Best Bluetooth headphones for conference calls In 2021

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Stuck at home and following the work from the home regime for the past year we have quickly discovered a few accessories we can’t do without. One of them is a pair of good-quality comfortable Bluetooth headphones that can make our daily meetings and conference calls that much easier to sit through. We have tested dozens of Bluetooth headphones and have come up with this list of the best. In this guide, we’ll cover the best Bluetooth headphones for conference calls.

Best Bluetooth headphones for conference calls


Sony WH-1000XM4

For the longest time, the WH-1000XM3 by Sony has dominated the headphone scene, offering incredible sound quality in a robust package.

The WH-1000XM4 is every bit as refined as the WH-1000XM3 and much more. The Sony WH-1000XM4 is the latest and the greatest noise-canceling headphone from Sony, which is also its flagship model. It is pitted straight against the Bose QuietComfort 35 II (discussed below) and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. 

For someone who has been using the M3 for nearly one year, you would find many similar things. Both have impeccable build quality and excellent audio quality. Both have top-notch noise cancellation but the gesture controls make Sony a class above the competition. 

The previous model is still extremely popular and so some comparisons between the two are unavoidable. Under the hood, Sony claims that the WH-1000XM4 has better noise cancelling than the WH-1000XM3. We found out that the new version has everything that the older version did and a few more features.

To Sony’s advantage, the Sony WH-1000XM4 supports not only SBC and AAC but also LDAC connectivity. The latter allows for superior streaming quality over what’s possible with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. An interesting feature of the Sony WH-1000XM4 is the auto-pause and auto-resume functions. So, if you receive a call the music would stop automatically and then resume when the call is disconnected. 

The Sony WH-1000XM4 comes with a few additional features. There are sensors on the headphone that can detect when you take them off and when you put them back on again pausing and resuming audio accordingly. This is similar to the Sennheiser Momentum 3 listed below, and we love this feature.

Pros

  • Superb audio quality.
  • Excellent build quality.
  • An array of touch controls on the ear cups with very few physical buttons.
  • Programmable custom button on the Sony WH-1000XM4.
  • The auto pause and auto-resume functions.
  • Supports Bluetooth 5.0
  • Supports Bluetooth Multipoint connection.
  • Offers connection via 3.5mm jack
  • Supports LDAC for excellent quality streaming.
  • Cupping to ambient mode.
  • Excellent ANC 
  • More than 19 hours of battery life

Cons

  • The padding on the ear cups is thinner compared to the ones on the Bose.
  • Slight discomfort about ears getting heated when worn for a long duration. 


Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Both Bose and Sony make fantastic quality audio products. They are the two leading brands when it comes to noise-canceling headphone technology. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is one of the pioneers in the Ambient Noise Cancellation (ANC) segment and has remained as one of the most popular choices among consumers. 

Overall, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II remains close if not better in some areas compared to the Sony above.

The Bose has this action button that allows you to access not only the different noise-canceling modes but also work as your direct access to your preferred choice of assistant. By default, it was meant to work as your easy access to the Google Assistant and our tests show that it works pretty fast.

You can, however, reprogram that to work with your favorite assistant. But you can only use any one option at any given time. The app allows you to make your choice right when you are connecting for the first time (you can edit your choice later too).

Notwithstanding, there are some important differences. The Bose supports Bluetooth 5.0 just like the Sony WH-1000XM4. But it does not support LDAC. It supports only AAC and SBC. 

The headphones have an excellent range. You can be like two walls away and yet there is no problem with audio quality. Well, most people would be using this sitting in front of their computer, but it is good to know that your headphones have an incredible range. 

The Bose doesn’t have the touch functions that Sony has. Another interesting feature missing that the Bose does not have is the cupping to listen to ambient sound. This makes Sony so much better to use in practical situations. All of the controls on the Bose are via the physical buttons. 

Pros

  • Superb audio quality.
  • Better quality padding on-ear cups, especially when compared with the Sony WH-1000XM4
  • Feels the best when worn for really long durations. Your ears don’t sweat as much as it does on the Sony WH-1000XM4.
  • Programmable Action button using the Bose Connect+ app.
  • Supports Bluetooth 5.0
  • Supports Bluetooth Multipoint connection.
  • Supports connection via a 3.5mm jack
  • Excellent build quality
  • Excellent ANC 
  • More than 15 hours of battery life.

Cons

  • All of the controls on the headphone are via physical buttons.
  • Does not support LDAC
  • The cupping to ambient mode is not available on the Bose.


Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (Second best pick)

To be fair to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, that model was launched back in September of 2017. It has been a good 3 – 4 years and plenty of time for the likes of Sony and Sennheiser to catch up. In the opening few paragraphs we did compare the QuietComfort 35 II with the Sony WH-1000XM4. The Sony WH-1000XM4 is the latest flagship noise-canceling model from the company and so it might be a little unfair.

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are by far the best challenge to the Sony WH-1000XM4 in terms of noise cancellation, handling, and overall features. Speaking of noise cancellation, this headphone comes with a variable ANC option. It can be altered on a scale of zero to 10. In our test, we have discovered that setting ANC at 10 gives you the best results.

The process of noise cancellation is carried out by a total of six microphones and two more are there to pick up your voice.

We loved the cupping feature (also referred to as the transparent feature) on the Sony WH-1000XM4 that allows you to filter in the ambient sound when required. It is the fastest and the most convenient way to listen to ambient sounds, like a PA announcement at an airport or train station or when you want to make a quick conversation with someone on the streets. This feature was lacking in the Bose QuietComfort 35 II but available in the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Well, sort off. Instead of cupping one of the earcups you have to press and hold a button. 

Long story short, we still love the feature on the Sony WH-1000XM4.

Let’s talk about the design aspect of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. It is certainly a step up from the chunky old design of the QuietComfort 35 II and the Sony WH-1000XM4. But is the design ergonomically better? Now that is a subjective thing. We preferred the older chunky design mainly because it gives a better feel when we wear the headphone over the ears. It is extremely comfortable. Plus, the old design had a lot of cushioning on the headband and that personally is a big bonus.

Another major thing and this is something that you will only realize after wearing the Bose 700 for about an hour or so, is that the headbands apply some extra pressure on your ears. And despite the cushioning in the earcups that is a disconcerting feeling after a while. We have the same complaint against the Sennheiser Momentum 3 that we have listed below. In terms of ergonomics and comfort, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is the best of the lot.

Pros

  • Better ANC compared to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II.
  • Beautiful ear cup design for maximum comfort.
  • Sleek modern design. Though the design is a subjective thing.
  • Variable noise cancellation option.
  • Physical button to cancel out ANC when needed.

Cons

  • The physical ANC cancel-out button isn’t the most practical and we still prefer the one on the Sony WH-1000XM4.
  • Design is futuristic but not the most ergonomically as per some users.
  • Actual setting up takes a bit more time and effort.


Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless

This is the third generation Momentum wireless noise-canceling headphones from the Sennheiser and they already have a cult following of sorts. The design of the Sennheiser Momentum 3 maintains the same old pattern – oval-shaped ear cups and steel sliding headbands that offer some padding. The sliding steel bands also allow you to adjust the height according to the size of your head.

The Bluetooth feature on the Sennheiser Momentum 3 has been improved as compared to the older versions. Now, when someone calls you, the headphones will automatically pause the song. When the call is disconnected it will auto-resume. This is at par with the Sony we discussed above.

Another cool feature of the Sennheiser Momentum 3 is that when you take them off or put them on your head the system can identify them and accordingly pause or resume playing. This we feel is a cool feature because now you have a seamless return to whatever you have been listening to.

These two features add a lot of convenience brownie points for the Sennheiser Momentum 3. 

The Sennheiser app adds a bunch of features to the headphone. One of the primary features is the control of the Ambient Noise reduction. There are three noise-canceling modes available on the headphone. The Max, Anti-wind, and Anti-pressure. The Max option, as the name suggests, offers the most amount of noise cancellation. The Anti-wind mode is the middle ground as it allows plenty of ambient sound in. Finally, Anti-pressure is the least of all the noise cancelling modes.

One thing that the Sony has, the Bose (the QuietComfort 35 II) doesn’t, and the Sennheiser has but isn’t easy to access, is the ANC suppression (transparent) option. As we have read in the above paragraphs, on Sony you can just use your right palm to cup the right earcup and it cancels out the ambient noise cancellation mode temporarily. 

Sennheiser has this mode but you have to access it from the app. And that is what makes this so lame. They should have given an easier way to access this feature, because you need it suddenly, and accessing your phone and then the app to cancel out ANC makes little sense. 

We presume most people would already be doing what we did and that is to take off the headphone for a moment when we have to speak with someone or listen to an announcement. The auto-pause and auto-resume features on the headphone comes in handy in those situations. 

Pros

  • Steel sliding headbands with the easy adjustment of the height.
  • Oval-shaped ear cups.
  • Fast Bluetooth pairing and saving of pairing details for future.
  • The auto pause and resume when receiving calls
  • Autoplay and pause when detected that headphones are being put on put off.

Cons

  • Audio quality is not at par with Bose nor Sony. But then you pay for what you get.


Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro is very difficult to ignore when it comes to wireless headphones meant for conference calls and other audio purposes. Though they are primarily built for Apple’s range of products like the iPad and the iPhone they can also be used as standard Bluetooth headphones with your Android phones/tabs or other Bluetooth devices.

First up let’s discuss the design and the ergonomic features of the AirPods. The previous versions received a bit of flak because they were ergonomically not covering the entire ear canal. And that created a lot of issues with the user experience. Especially when you want to implement active noise cancellation. In this version, there are no fitment issues. Apple has done some work on redesigning the tips. 

As a user, choosing the right tips is also important. If you don’t select the right tip, you will not be able to enjoy your AirPods the way they were meant to be. Thanks to the built-in Tip test you can check whether you have the right tip or not when you are doing the initial set-up.

One final note regarding design. The ugly stem of the AirPods has some functioning. One of them is a long press that can allow you to get into the transparent mode. The details of the transparent mode are mentioned below. 

The Apple AirPods Pro comes with an Active Noise cancellation feature. Small earpods rarely have ANC unless you are prepared to spend a lot of money. Thus, the presence of ANC makes a great addition to these earpods.

Another aspect of the design and the build quality of the AirPods is the excellent sweat resistance that has been built into it. People spending time in the gym or out on the track (or trail) will find this feature extremely useful. Most low-budget earpods don’t have this important feature. 

Just like the over-the-ear designs that we have discussed with ANC and transparency modes, the Apple Airpods come with a transparency mode of their own as well. This mode does exactly what it does for the rest of the headphones. It allows the user to listen to ambient sound at the tap of a button. Such as when at a public transport station or when trying to communicate with someone on the street.

There are a bunch of other advantages to the stem, like squeezing once to pause the audio and then double squeezing to resume playing.

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality.
  • Ergonomically better designed than the previous versions.
  • Excellent ANC 
  • Lightest of all the Bluetooth headsets 
  • Useful transparent mode bypassing ANC
  • Functional stem with an array of controls

Cons

  • The design is the same as the older versions. It is subjective. Not to some of our liking.
  • Prohibitively expensive


Closing thoughts

If you need an over-the-ear design both the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are equally good.

The Sony wins just when you think of the ergonomic design and the wearing comfort of the headphone. It’s our top pick. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is the best overall pick when you consider it is the lightest piece of headphones with ANC and comes with superior audio quality.

The Apple AirPods are the only earpods entry on this list as we felt it is best not to clutter the list. They are the best in-ear design headphones that you can buy now.

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