In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: August 23, 2023
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A baby who cries during 6 hours of flight, a passenger calling on the bus, and working in the middle of the sitting room’s cacophony. Noise is everywhere around us. Luckily, headphone manufacturers now offer a great bypass for transcriptionists in every type of environment in the form of headphones that feature audio engineering suitable for this type of profession.
For example, active noise reduction allows obtaining an almost absolute silence, even in a noisy environment, and frequency response with emphasis on the low range ensures low mumbles formerly tagged “inaudible” by transcribers can be audible. These headphones are therefore suitable for audio transcription work. The technologies behind them allow you to listen to interviews, recorded conversations, or music by removing annoying ambient noise. So, which are the best headphones for transcription to choose from? We have chosen for you the best models of noise-canceling headphones and headsets, which will be ideal for transcription works, and ranked them on our list of favorites!
Thanks to its design, our option of the best headphones for transcription work is the Spectra USB Transcription Headset. This is, however, a headset, not headphones. It is designed for under-chin fitting. The headset is wired; the cable is 10 feet long and can be rolled up and held securely. The shape of the band is ergonomic; it fits well under the chin, and there’s a volume control feature along the wire that is designed to stay in reach of your hands.
Thanks to the length of the cord, this headset ensures flexibility of use at your transcription station. It’s designed for home use and for on-the-go journalists who need to start transcribing right from the bus after an interview. For this to be possible, the set includes a pouch for storing the headset.
Why are we impressed?
These under-chin headsets are perhaps the best for transcription works. These are much more comfortable than full over-the-ear headphones. Transcription jobs take a lot of time, and you need a pair of headsets that will not cramp your ears or cause headaches.
What negatives must you be aware of?
The band could be a little flexible. A few users say it's a bit too tight, and the earbuds press their ways a little too hard into the ears.
With their new M series, Audio-Technica offers headphones for (almost) every application and price range. The models work their way up in five stages from the cheapest M20x to the M50x, which is three times as expensive. Cleverly, the manufacturer does not specify whether it is DJ, studio, or transcription headphones for the entire range but classifies them as professional monitor headphones regardless of their use. However, a lot of audiophiles who happen to have transcription needs also report that these are great for transcription as they have a closed back.
The ATH-M50 X are dynamic, circumaural stereo headphones with ear cups designed as a closed system. All Audio Technica headphones in the M series have in common that they have circumaural padding and a membrane, the copper coil of which is driven by powerful neodymium-based magnets. The frequency range is specified by the manufacturer with 15 to 28,000 Hz, which goes far beyond the human hearing range. It will be able to pick up lows efficiently. The sound pressure is a moderate 99 dB. Opposite the amplifier, the headphones have a relatively typical resistance of 38 ohms. The ear cups of the headphones can both be folded inwards for transport and rotated by 90 ° in the vertical axis.
What are its best features?
There is no area of application, whether as a transcription headphone, in the auditorium, in the studio, or behind the DJ desk, where these headphones would be completely out of place. At very high listening volumes, the headphones show a certain sharpness in the lows. We liked that the ATH-M50 X is a sonically very reliable and balanced headphone with good external noise isolation and a decent range of accessories, all at an impeccable price-performance ratio.
What could be improved?
First, these headphones don't have noise cancellation features. However, they still manage to block most ambient noise out. Also, there is a slight crackling when turning the auricles.
Engineered for transcribing, this is an around-the-ear headphone that is meant to be worn over the head. It has a frequency response that matches the spoken word. It comes with a long cable that measures 7 feet and uses a USB 2.0 plug type.
Many medical transcriptionists love the headset. A lot of users say they have used it for several years. Medical transcriptions’ airiness is usually a horrible problem. This helps so much because it blocks all external noise. It’s also a good pair of headphones for those who use a hearing aid. You can wear it with your hearing aid and have no issues with both.
What makes it special?
The headphones don't hurt or cause any feedback. Also, we liked how comfortable it is. Where other kinds of headphones would go into the ear, compress and hurt the ears, and not be so comfortable, these around-the-ears headphones have padded ear cups for ease of use. So, it is highly recommended for both quality of sound and comfort.
What cons did we find?
We think the headphones could be tighter in design. They fall off easily when worn, and the head gets turned.
The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro are closed headphones that are equipped with circumaural auricles and whose transducers work according to the conventional electrodynamic principle. The folding mechanism of the housing allows the headphones to be folded up to transport-friendly pack size. The HD 280 Pro can be easily folded and stowed away without any problems.
As with its big brother, the HD 300 Pro, the HD 280 Pro also has an identical 32 dB figure for passive noise attenuation, which suggests that it is suitable for use in a noisy environment. The HD 280 Pro has almost achieved classic status since its appearance in the early 2000s and is popular in the transcribing stations, recording studio, live, but also in the DJ community.
Why are we impressed?
Its special features are the very effective shielding from outside noise as well as the remarkably high level of comfort - even if the listening session lasts longer! In addition, the HD 280 is a relatively inexpensive offer that has many of the qualities of the higher-positioned HD 300 Pro from the same company. Cushions for the headband and ear cups are ergonomic. The padding of the headband can easily be replaced if necessary.
What negatives must you be aware of?
The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro is delivered without any additional equipment worth mentioning, which in our opinion is acceptable in view of the relatively inexpensive offer from the German manufacturer.
The Flexfone FLX-10 is a twin speaker headset specifically designed for transcription. It’s an under-chin headset like the Spectra USB Transcription Headset, but this has a twin speaker. It is very flexible and lightweight, weighing just under one ounce.
The Flexfone FLX-10 is a robust and good-natured listening tool, primarily suitable for professional use for journalists and freelance transcribers.
Why are we impressed?
A lot of users like the durability and engineering of the headset. We found a few user reports which claim the headset has been in use for more than a year. Besides, we also liked the volume control knob, which is practically located on the cord. This ensures ease of use and quick increment and reduction in the volume.
What negatives must you be aware of?
We think it could be designed to be more versatile. The headset is only meant for transcription and not many more applications outside this use. It doesn't have a built-in mic; it only has the volume controller.
Sony’s MDR-7506 are dynamic headphones in a closed design with circumaural ear cups and a weight of 230 grams without cables. The hinge mechanism of the housing allows the headphones to be folded up to a very compact size, which is advantageous for transport and storage.
It is a solid and reliable workhorse for listening to conversations and music in noisy environments – no more and no less. From our point of view, there are no hidden features in it that make it a secret weapon for other applications, and it doesn’t have to be.
What makes it stand out?
The MDR-7506 presents itself in the classic, serious look and looks very high quality at first glance. A second glance reveals and confirms the flawless workmanship of the predominantly screwed and therefore easy-to-change components, as well as the solid feel of the headphones. With a relatively low impedance of 63 ohms, the Sony MDR-7506 plays at a sovereign volume on mobile playback devices. As a listening tool for voice or vocal recordings, it cuts a very good figure and at a fair price.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
The comparatively fragile synthetic leather of the ear pads belongs to the type that tends to disintegrate after a few months or years of intensive use. However, in view of the interchangeability of all components, this should not be rated as critical. The upholstery of the headband appears much more robust, giving the impression that it could be real leather. But we couldn't find a clear declaration of the material used anywhere so that it is possibly high-quality synthetic leather.
Yet another under-chin headset, the WordSleuth headset, rounds off our review of the best headphones for listening to transcription work. This is an in-ear headset designed to go under the chin and engineered for transcribing recordings. It’s not designed with a volume control knob, which many users say can be annoying. Instead, you can easily adjust your audio volume from your computer keyboard, smartphone, or audio recorder.
The cable of this headset is durable and made of a braided nylon cord. This, therefore, makes it an ideal transcribing headset for use with dictation equipment using foot pedals.
Why are we impressed?
The headset is light, simple, comfortable, and does the basics as far as audio transcription is concerned. It's ideal for those who need a headset they can use for 6 to 10 hours non-stop without hurting their ears.
What negatives must you be aware of?
The headset lacks a built-in fully adjustable volume control knob, although a few users like this exception. Also, we think it could be more functional. This headset, outside of transcription works, will not be good for listening to music.
Things to Consider
If you start evaluating the purchase of a product, you will soon realize that very often, to meet specific needs, manufacturers use particular components capable of offering specific characteristics to the products they create.
Before buying a device, it is important to know how to recognize its main characteristics so that you can make the smartest purchase possible. Buying a product that is not suited to the specific needs of the buyer often turns out to be a waste of money, as you will soon find yourself having to make a second purchase.
So, let’s see together how these headphones can be useful for your work and the factors to be evaluated to make the right choice.
Why Do You Need Headphones Designed for Transcription?
As for transcriptionists, the headphones allow them to fully immerse themselves in the audio or music they are transcribing. In essence, as a transcriptionist, you need headphones designed for transcription as they have the following:
Neutrality and precision
They are designed for professionals and offer a wide and very rich sound image. The lows, which are a problem in transcription, are better projected than in normal headphones/headsets.
Sometimes it takes hours to fully transcribe an audio file. As they are engineered for hours of use by transcribers, you will have even more comfort and concentration. These headphones leave you with no hurting ear.
Professional headphones are often quite expensive. But many good quality headsets designed for this work are available at low prices, often below $50. You just need to check from our review.
It’s no secret that the market for transcription headphones is becoming more and more competitive. So, how do you choose among all these varied models? To begin with, you can check out these features and decide which one will meet your needs and taste.
From the point of view of the structure, the audio listening products are usually divided into under-chin headphones, around-the-ear headphones, over-ear headphones, in-ear headsets.
The over-ear and supra-aural headphones have the characteristic of completely covering the auricle, differentiating themselves from on-ear or supra-aural headphones that have smaller components that rest on the ears. This offers a certain difference both in terms of sound insulation and weight and comfort.
When it comes to overhead or around-the-ear headphones, there are two general designs.
Open headphones: The so-called open headphones have open shells allowing a glimpse of the loudspeaker, which diffuses the sound. The sound is diffused towards the ear of the user but also towards the outside. This means that this type of headphone does not isolate outside noise. There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing an open transcription headphone. For example, the frequency range is often very wide, and these headphones provide fuller and richer sound. On the other hand, open headphones do not provide any isolation from neighboring noise. Therefore, they are suitable only in closed and very quiet places.
Closed headphones: Unlike open headphones, a closed model isolates all outside noise. This is due to the closed structure of its shells. This is one of the big advantages of these headphones: whatever the environment, you will only hear the audio recording you are working on. Another advantage of this kind of headphone is: it offers a very solid signal/noise ratio. In contrast, the closed structure narrows the frequency range and somehow “impoverishes” the sound image. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50X and the Sony MDR-7506 are good examples of closed headphones.
Drivers are the most important part of an audio playback device because the quality of the sounds produced depends on them. They are usually hidden inside the device, so it is difficult to observe them without taking the device apart.
There are different types and characteristics from each other, which is why they are among the components that need to be chosen with greater attention. The drivers are small metal discs placed inside the earphones of the headphones: it is from them that the sound is actually produced.
The task of the drivers is to transform the electrical signal coming from the source (mp3 player, smartphone, etc.) into an audio signal and thus allow the reproduction of a piece of music, sounds, or noises.
The dimensions of the drivers can vary significantly between various headphone models: for example, in-ear models can measure 6-12 mm, while for over-ear models, they measure 30 or 100 mm.
It is often believed that the large size of the drivers is related to a higher bass power, but in truth, the large size is not necessarily a sign of higher quality bass.
Drivers larger than 50mm are often unable to reproduce high-quality high-pitched sounds. There are many types of drivers, which should certainly be considered by those who are looking for a product capable of satisfying specific needs.
Dynamic Drivers: They are the most used drivers and present in almost all in-ear or over-ear models. They are generally larger to ensure great low frequencies but tend to be thicker than the others.
Planar Magnetic Drivers: These drivers are extremely thin and light compared to those commonly used in most devices. Unlike a dynamic driver, where electric current is transferred to the diaphragm by a coil, the energy is conveyed evenly over the entire surface of the diaphragm. To operate, these drivers use three main components: a coil, a diaphragm, and an array magnet.
Electrostatic Drivers: Electrostatic drivers use an electrically charged diaphragm. Headphones using these drivers are usually very expensive and particularly suitable for demanding customers. These drivers allow obtaining very high-quality audio. These drivers consist of an electrically charged diaphragm connected to two electrodes. The sound signal is transferred to the electrodes, which create an electrical signal. The membrane vibrates, generating sound waves and reproducing the musical piece.
The most important technical parameter that distinguishes the monitor headphones is the frequency response. This is even more important than the impedance and other factors that are also decisive in general for the choice of a good pair of headphones. Technically, the frequency response indicates how our headphones can reproduce frequencies based on the incoming audio signal and is measured in Hertz (Hz). Each headset has a different frequency response, based on the purpose sought by the manufacturer: those for transcriptions must have good lows, ho to 15 Hz, those for DJs, have a very accentuated bass emphasis, while the studio headphones cover the range of the human ear, which can hear sounds from 20 Hz (the lowest) up to 20,000 Hz (the highest).
There are also headphones on the market that promise ranges higher than the human ear, from 5Hz to 35,000 Hz, but they are certainly not an indication of better quality: the important thing in transcription headphones is to return the minimum and maximum possible fidelity to the sound. In summary, a good range for transcription headphones is between 10 Hz to 20 kHz.
With this term, we indicate the ability of an electrical circuit to resist the passage of alternating current. It is the result deriving from the sum of the effective capacitive, resistive and inductive elements of an electrical circuit. Impedance is indicated by the Ohm symbol (Ω). This is an aspect to take into account when preparing to buy a device necessary to listen to recorded audio files or music, especially if there is a strong need to be able to listen to high-definition sounds.
Manufacturers make use of different materials to make devices with more or less high characteristics. Among the components necessary to allow the appliances to function correctly, there are also magnets. Magnets require a certain amount of electrical energy to function properly. The whole circuit causes hindrances, which slow down the flow of current inside the device, and the strength of the hindrances is called impedance. A low-level impedance (for this kind of device, it is between a value of 16 and 32 Ohm, no more) offers little resistance. In this case, it is easy to manage the current flow, and higher volumes are guaranteed.
Headphones guarantee the possibility of listening to music and sounds at high volumes if the impedance is greater than 32 Ohms. Let’s say we are using headphones with an impedance of 80 Ohm: in this case, we have a relatively moderate current resistance value.
The cable of the headphone can be braided, coiled, straight, or adjustable. Headphones with longer cables of up to 10 feet, such as the Spectra USB Transcription Headset, should be adjustable and held in place for ease of use.
Some of the accessories to watch out for include, for frequent travelers, a pouch, an easy attachment, a clip. Other important accessories include the ear cover, a speaker cable, or an auxiliary cable.
The weight of the headphone can also determine the comfort they can offer. A heavy pair of over-ear headphones is going to throw weight on the ears and will not be ergonomic. It doesn’t matter the technology used in the design of the pads, and if a pair of headphones is too heavy, it will end up hurting your ears, causing headaches when used for long hours.
Lightweight headphones can be used for up to 10 hours without feelings of discomfort.
No special instruction of use, knowledge, or skill is required for using transcription headphones. They are designed to be used like other headphones on the market. You just need to be attentive, be able to type fast, and be patient.
Our Editor’s Choice is the Spectra USB Transcription Headset. Rated 9.9, this is designed for under-chin fitting. The headset is wired; the cable is 10 feet long and can be rolled up. The shape of the band is ergonomic, and there’s a volume control feature along the wire. We, therefore, think these are the best headphones for transcription on the market.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x rated 9.8, is our Premium Pick. They are dynamic, circumaural stereo headphones with ear cups designed as a closed system.
For medical transcriptionists, the best would be the ECS WordMaster USB Transcription Headset. Rated 9.5, this headset is engineered for transcribing. It is an around-the-ear headphone that is meant to be worn over the head and has a frequency response that matches the spoken word.