Sharp ears are the greatest asset when it comes to working in transcription. You also need a pair of efficient headphones that can streamline challenging audio files and make everything sound clearer. This will translate in reducing your number of mishears and making your work more accurate.
Tying to settle on the perfect pair of headphones can be overwhelming due to the wide variety of styles and audio processing technologies built into different options on the market.
We researched on your behalf and compiled a list of the best headphones to boost your efficiency and productivity while providing comfort that helps you focus on your big transcription projects without ear sores or interruptions.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the reviews and explore the various options we have listed to suit different preferences and workflows.
|Best Overall||Best Overall||Audio-Technica ATH-M40X||
|Best Cheap||Best Cheap||Sony MDR7506||
|Budget Pick||Budget Pick||Bose QuietComfort 35||
The 7 Best Transcription Headphones in 2020
1. Audio-Technica ATH-M40X – Best Overall
Audio-Technica has catered to audio professionals’ needs with its critically-acclaimed M-series over the years, and this mid-tier entry in their lineup follows the trend.
Audio-Technica ATH-M40X has a robust construction that is built to last. The headphones fit perfectly in a transcriptionist workflow thanks to their flat tuning, which keeps the bass in check in order not to render speech muddy and hard to discern.
The headphones adopt a circumaural design with their large and comfortable ear cups sitting around your ears, helping create a seal for you to work in noisy environments without an issue.
The ear cups have an ergonomic design that allows 90 degrees swiveling, making one ear transcription possible when you want to still be present in your environment and interact with people around you while you’re doing your work.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X features large, 40mm drivers that deliver robust sound quality with rich volume. They connect to your different devices through a 3.5mm wired connection to eliminate any lag or signal loss.
Implementing a detachable cable is a welcome addition, giving you the option to change your cable’s length according to where you’re working. You can use a longer cable while working at your desk to provide you with some degree of mobility, while a shorter cable will be perfect when working outdoors to reduce coiling and cluttering.
- 40mm drivers with rare earth magnets
- Detachable wired connection
- The cable doesn’t have built-in audio controls
Audio-Technica ATH-M40X offers a complete package that ticks all the boxes when it comes to noise isolation, large drivers for robust audio, and lag-free detachable wired connection. It manages to deliver all the core features of monitoring headphones in a durable form factor at an affordable price.
2. Sony MDR7506– Best Value Pick
New tech comes out to replace our old gadgets. This is how the tech industry has always worked, so it’s scarce to see a product that can stand the test of time and still be relevant years after it was first introduced. Sony managed to pull this feat with its MDR7506 professional headphones.
Sony MDR7506 has large drivers sitting at 40mm to deliver high-fidelity, detailed audio. When it comes to tonality, the headphones have clear mids and highs without over enhancing the bass. This explains how they are capable of delivering clear dialogues, making them perfect for transcription.
When it comes to build quality, the headphones have a durable, foldable design that makes them easily fit in your bag for you to take your work outdoors. Moreover, they have a closed-back design, which seals your ears from the surrounding environment.
The ear seal is perfect for working in busy areas, where you could easily get distracted and lose focus on the audio file at hand you’re transcribing. It’d also help minimize your headphone’s sound leak, so you don’t bother people around you when you’re working.
During our extensive testing, we noticed that the ear cups’ padding might tear faster than the average headphones on the market. This can be a bummer, especially for transcriptionists who usually have their headphones on for extended work sessions.
Luckily enough, the ear cups are replaceable. So, once they go through their wear and tear cycle, you can grab a pair of more durable ear cups, which adds to the longevity of your headphones.
The headphones have a non-detachable, 9.8-foot coiled cord, which doesn’t get as cluttered as the straight cables do. They also come with a ¼ inch adapter for versatile use with different home audio devices and amplifiers.
It’s worth mentioning that we noticed some distortion and harshness to sound quality while listening to music. However, clear vocal reproduction is the main appeal here, and the headphones do an exceptional job in emphasizing speech, which is exactly what a transcriptionist is looking for.
- Reliable headphones that have been tested for years
- Wired connection for zero lags or loss of audio signal
- Coiled audio cable to reduce cluttering
- Harshness and distortion when listening to music
- The ear cups’ quality is far from perfect
Sony MDR7506 became an industry stable and managed to secure its spot among professionals for years now. If you’re looking for a pair of reliable monitoring headphones that delivers exceptional vocal clarity, and comes in a portable, durable design, Sony MDR7506 is just the right pick for you.
3. Bose QuietComfort 35– Best Active Noise Cancellation
Bose is well-known for perfecting the technology of active noise cancellation and transforming what over-ear headphones are capable of.
Bose Quiet Comfort 35 comes with three levels of noise cancellation, allowing you to work in any environment, whether it’s a busy office space, a crowded bar, or even on public transportation while commuting.
Wireless connectivity is another pillar adding to the headphones’ agility on the road. They can connect seamlessly to your different devices and give you the freedom to move around your working environment without restraints and travel with ease.
The headphones support a wired connection as well, keeping audio signals’ loss and lags to the absolute minimum. Bose nails at giving you options allowing you to control the way you tackle different situations.
When it comes to sound quality, the headphones offer balanced audio performance that maintains its crispness at any volume. Moreover, they also do a great job with vocal clarity through enhancing the mids and highs.
Bose Quiet Comfort 35 comes with some bells and whistles that set it apart from other options on the market. Through the Bose Connect app, you get support for any future software updates. You can also tweak the stereo and equalizer settings for a personalized experience.
The headphones are Alexa-enabled out of the box, giving you access to a wide variety of voice commands. You have hands-free control over your media, and you can have Alexa search the web for you and provide you with information to facilitate your transcription work.
Comfort is another big emphasis on Bose’s side. The ear cups have soft cushions that sit comfortably around your ears. However, the headband doesn’t come with extra padding, which might feel a little bit heavy at the top of the head during extended listening sessions.
- Industry-standard active noise cancellation
- Studio-quality audio
- Options for both wireless and wired connection
- 20-hours battery life
- Comes with a carrying case
- The headband can benefit from extra padding
4. Spectra FBA_SP-USB– Most Comfortable
If headphones are too bulky for your taste, you’d be pleased with what VEC Electronics is offering here with their Spectra USB headset built from the ground up for transcriptionists. The headset has an under-chin design, which is very lightweight and comfortable.
Unlike earphones that go deep into your ears, the headset implements foam-tipped earbuds that sit just right on your ears. This design choice adds to the headset’s comfort for extended work sessions but comes with the downside of poor noise isolation. This shouldn’t be an issue if you’re working in a quiet environment.
In terms of features specifically tailored for transcriptionists, the headset has a built-in sound card with a processing technology that dramatically enhances speech and makes voices clearer when compared to other consumer headphones designed for music enthusiasts.
The headset uses a wired USB connection and supports both macOS and Windows. The cord has inline volume controls that are accessible and come in handy when you’re transcribing difficult audio that requires you to raise the volume a little bit to have the grip over it.
You have to keep in mind, though, that the headset doesn’t have the best build quality and won’t last you for years. At this price point, we can’t complain about such shortcoming, especially that the headset is very good at what it does and offers vocal clarity comparable to its much expensive big cousins on the list.
It’s also worth mentioning that Spectra offers another model that comes with a 3.5mm right-angle stereo plug, giving you options to pick the port that better suits your workflow.
- Comfortable, under-chin design
- Included velvet drawstring pouch
- Poor noise isolation
If you’re looking for a quality headset explicitly built for transcriptionists without hurting your wallet, going for Spectra USB transcription headset is a no-brainer. It has foam-padded, comfortable earbuds that never become tight or put pressure on your ears, even if you wear them for long periods.
We have another dedicated transcription entry on our list that shares some similarities with the Spectra USB transcription headset.
Both headsets have a built-in sound card that does all the processing and heavy lifting to match the frequency of spoken words and produce sharp, clear speech. They also use a USB connection to bypass your computer’s sound card to ensure your device doesn’t interfere with the headset’s transcription-oriented processing.
In terms of the differences between the two headsets, ECS WordSlinger adopts an overhead design with larger ear cups for better noise isolation. It’s still an on-ear design, but it’s a step forward over Spectra’s foam-padded tiny earbuds.
ECS WordSlinger takes its computational processing capabilities to another level with its ability to improve the sound of distorted low volume files and give a crystal clear version that is ready to be transcribed.
In terms of compatibility, the headset offers support to most of the existing transcription software. Moreover, it supports both Windows and macOS.
There are some complaints concerning the headset’s build quality, like what we’ve seen with the Spectra. Considering all the technology and unique processing software that the headset packs, we can forgive the suboptimal build as long as we’re getting excellent sound quality at a low entry price.
- Suitable for distorted, low volume audio files
- The cord comes with inline audio and volume controls
- Not good for music
ECS WordSlinger USB transcription headset offers better noise isolation thanks to its larger on-ear cups while delivering a dedicated sound card that can transform low volume, low-quality recordings into a more clear version you can work with.
Bose has yet another wireless entry on our list with its Soundsport wireless earbuds. They deliver a high-quality audio experience that remains balanced regardless of the volume level.
Wireless earbuds are becoming more and more popular for their convenience and small footprint, which makes them fit right into your pockets and go with you anywhere. This is Bose Soundsport’s greatest strength, making it most suitable for freelance transcriptionists who work from anywhere.
The earbuds have soft, rubber tips, which maintains a secure, comfortable fit in your ears. The battery life sits at 6 hours for a single charge, which is more than enough for the average transcription session.
The earbuds are by far the most versatile entry on our list. If you’re one of the people who love the “one to rule them all” style of products, you’d be more than happy with those earbuds. They are suitable for your transcription work, listening to music while commuting, and joining you on your workouts, thanks to their sweat and weather resistance.
- Lightweight and portable design
- Bose active equalizer technology for robust sound quality
- Exclusively wireless with no support for wired connection
Bose Soundsport strikes the perfect mix between versatility for everyday use and the robust sound quality and vocal clarity for professional use. Their sweat-resistant build makes them an ideal workout companion as well.
How to Pick a Pair of Headphones
Types of Headphones
Headphones come in a variety of styles to suit your personal preferences and workflow. You can choose between over-ear headphones, on-ear headphones, or earphones.
Over-ear headphones are more comfortable to wear for extended periods, which makes them a preferred option among transcribers who want to sink in their big projects and forget that they have their headphones on.
The soft padded ear cups form a seal around your ears, which helps minimize the ambient noise around you and get you more focused on your work.
On-ear headphones don’t cover your ears completely. They actually sit on your ears, that’s why the comfort factor may vary according to the cups’ padding and how tight or loose the headphones are pressing against your ears.
They have a more compact form factor than their over-ear counterparts. However, they are less effective in sealing your ears from the outside world’s noise.
Last but not least, earphones provide the most portable option for transcribers, especially those who depend on their smartphones to be able to get some work done on the go. They are also the most affordable of the bunch.
Wireless earbuds are recently becoming more and more popular for providing the same portability and ease of use of the wired earphones while giving you the freedom to move around without getting your cables cluttered.
We touched on how the over-ear headphones with their large cups can form a physical seal around your ears to limit background noise. They are effective for the most part in reducing higher-frequency sounds, but they are not as good when it comes to low-frequency ambient noise.
Here comes the role of active noise cancelation (ANC) technology. Active noise-canceling headphones marry software and hardware to implement a system capable of limiting the annoying low-frequency noise.
They have external mics that listen to those sounds, and then with the magic of its processing technology, the headphones create equal, opposite sound waves to cancel out the ambient noise.
This technology can be very handy when you’re working in a busy environment, and you just want to isolate yourself from all that’s happening around you to focus on your work.
Monitoring vs. Consumer Headphones
Monitoring or studio headphones are built with accuracy in mind, giving you an accurate representation of your audio without any alterations or processing. They are well-suited for professional use thanks to their neutral frequency response, which allows you to hear all frequencies clearly.
On the other hand, consumer headphones put the user experience front and center as they are designed for media consumption. They do some processing on your content to make movies and music sound the best way possible. They can enhance some frequencies, like bass, which ends up making dialogue sound muddy or unclear.
Generally speaking, monitoring headphones are better for transcription work. However, this is not an absolute rule, as different consumer headphones handle their sound processing differently, and some can favor dialogue.
Moreover, audio is subjective, so it all piles down to personal preference in the end.
Headphone Jack vs. USB
Standard 3.5mm headphone jacks depend on your computer’s sound card for audio processing. This can be double-edged depending on how good your computer’s specs are.
On the other hand, headphones that use USB cables bypass your computer’s sound card and do all the processing on a chip built into the headphone itself. So, you get better results regardless of your computer’s horsepower.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are There any Headphone Styles Built Specifically for Transcriptionists?
Yes! Under-the-chin headsets are by far the most popular design built from the ground up for transcriptionists. They feature the same comfort and breathability of earbuds, together with the secure fit of headphones.
The band that sits under your chin exerts continuous pressure on the earbuds to keep them secure in place and avoid the slow loosening of traditional earphones and falling with time.
Which Headphones Favor Comfort?
Comfort always comes at the top of the features’ list that transcriptionists are looking for in the perfect pair of headphones. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as you might need to keep your headphones on for extended periods when working on large projects.
Over-ear headphones are more comfortable than their on-ear counterparts, as they don’t exert direct pressure on your ear lobes. Rotatable ear cups, headphones with no headbands, and a lightweight form factor can also boost the headphone’s comfort.
Judging audio quality is always a tricky process as it’s totally subjective and varies from one person to another. Choosing a pair of transcription headphones that work best for you is a matter of personal preference as well.
We did our best in this buying guide to streamline your purchase decision and help you decide which pair is more suitable for your working environment whether you’re working in a busy office space and need to get the best noise cancellation, or you’re always on the move and need a wireless pair that gives you more freedom and favors portability.
All headphones on our list share in prioritizing vocal clarity, so no matter which pair you go for, you’ll notice an increased quality of your transcription projects and considerably less mishears.