The best headphones for work, tested and reviewed

Finding the right headphones and earbuds for work will help make the day a little easier and more focused.

Best overall

Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 45

See It

Best noise-cancelling

Bowers u0026 Wilkins Px7 S2

See It

Best wired

beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X

See It

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Using headphones at work is one of the few constants whether you work on-site or remote, indoors or outside, or in any hybrid situation. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic found research—conducted by himself and others—to suggest music can help you be more productive while working based on your personality, location, and preferred genre. Yes, music, ambient noise, or podcasts can be a distraction, but if you find something that works for you, there could be tangible benefits. And, on top of the soundtrack, headphones for work allow you to take calls in environments that aren’t always conducive to communication. The best headphones for work will allow you to complete all your assignments on time while making the process more fun.

How we chose the best headphones for work

Our recommendations for the best headphones for work are based on both hands-on testing and research. The headphones you choose—for work or otherwise—reflect several personal preferences, like whether you prefer over-ear models or earbuds, whether noise cancellation is important to you, or your budget. These factors are especially important when choosing headphones for work because you’ll be wearing them for extended periods, and they need to be a productivity tool rather than a distraction. If you’re constantly aware that you’re wearing headphones, it will split your focus. By recommending the headphones many of us use at work every day, you’ll get a good cross-section of the best options for this use.

The best headphones for work: Reviews & Recommendations

An overwhelming number of headphones could be used while you work, but these are the pairs the commerce team at Popular Science uses daily. Our recommendations reflect various headphone styles, brands, feature sets, and prices.

Best overall: Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 45

See It

Specs

  • Headphone type: Over-ear
  • Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Active noise cancellation: Yes
  • Battery life: Up to 22 hours
  • Microphones: Yes

Pros

  • High sound quality
  • Two modes of active noise cancellation
  • Very comfortable
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Large, if you prefer subtler audio equipment

Using the Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones for work might seem like overkill, but they’ll certainly make the experience more enjoyable. Bose is known for the quality of its audio gear, and these headphones fulfill that promise with high-fidelity sound and adjustable EQ that lets you fine-tune your sound.

But it’s the level of active noise cancellation that makes these headphones ideal for work. Whether you’re on a plane or in a coffee shop, these headphones let you choose between a Quiet mode that effectively filters out ambient noise like the wind or conversations around you and an Aware mode that balances internal and external sounds for safety. And the four external microphones focus on your voice, filtering out background distractions and making these headphones ideal for meetings.

These wireless headphones easily sync with the associated app via Bluetooth. The QC45s are also lightweight at 8.5 ounces and incredibly comfortable, with ear cups made from plush synthetic leather that still feel good on the ears after hours of usage. They also come with an impressive up to 22 hours of battery life and recharge with the included USB-C cable in about 2.5 hours. So they’re great for work, but you’ll also want to continue to use them when you’re off the clock. And, if you prefer something pocketable, Bose also makes the QuietComfort Earbuds II—our top pick for active noise cancellation (ANC) earbuds.

Best noise-cancelling: Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2

Bowers u0026 Wilkins Px7 S2

See It

Specs

  • Headphone type: Over-ear
  • Weight: 10.83 ounces
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Active noise cancellation: Yes
  • Battery life: 30
  • Microphones: Yes

Pros

  • World-class active noise cancellation
  • Excellent battery life
  • Multiple dedicated microphones for ANC and telephony

Cons

  • Price

Bowers & Wilkins designed the Px7 S2s with travelers on long-haul flights in mind, but many of those same design choices benefit office and outdoor workers. These wireless headphones offer up to 30 hours of music playback per charge—enough to get you through several days of work without needing to be topped up. In our experience, you can get through an entire workweek without plugging them in if you only listen for a few hours daily.

The big selling point for the Px7 S2s is their excellent active noise cancellation. The headphones did a phenomenal job blocking outside sounds, whether we listened to music or used this setting on its own to muffle loud sounds. Typical office noises—the sound of typing on a keyboard, foot tapping, the occasional cough—were either greatly diminished or entirely gone. The Px7 S2s have four microphones dedicated to filtering sounds for active noise cancellation and two dedicated to telephony. Nobody on my work or personal calls complained about the sound or clarity of my voice when communicating with them.

You’re going to pay for headphones with tech specs like these, but their overall performance justifies the cost. Their tech specs are the main reasons we recommend them for workers, but it doesn’t hurt that music and podcasts sound excellent in our tests. There’s always some audio quality loss when listening to music wirelessly (assuming you’re listening to high-resolution or lossless [CD Quality] tracks). Still, the difference isn’t immediately apparent when listening casually, thanks to Bluetooth 5.2 with support for the aptX Adaptive/HD codecs (a transmission protocol that plays nicely with Android and hi-res digital audio players), plus AAC optimized for iOS devices. As a bonus, these headphones are a great companion when traveling since their ANC microphones were designed to reduce the sound of a plane’s engine greatly. Want something even more lux? The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 ratchets up the build and sonic polish (but also the price).

Best earbuds for calls: Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC

Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC

See It

Specs

  • Headphone type: Earbuds
  • Weight: .2 ounces (3 ounces in case)
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Active noise cancellation: Yes
  • Battery life: 16.5 hours (with case)
  • Microphones: Yes

Pros

  • Noise cancellation
  • Compatible with most operating systems
  • Easy controls with built-in touchscreen display on charging case
  • Includes BT700A USB adapter to connect to computers and compatible smartphones
  • Quick Charge (3 hours for full charge of case)

Cons

  • Fit can be loose
  • A tad tinny on the high end

If the AirPods Pro 2 and similarly styles earbuds don’t stay in your ear, the Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC wireless earbuds probably aren’t for you. That being said, they are a great alternative to headphones for office and personal use if you like the shape and fit of stemmed earbuds. The sleek design features three sizes of conical tips that snap onto the earbuds instead of just slipping over the 10mm speaker. This makes a much more secure connection, and you won’t pull them off as you pull them out of your pocket (assuming you don’t keep them in the included charging case). Just don’t move around too much, as there aren’t any fins or other “ear locks” as you find in exercise-oriented earbuds. The Voyager Free 60+ UC Bluetooth 5.3 earbuds are all about connectivity and productivity.

The earbuds are equipped with AAC, aptX, and SBC codecs to keep them compatible with all iOS and Android devices (and multipoint helps if you use both). Plus, they have active noise cancellation to help you focus on your calls and music. There are three modes—adaptive, standard, and off. Poly also uses “sidetone” technology (aka Transparency mode) to help you not be that jerk in the office screaming with his headphones on as he tries to ask a coworker three feet away a question. I don’t personally have that problem, but I can hear myself better even with the volume cranked up.

If, for some reason, you have a laptop (or desktop) that can’t maintain a stable Bluetooth signal, the included BT700A Bluetooth USB-A adapter (with LC3 technology for efficient bandwidth) helps secure a reliable connection so you can track every word on how your teams are performing. And, with a voice-optimized three-microphone array per earbud with WindSmart technology, they’ll hear your directions just as clearly.

One of the standout features of the Voyager Free 60+ UC is the charging case. Like most charging cases, it provides extra battery life—16 hours, on top of the eight when the earbuds are fully charged. (That’s listening to music with ANC on; the numbers dip to 11 hours in the case, 5.5 in the ’buds for talk time, but that would be some ridiculously long calls.) This case stands out because the touchscreen display lets you check the battery level, answer calls, switch between ANC modes, and control your music. You can also adjust and check these levels via a smartphone app. And, in addition, the case can be plugged into an airplane’s headphone jack so you can broadcast the inflight entertainment wirelessly to your earbuds.

Controls on the earbuds also make it easy to adjust without having to fidget with the case. Swipe up or down on the side of the earbud stick to lower or raise volume. And use a physical button on the stem to pause or play music, initiate Siri/Google voice assistant, or answer a phone call (which can also happens automatically when you insert en earbud while the phone is ringing). While the price is high, so is the features set. If you’re a business traveler that needs to make anywhere your office, these earbuds could be the perfect investment.

Best for comfort: Ultimate Ears FITS

Ultimate Ears FITS

See It

Specs

  • Headphone type: Earbuds
  • Weight: 0.4 ounces
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Active noise cancellation: No
  • Battery life: 8 hours on the earbuds, 20 hours with the case
  • Microphones: Yes

Pros

  • Comfortable even in small ears
  • Good sound quality
  • Microphone works well, even with ambient noise
  • Compact case

Cons

  • No active noise cancellation
  • Battery life isn’t great

Ultimate Ears FITS, also called UE FITS, are unique in the earbud sphere thanks to their Lightform Technology. When you use the earbuds for the first time, you’ll be walked through a simple process that involves lightforming LEDs warming up the photopolymer gel tips in your ear canals. The earbuds glow and get warm, which is a strange sensation. It takes about 60 seconds, and then you are set to use your new earbuds.

The lightform process molds the tips to your ear shape, resulting in a more comfortable, stable fit. They’ll be easier to wear even for the longest meetings or for a day of music while you crank out work. And thanks to the snug fit, they can also easily transition to the gym or a jog, staying in place during the most intense exercise.

The sound from the UE FITS is also quite good, especially for speaking. Bass is a bit lacking by default, but you can customize that in the app. The downside of the UE FITS, especially for office settings, is the lack of active noise cancellation. But, because the gel tips are custom fit to your ears, they offer better passive noise cancellation than most of that class. And the built-in mic ensures that your voice will be heard loud and clear.

Want an even more bespoke way to burrow deep into spreadsheets and playlists? UE offers the DROPS, which have a more involved, more handcrafted process resulting in acrylic housings tailored to your personal specifications and aesthetic.

Best wired: beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X

beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro X

See It

Specs

  • Headphone type: Over-ear
  • Weight: 12.17 ounces
  • Wireless: No
  • Active noise cancellation: No
  • Battery life: N/A
  • Microphones: No

Pros

  • Gentle clamping force
  • Replaceable cable
  • No battery life worries
  • Decent passive noise cancellation

Cons

  • No active noise cancellation
  • Heavy
  • Open-back design isn’t open office-friendly

Beyerdynamics’ DT 900 Pro X studio headphones are the best wired model we’ve tried for work. The over-ear headphones were designed and tuned for audio mixing, so they offer rich detail when listening to music. Whether you work in a content creation field or not, you shouldn’t have any complaints about how the DT 900 Pro X headphones sound. One of the reasons for their natural sound is the headphones’ open-back design, which allows sound to disperse through each earcup. When listening to music on closed-back headphones, sound will reverberate off the back of its earcups toward your ear, potentially muddying the frequency response with bass bloom and a narrowed soundstage. Conversely, open-back headphones offer more expansive imaging, but the sound leakage can annoy the people around you, so the DT 900 Pro X headphones may not be the right choice for open office environments.

In terms of overall build quality, we’ve been very satisfied with how these headphones have held up after more than a year of regular use. The velour ear pads show no sign of wear, and the headband hasn’t lost any tension. If you’re planning on keeping a pair of over-ear headphones on for your entire workday, you’ll appreciate the effort beyerdynamic took to nail the DT 900 Pro X’s clamping force. The earcups grip the side of your head with enough force that there’s no chance they’ll accidentally fall off, but without holding on so tightly that you constantly feel the pressure. The DT 900 Pro X’s felt coating also feels softer than the leather used on most other headphones.

Speaking of comfort, there’s no escaping that these are the heaviest headphones we recommend for work. They never felt particularly heavy to us, but they’ll be a big adjustment if you come from a pair of earbuds. You’ll also have to get used to using wired headphones again. However, the replaceable cable beyerdynamic included with the DT 900 Pro X is very long and terminates into a standard 3.5mm audio jack. If you’re an audio engineer, you’ll be happy to hear that the headphones also include a 3.5mm to 1/4-inch jack to plug into an audio interface. And the custom STELLAR.45 driver, which delivers a frequency response of 5 – 40,000 Hz, is low enough impedance to play nicely with all kinds of portable and professional gear without requiring amplification.

The lack of any microphones and active noise cancellation is unfortunate for productivity but good for sonic purity. Since they have a cable, they can use digital audio converters and headphone amps to access playback formats and finesse that wireless can’t always achieve. Still, they’re balanced out by the fact that they need to be directly connected to a computer, which will have a mic, their decent passive noise cancellation, and the fact that they’re not designed to be used in public. If you’d like to get battery anxiety off your mind while you’re working and thoroughly enjoy the audio you’re listening to or creating, we can’t think of a better option than the beyerdynamics DT 900 Pro X.

Things to consider when choosing the best headphones for work

Headphone type

The first factor to consider when choosing any pair of headphones is settling on whether you’d like earbuds, on-ear headphones, or over-ear headphones. Earbuds provide the most convenience because of their size, especially if you choose a true wireless pair, which have no cables at all. On-ear headphones are still relatively light, but you won’t feel something stuck in your ear. Over-ear headphones are larger and bulkier but offer the best active noise-cancellation and audio performance. Wireless over-ear headphones also offer better battery life than earbuds.

Wired or wireless

If your work primarily takes place at a desk all day, there’s a strong case to be made that wired headphones are a better fit. You won’t have to worry about the headphones running out of battery in the middle of your work day, and headphone companies provide relatively long cables so that you won’t feel tethered to your computer. On the other hand, wireless Bluetooth headphones make more sense if you want to use one pair of headphones for work and recreation because they’re easier to use when you’re out and about. Plus, most recent smartphones phones and tablets don’t have headphone jacks, whereas computers often do.

Active noise cancellation

Most wireless headphones released in the past couple of years support active noise cancellation, a critical feature if you get work done in a public space. Whether you’re in an office, on an airplane, or spend a few hours per week at your local cafe, you’ll need a way to tune people out. Active noise cancellation won’t block out all noise—unless you’re listening to audio at a moderate volume—but it can dampen sound enough to make working easier even when music or a podcast aren’t on. It’s important to note that enabling active noise cancellation will run down your headphones’ battery faster.

Battery life

Speaking of battery life, make sure the headphones you choose for work will last an entire day. If you plan on listening to music for eight to 10 hours, with very few breaks in between, that’ll inform your decision more than any other factor. All of the headphones we’re recommending should last an entire traditional eight-hour workday, but your listening volume and active noise cancellation preferences will impact it greatly.

Microphones

If your job requires you to be in meetings regularly, choosing a pair of headphones with a microphone is important so you can wear them while you’re on calls. Wearing headphones during meetings has been normalized, and it makes hearing your colleagues a lot easier. Microphones are required for active noise cancellation, so if your headphones support ANC, they’ll have mics built in.

FAQs

Q: Is wearing headphones at work unprofessional?

This depends on your job and work culture. It’s important to signal to your coworkers that you’re engaged with what you’re doing, but headphones can be helpful if you enjoy listening to music or ambient noise while working on projects. Headphones can also make it easier to hear coworkers during virtual meetings.

Q: Are headphones or earbuds better for work?

This comes down to personal preference. Earbuds are smaller and less cumbersome, but you may be distracted by the feeling that something is constantly inside your ear. Conversely, over or on-ear headphones are bigger and heavier and may literally weigh your head down while you work.

Q: Do noise-canceling headphones block all sound?

No. Noise-cancelling headphones are designed to analyze and cancel out frequencies from a particular range. You’ll still be able to hear some outside sounds when active noise cancellation is enabled when you’re not listening to music. A well-implements ANC circuit, however, means you may not hear anything else if you’re listening to audio at a moderate level with active-noise cancellation enabled.

Q: How many hours a day is it safe to use headphones?

The amount of time you spend listening to music will have less impact on your hearing than the volume level you set. A study conducted by the CDC found that exposing your ears to sound above 80dB (decibels) for two or more hours can damage your hearing.

Q: How much do headphones for work cost?

This will depend on the style of headphones you choose, their hardware, and their features. You can spend less than $99 for some cheap earbuds that suffice to many thousands on flagship status-symbol headphones for work.

Final thoughts on the best headphones for work

Getting a good pair of headphones for work can help you be more productive and happier while you’re getting things done. If you can dedicate a specific pair for this use, putting them on and taking them off can help create a psychological cue for when your work day begins and end. Headphones can make it easier to communicate during work meetings, tune out unwanted distractions, and create pleasant background noise while completing tasks. Your music may even help inspire you with a new idea or help you out of a rut. At the very least the best headphones for work may help your day go by a little more quickly, which by itself justifies picking up a pair.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

Share

Brandt Ranj Avatar

Brandt Ranj

Staff Writer, Commerce

Brandt Ranj is a commerce reporter at Popular Science. He writes about the latest and greatest gadgets, from headphones and TVs to chargers and cables. He splits his time between New York City, Long Island, and Croatia, carting test gear around the U.S. and the globe.