Why you should use a headset in video calls

3 minute read

We're all using video calls now and they're here to stay. An extremely efficient method of communication, sure, but it’s awkward when the audio isn’t great - people talking over each other and delays. It's like a news interview conducted over a satellite connection. I'm sure you can relate.

Feedback problem

Have you ever experienced microphone feedback? That horrible screeching sound that comes from a speaker when you hold a microphone too close. This is the sound from the speaker getting picked up by the microphone and being fed back through the speaker, in a constant feedback loop.

Video call and VoiP systems like Zoom and Skype deal with this by making sure that the mic and speakers are never used at the same time. However, this leads on to that awkward problem where you can't actually hear each other.

Let's imagine you're using a laptop for a Zoom call, without headphones. In order to avoid the feedback problem, Zoom will mute your laptop speakers so that your mic doesn't pick up sounds from other people on the call. It means that you don't hear others when they're starting or finishing speaking.

Then, as you listen to others speaking, Zoom will close your microphone to avoid the same problem at the other end. But, Zoom will switch things around again when it thinks that you're trying to talk, but often it will do so even when it detects sounds of movement in your chair or background noise.

All of this speaker/mic switching, with multiple participants on the call, causes audio to drop out regularly and nobody can hear each other properly.

So how do headphones help?

The main reason headphones are so much better for video calls is not because of the improvement in speaker and mic technology that most of them provide. It's simply because the headset mic cannot pick up the audio from the speakers in the earpads. This means that Zoom does not need to play the switching game and can therefore leave the mic open and the audio playing at the same time. Participants can then speak at the same time!

Ideally, everyone one on the call would be wearing headphones — but you'll still notice an improvement even if you're the only one.

Here are a few options that could help:

Sony WH-1000XM4 (£349)

Bose QuietComfort 35 II wireless (£230)

Shure Aonic 3 (£179)

AKG Y400 (£79)

Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 Headset (£30)


Now, just to persuade your colleagues...

man in headphones at work

Written by Simon Bos (Creative Director). Read more in Insights by Simon or check our their socials Twitter, Instagram