I Need Headphones

I think I have found an unanswered electronics market: Developer headset.

I have been hearing headphones with a microphone every work day for at least six hours for almost four months.  My headphones are an essential part of work, because they connect me clearly to my remote co-workers, and to my programming pair (someone I cooperatively code with all day).

I want to take a moment to dispel the myth of your built-in MacBook microphone being enough to function as a speakerphone.  It's not.  It's better than most, but I can still hear myself coming out of your speakers, and I can still hear all of the activity going on around you.  It might be sufficient in a pinch, but it is not adequate if you expect to continue using it daily, and certainly not for my own use.


There are essential features that I require that do not come in a standard set of headphones:

Headphones must be wireless

I have no desire to be tethered to my computer with a wire.  Many times during meetings, I will prepare food in the kitchen, which would not be possible with wired headphones.

Wireless should use bluetooth

Many headsets that are wireless require a special USB dongle that presents itself to the computer as a sound card and transmits/receives a signal between the computer and the headphones.  My computers all have bluetooth already.  An extra dongle, which takes up a precious USB port, is not necessary if bluetooth is used for the headset transciever.

Battery must last at least 5 hours

I use my current headset all day. I charge it at lunch so that I don't have to plug it in.

Charging cable must be standard

I've had headphones that use some ridiculous custom plug for charging.  I do not want to have to pack this extra, weird cable (and risk losing it!) while traveling.  MicroUSB is preferred.

Headphones must work while plugged in

In a seeming paradox, just in case I forget to charge the headphones, I need to be able to plug in the headphones to charge them while I am using them.  I've had headphones before that would shut down while charging, which is unacceptable.

Headphones must be over-the-ear

By "over-the-ear", I mean "circumaural", such that the cups of the headphones must only touch my head, and not my ears.  I can't have headphones crushing my ears all day.  Likewise, the headphones shouldn't hold themselves on by squeezing my head -- they should rest on top of my head with a comfortable band.

Microphone must include hardware mute button

There has to be a mute button on the unit, or some way to mute recorded audio without using software.  My current headset has both a button and allows me to lift the microphone into a muted position.

A setting must allow me to hear myself speaking mixed into the output audio

The other options are difficult to search for, but this is is the hardest one to discover, for reasons I can't explain.  My current headphones sufficiently isolate sound to the point that my own voice sounds muffled.  The software included with the headset (which only works on Windows), allows the microphone audio to be mixed into the computer sound.  This happens inside the headset so that there is no delay.  I can hear myself when I speak, and it is not so loud as to be overbearing.  When I am unable to use this setting (as on the Mac, which I now use for work), the inability to hear myself causes me to start slurring my speech after a few days of use.  This is an absolute requirement for a headset for me.

Nice to haves

There are a few things that would be nice to have in a set of headphones, features that I've seen in many headphone sets while shopping for the perfect unit.

Active noise canceling

There are often sounds in the room that would be nice to not hear at all: Kids running around, vacuum cleaning, lawn mowers.  An option that can be turned on to reduce these noises with active noise canceling (like my Bose Quietcomfort headphones) would be nice.

Hear-through capability

There are often sounds in the room that would be nice to hear without taking off the headphones.  These sounds should be amplified on demand, obviously with the option to disable it and enable noise-cancellation.

Boom-free noise-reducing mic

I like the concept of a mic that can isolate the source of speech, however in practice, mics on headsets tend to be omni-directional and hear everything in the general area.  Instead, I would like multiple microphones built into the ear cups and a signal processor that can combine their audio in a way that pinpoints and amplifies the sound coming from between them, and eliminates the sound coming from outside them.  I have seen several headsets available with this feature, and their mics are well-reviewed.

Programmable buttons

A couple of buttons on the side of the headset that could trigger actions on the computer would be nice, particularly for hanging up Skype calls.

Good, lightweight build quality

The headphones should have a solid feel, but still be lightweight. Unlike many of the reviewers on Amazon, I tend to treat my equipment with respect.  So the headphones need not be made of steel, but should not be flimsy.

Multipoint pairable with phone

It would be nice if the headset could simultaneously be paired with my phone such that I could touch a button on the headset to answer and hang up calls, and use the headset for audio.

If you see a set of headphones such as these in the wild, please let me know, as I am in the market.