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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 call 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. 

Best 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

Runner Up, Best Headphones For Calls: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
  • Battery Life: Up to 20 hours
  • Active Noise Cancellation: Yes
  • Charging: micro-USB
  • Connection: Bluetooth, 3,5mm

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Best Budget Headphones For Calls: Sennheiser HD 4.50
  • Battery Life: Up to 25 hours
  • Active Noise Cancellation: Yes
  • Charging: micro-USB
  • Connection: Bluetooth, 3,5mm

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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

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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

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

Best Headphones For Calls: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose Noise Cancelling Wireless Bluetooth Headphones 700, with Alexa Voice Control, Black

Bose has recaptured the title as the best brand for noise-cancelation with the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. If it’s the best or bust and price is no object, look no further than these headphones. They have 11 levels of active noise-cancelation (ANC), and as any Spinal Tap fan will tell you, 11 is way better than 10. 

Along with their high-quality noise cancelation, though, 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.

The headband is made from stainless steel, which means the headphones 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 the case is 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 headphones come with basic splash protection (IPX4), its better to put them back in the case if it really starts to pour. 

The Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones 700 offers 20 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 also 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
  • Adjustable sidetone lets you hear your own voice volume
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Music doesn’t sound incredible for high-end headphones
  • Battery life could be a little better
  • Case a little bulky
Buy on Amazon

Runner Up, Best Headphones For Calls: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) Wireless Headphones, Noise Cancelling - Black (Renewed)

Although the Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) headphones were released a few years ago, they still hold up extremely well. Bose may have bested itself with the more recent 700 model (above), but even so, these are still some of the best headphones around when it comes to active noise-cancelation, and work exceptionally well at blocking out traffic, co-workers’ chatter, or a roommate’s blaring television. 

The microphone is understandably a little dated compared to the top-of-the-line 700 model, letting in some background noise when you’re speaking, but your voice will still come through quite clearly compared to many other models.

Call quality could suffer if you have an exceptionally deep voice, however. The QuietComfort 35 II struggles to pick up voices in a very low register, which means your deep voice will sound quiet and, at times, a bit strange. So, James Earl Jones, if you’re reading this, go with the 700s. 

There’s much that’s the same between the QC 35 II and the 700. The battery life is about the same, with 20 or so hours per charge, and the quality of music playback is also similar: nicely balanced with crisp, clear details, and strong bass. It’s just a bit less great than other brands, although admittedly these differences may only stand out to audiophiles. 

As far as differences between these headphones and the more recent 700 go, it’s a matter of debate as to which are more comfortable. The QC 35 II are lighter, with a plastic headband and earcup interior made of cloth and foam padding. It’s a personal preference, though most users seem to actually prefer this model when it comes to comfort.

The QC 35’s also fold up, so it’s less necessary to carry them in their protective case, but it’s still always a good idea to do so. If packing space is a major concern, the ability to fold the headphones may be all you need to know to make your decision. 

The voice assistant is, unfortunately, limited to Alexa, and they don’t come with a USB C port, which is a notable issue if you only use the latest tech. 

If you’re already spending this much on headphones for calls, the 700’s offer slightly better active noise-cancelation that’s more customizable for a bit more money. As far as ANC goes, however, Bose is really only competing with itself.

Overall, if prices are similar, the Bose 700’s have enough minor improvements to make them our top headphones pick for making calls. The QC 35 II’s are still an excellent option, however, and if you can pick them up at a discount, they’re a very worthwhile alternative choice.

Pros
  • Excellent noise cancellation
  • Good call quality
  • Foldable design makes transport easier
Cons
  • Call quality not quite as good as our top pick, especially for deep voices
  • Battery life could be better
  • micro-USB charging
Buy on Amazon

Best Budget Headphones For Calls: Sennheiser HD 4.50

Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation, Black and Silver(HD 4.50 BTNC)

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, none of them are really going to blow you away when it comes to making calls. 

The Sennheiser HD 4.50 aren’t a bad pair of Bluetooth headphones by any stretch of the imagination, especially since they’re about half the price of many top-tier offerings.

Music-wise, the sound quality is excellent (which is to be expected with Sennheiser), with crisp detail and bass that’s deep but not overpowering. Bassheads may feel differently, but for the average listener or emerging audiophile, 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 25 hours of play time. The earcups are noticeably 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 will certainly cancel out a good deal of background noise, it’s just not as impressive as the top-tier products. Of course, it’s also a lot cheaper than those products as well, so it’s pretty good for headphones in this price range. 

When it comes to phone calls, these headphones score a solid ‘meh’. That is to say, they meet the minimum requirements, but don’t expect much more than that. 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 returning them in favor of a cheaper set and 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 a better water-resistance (IPX5) than the Bose headphones mentioned above. We still wouldn’t recommend listening to them in heavy rain, but it’s safer to do so. If a smooth, casual listening experience is all you’re after, these buds won’t let you down.

The microphone is extremely clear, far outperforming many more-expensive models. These are an excellent pair of earbuds for calls, at a price that won’t break the bank. 

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, but if you don’t mind the price, 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

Wireless Earbuds TaoTronics SoundLiberty 80, Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds with AI Noise Canceling Mic, Support aptX Stereo Audio, Voice and Touch Control, in-Ear Detection, with USB-C Charging Case

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
Buy on Amazon

The final word: If you make a lot of work calls and want to sound professional, you’re going to have to spend some money on quality headphones or earbuds like the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. If budget is truly an issue, grab a decent pair of cheap earbuds and invest in a USB microphone instead.

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.