After spending more than 50 hours researching 30 headsets and testing nine of them, we’ve found the wireless Plantronics Voyager Focus UC is the best headset for people who make frequent calls and listen to music at a desk. The wireless headset connects to your computer and mobile phone at the same time via Bluetooth, making it easy to switch between the two to handle calls or music. Its softly padded earcups and unique suspended-cushion headband made it the most comfortable for all-day wear among the models we tested, and its battery performance was among the best, as it lasted a full 8-hour work day with juice to spare in our tests. In our audio tests, its voice, music, and podcast audio quality were among the clearest, and its active noise cancelling successfully blocked out ambient sounds, which is especially useful in a cubicle or open-office floor plan.
The Voyager UC didn’t have the best outgoing audio quality—how you sound to others—of the models we tested, but you’ll still be easily understood, even with background noise, thanks to the three microphones inside the boom (to better capture your voice and identify and filter out ambient sounds) and noise-cancelling features. The headset’s controls are the easiest to find by feel for basic call functions, volume control, and music playback, and the Voyager UC comes with a dock, making it easy to keep the headset charged at your desk.
If our main pick is unavailable and you need something right now, the next-best option is the Jabra Evolve 65. It’s a little flashier thanks to red accents and accessories, but it’s no slouch in the battery and audio departments. Just like our main pick, it survived our battery test with lots of juice to spare after a full day of work. It’s not quite as comfortable for all-day wear because it has no cushioning at the top of the headband, but it still earned good comfort marks from our testing panel due to well-cushioned earpads and light weight. Its buttons aren’t as easy to use by feel and it lacks a dedicated mute button, but voices sound clear and music playback is good (if a bit bass-heavy). If the battery dies, you can still use it as a wired headset by connecting it to your computer with the included USB cable, and the Evolve 65 folds flat to fit into the included carrying case.
If your budget doesn’t have room for a pro-level headset, but you want to make calls wirelessly while connected to your mobile phone and computer at the same time, we think the best option for you is one of our top Bluetooth headset picks, the mono Plantronics Voyager 5200. It’s a single-ear model, so you lose stereo audio when listening to music; it also doesn’t give you all-day battery life. But it does have an adjustable boom mic like our stereo picks. You’ll sound clear to the people you’re speaking with, it’s small enough to fit in a pocket, and it will cost you about half of what the Voyager Focus UC would. The optional charging case can triple its battery life when you’re away from the office.
Table of contents
- Who should buy a wireless office headset?
- How we picked and tested
- Our pick: Plantronics Voyager Focus UC
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Runner-up: Jabra Evolve 65
- Budget pick: Plantronics Voyager 5200
- What to look forward to
- The competition
Who should buy a wireless office headset?
If you’re frequently on the phone, you may already use a mono Bluetooth headset (like those in our guide to the best Bluetooth headsets) but it’s unlikely you get enough battery life for a full 8-hour (or longer) work day—not to mention all-day comfort and the ability to listen to music in stereo. A stereo headset can fit a larger battery for all-day use and has cushioning that lets it rest on your head and over your ears more comfortably for hours at a time than something hooked over your ear or stuck inside it.
If you’ve been getting by with the earbuds that came with your mobile phone, know that earbuds likely don’t offer the best audio quality for you or the people you speak to on the phone. A good boom mic that’s close to your mouth will let you sound much clearer and more consistent to those on the other end of your calls. Earbuds also tend to get uncomfortable after hours of use, and their wires can make standing up and moving around to stretch, grab a cup of coffee, or find something in your office more difficult. A wireless headset can offer better incoming and outgoing audio quality, better comfort, and the convenience of not being tethered to your computer by a pesky cable.
Noise cancellation is another consideration: If you work in a loud office environment, having a headset that can filter out that noise so that it doesn’t carry through on calls can be critical; on your end, blocking out those sounds so you can listen to music or just hear yourself think can be invaluable.
How we picked and tested
There are more headsets (and headphones with microphones) on the market than we could shake a stick at. Thinking of someone who works in an office or work-from-home environment making frequent calls—phone, video, or audio conference—we focused on stereo headsets intended for moderate-to-heavy call use with a boom microphone and noise cancellation features to better capture your voice. This eliminated headsets and headphones that rely on microphones built into the earcups, as those models tend to focus more on music listening than calls.
We spoke with Tom Reilly, a senior financial specialist at Fidelity Investments, who’s worked in a call center for several years, including in roles that required him to spend eight hours on the phone every day. Using his experience and data from a survey of our readers, we came up with the following list of criteria to narrow our initial list of 30 headsets down to the nine that we tested:
- Wireless connectivity: Freedom of movement—not being tethered to a desk—was important to the overwhelming majority (69%) of readers we surveyed.
- All-day battery life: We looked for headsets that could last at least eight hours between charges.
- All-day comfort: Padded earcups, a headband that doesn’t pinch too tightly, and a low weight make for a headset that doesn’t leave you with a headache or sore neck at the end of the day.
- Incoming and outgoing audio quality: A headset should make you and the person you’re speaking to sound clear to each other.
- Computer and mobile phone connectivity: These were more important to our readers than the capability to connect to a landline.
- Music playback capability: We preferred headsets with high-quality stereo audio for listening to music or podcasts between phone calls.
We also considered UC (Unified Communications) compatibility—that is, the capability of the headsets to work with common communications platforms by Avaya, Cisco, Oracle, and many others. These platforms can manage voice/telephony, video, and instant messaging communications within a company. All of the stereo headsets we tested can be used with a computer for incoming and outgoing audio without consideration to the application you’re using, but if you need a headset that can also indicate presence (your availability) and status (on a live call, mute, etc.), you’ll need a UC-designated headset—you should check what platform your company uses first.
Our testing environment was my home office centered around a treadmill desk in a small condo outside of Boston. To test comfort and wireless range, I wore each headset while working at my treadmill desk, listening to music, and making phone calls for several hours. Each headset was also tested by three other people with varying head sizes to evaluate for fit and comfort. I wear glasses while working, which can affect comfort over time if a headset puts pressure on the ears. The other comfort testers do not wear glasses.
When I stepped away from my desk throughout the day, I kept the headsets on to see if and when connectivity suffered. At a hair over 500 square feet, my condo is large enough to account for the distance you’ll likely wander from your desk in a standard office cubicle or enclosed office.
To test battery life, I streamed music continuously for at least eight hours with each headset to see if it could last for a full workday.
To test outgoing audio quality, I made calls through each headset via Skype on a MacBook Pro to an AT&T voicemail box. The test script included language to test sibilance (S sounds) and plosives (P sounds). The first set of calls captured outgoing voice quality when calling from a quiet office with little to no background noise. The second set of calls captured outgoing voice quality when calling from an office with constant background noises—conversations and other sounds—simulated with a speaker and Coffitivity. I also muted and unmuted outgoing audio on each call to see what sounds, if any, were made by each headset’s mute function. A panel of Wirecutter staffers evaluated the audio quality of the resulting voicemail recordings.
To test incoming audio quality, I listened to music and podcasts with each headset, focusing on clarity, sound signature (which sound frequencies are emphasized or if all sounds are equally balanced), and volume.
I also evaluated the location and visibility of the boom mic and the location and ease of use of the headset’s on/off, volume, music playback, and mute controls.
Other factors I considered include ease of connectivity to a computer and smartphone, included accessories, and any extra, nonstandard features, such as a busy light to show nearby coworkers that you’re on an active call and companion software that can manage settings or provide more-detailed battery level or other information.
Our pick: Plantronics Voyager Focus UC
The Plantronics Voyager Focus UC offers the best all-around performance and comfort of the headsets we tested. Despite being a bit heavier than some other headsets, all of our testers said the Voyager Focus was the most comfortable to wear for long periods, thanks to its plush, memory-foam earpads covered in soft leatherette, its not-too-tight clamping force, and the suspended headband cushion that exerts little pressure on the top of the head.
The Voyager Focus offers incoming audio quality that’s surprisingly good for an office headset. It has a balanced sound signature (it doesn’t emphasize bass over treble frequencies, or vice versa) with excellent clarity—many other headsets tended to be bass-heavy or tinny. Music and podcasts sound crisp and clear, and callers sound good as well, with intonations coming through clearly. Sidetone—how much of your own voice is piped back to you through the earcups—is just right, the best of the bunch, so you won’t overcompensate by talking too loudly.
While most of the headsets we tested have just one microphone, the Voyager Focus UC has three to capture your voice and filter out other noises before they make it to the other end of the line. In our tests in a quiet office, outgoing audio was clear, and in a noisier office environment, much of the background noise was eliminated.
The Voyager Focus UC comes with a USB Bluetooth dongle for your computer that’s paired to the headset out of the box, so you can get up and running quickly (though you can also pair directly with your computer to avoid using the dongle). You can pair with a smartphone at the same time. Putting the Focus UC in pairing mode is as easy as sliding the power switch past the point where the headset turns on and holding it there for a couple of seconds until voice feedback confirms that you’re in pairing mode—and, after pairing, that it’s successfully paired. Plantronics claims a range of up to 30 feet with devices like laptops and phones. In wearing it around my home office, I experienced short drop-outs in music playback when I wandered two rooms away, but I never dropped a call.
The included USB dongle has an LED that provides visual feedback on the headset’s status: It lights up in solid blue when the headset is connected, switching to a slow flash (purple for music, blue for a call) when the audio connection is active. When you’ve enabled the mute function while on a call, the light switches to a solid red. While it’s nice to have a clear visual indicator of its status, the flashing, which is brighter and more colorful than the dongles of other headsets we tested, can be distracting if your USB port is in your field of view as you work.
The Focus UC implements controls and button placement much better than any of the other models we tried. The power switch is at 11 o’clock on the right earcup and is easy to find; a green LED clearly shows when the headset is on. In contrast, the power button for the Sennheiser models we tested is built into the fascia of the outside of the right earcup and offers very little tactile feedback, so it was hard to know when it was activated; this same button also manages the Bluetooth pairing mode and was far too easy to trigger when trying to turn the headset on or off. The VXi BlueParrott S450-XT’s power button was at the bottom of the right earcup where you’re most likely to hold the headset while putting it on or adjusting it, making it far too easy to accidentally turn on or off, which I did. Several times.
Ease of adjusting the volume of the Voyager Focus is also better than with many of the other headsets: You just rotate the outer ring of the left earcup (if you wear it with the microphone on the right side) forward or backward. This dial controls the volume of your computer or smartphone directly. The mute button is easy to find by feel at the top of the boom microphone, and when you’re not on a call or listening to music, this button triggers the headset’s OpenMic feature, which pipes ambient audio (captured by the boom mic) through the headset. If you don’t like to remove your headset to hear what’s going on around you, or you use your headphones to signal to others that you’re busy, this feature lets you stay aware of your surroundings.
The Focus UC’s call answer/end button on the right earcup is large and easy to find and press. A short press triggers voice feedback about the headset’s battery level and what you’re connected to, while a long press triggers the voice assistant on a paired smartphone, like Siri on an iPhone or Google Assistant on an Android phone. The Focus UC also has controls to pause/play and skip music, which the Sennheiser and Logitech models we tested lack.
The headset’s active noise-cancelling feature uses the Focus UC’s microphones to monitor ambient sounds then generate inverse sound waves that cancel those sounds. I left this feature switched on throughout testing (it can be turned off with a switch at the bottom of the left earcup) and found that low-frequency sounds like the hum of my treadmill desk’s motor and my refrigerator were muted noticeably, though if noise cancelling is the most important feature for you and you aren’t making a lot of calls, you’ll likely be better off with one of our recommended noise-cancelling headphones. (We didn’t directly compare the Focus UC with those picks.)
The Focus UC’s boom microphone is short and doesn’t sit in your field of view, but it still did a good job of picking up my voice. It rotates 270 degrees, which means you can wear the headset with the mic on the right or left side and still position it next to your mouth. It snicks satisfyingly into a vertical position, out of the way, when you don’t need it.
In addition to the Bluetooth dongle, the Voyager Focus UC comes with a charging stand and a carrying case. The charging stand connects to your computer via USB—or to any USB charger—and offers a convenient place to hold the headset on your desk while keeping its battery topped off. You can also buy the Focus UC without the stand to save about $20, but we think the stand is worth the money. It’s the easiest way to keep the headset charged—docking the headset is easier than picking it up and plugging in a Micro-USB cable—and it keeps your desk neater. If you install the (optional) Plantronics Hub software on your computer, you also can update the headset’s settings and firmware while it’s in the dock (though you can also do this by connecting the headset directly to your computer with a Micro-USB cable).
And finally, as indicated by the UC in its name, the Voyager Focus is Unified Communications-compatible, so it will work with the most popular UC platforms.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
While the Voyager Focus UC lets you handle calls on both your computer and your phone, it can’t connect to a landline, so you’ll need to look elsewhere if you also need this capability. (We tested the Plantronics Savi 720, which offers landline, computer, and mobile phone connectivity, but it wasn’t nearly as comfortable, sounded unbearably tinny when playing back music, and isn’t portable, as all connectivity is managed through its charging base.)
With a street price fluctuating between $200 and $250 (though cheaper if you don’t get the charging stand), the Voyager Focus UC is one of the priciest headsets we tested. But it offers the best combination of features compared to everything else. If you or your company’s budget can’t accommodate this, our runner-up is a solid option that’s often available for a bit less; if you’re looking to spend as little as possible, take a look at our budget pick.
Runner-up: Jabra Evolve 65
The Jabra Evolve 65 is the headset we’d get if the Voyager Focus UC weren’t available. Like the Voyager Focus UC, the Evolve 65 has battery life that lasts a full workday and then some. It is likewise UC-compatible. It didn’t fare quite as well in the outgoing-audio-quality tests as the Focus, and music sounded a little muddy and bass-heavy, but voice calls were clear. Its sidetone is a bit too low, so you may find yourself talking louder than necessary since you can’t hear yourself as well while on a call. It weighs less than our main pick, but it has no padding on the headband, so it’s not as comfortable on top of the head as our top pick; its earcups are well-cushioned, however, earning it good (just not great) marks overall from our comfort testers.
Like the Voyager Focus, the Evolve 65 can connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone and your computer at the same time (like the Focus, it comes with a pre-paired Bluetooth dongle for your computer), but does not connect to a landline. However, the Evolve offers one additional connectivity option the Voyager Focus does not: the capability to connect to your computer via an (included) USB cable. This lets you use the Evolve while it’s charging (via that same USB port on your computer). The Evolve’s wireless range was similar to that of the Voyager Focus, with only tiny dropouts in music audio here and there as I roamed from my home office desk, and at no time did I drop a call.
The Evolve 65 lacks a dedicated mute button, requiring you to press and hold the volume down button for a couple of seconds to mute and unmute a call, which is a hassle but not a dealbreaker. It also lacks music-playback controls; you must pause music or skip tracks from your computer or phone. The Evolve’s boom microphone is longer than the Plantronics’ and sits in your field of view, but it can be tucked away into a magnetized channel in the headband when not in use.
The most noticeable missing feature, though, is active noise cancellation: The Evolve relies only on the earcups’ seal to physically isolate your ears.
The Evolve comes with a carrying case, but it does not come with a charging stand—which is fine, since you can still use the Evolve while charging.
Budget pick: Plantronics Voyager 5200
If you’d like to spend less but still get wireless connectivity to your mobile phone and computer at the same time, your best bet is the Plantronics Voyager 5200, one of the top picks in our Bluetooth headset guide. As a mono headset that’s focused on making calls, the Voyager 5200 isn’t nearly as good for listening to music as our stereo picks. You also won’t get the 8-hour battery life of a larger, office-focused headset. But the 5200 costs half as much as the Voyager Focus UC.
In our audio tests of mono Bluetooth headsets last year, the Voyager 5200’s voice clarity was excellent in a quiet office environment. It isn’t as easy to hear as our top pick, because it has only one earpiece and doesn’t cover either ear to block ambient noise. It may not be comfortable to wear for hours at a time, either, since the earpiece sits inside your ear, and its earhook design can interfere with glasses or long hair.
The Voyager 5200 has dedicated controls for volume and mute functions—the Evolve 65 is missing the latter—and the call answer/end button doubles as a start/pause button for music playback. There’s no way to skip music forward or backward, however.
The Voyager 5200 is intended as a mobile accessory, so it doesn’t come with a Bluetooth dongle to connect to your computer, but you can manually pair it. The 5200 is much smaller than the headsets we tested for this guide, so you can stick it in your pocket, but that also means it has a smaller battery. In our tests, the 5200 lasted 5 hours and 45 minutes on a charge, so you may need to pause your call schedule and recharge on call-heavy days. Also, the 5200 isn’t UC-compatible, so it won’t provide your call or availability status in any communications software your company may use.
What to look forward to
Jabra just released a new wireless model, the Evolve 75, that’s a step up from the Evolve 65 model we tested. A big improvement is the addition of active noise cancelling, which makes the Evolve 75 more closely match the features of the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC. The Evolve 75 wasn’t available when we began our testing, but we plan to test it and update this guide accordingly.
Plantronics Savi W720: The Savi W720 manages all connections—including Bluetooth for your mobile phone—through a base that needs to be plugged into a wall outlet, and there’s no way to use it away from the base. Outgoing voice quality was very good and callers’ voices sounded clear, but the Savi suffered from flat, AM-radio sounding music playback. Its earcups are well-padded, but the headband has no padding. Though the headset is light (just over 2.5 ounces, thanks to lots of cheap-feeling plastic), its mild clamping force make it comfortable to wear for long calls. This is the only model we tested that connects to a landline in addition to a mobile phone and computer. If you need all three of those connections and you don’t care much about music quality, you might consider this one.
Sennheiser MB Pro 2: This headset manages all connections through its base. It can connect to a landline and your computer, but it has no means to connect to a mobile phone. While outgoing audio was fine in a quiet office, the MB Pro 2’s outgoing noise cancellation didn’t do a good job separating my voice from the background noise during testing. It has excellent battery life and the headset itself is light at just under 3 ounces, but music playback is painfully tinny.
Sennheiser SD Pro 2: Virtually identical to the MB Pro 2, but the SD’s accompanying base is for charging only. The headset connects via Bluetooth through a dongle for your computer and directly to your smartphone. It performed nearly the same as the MB Pro 2 in battery life and audio quality, including the same tinny music playback.
VXi BlueParrott S450-XT: While it lasted at least a full workday, like both of our picks, this headset earned the lowest scores across the board in our outgoing-audio-quality tests. Music playback was bass heavy and you can crank the volume louder than is probably good for you. Significantly louder than all the others when set to 50% during the battery test, I could still hear it playing from the next room when I stepped away, and it was uncomfortable wearing with the volume at that level. It’s also the bulkiest and heaviest headset we tested, at 7 ounces, though its well-cushioned earcups took the edge off the strong clamping force.
Logitech H820E: Easily the best-looking headset and charging base we tested, with a sleek black-and-brushed-metal aesthetic, the Logitech H820 connects to your computer or a landline through its base, but it doesn’t have Bluetooth to connect to your mobile phone. It was only fair-to-middling in our outgoing-audio-quality test, and music playback was flat and unsatisfying.