I have given the same recommendations so many times in person on spur of the moment situations I figured I would be doing everyone a favor by just making a post that I push people to. Of course as time goes on some of these products will expire by being discontinued or hopefully succeeded by a newer version. Sadly, newer versions do not necessarily mean better (looking at you Roku and Fitbit to name a few brands).

Video conferencing headphones

I always recommend to people to broaden their horizons for comfortable headphones by including gaming headphones into their search. Gaming headphones are the original video conferencing headphones because they are generally comfortable, cirumaural and durable devices. Used for yelling at other plays for hours at a time, this gaming tool can be used for video conferencing just fine.

I have been using Logitech devices for ages because they prove time and time again when it comes to computer HID they are king. Therefore I recommend these two models which I personally own and use frequently in the order shown:

ProductPadding materialWire materialConnectorAudio dongleVolume controlMute
Logitech G430FabricFabricTwo 3.5mm jacks with three contacts eachUSB audio dongle with two 3.5mm jacksIn-line control wheelIn-line control mute
Logitech G432PleatherRubberOne 3.5mm jack with four contactsUSB audio dongle with one 3.5mm jack for four contactsOn muff wheelFlip boom up

Both of these are excellent models, but I personally prefer fabric over pleather any day. My beard chews away at pleather easily and no matter what pleather will eventually begin to peel apart. Fabric holds together longer, but it can get pretty nasty too. Regardless of the choice, plan on eventually changing the padding with use.

These are wired models and that’s because I don’t believe in wireless headphones for critical communications. Wireless has a host of problems. With wired sets you cannot walk around, but:

  1. You don’t have to worry about charge a battery
  2. You don’t have to replace said battery
  3. You don’t have to worry about weird problems that occur out of the blue because the radio is slowly dying from being overheated from use.

Wired headphones in my experience are ALWAYS more reliable.

Lastly, the provided Dongle is a USB audio card. Use it for nice clean audio quality coming out and going in. If you go analogue, then your audio quality will only be as good as the signal processor you have in your machine. I advise against this, just use the provided dongle.

Logitech G430 – predecessor to G432
Logitech G432 – successor to G430
  • I do not recommend buying a refurbished unit as your experience may vary.
  • You should not have to pay more than $50 for either unit. Anymore than $50 should raise eyebrows and if it is too cheap it might be broken.

Workout and outdoor

Bone conductive technology has come a long way. You can still hurt your hearing if you jack it up too loudly, so don’t think you have a free pass to do that if you don’t put the headphones in your ear. That being said I highly recommend “Aftershokz Aeropex” from the brand Shokz. Apparently since I purchased this product they rebranded it to “Shokz OpenRun Pro” – regardless it’s the same great product as far as I can tell.

Aftershokz Aeropex – I own this pair. This is the predecessor to Shokz OpenRun Pro on the right.
Shokz OpenRun Pro – the rebranded successor to the Aftershokz Aeropex on the left.

Pros

I do not own the successor shown on the right so I cannot speak to it. I really hope it is just as excellent as its predecessor on the left.

  • It’s best feature is that I can wear it outside and it doesn’t fall off of my head like ear buds do.
  • I can sweat buckets while working out and not feel remotely concerned about this device getting ruined as it was designed for this type of abuse.
  • It is light
  • It is comfortable for up to about four hours for me. I am sure each user’s experience will vary since everyone’s ears are shaped differently.
  • You can take phone calls on it which I didn’t even know you could do!
  • It’s connectivity to your phone is solid. I have walked away from my phone not realizing it and the reach has been outstanding.
  • You can play music at a very low volume and continue to be able to hear your surroundings or a conversation you don’t want to be a part of without being distracted.

Cons

  • Proprietary charging cable. Not a big deal, but not universal such as USB-C. I do like that it is magnetic though so that’s cool.
  • Battery life quickly diminishes if you use it all day long, like for yard work.
  • Not suitable for noisy areas since it is open ear. You will end up jacking the volume up to max when you are in the gym which kind of sucks, but I don’t mind.

This is an excellent product I cannot recommend it highly enough. You will pay roughly between $120 to $150 which I think is a fair price for its durability.

General purpose quiet listening

This is obviously a subjective opinion, but I feel as if Sony is the king of audio. I have tried other brands such as Sennheiser and Bose, but frankly I always find myself going right back to Sony saying, “I should have just gotten a Sony.” That being said the “Sony HW-1000XM2” are the best pair of headphones I have ever owned and I have owned many headphones of all brands. These headphones are quite old at this point and I am shocked I have not had any problems with the battery, they are like new still. The most recent version of these headphones are the “Sony HW-1000XM5“. I obviously cannot speak to the XM5, but I am very sure that they are as, good if not better, than the XM2s I own.

Sony HW-1000XM2 – I bought back in 2019
Sony HW-1000XM5 – latest version as of 11/25/2022

Pros

As with all Sony products I have owned, I don’t have any realistic cons to list. So here is a list of things I love about the XM2 headphones:

  1. The softest ear muffs I have ever felt in my life on a pair of headphones.
  2. The noise cancelling feature works extremely well to the point where people have to tap you on the shoulder to catch your attention. These things were a life saver for me in a noisy office and when eating lunch trying to watch some video.
  3. Excellent for indoor use when your environment is cool enough and you aren’t doing heavy sweat inducing work. I don’t recommend these for outdoor use if you are going to be sweating a lot.
  4. The battery lasts hours, easily I have gone weeks without recharging them and I used them daily multiple times a day.
  5. The battery continues to last and I have owned them since 2019.
  6. Touch gesture interface on the right ear muff. Takes some getting used to, but it’s great once you get it.
  7. Audio feedback from the headphones themselves telling you status.
  8. Noise cancelling audio modes are fantastic:
    • Noise cancelling – cancels outside audio from coming in.
    • Ambient sound – you can hear the audio around you. Excellent for listening to conversations around you too.
    • Off – Just a regular pair of headphones
  9. If the battery dies, you can use these as a regular set of headphones as long as you plug them in via the provided 3.5mm cable.
  10. Comes with a very nice case which I always use for traveling to protect the headphones from abrasions.

Cons

There are very few cons about these headphones. I don’t even want to call these cons, but here we go:

  1. The phone application’s interface isn’t that useful, so I don’t use it.
  2. Upgrading the headphone’s firmware is a painful process. You have to upgrade via Bluetooth from your phone and it can easily take an hour. It’s terrible. Therefore, I largely don’t do it.
  3. It’s cost prohibitively expensive for most people. I considered it an investment in my comfort and I don’t regret my choice at all.
  4. Charges via Micro-USB which to me didn’t make sense because USB-C was readily available at the time.

Plan on spending anywhere from $200 to $350 on these headphones. If you want a discount just don’t buy the latest edition. So at the time of writing this the XM5 is the latest, so save yourself some money and buy the XM4. You can’t lose.

I bought my XM2 for about $280 and I think I bought my wife her Sony WH-1000XM3 for $300. It’s 100% worth it, especially if you travel often. The friend who recommended these headphones to me had the XM1 and he still uses them today. He convinced me to buy them and he was absolutely right.

Final words

One of my favorite things is well made products. When a product is well made, I enjoy being a net promoter because I love making things easier for people no matter how big or small. Hopefully these suggestions can help someone out there trying to make a decision. Don’t skimp on quality when it comes to work devices. If it will make your activities more pleasurable or easier to get through, then I recommend buying a quality product to help you do it. Buy once – cry once.