Whether you're taking an important business meeting or Skyping with a friend, your laptop's integrated mic won't give you great sound. And you'll need a decent pair of headphones if you want to hear your colleagues better or just listen to some music in private. But who wants to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a PC headset?
We purchased the best-selling headsets under $35 from Amazon and tested them based on design, comfort and audio quality to pick a winner.
Logitech ClearChat Comfort/USB Headset H390
The Logitech ClearChat USB Headset was my hands-down favorite due to its comfort and sound quality. Thanks to the rather thick padding on the headband and earcups, the H390 is comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The USB port means that you can use the headset only with a laptop, 2-in-1 or tablet with a full USB port. The 7.8-foot cable is long, but features a clip-on, in-line remote which comes in handy if you like to pace while you talk. You can rotate the glossy plastic boom mic for the optimal speaking position. The embedded noise-cancelling technology allowed me to chat without my caller complaining about ancillary noise. However, there was a slight echo every time I spoke. When I listened to music, I found the low ends were more present than I like, but didn't supersede the highs and mids, which were pretty clear. Connection: USB NoiseCancelling: YesWeight: 12.3 ounces Credit: Logitech
Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000
Optimized for Skype, the LifeChat LX-3000 is a winner based on its mic quality alone, delivering audio that could give more expensive gaming headsets a run for their money. As far as listening to music or a business call, the over-ear design with the leatherette earcups makes for a nice comfortable fit. The USB headset is equipped with a 6-foot-long cable with an in-line remote that works on both Windows and IOS laptops. Unfortunately, my voice had a small echo, and despite this headset’s noise-cancelling tech, the caller could make out every word of a nearby conversation. Connection: 3.5mm Noise Cancelling: YesWeight: 8.3 ounces Credit: Microsoft
iMicro IM320 USB Headset
The iMicro IM320 headset's flimsy black-and-gray plastic frame won't win any awards for durability or comfort. However, I'm a fan of how gently the rather thin foam earcups rested against my ears, as well as of the metallic, flexible mic. The mic was very bass-heavy, giving my voice a husky timbre. As chintzy as this headset looks, it delivers a nice amount of knock on the low end without sacrificing vocal clarity on tracks. The voice quality was good overall, but the IM320 lacks noise cancelling, and there was noticeable sound bleed. The iMicro is my favorite remote since it has buttons for muting the mic, audio and adjusting audio. However, because the IM320 uses USB, you're relegated to using it on a computer. Connection: USBNoise Cancelling: NoWeight: 4.2 ounces Credit: iMicro
Leshp Gaming Headset
With its red-and-black color scheme, there's no mistaking that the mostly plastic Leshp Gaming Headset is meant for fragging. The 3.5mm jack means it can used with a variety of devices, even an Xbox One or PlayStation 4. The over-ear design is very comfortable, even after wearing them for over an hour. The in-line remote offers a sliding mute button along with a volume dial, which should come in handy whether you're directing traffic in a game raid or doing a video call. The headset also comes with a splitter in case you want to isolate the mic from the rest of the audio. Since it's designed for gaming, the Leshp delivers solid audio as far as the highs and mids go, but the bass could be a bit stronger. The mic could be better, however, as the caller reported consistently low volume on our calls, with my voice repeatedly cutting in and out. Connection: 3.5mm Noise Cancelling: NoWeight: 8 ounces Credit: LESHP
Cyber Acoustics (AC-204) Stereo Headset
At 4.8 ounces, the Cyber Acoustics (AC-204) Stereo Headset is one of the lightest headsets on the list, which means you can wear the on-ear device for long periods without any discomfort. However, the flimsy black-and-gray plastic doesn't inspire much confidence in its overall durability. The boom mic is ambidextrous, so you can have it on your preferred side. The 3.5mm jack allows the headset to be used with a variety of devices, but lacks an in-line remote. Listening to music on the AC-204 often produces a crowded soundscape; the boomy bass often overpowered the more subtle parts of a track, coupled with tinny highs. During my Skype session, my caller reported he could hear background conversations, but even worse, my voice sounded like I was underwater. Connection: 3.5mm Noise Cancelling: NoWeight: 4.8 ounces Credit: Cyber Acoustics
Mpow PC Headset
If you're looking for a bit of flash in your headset, the Mpow's glossy black finish should do the trick. Anticipating mobile professionals' needs, the headset's earcups fold flat for easy storage when traveling. It also has a detachable USB in-line remote with buttons for muting the mic and audio and lowering volume. When the remote isn't attached, you can use the Mpows with smartphones and tablets as well as laptops, thanks to its 3.5mm jack. However, the flexible mic delivered spotty performance on calls, with crackling static and low volume. As far as music goes, the headset often delivered a crowded soundscape with boomy, dissipated audio, tinny highs and distorted mids. Connection: USB/3.5mm Noise Cancelling: NoWeight: 5 ounces Credit: xmpow
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag