Looking for good bluetooth headphones with microphone
August 26, 2021 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Hello! I recently decided to treat myself to good headphones and got the Sennheiser Momentum 2 AEBT model. They are over-the-ear (I don't like buds), noise-cancelling, bluetooth, with built-in microphone. They're great! Except the microphone doesn't seem to work. Whether paired by BT or wired, when I test the microphone on my Windows 10 Lenovo laptop, the volume level barely gets to 2%. I've tried all I can think of (updating drivers, re-pairing, the usuals) with no dice. The problem is, I can't find anyone talking about microphones at all.

Every discussion I see (except for one single Reddit post) talks only about the sound quality, which is really good. So I don't know if I should exchange these for a new pair of same or return them and get something else. And if it comes to something else, I don't know what would be good sound quality AND be good microphones, because, again, no one ever seems to talk about the microphone.

Any tips on how I should proceed? These weren't cheap, so I'd like the money I spend to result in something that works as needed!
posted by Legomancer to Technology (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have that exact model of headphones and have used them for numerous conference calls without issue. Sounds like you got a defective paid, I’d just try exchanging them with the retailer.
posted by DJWeezy at 7:36 AM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Have you tried pairing to a mobile phone, and does the mic work in that context? That would let you isolate the problem to the headphones or a settings problem on your computer, at least.

Can't speak to the Sennheisers but if you can't get them working and decide to swap to something else, I've had really good experiences with the Sony WH-1000 headphones (I have XM3s, my wife has XM4s). We've basically lived on these all through the pandemic, for Zoom/Teams. They also have noise canceling, which is pretty great. The one downside is that they have faux-leather earpads, whereas we both prefer velour. Dekoni Audio says they're planning to sell aftermarket velour pads for the XM4s, but they're not on the market yet, unfortunately.
posted by Alterscape at 7:36 AM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okey doke, the tip to pair it with my phone (I've not used it with that so it didn't occur to me) gave me good and bad news. The good news is, the microphone worked fine with a voice recorder app. The bad news is, it continues to work poorly on my laptop.

It's a Windows 10 Lenovo IdeaPad 3 17IIL05. Windows is up to date and the bluetooth driver is supposedly up to date. And I have no clue where to go from there, as I'm so far out of the hardware/windows world anymore.
posted by Legomancer at 8:10 AM on August 26, 2021

Check to make sure your microphone gain is set correctly.

posted by scolbath at 8:15 AM on August 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The option for microphone gain doesn't show up for the headphones device, unfortunately.

I think I've got my answer. This isn't a problem with these headphones, it's a Windows problem, and replacing or exchanging the headphones may or may not solve it, it's impossible to tell. I guess I'll just have to work around it or buy a mic or something. Thanks for all the input!
posted by Legomancer at 9:04 AM on August 26, 2021

It sounds like you're on top of this, but I am going to throw it out there just in case because it's a problem that I have been tripped up by a couple of times. You're sure that it's actually using the mic from the headphones, and not the built-in laptop mic or something, right? I've had situations where the sound output was correctly set to my headset, but the input was still on the internal mic which was way too far away for good results....
posted by primethyme at 9:22 AM on August 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Yep, I tested with switching back and forth. The input on the headphone mics is so low, it's immediately apparent if I'm on the laptop mic, even if I'm sitting back.
posted by Legomancer at 9:28 AM on August 26, 2021

Try doing it in BT mode. Do NOT use wires.

I have several pairs of BT / wired dual-connection headphones, and all of them warned that microphones do NOT work while in wired mode. None of them are Sennheiser's though.
posted by kschang at 9:41 AM on August 26, 2021

Response by poster: Try doing it in BT mode. Do NOT use wires.

Everything I've tried (barring one test in wired mode) has been in BT mode.
posted by Legomancer at 9:47 AM on August 26, 2021

I use Jabra "Evolve 75" headset; it comes with a USB dongle that communicates with the headphones, which sidesteps the issue of Bluetooth's rather poor duplex (speakers and mic) performance.

They aren't cheap, but they sound great, the battery life is excellent, and they are very comfortable. I really do love them.

Without the dingle they will link to two devices at once (e.g., laptop and phone), but the dongle gives better sound.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:49 AM on August 26, 2021

Response by poster: I may pick up a cheap BT4.0 dongle and see how it works but frankly, I only use the mic for work zoom meetings, and worst case is I use the laptop mic for that and try not to sit back. These headphones work well for everything else and while it's not great that Windows won't play well with the mic, it's not a show-stopper.
posted by Legomancer at 10:05 AM on August 26, 2021

I live and die by my PowerBeats over-the-ear earpiece. No complaints at all. Everything works as it should. I've had mine for a couple years and it's still going strong.
posted by panama joe at 10:22 AM on August 26, 2021

When you say you've tried it wired - have you tried plugging it in via the USB cable to your Lenovo? Between analog, bluetooth and USB I found the USB to be far superior over the other two. Bluetooth is a kludged nightmare and it only works correctly on my ThinkPad when I've rolled back the version of the Wifi driver to an earlier version.

Wild stuff.
posted by Dmenet at 12:14 PM on August 26, 2021

Response by poster: have you tried plugging it in via the USB cable to your Lenovo

Yep. Didn't fix the microphone issue.
posted by Legomancer at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2021

Where are you not-finding a gain/volume adjustment for the microphone, Device Manager or the Control Panel? Double-click the speaker in the lower right corner?
posted by rhizome at 1:31 PM on August 26, 2021

Response by poster: Where are you not-finding a gain/volume adjustment for the microphone, Device Manager or the Control Panel?

right click on speaker, select Sounds
Select Recording
Select the headphones
Click on Properties
Click on Levels tab

There's a "Headset" tool, and that's at 99. No other controls are there.
posted by Legomancer at 1:59 PM on August 26, 2021

What other choices are there regarding sound input?
posted by kschang at 8:34 PM on August 26, 2021

Response by poster: What other choices are there regarding sound input?

Right click on speaker, select Sounds
four tabs: Playback, Recording, Sounds, Communications
select Recording

four options:
Headset: Default Communications Device
External mic (Realtek Audio): Not Plugged In
Microphone Array (Realtek Audio): Default Device
Stereo Mix (Realtek Audio): Disabled

This is currently what's going on because I had a meeting this morning and wanted to be heard, so I have the built-in laptop array as mic. If I click on Properties for it, and then go to Levels, I have "Microphone Array" and "Microphone Boost"

If I click on the Headset, select Properties, and go to Levels, I just have "Headset" with a slider bar. No "Microphone Boost", even if I set the Headset to Default Device.

Looking at the Properties on the Microphone Array, the driver is version 6.0.8928.1, and the update button for it is greyed out. Under "Advanced", the Default Format is "2 channel, 16 bit, 48000 Hz (DVD Quality)". Both items under "Exclusive Mode" are checked. Enable audio enhancements is checked.

For the headset, driver is version 10.0.19041.1151. Update Driver is greyed out. In the Advanced tab, the Default Format is "1 channel, 16 bit, 16000 Hz (Tape Recorder Quality)". It is greyed out. All the other checkboxes on that tab are checked.

Oh, if I change settings and go into admin mode on the headset I get the option to update the driver, but it says it's at the best version. Controller information is "MOMENTUM M2 AEBT Hands-Free AG Audio".
posted by Legomancer at 10:43 AM on August 27, 2021

Okay. Microphone array is your laptop's built-in mic. External mic is obviously mic-in. And stereo mix is "line in" and unboosted.

The headset looks like your Bluetooth connection. So everything is correct.
posted by kschang at 11:32 AM on August 27, 2021

Response by poster: Update. I tried the voice recorded on my phone again, and this time noticed something I didn't notice before, it said "using external mic for recording". Once I figured out how to change that to the headphone mic and verified that it was connected by bluetooth, I tried recording again. This time I got very little, very low sound.

I think that this particular pair has a defective mic, regardless of any other issues. I think before I was recording through the phone even though the headphones were connected.

So thanks for your efforts, folks. I'm going to see about returning these, and may try going with something else. I will update when I have something new. Thanks again!
posted by Legomancer at 11:50 AM on August 27, 2021

Best answer: Yep, the mic was bad this whole time. Returned for credit and got the Sony 1000XM4s. They work great and mic works on the laptop. Thank you all again!
posted by Legomancer at 5:11 AM on August 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

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