise reduction during calls. While they don’t have pipes sticking out of them like the AirPods Pro, their microphones manage to pick up your voice well. They’re IPX2 sweat-resistant.
Read our Galaxy Buds 2 review.
Edifier has a few different new true-wireless earbuds, and most — including the TWS 330NB — are very good values. While the TWS 330NB buds are missing a sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take them out of your ears, they feature excellent sound quality for the money, decent active noise canceling with a transparency mode, and solid voice calling (they have three microphones in each bud for noise canceling and noise reduction during calls).
They fit my ears well — they’re essentially AirPods Pro clones — and while the touch controls are a little limited, they are programmable using the Edifier Connect app for iOS and Android; you can also set the level of touch sensitivity. They have an IP54 rating, which means they’re splash- and dustproof, and battery life is rated at four hours with noise canceling on and five hours with it off (at moderate volume levels). That’s only OK, but you do get an additional two charges in the charging case.
Sony’s earlier WH-1000XM3 wireless earphone model was great. But if it had a weakness, that was in the area of voice-calling capabilities, particularly in noisier environments. The new WH-1000XM4 bluetooth earphone improves a lot in that area and also adds multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect to two devices — such as your phone and PC — at the same time. That means that if a call comes in while you’re using the headphones with your computer, the audio will switch to your phone when you answer the call.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 probably still have a slight edge for voice calls, but the 1000XM4 headphones are arguably a tad more comfortable and also have some other slight wireless headphone improvements to noise cancellation and sound that make this model a great all-around choice.
Read our Sony WH-1000XM4 review.
Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series are kind of unusual, in that they’re new but not exactly an upgrade. They look and sound similar to last year’s Pixel Buds 2, which debuted at $179 but are now selling for less. However, instead of adding new features — like active noise canceling — they’ve actually lost a few. Why? They only cost $100: The “A” stands for affordability. That new lower price is the real story here and what makes these a bona-fide true-wireless value, particularly for Android users. They’re splash-proof with an IPX4 rating and worked very well for making calls in our tests, with good background noise reduction.
Read our Pixel Buds A-Series review.
The Momentum True Wireless II remain Sennheiser’s flagship true-wireless earbuds. But shortly after the release of the CX ($130), Sennheiser’s second-generation midrange buds, the company followed up with the CX Plus, which add noise canceling for $50 more ($180). They look nearly identical to the standard CX buds but have a glossy black finish on the touch-sensitive exterior surface — cosmetically, they’re more akin to the older and slightly larger CX400BT.
I like the CX for the money, and the CX Plus delivers the same excellent sound while rounding out the feature set with active noise canceling and a transparency mode. Battery life is rated at up to eight hours at moderate volume levels and these are splash-proof, with an IPX4 rating. They do stick out of your ears a bit.
The noise canceling isn’t quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM4’s, but I thought it was effective and the headset’s performance was decent, though not stellar. These are all-around solid noise-canceling earbuds that can count sound quality as their biggest strength.
Read: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds are $100 off.
Some of Tribit’s 2020 true wireless earbuds were decent for the money, but none of them truly stood out from the pack. Its new Flybuds C1, however, are top-notch as far as inexpensive true wireless go. Not only do they sound very good for their modest price, with good clarity and strong, punchy bass, but their call quality measures up well to the AirPods’, with good noise reduction — the earbuds have two microphones in each bud — and a sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the buds when you’re making a call.
They also have strong battery life (12 hours at 50% volume) and 30-meter range with Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity. They use Qualcomm’s QCC3040 chip, which includes aptX audio streaming for compatible devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy phones.
While they don’t have active noise canceling like the AirPods Pro, if you get a tight seal, which is crucial for optimizing sound quality, they do a good job of passively sealing out a lot of ambient noise. They’re IPX4 water-resistant (splashproof) and have a compact matte-black charging case with USB-C charging. I also liked how they have tiny physical buttons on their stems that work well for controlling playback and volume control.
Yes, they’re expensive, but the AirPods Max deliver richer, more detailed sound than lower-priced competitors from Bose and Sony, and work very well as a headset for making calls. While I wouldn’t recommend them for Android and Windows users, they’re the ideal work-from-home headphones for iOS and Mac users who want to switch easily between their devices.
They also feature arguably the best noise canceling on the market, along with premium build quality and Apple’s virtual surround spatial audio feature for video watching. While they’re heavy, they manage to be surprisingly comfortable, though I did have to adjust the mesh bluetooth headphone canopy headband to sit a little more forward on my head to get a comfortable secure fit when I was out walking with them. They should fit most heads well, but there will be exceptions.
Read our Apple AirPods Max review.
Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro ($130), the company’s first earbuds to feature active noise canceling, are mostly an excellent set of true-wireless earbuds that measure up pretty well against Apple’s AirPods Pro for significantly less money. They retail for $100 but frequently get discounted to $100.
While I had an issue with the included ear tips and had to use some other tips (it’s crucial to get a tight seal or both noise canceling and sound quality will suffer), they should fit most people comfortably. Sound quality is better than Anker’s earlier Liberty Air 2 and the noise canceling is effective. These also work well as a headset for making calls and are available in multiple color options. They’re IPX4 water-resistant (splashproof) like the Airpods Pro. Read our Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review.
I’ve been a fan of Samsung’s recent Galaxy true-wireless earbuds. The Galaxy Buds Plus fit my ears really well and have become one of the better true-wireless values, sometimes selling for less than $100 online. And the Galaxy Buds Live, also discounted a bit since their original debut, feature a discreet and innovative “open” design and I like to use them for running and biking. Now the $200 Galaxy Buds Pro — Samsung’s long-awaited active noise-canceling model — have arrived with upgraded sound and high expectations. (Yes, the Buds Live also have noise canceling, but it’s rather modest.)
The Buds Pro are mostly impressive, although just how good you think they are will ultimately depend on how well they fit your ears. The other caveat is that Samsung’s new 360 Audio virtual surround feature (similar to Apple’s spatial audio) only works with Samsung’s latest Galaxy S21 models. Over time firmware upgrades will offer small improvement and performance when making calls was very good, with solid background noise reduction.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review.
Jabra describes the Elite 85t as “semi-open” earbuds, meaning you don’t have to jam the tips all the way into your ear canal. Rather, the new, more oval-shaped tips nestle in your ear for a more comfortable fit — according to Jabra, anyway. A touch of sound will leak in, however, because you’re not creating a super tight seal. Engineered on Qualcomm technology, Jabra calls the Elite 85t’s noise-canceling Advanced ANC, which is designed for earbuds that don’t have true noise-isolating designs.
Personally, I didn’t find the 85t earbuds any more comfortable than the 75t. They didn’t stay in my ears quite as securely, though they did stay in. While the 85t buds are bigger — and so is their charging case — they definitely seem like siblings design-wise. They do sound richer than the 75t, with more bass, and their voice-calling capabilities are also very good. They do feature multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can take a call on your smartphone while being connected to your computer.
Available in multiple colors, they’re splashproof like the AirPods Pro (IPX4 water-resistance rating) and list for $230, but we’ve seen them sporadically discounted to $180.
Read our Jabra Elite 85t review.
Juan Garzon / CNET
Say what you will about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live’s bean-shaped design — yes, they’re affectionately known as the Beans — but they might just be the most innovative new true wireless earbuds of the year. Like the standard Apple AirPods, they have an open design, so you don’t jam them into your ear, and they’re quite comfortable to wear and fit my ears more securely than the AirPods (that said, they won’t fit everybody’s ears equally well). Additionally, they’re discreet and basically sit flush with your ear without a little white pipe extending out from them.
They deliver good sound and work well as a headset for making calls, with good background noise reduction so callers can hear you clearly even when you’re in noisier environments. While they feature active noise canceling, it’s mild compared with the noise canceling in earbuds that have a noise-isolating design. In other words, buy them for their design and sound, not their noise-canceling features.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review.
AfterShokz bone conduction wireless headphones aren’t quite what many people picture when they think of an earphone because they don’t go on your ears — these headphones actually deliver sound to your ear through your cheekbones. The big benefit of this technology as earphones is that, thanks to its open design, you can hear ambient noise and what’s going on around you while listening to music or having a phone conversation through the wireless headphones. That’s why they’re a favorite of runners and bikers for safety reasons.
The sweatproof and waterproof Aeropex ($160) is currently AfterShokz’s flagship headphone, which it describes as its “lightest, highest-quality headphones yet” (they were released in 2019). While they’re the best sounding bone-conduction headphones, they still don’t sound great for music listening. However, they’re top-notch for making calls and listening to podcasts and newscasts, as they’re strongest in the midrange, where vocals live. They also feature multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can easily switch between two devices, such as a smartphone and computer.
For the same price AfterShokz also has the OpenComm, which adds a boom microphone.
The Solo Pro headphones are the first Beats on-ear model to feature active noise cancellation and the first full-size Beats headphones to charge via Lightning. They use the company’s Pure Adaptive Noise Canceling (Pure ANC), “derived from the over-ear Studio3 Wireless, with updated tuning to accommodate the on-ear form factor,” Beats says. With the tap of a button, you can turn off that noise cancellation to save battery life. Hit the button a second time to enter an audio transparency mode that allows you to hear the outside world, not just the music you’re listening to.
Available in multiple color options, these noise-canceling headphones are equipped with six microphones, two of which are beamforming mics that are designed to home in on your voice when you’re making calls or talking to your voice assistant (Apple’s H1 chip is on board for always-on Siri). The sound is smooth and well-balanced, with punchy bass that doesn’t make music sound boomy. Quite comfortable for an on-ear model, the more compact design travels better than some full-size models on this list. While these noise cancellation headphones are overpriced at $300, we’re seeing discounts that bring its price closer to $200, which is where it needs to get to.
Read our Beats Solo Pro review.
Yes, the Bose Frames are both sunglasses and headphones — and they sound surprisingly good for a sunglasses-headphones combo. What’s also impressive about them is how good they are for calls.
The two original Frames, the Rondo and Alto, are still available for $200. But the recently released second-generation models, which cost $250, have some performance enhancements, including better sound and call quality. The Tempo, Bose’s new sports model (pictured), has the largest drivers and best sound along with better battery life. The Tenor and Soprano Frames are also excellent for making calls.
Read our Bose Frames review.
The AirPods’ look may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they do work really well as a true wireless earbud headset. The new second-generation version features greater noise reduction, which helps callers hear you better when you’re outside in noisier — and potentially windier — environments. It also adds hands-free (always-on) Siri.
Read our Apple AirPods 2019 review.
If you’re looking for clean-sounding headphones with more of a neutral sound profile, the well-built Shure Aonic 50 are those noise-canceling headphones. The treble is clear and articulate and the bass is well-defined, but may be a little underpowered for those who want a little more oomph. The noise canceling is good but not quite up to the level of top noise-canceling models from Bose and Sony that cost a little less.
The headphones fold flat, but they’re a bit bulky, as is their case. But they work very well as a headset for making calls — Shure is known for making excellent microphones — so they’re good work-from-home headphones that are comfortable to wear (but might be a little big for some folks).
While the Aonic 50 suffers from being a little too expensive, they’re excellent headphones that seem built to last. Battery life is rated at 20 hours — the headphones charge via USB-C — and they support a variety of audio codecs, including aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency audio, Sony LDAC, AAC and SBC.