Headsets for Every Purpose

Over time I've accumulated a unsettling large number of headsets and headphones. And unfortunately I have yet to find the one that performs well with all tasks. Likely this is not even possible as there are just contradictory requirements. So at the moment I have four different ones which all have their niche.

The best sounding headphones that I have are the Sony WH-1000XM3. They just sound really great and have active noise canceling. I use them in the office and on the go. They connect via Bluetooth to my phone and I can also use them for calling. As they have built-in microphones and were rather expensive, I'd expected them to perform good in phone calls. However, they audio quality sucks so badly that people regularly tell me that they just cannot understand me. So I just cannot use them for calls. Then the Bluetooth chip in my laptop is so outdated (from 2011) that it can only connect via some fallback audio protocol and I can only use them as headphones, not as a microphone. And quality is worse than with my phone. So with the laptop I sometimes use the cable to connect them.

The Sony headphones have pretty much replaced my Sennheiser HD 485. These were fine for the budget that I had at the time. The ear cushions have dissolved over time, so I replaced them, and the new ones are also rather dissolved by now. Guess they were not built to last in this price segment. I did like the sound at the time, but I dislike that one cannot take off the cable on the headphone part. A broken cable therefore means soldering work. Their advantage at home is the acoustically open design, though. This means that I am not completely shielded from ambient sounds but rather hear my own movements. This is more relaxing at home, also I can hear when people try to talk to me.

For calls I have used a Sennheiser PC3 headset, which connects via two 3.5 mm jacks. I have a Y-shaped adapter cable to make it into 3.5 mm jack as one has with a laptop or phone. They work fine with my phone and deliver the best audio quality. I guess with a microphone near to the mouth they must be better than the Sony headphones which just have the microphone somewhere near the ears. With a separate Y-shaped adapter I have even tried them on my landline phone. There the impedance was just too high and I could not really hear other people. On the phone the impedance is just too low and voices are too loud even on the lowest setting.

My laptop seems to have a low quality digital-analog and analog-digital chips. The sound quality with headphones connected using the headphone jacks is far worse than on my phone. Also people complain that there would be lots of static from my side which is annoying. Therefore I do not use the Sennheiser PC3 with my laptop and instead have a Logitech H330 USB headset which just brings its own D/A and A/D chips. There the sound quality is just fine. However, I cannot connect it to my phone because it has a USB-A connector whereas my phone has a headphone jack.

Additionally in this collection I have a Sennheiser CX 275s in-ear headset which works just fine with phone and laptop. It is great because I can just always have it in my backpack. The Sony WH-1000XM3 are a bit too large to carry around all day. And then I have a pair of cheap Creative HQ-80 neck headphones which I tried out for cycling in low-traffic areas. However, the wind noises are just too loud around them, and their open design lets all the traffic noises come in (which is good). All in all it is useless, though.

I also had two Bluetooth headsets that were just those one sided ear mounted pieces. The Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth Headset was good on the ear but painful on the ear lobe. Then a second one distributed by Conrad was exactly the other way around. The Logitech one stopped working at some point, the Conrad one just did not work with some newer cell phone that I had. So both of them went into the recycler.


I do understand that there are some fundamental differences. Headsets can be acoustically open or closed. They can be wired or wireless. They can have a microphone or not. They can be over-ear or on-ear or in-ear. So no single device can fulfill everything.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 almost fulfills all my needs regarding playback, but just fails in recording. The Sennheiser PC3 and the Logitech H330 USB are fine for calls, but not for music. And I have to use either depending on whether I use my laptop or phone for making a call. And then on the go I have to use the Sennheiser CX 275s as they are always in the backpack.

I wonder if could bring this down to fewer headphones.