Can headphones work as a mic? (Fun Experiment)


Have you ever wondered whether it is possible to use headphones as a mic? Maybe you have heard people say that they have used their headphones as a mic but don’t know if they were serious or not. In this article, we will address the truth about this matter and answer a few additional questions.

Yes, headphones can work as a mic as they are similar in construction. However, they are not suitable for that purpose since they are not designed for recording audio. So, it is only worth it to use them a mic when there is no other alternative available to you. 

Continue reading to know more about how that is possible and clear all your doubts.

How to use your headphones as a mic?

To learn how to use your headphones as a mic, simply follow the step by step instructions below:

  • If you want to use them with a PC or laptop, you simply need to plug your headphones in the mic input port or ‘line in’ port instead of the ‘line out’ port, which is the port you normally plug your headphones in.
  • Then, open up the search box on your OS and type ‘manage audio devices’. Click on the result when it appears to open the sound control panel.
  • Finally, click on the ‘Recording’ tab on the Sound control panel and test the headphones by tapping on them, blowing some air, and speaking. Generally, only one side will pick up the audio. If the headphone picks up audio, select it from the options, click on the ‘Set Default’ button, and then click on the ‘OK’ button to save the settings. That’s it!
  • If you want to use them with an audio mixer, you just need to plug them into the microphone input port and test to see if it works.

If your headphones don’t work as a microphone, make sure that your PC is properly set up for using a mic by testing it with a real mic. 

When is it recommended to use your Headphones as a microphone?

Ideally, you should never try to use a headphone as a mic because a dedicated or even an inbuilt microphone is much better at its job. However, they can be used in certain cases when you cannot find your mic or a headset and you need to call somebody or record audio at the latest. It’s even better if the recording quality doesn’t matter at that moment.

They can also be used as a temporary solution if your primary headset or mic is broken and you are waiting to purchase a new one. Heck, you can even use them during an emergency. For instance, suppose you forgot to bring a mic during your live concert or DJ show event.

Tips to use your headphones as a mic?

You can use your headphones as a mic to surprise some of your friends or as a party trick. However, if you want to use them for a suitable purpose, they need to be set up properly. Remember, unlike a microphone a headphone is not optimized for sound quality when recording audio. So, you need to test and manually configure the settings of your recording software to get the best audio possible with the hardware.

A headphone works like a big mic and picks up a lot of noise. So, you want to visit the ‘Sound’ options in your control panel and disable the ‘Microphone Boost’ option by clicking on the ‘Properties’ button and selecting the ‘Levels’ tab. Otherwise, you would experience sound leakage and clipping.

Use an EQ software to adjust the sound settings further. Typically, you would want to reduce the lows and increase the high settings to turn down the boominess when recording audio. And, if you want to use them with a mixer, be sure to turn off the booth monitors and watch out for feedback.

How does a headphone work as a microphone

It is not surprising that a headphone can work a microphone and vice versa as they both act as transducers. They both have diaphragms, magnets, and wires attached to them. Thus, they are virtual identical copies internally. The only difference is that headphones are optimized for converting electrical energy into sound energy whereas microphones are optimized for converting sound waves (acoustic energy) into electrical energy.

To put it more technically, the speakers in headphones produce sound when the diaphragm inside them vibrates due to the movement of electricity through the wires. On the other hand, the diaphragms in a microphone vibrate when they pick up soundwaves (voice, noise, audio) and induce a current through the coil and wire, which then gets stored in digital format as an audio file.

Best headphones with built-in microphones

Even if you own a high-quality headphone, using it as a mic can provide a poor quality experience when recording audio, speaking to your friends during a video call, or voice chatting with them when playing your favorite games. Common problems would be an extreme distortion of sound and unwanted background noises. 

Thus, if you need to record high-quality audio for podcasting or vlogging, or if you want to chat with your friends online frequently, purchasing a headphone with an inbuilt microphone would be a great investment. 

Here are a few popular headphones with built-in mics:

1. Sony WH-1000MX3 – The Sony WH-1000MX3 is considered the king of wireless Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) headphones but it also has a good built-in mic that is dedicated to voice input. 

Sony WH-1000MX3
Sony WH-1000MX3

This premium headphone not only provides a thrilling music listening experience but also makes it easy to call and receive calls due to the support for virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa. The battery life is phenomenal with over 30 hrs of usage time and the quick charge functionality makes it possible to recharge the device quickly when it runs out of juice. 

The Sony WH-1000MX3 also has one of the best gesture control support that you can experience on any premium headphone. It is extremely intuitive to use the device to change tracks, adjust volume levels, or control call functions. 

The sound quality is equally amazing as it comes with an HD noise-canceling processor (QN1) to produce the best-in-class signal-to-noise ratio. The sound signature has a pleasant warmness to it which would please most bassheads but is not too overbearing for people who love neutral sound signature.

2. Bose QuietComfort 35 II – The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is undoubtedly one of the most popular products in the premium headphones category with a good built-in microphone. You can experience crystal clear sound pick-up due to its noise-rejecting dual-microphone

Bose QuietComfort 35 II
Bose QuietComfort 35 II

This headphone delivers a stunning ANC performance by blocking external noises. You can adjust the noise cancellation settings to three levels so that you can get lost listening to your favorite music tracks even when wearing them in crowded public transport. 

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is ideal for people who want a comfortable music listening experience even when wearing glasses. It also lives up to its brand name and delivers a superb music listening experience with a balanced sound signature.

Coupled with the amazing battery that can last for up to 20 hours, you can expect to chat with your friends in-game or on video calls for long periods. Plus, the support for voice assistants like Amazon Alexa provides an exceptional user experience.  

3. Sony WH-1000MX4 – Sony fans had to wait a long time to experience the Sony WH-1000MX4 but everybody believes that the product is a worthy successor of the ever-popular Sony WH-1000MX3. In fact, the premium headphone now comes with five built-in mics with advanced audio signal processing to pick voices more precisely.

Sony WH-1000MX4
Sony WH-1000MX4

It comes with the same HD noise-canceling processor (QN1) as its predecessor but works with a new algorithm to deliver even better ANC performance. It comes with the same gesture settings and touch panel for effortless controls but now comes in a more comfortable and lighter body. 

The product still retains the Smart Listening function and the Adaptive Sound Control feature to provide a more personalized music listening experience. The support for voice assistants and battery life is similar but the sound quality has improved up a notch. The dynamic soundstage now feels more realistic with plenty of details and boom. 

Overall, it is currently one of the most popular products in the headphones with built-in microphone segment. 

Conclusion

It is possible and very easy to use headphones as microphones. In fact, they can save you during a pinch when you need to record audio and there is no mic or headset nearby. But, as you have most certainly realized by now, they are not ideal for recording voice and only work as a temporary solution for most people.

To record high-quality audio, speak with great voice clarity when calling, or chatting while playing games, you must use a good quality headset or a headphone with a built-in mic

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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