What are the best headphones for developers?
Achieving a “flow state” is mission-critical for any successful software developer. For this reason, investing in a pair of high-quality headphones helps developers to drown out noisy coworkers or other distractions.
Additionally, internet voice meetings are here to stay. Meanwhile, music streaming services offering high-bitrate audio are ubiquitous. Finally, video games continue to push the boundary of spatial audio, and gamers with positionally accurate headsets have a massive advantage. All this means that high-quality audio input and output devices are more important than they’ve ever been, for your coworkers’ comfort and your own.
However, with so many different devices to choose from, it can be difficult to know which headphone, headset, or microphone will benefit you the most. To make matters more complex, devices come in a range of different price points. Finding the best (and most cost-effective) solution for your unique needs is easier said than done.
What Are The Best Headphones, Headsets, and Microphones for Developers?
At High Fidelity, audio quality is our obsession. We improve aural experiences the same way big movie studios improve their visual effects. Each of us spends several hours per week listening to the way other people sound when we meet virtually, and we use that information to drive product features.
The author of this post is musically trained and has spent thousands of hours critically listening to digital audio over many years. He owns “too many” pairs of audio input/output devices and purchased each one after significant research.
In addition to highlighting the best headphones for developers, we’ll also include a brief overview of the top headsets and microphones. These options will serve you well, no matter the budget.
The term “headset” typically refers to an all-in-one audio device that contains both speakers and a microphone. Historically, headsets have been designed for full-duplex voice communication - and only voice communication. Remember Bluetooth headsets from the early 2000s?
However, throughout the past couple of decades, consumers have demanded that headsets be capable of simultaneous, high-quality audio output and audio input. One example of that demand comes from online video games, where fast, clear voice communication and hyper-accurate positional audio are both critical to win. In fact, the best headsets of today - for any application - are usually marketed in some way towards people who play video games.
⚠ Before we discuss recommendations, a warning: Using an all-in-one headset will almost never yield the best audio input quality or audio output quality when compared to standalone headphones and a separate microphone. That being said, headsets - especially those that are wireless - are very convenient and often less expensive than buying separate pieces of equipment.
Choosing a Headset
First: Decide if you want a wireless headset or a wired headset. Wireless headsets are significantly more convenient due to their lack of cables, but generally sound worse, have worse microphones, are heavier, must be recharged, and are more expensive for the quality. It’s up to you whether the pros of wireless headsets outweigh the cons. We present several wired options and wireless options below.
Best Wired Headset: Budget
HyperX Cloud Stinger, $49.99
Best Wired Headset: Quality
Best Wireless Headset: Budget
Best Wireless Headset: Quality
SteelSeries Arctis 7, $149.99
Best Wired or Wireless Headset: Max Quality
Audeze Mobius, $399
If you’re interested in maximizing audio output quality, enjoy listening to music outside work, or don’t have much of a need for a microphone, perhaps a set of dedicated headphones is right for you. Some of these options include a microphone, but the microphone may not be as good as those included in the headsets above.
Check out the options below:
Best Wired In-Ear Headphones
1MORE Triple Driver, $79.99
Best Wired Over-Ear Headphones: Budget
Samson SR850, $49.99
Best Wired Over-Ear Headphones: Quality
Sennheiser HD 599, $199.95
Best Wireless, Noise-Canceling Over-Ear Headphones
Sony WH-1000XM4, $279.99
If you already own a pair of headphones or a headset and want to improve the way your voice sounds to others while in an online meeting, you can’t beat the voice quality of a dedicated microphone.
When you purchase a dedicated microphone, consider also purchasing a microphone stand or boom arm such as this InnoGear Microphone Arm Stand. While using a microphone’s built-in tabletop stand suffices for most situations, the tabletop stand can pick up keyboard noises or other vibrations and transfer them to others, which can be uncomfortable for listeners.
Also consider purchasing a separate pop filter for your standalone microphone, which reduces the popping sounds others may hear when you speak plosives into your microphone (such as the “p” in “popping”). You can make your own pop filter if you’re DIY-oriented, or just buy one.
Check out the options below:
Best Microphone: Budget
FiFine K669B, $35.99
Best Microphone: Quality
Blue Yeti X, $169.99
We hope that you found a headset, pair of headphones, or microphone that fits your unique needs (and budget). We’re certain that upgrading to any of the above equipment will have your coworkers wondering, “what microphone do you have?” Additionally, any of the aforementioned devices will help you achieve a developer “flow state.”
After making the upgrade, we recommend testing out your new device in the High Fidelity Demo Space. Inside, you’ll have an opportunity to explore our real-time spatial audio environment. Creating an environment like this is as simple as leveraging High Fidelity’s Spatial Audio API. In fact, with just a few lines of code, you can add spatial audio to your web application or in-game voice chat, creating an immersive and intuitive audio experience.
Additionally, we’ve created a Developer Resource Library to kickstart your next project. Inside, you’ll find simple guides to help you build a simple web application, create a virtual robot, or launch a dynamic audio experience. To get started, we recommend creating a Developer Account.