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In this article we will discuss how to buy headphones and earphones.
This guide will discuss the different types of things that one should be aware of when buying headphones.
So without further ado, here are the 25 questions that you should ask yourself before buying headphones.
1. What size of headphones do you want ?
This basically needs you to decide weather you want small earphones, or large earphones or earbuds, so essentially to decide between small and compact or large and attention grabbing ?
Below is where we dissect the types of headphones in a little more detail.
2. What type of headphones do you want ?
There are different types of headphones with many different types of variations.
The main different types of headphones out there (not all inclusive)
- Bluetooth Headphones
- Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Over Ear Headphones
On Ear Headphones
Closed Back headphones
Open Back headphones
3. Do you want Bluetooth Headphones ?
Bluetooth headphones make use of Bluetooth technology in order to play audio and video through your device.
There are many versions of Bluetooth, so it is important to make sure that your headphones are compatible with the Bluetooth of your device.
Most over ear headphones, at least those above $100 are probably Bluetooth headphones.
Bluetooth in this day and age is almost compulsory, as most of the devices that we use to play music, such as tablets and phones almost always make use of Bluetooth functionalities.
4. Do you want closed back headphones ?
The closed back design relates to the fact that the speaker is enclosed within the headphone and thus there is no leakage of sound as a result.
Closed back headphones form a seal around your head. Closed back headphones tend to form a good isolation in that they protect you from your environment.
So you wont hear as much noise from the outside world as you would with other certain types of headphones.
Perhaps the criticism that many people have with closed back headphones is that they do not sound as realistic as closed back headphones.
But with improvements in technology this is something that the Likes of Sony and Bose have been working on and definitely closed the gap
5. Do you want open back headphones ?
With Open back headphones you can see the driver in the ear cup. This means that you will not experience as much isolation as you would with closed back earphones.
So those conversations in the office are not likely to be kept at bay.
If some one wants to talk to you they do not have to tap you on the shoulder as they would with noise cancelling headphones.
One other advantage of the open back headphones over the closed back headphones is that with the open back headphones you hear sounds that are realistic.
So if you are playing a game and you hear a car from the distance it would sound as if it is coming from far.
So open back headphones tend to sound more natural and realistic.
So personally when I am by myself I will use open back headphones , but when I am in a crowd, I will make use of closed back headphones.
6. Do you want on ear headphones ?
On ear headphones tend to sit on the ear but do not cover the ear lobe completely.
These are the so called Super-aural headphones, and tend to be much larger than ear buds. Because of the larger size, they have bigger drivers.
The biggest problem with on ear headphones is that because they sit on the ear, they can be comfortable. People that wear glasses will not enjoy these cans as they sit on the ear lobe.
7. Do you want over ear headphones ?
These are the headphones that cover the entire ear. They are so called “circum-aural” The ear pad is designed to go over and around the ears.
The bass response is usually superb and they have the largest sound stage of any other earphones.
The over ear headphones are super comfortable and can be used for extended periods.
The downside is that your ears can get a little hot and sweaty if used for a very long time.
The over ears of course are pricey, but definitely worth it. Here are some examples of over ear headphones.
8. Do you want earbuds/in ear headphones?
Ear buds are known for generally being cheap and portable. These are the normal earphones that we are used to that are small and slip into the ear.
They generally fit loosely in the ear and often come as part of the cellphone that you have.
These are generally mass produced and do not last very long and are not great for long use. There is generally no sound isolation.
In Ear headphones on the other hand can range from very cheap to super pricey depending on the Brand.
These are more pricey because of the build quality and the sound that is produced, which tends to be better than ear buds.
If you want additional isolation from these headphones then use foam tips.
9. Do you want wireless headphones ?
Wireless headphones can overlap with over ear or on-ear headphones. But you can also get wireless earbuds as well.
Now, the other issue is that there is a distinction made between wireless and so called true wireless headphones/ear buds.
True wireless headphones are those that have absolutely no wires what so ever to the extent that you can not use them wired, unlike over or on ear headphones that you can use wired.
10. How much Bass do you want ?
This is just as relevant for sound quality. There are many ways to determine an appropriate amount of bass for your headphones.
If you are interested in them then click on the following link.
11. Do you want sweat resistant and waterproof headphones ?
This will depend on whether or not you want to use your headphones at the gym or under water.
Sweat resistant headphones are perfect for the gym, making sure that you do not have to adjust headphones whilst in the middle of an intense work out.
On the other hand waterproof headphones are good for those of you who are into water sports and want a little focus and concentration
12. How much Battery life do you want ?
Headphones differ greatly in the amount of battery life that they have.
The battery life determines how long you can go listening to your headphones especially without any wires.
Some times we forget our chargers and as a result if the battery life is low, this can result in not being able to listen to your favorite tunes.
Click the following link for a review of the best headphones for battery life
13. Do the headphones have quick charging ?
In addition to a long battery life, many headphones today have quick charging.
This is for when you want to complete smaller listening sessions and want your headphones charged in 15 minutes or so.
There are many options available in the market, so it is important that you read the headphone specs carefully.
14. What is your budget ?
This should be the most important question of them all. After all no matter the specs that you want you will be limited by budget.
There are many headphones to chose from in the market so getting value for money is not easy. Making things worse is that headphones have different specs and different functions.
15. How much impedance/power do the headphones have ?
When a headphone is set to have low impedance it means that less power is required to get a particular level of audio.
So with low Independence earphones , you will be able to get decent amount of audio from low frequency amplifiers such as cell phones etc.
This would typically be the case for headphones with an impedance of roughly 24 ohms (the unit of measurement of Impedance).
High impedance headphones are the exact opposite.
Please see the following link for further reading on impedance
16. How comfortable are the headphones ?
This can be a very subjective feature. How comfortable a set of headphones are will often be determined by how sensitive one is to irritation, the size of your head and how your skin responds to specific types of material.
17. Build Quality ?
Build quality refers to the strength of the headphones. By this we mean the strength of the headphones on the basis of design and the materials.
I usually employ the “stretch test” In this test I basically stretch the earphones to see if there are no strange sounds and also ensure that they do not break.
Flimsier headphones tend to be very sensitive. So when you fiddle with cords or touch the headphones , you can hear this from the headphones themselves.
Build quality also has an impact on how long you will be able to listen to the headphones for.
Less comfortable headphones mean that you will probably spend less time listening to your headphones because of the discomfort.
Most headphones, by the bigger manufacturers, are probably comfortable enough for longer listening sessions such as for watching a movie or listening to 2 hour listening sessions.
I do find that above 2 hours of listening time is when headphone quality comes into play and makes a difference to the listening experience.
One other characteristic of build quality revolves around the weight of the headphones.
I know from personal experience that I want headphones that do not feel as if I am carrying a stone on my head.
So it is important that even over ear headphones are under 250 grams, I find that this is the sweet spot.
18. Clamping Force
Most headphones probably need a decent amount of clamping force as they need to stay on your head.
Clamping force naturally only refers to headphones that go over or on the ear.
The amount of clamping fore that you need will depend on what you intend to do with the headphones.
So for instance when considering gym headphones, I would want a decent amount of clamping force as the headphones need to stay on my head when doing exercises.
19. What kind of sound quality are you looking for ?
This would fall into the category of the subjective factors. Sound quality is different for each person.
Some people enjoy bassy, punchy music with a real kick and thump, whilst some people prefer more balanced sound.
Some people like to compare mids and highs as well. Different headphones deliver different sound quality so you must decide what it is you are looking for the most.
The other feature that will impact the quality of the sound in the headphones are the speaker drivers.
Within a headphone the driver converts electrical signal into sound. Drivers are generally measured in mm.
The correlation between the headphone driver and the sound is not always linear.
One reason for headphones generally having larger drivers is due to the fact that the headphones are generally further from the ear drum.
(In this case by headphone , I mean the over ear type and by earphone , I mean the in ear type, but throughout this article the two terms are used interchangeably)
Although on average the higher output is driven by larger drivers.
The drivers will vary in size and range from as small as 8 mm to as large as 50 mm.
Now that you know what a headphone driver is, will it assist in boosting the bass of the headphones ? Well that will depends on the type of driver that exists in the headphone.
The different driver types are Moving-coil driver, Electrostatic, Electret, Planar Magnetic, Balanced armature and a Precide driver,
Further details on these driver types can be obtained in the following link
For purposes of this article we will discuss dynamic drivers. When you are reading about headphones, particularly the over ear type, manufacturers tend to brag about 40mm dynamic drivers.
Dynamic drivers make us of large diaphragms. Dynamic drivers have the ability to push out powerful bass, whilst achieving the requisite amount of pressure, without using lots of power.
So yes a large dynamic driver can impact the bass but not always.
20. Are the headphones going to be used for gaming ?
If the headphones are going to be used for gaming there are a few considerations that one has to take into account.
The following must be considered
- Determine the platform that you will be using the headphones for
- Will they be wired or wireless
- What level of comfort do you need (Think material, headband, ear pads and ear cups)
- What type of sound do you want (stereo, virtual, dimensional)
21. Do you want noise cancellation ?
- Noise cancellation or isolation is for those times when you would prefer to drown out the outside word abut be immersed in your music.
- Cancellation is a whole lot better than isolation , but comes at one hell of a premium. These can be especially useful when at the office and you want to concentrate and when you are on your morning commute and do not want to hear the city traffic or other passengers on public transport.
- Here is some further reading on noise cancellation
23. Do you want noise isolation ?
Noise isolation can be simply described as follows. It is basically what happens when you close your ears and the sound is muzzled out.
Noise isolation can provide a peaceful break from the rest of the world around you. What you will not get with noise isolation is a complete noise free environment.
In order to achieve near total serenity, you would have to invest in a set of noise cancelling headphones.
24. Do you need them for sleep ?
- This is not a typo. Headphones can even help you sleep. Sometimes a restless mind needs to be distracted by something calm.
- This is where sleeping earphones come in handy. Some even double as gym headphones.
- Having some smooth tunes or binural beats can help induce melatonin.
- And thus help you get the sleep that you not only need but deserve.
25. Compare and test Different types of headphones/earbuds
The first step is to test out as many different headphones as you can. Also make sure that you test out each headphone with the same song.
That way you will be able to see which headphones have the desired specs.
Go to the internet and read as many reviews as you think are necessary. Most website manufacturers have product reviews on their websites where people discuss not only the performance, but what else the headphones can be useful for.
In addition to the manufacturer reviews, read the product reviews on Amazon for more details.
If the budget allows, go for the bigger more trusted names. The reason for this is that they put a lot into R&D and design so you know that you are getting a quality product.
Secondly the manufacturer is unlikely to oversell what the headphones can do as they could damage their reputation.
Despite the fact that they are pricey , the sound quality is also generally very good.