Headphones Buying Guide
Want to escape the routine noises and enjoy some solitary time with your favorite music? You simply have to grab a pair of quality headphones and settle in your favorite corner for a nice, relaxing experience. The next question – Do you choose your headphones after careful research and exploration of all the options available or do you simply grab the nearest one available and settle down? If you answer positive to this question, you are missing out on something big.
There are hundreds of brands of headphones available which makes the task of choosing the right one for your listening needs extremely challenging.
This headphone buying guide aims to take the pain out of the headphone buying process by providing valuable information about the types of headphones, their features, aesthetics, and USPs. Of course, the appearance is also an important factor to consider but should generally figure lower down on the list of priorities, unless you are a style freak. So here goes:
In-Ear, On-Ear, Over-the-Ear? Which One Resounds To Your Needs
If you are looking for a pair that can be easily carried and even bunched into a roll and stuffed into your pocket for some on the move music, then the in-ear ones can be the right choice. They are popular for their portability and can rest comfortably in your ear. Some models are even designed to rest deeper in the ear canal for a more enhanced sound experience.
There are some minuses as well. Portability is good but these pieces can do some amount of damage to the ear cartilage if you are using it for extended periods of time.
On-Ear headphones offer a higher level of comfort than those in-ear types. They have paddings that rest on the outer ear. Most models are of the same shape as they do not allow much scope for experimentation in styles. Some can be folded which can be good news for those looking for portability in on-ear headphones. As this model offers more room for placing larger drivers, they tend to provide better sound quality too.
Go for it if you want a pair of headphones that can sound great and is easy to take around even of the size does not strictly conform to the conventional definition of portable. Where can you use them? Workouts for sure and also while you want to simply relax with some great sounding music.
If you want nothing less than the best in headphones, the best buy is undoubtedly those pretty and stylish, over-ear headphones. They not only offer great comfort but also produce excellent sound quality. They are not exactly portable and hence may not be the best thing to have over your ears if you love to enjoy music on the go. Over-Ear headphones can be the perfect ones for use at home.
Over-Ear means exactly that – they don’t touch your ears. That’s because of the paddings that cover your ears as a protective shield to enable you to enjoy your music for as long as you want, without feeling any discomfiture. The headphones offer enough space for big or different types of drivers.
Wireless or Wired – What Is Your Choice?
When you are looking for headphones, obviously the quality of the sound that the device delivers will play a key role in what you choose. However, for many users convenience is also a deciding factor and might take precedence over sound quality, in some instances. For such individuals, the choice would be wireless headphones.
Wireless headphone is also the right choice for those who are not into hi-fi music and can do with a slight dip in sound quality.
Wireless headphones can be used within a radius of 10 meters but that is likely to change dramatically with Bluetooth rolling out latest advanced versions that can carry sound wirelessly over many times that distance.
It is important to mention here that within the wireless category itself there are a few varieties. You can choose from over-the-ear headphones and on-ear headphones. Then there are ear-bud variations from Apple that are truly wireless in every sense. They are not only independent of the music system but independent of each other as well. There are further developments and updates happening on these models.
There is one critical factor to consider while buying wireless headphones and that is the battery of the headphone. The battery life of wireless headphones varies based on the type of headphone. Battery life of four hours plus is considered very good for continuous playback on true wireless headphones. Other types of wireless headphones have varying levels of battery life.
Closed Back or Open Back – Which Design Appeals to You?
When it comes to headphones, there are two types of designs to choose from – closed back and open back. The most commonly used variety is closed back but the few open back brands are acknowledged for the enormous difference they make to the quality of sound produced.
While shopping for headphones, you are most likely to come across the closed back variety more as they are commonly used. This type of headphone is designed to block outside noise to the best possible level and keeps the music within the headphone – quite some technology but there are pluses and minuses to this as well.
Closed back headphones are for those who love to enjoy their music on the go, and even for those who want to enjoy music with others in the room. A drawback is that closed back headphone offers sound quality that sounds a little less natural but the difference will not be very apparent unless you are a connoisseur of quality sound and music.
It is plain commonsense that open back headphones are designed to do precisely the opposite of what close back headphones do. They create sounds that are as close to natural as can be. Yes, sound can escape your open back headphones, and that’s why those tiny echoes that are so typical of closed back headphones are not audible in this system.
There are a few downsides to open back headphones. making them really only suitable for home listening. We mentioned that sound inside the headphones can get out. And the reverse can happen too – outside sound can also very easily get in. You will be able to hear all the sounds around you, even if you are in an environment where the noise level is moderate. With no physical barrier protecting the electronics inside the headphone, there is the likelihood of moisture getting into the system and causing some amount of damage. That’s why open back headphones are best for listening in a quiet homely environment.
SEMI-OPEN BACK HEADPHONES:
Yes, there is this in-between type of headphone too, the semi-open design. It is not a popular type as the disadvantages are many and the benefits are a few. The disadvantages are:
- They cover a large percentage of outside space with just a little gap for air movement
- Outside noise can be heard over the headphone
- The risk of damage of the electronic components because of moisture is real and high
Like speakers, headphones too have drivers to vibrate the air and create the right sound. There are many types of drivers:
Dynamic Driver: They are the most common type and found in a majority of headphones. They are low-cost but that should not be viewed as low in performance. Dynamic Driver can create an impressive response with bass but can get distorted with an increase in volume.
Balanced armature drivers: They are a part of most in-ear headphones and can be tuned to specific frequencies. Generally, two sets of these drivers are tuned to different frequencies for a better sound response.
Electrostatic drivers: They are different than other drivers because of their ability to produce a sound that is undistorted and natural. Cost of these drivers is on the higher side. Besides, you would need a headphone amplifier to go with them.
Headphones reproduce sound at various frequencies. Most of them offer a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz but to a common man the numbers do not make much sense but it is important to know a bit about frequency range before buying a headphone.
Some musical instruments operate in lower frequencies while others sound well in higher frequencies. Of course, there are some such as the guitar and drums that operate somewhere between the two extreme ends. Using headphones that have a frequency response of less than the above-mentioned range is not advisable.
Other Factors To Consider While Buying Headphones:
Impedance: Buy a headphone with low impedance that can be easily powered using your PC or even a smartphone.
Sensitivity: Measured in decibels, sensitivity is a measure of the loudness of your headphone based on the power input. The ideal sensitivity should be around 90 decibels and 120 decibels per megawatt.
Noise Cancellation: This is a technology that’s evolving and developing. The core of the technology involves detecting the unwanted noises happening around you and playing a reverse version of those noises so that they cancel out each other. In some cases, it can affect the audio quality, albeit in a minor way.
Operational Convenience: Look for headphones that come with controls placed on the ear cup or on the cable within a remote. You will be able to control your music better with this user-friendly feature.
Finally, look for a pair that has nearly everything that you are looking for but also find the right design o go with your style. Of course, pricing is another crucial aspect to consider while buying a headphone.