There are several contributing factors that can help you choose the best stereo headset, such as the type of microphone, headphone configuration and output method. Other factors such as construction quality and cost may also play a part in your decision. In order to select the best headset for your own purposes, you will first need to determine how you intend to use the equipment. Some common uses for a stereo headset include video gaming, listening to music and operating either a cellphone or a landline telephone. Each of these applications can call for slightly different equipment, though a single headset can be used for more than one purpose.
A headset is a device that combines headphones and a microphone into a single wearable unit. Like regular headphones, they include small speakers that are meant to be placed over the ear or just inside the ear canal. The three main types are circumaural, which cover the ear entirely, supra-aural that rest on the outside of the ear, and earbuds that fit inside the ear. A stereo headset with circumaural headphones can be the best choice for video gaming since most outside noises are blocked out, while earbuds may be the most convenient for use with cellphones and other portable devices.
The other main component of a stereo headset is the microphone. There are several main types of microphones that can be found in headsets, which are defined by the way they pick up sound. Bi-directional microphones only pick up sound immediately in front of and behind the unit and are sometimes called noise-cancelling microphones. Omni-directional microphones can pick up sound in a full 360 degree field, and uni-directional microphones tend to have a field that is about 90 degrees wide. If it is important for you to not transmit any background noise, then you will typically want to choose a noise-cancelling stereo headset.
There are also a few main types of ways that microphones can be mounted on headsets. One common method is a microphone arm, which is typically connected to one of the ear pieces. These arms can often be rotated up and down and sometimes adjusted in and out as well. The microphone is installed at the end of the arm so that it will be in close proximity to your mouth when you speak.
Another option is the microtube, which is a configuration that locates the actual microphone in one of the earpieces. A hollow tube extends from the ear piece and channels the user's voice towards the microphone. Some in-ear or earbud type headsets lack even a microtube and simply have the microphone located on the exterior of one of the ear pieces. These designs can be more compact than those with microphone arms, and may be the best choice if portability is important to you.
It can also be important to consider the method you will use to connect your stereo headset to an external device. Some headsets use Bluetooth® wireless technology, and are a good choice for cellular phones and some gaming devices. Others use a standard tip ring sleeve (TRS) or universal serial bus (USB) connector that can be used with gaming devices and computers. Many telephones require special connectors, though Bluetooth® is sometimes an option as well.