Recommend me headphones for commuting! Wireless, with microphone
October 9, 2019 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend me good headphones that I'll be using mainly to listen to spoken-word podcasts while commuting, and for phone calls when necessary.

Requirements are:
  • Wireless - no cables to snag, but without constant bluetooth pairing / reception problems
  • Over ear - I'm sick of earbuds and want something more comfortable
  • Open / no noise cancelling - I want to be aware of what's going on around me, not interested in shutting out the world
  • Microphone - good for phone calls, helping me hear the caller and them to hear me clearly
  • Long battery life - happy to plug it in every evening, but I don't want it to be useless if I forget one day
Pretty flexible on budget, but I'm not an audiophile by any means, I just want it to work reliably and have clear sound. I'll be using it with an iPhone SE if that makes a difference.
posted by snarfois to Technology (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Oops, forgot to add
  • Remote control - it should be easy to pause / unpause, change volume, pick up & end calls, invoke Siri

posted by snarfois at 7:33 AM on October 9, 2019

I have the Jabra Move for this exact usage case, as recommended by the Wirecutter (budget recommendation), and I've been satisfied.
posted by General Malaise at 7:40 AM on October 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also popped in to recommend the Jabra Move. The one thing I do find a little underwhelming about them is that they make my ears much hotter than my previous on-ear headphones, but if you aren't in a very hot climate you should be fine.
posted by DSime at 8:08 AM on October 9, 2019

Thanks, Jabra Move looks promising! Quick follow-ups:
- Does it have remote control? Can I play/pause without having to look at my phone?
- Is the microphone OK for phone calls in a noisy environment? (Will the caller be able to hear me if I'm next to traffic?)
- Is it comfortable when wearing with spectacles?
posted by snarfois at 8:27 AM on October 9, 2019

The answers to your first two questions are yes (although can't speak to next to traffic), but I don't wear glasses so I can't speak to them. The Wirecutter mentioned they'd be better for people with glasses than some over-hear headphones.
posted by General Malaise at 8:34 AM on October 9, 2019

I use the Skull Candy Riff Wireless. It hits all of your points, except that it has buttons on the side, rather than a remote control.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:45 AM on October 9, 2019

The Sony WH1000XM3 are generally considered the top of the heap, I have them and they are impressive, the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II are the other front runners.

The Sony remote control is that the entire earcup is touch sensitive, swipe forward or back to skip tracks, swipe up or down for volume etc.

You may still find plenty of situations where you want the noise cancelling, there are several settings from none to tons for the Sony noise cancelling.

Battery life is about 22 hours.
posted by Twinge at 11:25 AM on October 9, 2019

I use this:

It's not fancy, but it works well enough. I charge them about once a week. I watch Netflix and listen to podcasts during my 40-ish minute commute, so it gets a fair workout. There's a set of buttons on the ear for volume up/down, back/next, and call answer/hang up. The answer/hang up button serves as play/pause if there's no incoming call. I have no idea if it would integrate with a voice assistant.

They're not uncomfortable with my glasses, but they do make them slide down my nose a little. My last pair of glasses had no such issue. I have no clue what the difference is. I wouldn't say it's a real problem, but I do notice it.

I expected the mic to be awful. It's fine. Not like, amazing, but I've used it to make calls while waiting at my bus stop, or while walking home, and no one has ever had notable issues hearing me. Unless there were extenuating circumstances, like the guy with the saxophone, or ongoing construction.

I think it's a solid middle-tier option. It's not an amazing, luxury quality, premium item. It's also not janky garbage I'm going to throw away within 6-months of getting it. I've been using it nearly daily for almost 2 years, and it works well enough that I'm not considering replacing it. I know that's not the world's most glowing recommendation, but if "good enough" is good enough, then these'll do ya.
posted by Zudz at 11:34 AM on October 9, 2019

I picked up these Utaxo headphones recently and have found them a great value. They have controls on the side and available active noise cancelling. They list at $60.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:23 PM on October 9, 2019

I wear the Jabra Move headphones with sunglasses for a couple of hours at a go and find them OK. By the end of around two hours they do start to cause the earpieces to dig in a bit, however.
posted by DSime at 2:51 PM on October 9, 2019

I recommend some kind of bone-conduction headphones. These sit over the ear and vibrate the sound into the cochlea. I have used them extensively while cycling and the sound is...pretty good for riding a bike? Your audio req'ts are pretty simple; these excel at allowing me to hear the ambient environment while listening to music or speech.
posted by pgoes at 7:19 PM on October 9, 2019

Mid-range Sony headphones are my go-to. I've had a pair of MDR-XB950N1s for nearly two years. They miss your criteria in that they are entirely over-ear, but comfortable with my glasses. They have optional noise-canceling, which I find invaluable because I don't have to turn up my music or podcasts to hear over the engine of the bus or road noise two hours a day. The controls are in the headphone, the mic is decent and they work very well with my iPhone (not sure about voice control, I don't use it).

The Bluetooth is fine; once paired, I've had no problem with them at all (as a bonus, Sony included a detachable cable, making them work perfectly find without Bluetooth). The battery seems to last forever. They retail for about $250, I got mine on sale at BestBuy for less than half that.
posted by lhauser at 7:21 PM on October 9, 2019

I am using a set of Trekz Air as I type and they are great for me. They're light, over ear with a stiff behind head strap, and they are bone conducting and don't obstruct your ears (the transducers land just in front of your ear hole).

Earplugs work in conjunction with them as required, and otherwise the only problem is that you can drown out external sounds by turning them up (at which point they can tickle a bit as they touch your cheekbones).

Quality is very good, certainly fine for phone calls, and they have controls onboard, though volume is perhaps a bit fiddly. Battery life has been excellent.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 9:35 PM on October 9, 2019

Thanks everyone! I hope to buy something within the next week and I'll mark that one as the best answer, but these are all excellent suggestions.
posted by snarfois at 5:53 AM on October 10, 2019

For the benefit of anyone happening on this thread: I did get the Jabra Move headphones recommended. They're good. They fit the bill in all respects, but as I feared, Bluetooth is a constant pain in the ass. (Regularly wasting several minutes while walking trying to get it to connect to my phone.) It is possible that this is my phone's (iPhone SE) fault.
posted by snarfois at 6:13 AM on February 14, 2020

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