6 Steps to Choosing the Right Headphones

 

Step 1: Make a plan for how you'll utilise your headphones.

Will you be wearing your headphones on the plane, in your listening room, or at the gym? Or even all three? Different headphones are better in different settings, and the remainder of this article will help you figure out which ones are ideal for you.

Step 2: Select the appropriate headphone type.

The most important decision of all. Before we go on to wireless options, noise reduction, and smart capabilities, you must first choose your chosen headphone type, so let's get started. The three most common types of gaming headset for big heads are over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear.

Step 2: Select the appropriate headphone type.

Headphones for Over-the-Ear

Over-ear headphones are the largest of the three styles, encircling or cupping your ear and staying in place with light pressure on your temple and upper jaw. Over-ear headphones are the original, traditional form of headphones and are available in two versions: closed and open. Closed-back headphones naturally keep your music in, preventing others from hearing what you're listening to, but open-back headphones include holes that let outside noises in while keeping interior sounds out. (The result is a more realistic, expansive sound, but we'll get to that later.)

The Good

The only form of headphones that leave a space between your ears and the headset speakers are over-ear headphones. That area, on a good pair, achieves what a good music hall does: it envelops you in genuine sound while providing a sense of separation between you and the performance. So music sounds incredible over a decent pair of over-ear headphones, which is why so many sound engineers and music producers choose them.

The Not-So-Fantastic

Over-ear headphones are frequently criticised for being too bulky. It's far too huge. Claustrophobic. The doorbell is not audible to me. "It seems like my ears are becoming heated." I experience ear fatigue after one hour. (Or whatever you want to call it.) However, bear in mind that comfort is a personal choice. To increase comfort, some of the higher-end headphones include materials like lambskin and memory foam.

What else is there to say?

Over-ear headphones might make your ears sweat if you try to run or work out while wearing them. However, if you're on a 6-hour trip and need to shut out the world completely, over-ear headphones are the way to go — especially if they have noise-canceling built in. Finally, when it comes to sound, larger is always better, and bigger over-ear headphones equal bigger speakers + greater (longer) battery life.

P.S. A high-end pair of over-ear headphones' fit and quality is often stunning.

What else is there to say?

On-Ear Headphones

On-ear headphones, like ear muffs, are smaller and lighter than over-ear headphones and stay on your head by applying pressure directly to your ears. On-ear headphones are available in both open and closed versions, however on-ear headphones often allow more ambient sound to pass through than over-ear headphones.

The Good

On-ear headphones are the perfect balance between blocking out the outside world while allowing some sound in, making them suitable for use at the office or at home. Many types fold up into a small, compact container, and on-ear headphones are said to not become as hot as over-ear headphones. (Though, no pun intended, we believe the "hot" issue is typically just a concern if you're working out in them and become overheated.) Nothing becomes very heated.)

The Not-So-Fantastic

Typical on-ear headphone complaints: After a time, too much pressure on the ears aches. When I shake my head, they fall off. No matter what, some ambient sound gets in. They snag my earlobes. I miss the deeper bass tones that over-ear versions provide.

What else is there to say?

Some believe that for the same price, a decent set of on-ear headphones (with superb noise cancelling built-in) is comparable to an over-ear counterpart.

What else is there to say?

Headphones for In-Ear Use

In-ear headphones, often known as earbuds or earphones, are the smallest of the three varieties and fit in the ear canal. They're also all over these days, due to Apple's decision to include a pair with every iPhone. (Some are even throwaway.) And those should be discarded.) There's a lot to like about in-ear headphones, and a lot to dislike about them, but the bottom line is that if you pay $5, you probably have a pair in your drawer and already know the following.

The Good

Because they're more portable and typically have water/sweat-resistant materials, in-ear headphones are unbeatable for working out or doing anything active. They're practical, in the sense that you can shove them in your pocket or wear them around your neck. Noise-canceling earbuds are also surprisingly excellent. They don't tangle your hair or go in the way of your spectacles or jewellery. And, considering their size, the best ones sound better than you might expect. (There will be a caveat.)

The Not-So-Fantastic

In-ear headphones are prone to tangling (unless they come with a tangle-free cord or you go with a pair of truly wireless headphones.) They can get annoying after a time. They're simple to misplace. And, despite the fact that we just stated "sounds better than you may imagine," don't assume they're on par with their over- or on-ear counterparts. Because of the tiny size, the overall audio quality and bass suffer (again, unless you go for a premium pair of in-ears).

What else is there to say?

If you're looking for headphones to use while working out, in-ear headphones are the way to go. (Go ahead and skip to the next section.) Some types have attachments (sometimes known as "fins") that provide a more comfortable and secure tailored fit. And other versions offer amazing smart and touch functions, allowing you to answer the phone, change playlists, mute the music, and so on without having to fiddle about.

Step 3: Should I Use Closed-Back or Open-Back Headphones?

Step 3: Should I Use Closed-Back or Open-Back Headphones?

Headphones with a Closed Back

There are no openings or vents in the exterior shell, and the entire construction is designed to cup your ear. (Of course, the part that meets your face and plugs the gap between your ears and the rest of the world is made of a nice, cushiony material.) And the drivers are positioned in the ear cup in such a way that all sound is directed entirely to your ears. This is the most typical design for headphones of all kinds (over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear headphones).

The net effect:

When you close your eyes, you may hear a real symphony playing within your skull. Meanwhile, the individual sitting next to you is completely silent. (Of course, when it comes to audio, nothing is really leakproof, but you get the point.) Bottom line: you're in your own universe when wearing closed-back headphones. Simply add noise-canceling technology, and your environment will appear to be a million miles away from reality.

Headphones with an Open Back

Headphones with an open back. Have you seen the vents and holes? Sound gets through and air can move in and out of the ear because the drivers are exposed to the outside environment (rather than ensconced in the ear cups). This gives the impression of a conventional stereo and generates a more expansive sound (or soundstage). Some argue that this is a more natural, less artificial method to listen to music. And, if we keep with the orchestra example, this time you're in the conductor's chair, on stage with the musicians.

The only caveat:

As a result, the music you're listening to will be heard by everyone around you, making them unsuitable for public spaces such as an aircraft or train. The greatest locations to use open-back headphones are at home or at work (next to very understanding co-workers, of course.)

 

So, ideally, you've decided on your chosen headphone style and whether you want closed or open-backed headphones. So let's continue... The exciting part is yet to come.

Step 4: Do you want to go wired or wireless?

This one is simple, but we think it comes down to personal choice.

Step 4: Do you want to go wired or wireless?

First, some background: Once upon a time, someone invented Bluetooth, and then someone else put Bluetooth in a pair of headphones (essentially inventing the world's first pair of wireless headphones), and while this was clearly a brilliant idea, there was one major flaw: music in first-generation Bluetooth headphones sounded terrible. As in tinny, patchy terrible... like AM radio in a bucket of water terrible.

 

That was back in the day. Now is the time. The sound quality of today's top Bluetooth wireless headphones is nearly indistinguishable from corded counterparts of the same product. And you may pick between two types: wireless and really wireless.

 

Like the Bose SoundSport in ears, wireless headphones include a connection connecting the two earbuds. There are no cords for connecting to a music source, and there are no wires between each earpiece with completely wireless headphones like the Bose SoundSport Free (see below).

 

We could go on and on about the advantages of wireless headphones – the feeling of independence, not being physically attached to a gadget, and so on – but why? It's a no-brainer: get wireless headphones if you can afford them. After all, practically every set of wireless headphones sold now includes a cable, so you get the best of both worlds.

 

However, there are two compelling reasons to use wired headphones. The first is that if you're a professional musician, sound engineer, or audio technician, you'll prefer wired headphones since they provide higher-quality audio and consistently superior sound — regardless of the environment. This is also true for audiophiles and/or anyone who lives for music.

 

The second major benefit of wired vs wireless is the longer battery life. Bluetooth is a constant drain on the battery, and there's no way of knowing when it'll die. (However, most wireless headphones will last 10 to 20 hours or more.)

Step 5: Noise cancellation.

Just a quick recap.

 

At this stage, you should have decided whether you want Over-Ear, On-Ear, or In-Ear headphones. After that, you may choose between an open back or a closed back design. You then considered the advantages of wireless and noise-canceling technology. Now it's time to focus on the little – but still significant – additions.

 

In 1978, a young firm called Bose took on the role of NASA, pitting its substantial resources against a complex noise-canceling technology that would take 11 years to perfect in its headphones. Today, that technology is just getting better, and Sony's version is so out-of-this-world fantastic that you'd swear they're utilising witchcraft or sorcery.

 

The true storey is that there are two types of noise cancelling headphone technology, both of which operate to block out external noise (such as the bothersome barking dog next door or children watching cartoons) so you can concentrate on your music. "Active noise-canceling" is a novel approach of eliminating undesirable noises by creating and tailoring new sounds to cancel them out. "Passive noise-reduction" is less costly, requires no power, and prevents unwanted noise by using insulating techniques.

Enough with the backstory. Here's how it works:

You're in for a pleasant surprise if you haven't purchased headphones in the previous three years. It's difficult to emphasise how much better quality headphones are with the newest noise-canceling technology inside — whether over-ear, on-ear, or in-ear. It all fades away, leaving only you and your music, whether it's the sound of a crowded plane or train interior, the city at night, the bustle of neighbouring office employees, or even the hum of light machinery nearby.

 

The greatest noise-canceling headphones are expensive (expect to pay upwards of $149), and MVPs like Bose and Sony are among the candidates for "best of noise-canceling."

 

Step 6: Add-ons, accessories, and options

There are a few methods to improve on a good item.

Amplifiers

The price of a headphone amplifier can range from $99 to $5000. (I'm sure Bruno Mars has the 5K version.) Why would you want one? A decent headphone amp may take your headphones from "wow, it sounds great" to "wow, Taylor Swift is lot better than I expected." How it works is as follows: A headphone amp will, among other things, access delicate low-level digital information that is frequently buried during recording. As a consequence, there's more clarity, a wider dynamic range, and amazing detail.

 

It's as simple as 1, 2, 3 to use a headphone amplifier. 1) Turn on the headphone amplifier's AC power. 2) Use the appropriate patch cord to connect the headphone amp to your device. Most amplifiers come with a variety of patch cables; simply choose the one that works with your device, whether it's a phone, tablet, receiver, or other device. 3) Connect your headphones to the new headphone amplifier. Done.

DACs

Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) is a term used to describe a device that converts digital data into analogue As a result of the compression, digital music in the form of an MP3 file lacks the detail and dynamics of the original analogue recording. A DAC, on the other hand, converts a digital file into an analogue file, which is considerably closer to the original studio recording. Although every digital music player includes a DAC, a separate, superior DAC will faithfully convert your audio files. As a consequence, the sound is better, richer, cleaner, and more precise. (A DAC requires a headphone amp to function, albeit most of them are amps as well.)

 

A digital-to-analog converter (DAC) sits between your device – whatever you use to listen to music (phone, tablet, mp3 player, etc.) – and your headphones. Your DAC is connected to your device by one wire, and your headphones are connected to your DAC by another cord. In a matter of seconds, you'll be up and running.

Stands & Cables

Many over-ear headphones will come with protective covers to keep them safe from dust, grime, and damage. A headphone stand, on the other hand, is a terrific alternative for exhibiting your gear if you listen to them regularly and want to show them off. Some manufactures supply replacement components if you need to upgrade your headphone wire or ear cups to maintain your headphones looking new.