Most of the headphones available today, whether wired or Bluetooth, come with a microphone for taking calls and sending voice messages. There are also gaming headsets, usually with boom microphones, that are made specifically for gaming and therefore tend to have a higher quality microphone design.
Our microphone reviews of headphones are divided into two sections: recording quality, and noise handling. Recording quality is concerned with the performance of the microphones and the quality of speech when used in an ideal (quiet) environment. Noise handling tests the microphone in a noisy environment to see how well it separates speech from noise, and what effects a noisy environment has on speech transmission and intelligibility.
The recording quality test includes low-frequency extension (LFE), frequency response standard deviation (FR. Std. Dev.), high-frequency extension (HFE), harmonic distortion (Weighted THD), and gain.
As a rule of thumb, wired gaming headsets with a boom microphone and wireless headphones with a dedicated and proprietary wireless connection have the highest recording quality. This is due to the proximity of the boom microphone to the source (mouth) and the wide-band operating range of these headsets. Conversely, Bluetooth headphones with built-in or in-line mics tend to have a worse recording quality due to the distance of the mic from the source, as well as a limited operating range of Bluetooth protocol (limited to around 3.5kHz).
Speech to Noise Ratio is the test performed for noise handling, which is the difference in level between speech and background noise as heard by the listener. If the microphone is going to be used in a noisy environment, it is important for it to be able to separate the speech from background noise, so the voice would be easily audible and understandable.
Here again, the headsets with a boom mic tend to perform better since the closer the microphone to the source (mouth), the bigger the ratio of speech level to the background noise is captured by the microphone. Conversely, the further away the microphone from the mouth (as with in-line or built-in mics), the smaller the ratio of speech level to background noise.