The 6 Best Headphones for Transcription 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Best Headphones for Transcription

Transcription is quite demanding when compared to other jobs or tasks. You’d need to stay focused and comfortable through long hours of listening to an audio file without your headphones getting too hot or creating a distorted sound.

It’s worth mentioning that choosing high-quality headphones doesn’t mean they’re suitable for transcription for multiple reasons.

Most popular headphones boost the bass sounds, which is completely fine if you’re listening to music. However, for transcription, bass sounds could get quite distracting and could ruin your transcription experience.

That’s why transcription requires headphones with great mids and highs, and don’t boost the bass any more than necessary. It’s a balance that’s hard to achieve, to be fair.

Well, there’s no need to worry anymore because, throughout this article, I’ll go over my top six picks for the best headphones for transcription along with everything else you might need to know.

So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Comparison Table:

Model Price Type Connection Noise Reduction Method
Sony MDR7506 CLICK FOR PRICE Over-Ear Wired None
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x CLICK FOR PRICE Over-Ear Wired and Wireless None
LyxPro HAS-10 CLICK FOR PRICE Over-Ear Wired Sound-Isolating
Audio-Technica ATH-M20x CLICK FOR PRICE Over-Ear Wired Sound-Isolating
Bose QuietComfort 35 II CLICK FOR PRICE Over-Ear Wireless Noise-Cancelation
ECS Wordsmith CLICK FOR PRICE In-Ear Wired Noise-Reduction

The 6 Best Headphones for Transcription in 2020

1. Sony MDR7506 — Best Overall

Sony MDR7506

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Transcription requires a pair of headphones with the clearest sound possible so that you can hear the words easily; that’s why the Sony MDR7506 is my top choice. The pair offers the best sound quality for transcription.

While the MDR7506 doesn’t have noise-cancellation, it’s still excellent for transcription. Due to its over-ear design, the pair reduces sound leakage without completely isolating you from the world the way a noise-canceling pair would.

In addition, the pair is closed-back, which further minimizes sound leakage, perfect for transcription tasks.

That design is perfect if you’re looking for a pair that can help you focus on the speech, but still, stay alert to your surroundings.

However, there’s always a downside to over-ear headphones, and it’s that your ears will get hot and sweaty after a short period. The pair is perfect if you’re working from an air-conditioned room, though.

Regarding technical specs, the MDR7506 has neodymium magnets and 40mm of driver diameter. It also has 63 ohms of impedance and 106 dB of sensitivity, so you’re guaranteed a loud and clear sound at all times.

Moreover, it has a frequency response ranging from 10 to 20,000 Hz, not the widest range out there. However, the pair offers excellent mids and highs, which are exactly what you need for transcription.

Also, the pair comes with a 3-meter non-detachable cable, so you can move freely without being restricted by a short cord.

For portability, the pair is foldable, and you can purchase a carrying back if you know you’ll be traveling a lot, and you need to keep your pair protected.

Lastly, the pair comes with padded headband and earpads. However, the earpads are a little too thin to be comfortable. Luckily, though, they’re replaceable. If they get too uncomfortable for you, you can easily replace them with any compatible pair.

Pros:

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Reduced sound leakage
  • Foldable
  • Long cord
  • Good value

Cons:

  • Get a little warm
  • Non-detachable cord

Final Verdict

The Sony MDR7506 is your next best friend if you’re looking for the best pair of headphones for transcription on the market. Its over-ear closed-back design significantly reduces sound leakage without the downside of noise-cancelation. Moreover, the pair offers excellent sound quality without costing a fortune.

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2. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x — Runner-Up

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

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The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is another great choice for transcription. The ATH-M50x comes in both wired and wireless models, so you can choose whichever you prefer. Both models have excellent sound quality for a seamless transcription experience.

The ATH-M50x is a wired pair of headphones that comes with two detachable wires: a 3-meter coiled one and a 1.2-meter straight one. Having two cables is a huge advantage because you can switch between them depending on your setup and whether you prefer straight or coiled cables.

On top of that, the ATH-M50x also comes in a wireless model with up to 40 hours of battery life. Such battery life is quite impressive when compared to other wireless headphones, meaning you wouldn’t need to worry about recharging them often.

Moreover, the earcups can swivel up to 90 degrees in both directions, so you can rest your headphones around your neck without the earpads being too bulky and getting in your way. Besides, the pair is collapsable, making them easy to carry around and travel with.

The wired model comes with 38 ohms of impedance, 98 dB of sensitivity, and a frequency response ranging from 15 to 28,000 Hz.

It also comes with a 45mm driver that produces great sounds at mids, highs, and bass. Such specifications ensure a high-quality sound that is also crisp and clear for extended hours of transcription.

Even though the pair doesn’t come with noise isolation technology, it’s still quite good at blocking out noises from the outside thanks to its over-ear design and closed-back nature.

Pros:

  • Clear sound
  • Excellent build quality
  • Collapsable
  • High durability
  • Low sound leakage
  • Wired and wireless models

Cons:

  • A little pricey

Final Verdict

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is an excellent choice for any transcriptor. The pair ensure comfort and portability with its rotating earcups. It also provides convenience because it comes in a wireless model that has 40 hours of battery life. If you prefer wired headphones, it also comes with two cable configurations that are both detachable.

Find Audio-Technica ATH-M50x featured in:

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3. LyxPro HAS-10 — Budget-Pick

LyxPro HAS-10

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If you’re tightly bound by a budget, the LyxPro HAS-10 is the one for you. Despite its low price point, you’re guaranteed high-quality sound and components that no other pair can match. Not to mention, it is sound-isolating so that you can focus on transcription without any distractions.

The HAS-10 comes with rotatable earpads up to 180 degrees so you can adjust them however you want. Also, the pair has leather headband and earpads that are comfortable on your head and ears without adding too much pressure.

The pair is sound-isolating, meaning it can block out external noise. When combining that with its closed-back nature, you’ll be getting minimal to no sound leakage to focus on your transcription tasks without distractions.

Moreover, the HAS-10 comes with a powerful NdFeB Magnet System that provides the pair with an instant dynamic response, especially with its 45mm driver.

The pair comes with a 3-meter wire that is, sadly, non-detachable. However, its extended length is a massive advantage if you like moving around because it won’t be a huge restriction.

Furthermore, the HAS-10 comes with 40 ohms of impedance, 98 dB of sensitivity, and 10-26,000 Hz of frequency response range. Those specifications work together to produce the best sound quality possible and that is hard to beat, especially for such price.

However, keep in mind that its leather earpads, combined with its over-ear design, can cause warmth on your ears. Even though the pair is quite comfortable, the fact that it can cause warmth is a dealbreaker for some people.

Pros:

  • Sound-isolating
  • Affordable
  • High build quality
  • Clear, crisp sound
  • Comfortable

Cons:

  • Gets warm
  • Non-detachable cord

Final Verdict

Being on a budget is not a setback if you’re looking for a pair of headphones for transcription because the LyxPro HAS-10 is here to save the day. It’s sound-isolating, so you wouldn’t have to worry about any external noise leaking in. Not to mention, the pair is comfortable to wear with its leather headband and earcups.

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4. Audio-Technica ATH-M20x — Best Value

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

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The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x comes at a very affordable price without sacrificing high-quality components and sound. If you’re looking for a pair of high-quality headphones that is worth every penny, the ATH-M20x is the one you’re looking for.

The ATH-M20x has earpads that can swivel up to 15 degrees in both directions, so you can rest your headphones on your neck without the earpads being too bulky. Not to mention, they’re soft, and therefore comfortable on the ear.

Moreover, the pair comes with a 3-meter non-detachable cord with a 3.5 mm connector. It also comes with a 6.3 mm adapter for the most convenience possible.

In order to guarantee a high-quality sound, the ATH-M20x comes with a 40 mm driver with neodymium magnets and a copper-clad aluminum voice coil.

The pair is sound-isolating, but not noise-canceling, meaning they block external sounds with their circumaural over-ear design rather than with a circuit that cancels out the noise. However, its sound-isolating design comes at a price; the pair gets hot and uncomfortable after a few hours of wear.

Being sound-isolating is perfect for transcription because it blocks out just enough noise for you to focus but without completely isolating you from the outside world.

Furthermore, the pair comes with 47 ohms of impedance and 96 dB of sensitivity, meaning it can run on any device and produce a loud, crisp sound. It also has a frequency response range starting from 15 up to 20,000 Hz, which guarantees excellent sound at any frequency range.

Lastly, the pair has an excellent build quality and high durability, so you can rest assured that your pair will last for years without a scratch.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Affordable price
  • High durability
  • Impressive sound quality
  • Sound-isolating

Cons:

  • Not the most comfortable
  • Non-detachable cord

Final Verdict

Finding high-quality headphones like the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x at such a price point is near impossible, making this product a one of a kind in the world of transcription. On top of that, its sound-isolating design is perfect if you have trouble focusing because it blocks out most external noises.

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5. Bose QuietComfort 35 II — Premium-Pick

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

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Even though the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is on the expensive side, it’s worth every penny. The pair is wireless with extended battery life. It also has three levels of noise-cancellation and is comfortable to use through long days of transcription. I wouldn’t ask for more.

The QuietComfort 35 II is one of the most popular pairs of headphones on the market due to its high-quality sound that is used and loved by professionals across the world.

The pair comes with three levels of noise cancelation that you can control using the Bose Connect app. You can also connect your headphones to Bluetooth devices and check for software updates through the app, a huge convenience for a wireless pair of headphones.

Moreover, the pair’s 40 mm driver makes for a crisp sound that significantly helps with the transcription process, so you wouldn’t have to replay certain parts of your audio excessively.

When it comes to wireless headphones, the biggest worry is that they run out of battery quickly. Well, not the QuietComfort 35 II, thanks to its 20 hours of battery life. Even if you use your headphones for extended hours per day, you wouldn’t need to worry about recharging it too often.

The wireless pair could also be operated using a wire in case you run out of battery. That is a considerable advantage because it has the best of both worlds: portability and convenience.

Lastly, the pair also comes with a noise-rejecting microphone, so you’re able to use your headphones for anything beyond transcription if you want to.

Pros:

  • Three levels of noise cancelation
  • Extended battery life
  • Can run on a cord
  • Comfortable
  • Excellent sound quality

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Bluetooth connection glitches

Final Verdict

If you’re willing to invest money into a premium-quality pair of headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is your next best friend. Whether you prefer wired or wireless connections, the QuietComfort 35 II offers both. Either way, you’re guaranteed a clear sound for transcription.

Find Bose QuietComfort 35 II featured in:

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6. ECS Wordsmith — Best In-ear Headphones

ECS Wordsmith

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If you’re a fan of in-ear headphones and want one with a clear, high-quality sound for transcription, the ECS Wordsmith is your best bet. Many people prefer in-ear headphones due to their portability and weightlessness, and I can’t help but agree.

Even though in-ear headphones generally have short cords, the Wordsmith has a 10-feet cord (just over 3 meters), meaning you don’t need to worry about being restricted by a short cable, especially if you like moving or spinning in your chair.

Because the Wordsmith is designed to be a transcription headset, you’re guaranteed a high-quality clear sound for a seamless transcription process.

The pair comes with a built-in technology that can match the frequency response to the tone of the spoken word, so you’ll be able to get a clear sound, depending on what’s being said.

On top of that, the pair has noise-reduction that can isolate and reduce external noise, so you’re able to focus on the task at hand.

Unlike previous products, the Wordsmith uses a USB 2.0 port, rather than an audio one. This could be regarded as a blessing or a curse depending on what kind of ports your device has. Nonetheless, if a 2.0 USB port is not available, you could easily get an adapter for very few dollars.

The Wordsmith is a pair I strongly recommend if you’re looking for a pair, you could use on the go. If you like transcribing during train rides or flights, the Wordsmith is the one you’re looking for.

Pros:

  • Noise-reduction
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Comfortable

Cons:

  • Mediocre build quality

Final Verdict

The ECS Wordsmith in-ear headphones offer convenience like no other. The weightless pair of headphones can match the frequency response according to spoken words. Besides, it can significantly reduce external noise for an excellent transcription experience.

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How to Pick Headphones for Transcription

Choosing a pair of headphones for transcription is not as easy, and you’d think. There are multiple factors that determine whether a pair of headphones is suitable for transcription or not. The last thing you’d want is to get a pair of headphones that doesn’t fit your needs or is too uncomfortable for your head.

Before making your purchase make sure you completely understand the following section so you’d know exactly what you need.

Type

There are three main types of headphones: over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear.

Most of the products mentioned throughout this article are over-ear headphones, and that’s for a reason. Over-ear headphones are naturally more noise-reducing than other types due to their earcups that cover the whole ear and, therefore, work as isolators.

Also, over-ear headphones are comfortable on the ear and head because they’re usually padded. They’re ideal for extended hours of usage because they don’t apply any pressure on your ear as other types do.

However, the only disadvantage of over-ear headphones is that they get hot and sweaty after a few hours. If you’re in a warm room, they’ll get uncomfortable quickly.

On the other hand, in-ear headphones are a lot more portable and airy than any other type due to their small size and weightlessness.

Sadly, in-ear headphones are not ideal for those with small ears because they’ll get uncomfortable almost immediately. You’re already familiar with how in-ear headphones work, so if they’re comfortable on your ears, by all means, go for it.

Lastly, on-ear headphones are not really common for transcription. Joggers and commuters mostly use them for their portability, which is not a factor you’d typically need for transcription.

Noise-cancellation and Sound-isolation

There are different methods used by headphones to reduce external noise; the most popular one is noise-cancellation.

To be fair, noise-canceling could be an overkill for transcription because they’re more pricey than regular headphones.

Also, noise-canceling has another disadvantage, a humming sound that happens because they use an electrical circuit that works on canceling out noises.

The most popular method is reducing noise is sound-isolation, which mostly depends on mechanical factors. Sound-isolating headphones depend on their design, which can significantly reduce external noise and sound leakage without the negatives of noise-isolation. For that, most sound-isolating headphones are over-ear and closed-back.

Sound Clarity

When it comes to transcription, you’d need a pair of headphones with excellent mids and highs, because that’s where the human voice frequencies lie.

Meaning, getting a pair of headphones that boosts bass sounds is not ideal for transcription because you won’t be getting the clearest sound possible. Instead, you’d be getting a lot of unnecessary distortion that could ruin your transcription process.

Make sure your next headphones’ sound is clear and crisp enough so you’d be able to distinguish the spoken words easily.

Wired vs. Wireless

For transcription, wired and wireless headphones are equally good; it just depends on personal preference.

Wired headphones are your best bet if you’ll be quite stationary at your desk. If you don’t move around much while you’re working on your transcription task, wired headphones are much more convenient because you wouldn’t need to worry about recharging them.

On the other hand, wireless headphones are a necessity if you move around, get up, or spin in your chair while you’re working. Moreover, most wireless headphones’ batteries are quite long-lasting with extended lives.

If you’re looking to get the best of both worlds, you could get a wireless pair that could also run on a cord. So then you could switch between wireless and wired connections depending on the task you’re working on.

Comfort

It goes without saying that comfort is a critical factor that you need to consider when choosing a pair of headphones for transcription.

Make sure the earcups and headband are both padded if you’re planning to get over-ear or on-ear headphones.

Also, make sure the size of the earbuds fit comfortably in your ear because some earbuds are too big or too small. If possible, make sure to try the pair on before making your final purchase whenever possible.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is Noise-Cancellation Necessary for Transcription?

Not at all. Other noise reduction methods are ideal for transcription, and they’re much cheaper than noise-cancelation. For example, sound-isolating headphones would get the job done without the need for noise-cancellation.

Keep in mind that noise-canceling headphones also produce a humming sound that can get quite annoying.

Are Closed-Back Headphones Better for Transcription?

Definitely! Closed-back headphones minimize sound leakage; therefore, they’re better for transcription. They allow you to focus on your task without unnecessary external noise.

On the other hand, open-back headphones make for a good soundstage, which is not ideal for transcription. They’d allow external noise to leak in, and everyone around you will be able to hear what you’re listening to.

Why Are Over-ear Headphones Popular for Transcription?

Simply because over-hear headphones naturally block out external noise that on-ear and in-ear headphones let through. Their larger earpads prevent sound leaking in and out, which is exactly what you need for transcription.

Also, in-ear headphones are widely used for transcription; there’s no right or wrong here.

Final Thoughts 

After going over my top six picks and a guide on how to pick the perfect pair of transcription headphones for you, you should have a clear idea in mind about what you’re looking for in your next pair.

Nonetheless, here’s a quick recap of my top three picks in case you’re in need of a memory refresh.

The Sony MST7506 easily took first place for multiple reasons. Firstly, the pair has excellent sound and build quality. Also, the pair is foldable and comfortable. Lastly, despite having high-quality components, the pair doesn’t cost a fortune.

In second place is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. The pair also comes in a wireless model that has extended battery life. On top of that, the ATH-M50x is quite durable with a clear, crisp sound that’s perfect for transcription.

Lastly, the LyxPro HAS-10 is the best budget-friendly headphones on the market. You’ll be getting high-quality components, sound, and build at a very affordable price. Not to mention, it’s quite comfortable to wear for extended periods.

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