Are you looking to start your search for the perfect pair of headphones that will finally replace those cheap, lifeless earbuds that came bundled with your phone? Or maybe you’ve already invested in a pair that ended up not suiting your needs?
A lot of people may be fine with low-quality headphones, but if you’re reading this tutorial you’re one of those who want to enjoy a better listening experience, using headphones that are specifically designed for use while doing certain activities or that have specific features.
Whichever the case may be, I’ve put together this article to help you understand what makes a good headphone, so that you don’t have to keep spending money by going the trial and error route.
By the time you’re finished reading you’ll have an arsenal of information at your disposal to make the right choice, so let’s get started!
How to choose Headphones: Quick Guide
WHAT NOT To Do When Choosing Your Headphones
Common mistakes while choosing headphones may include:
1. Believing A Higher Price Tag Always Means Better Quality.
While in the majority of cases a higher price tag means better components and build quality, this may not always be true. Some brand-name headphones have exceedingly inflated prices merely because they are associated with a particular brand and don’t actually bring any superior qualities to the table.
2. Going With The Cheapest Of The Cheapest
On the same topic, you shouldn’t go with the cheapest headphones you can get your hands on either, because chances are you’re going to regret that decision very soon. Of course this can depend on each person’s budget, but if you can, it’s always best to wait a few months to save up for at least mid-priced headphones with half-decent specs. This way, you won’t be thinking about buying another set of headphones for quite some time.
3. Committing To The First Headphones You See On Local Store
Checking out your local audio store can be a great way of getting a better feel for different models of headphones. While it is a good idea, it’s inevitable that they won’t have all the headphone models available in the market, so you should also do your research online, no matter how hard the store salesman tries to sell you that “super high-quality set that’s about to run out of stock”.
Go home and do your research. After you’ve done your research and have made up your mind, go ahead and research some more, because you’ll very often find that you overlooked a model that you like even better.I’ll say it one more time, because it is of the utmost importance - Do heavy research before committing to anything.
4. Choosing Headphones Based On Looks Rather Than Specs
This is a typical mistake a lot of people make when looking at headphones either online or in a physical store. Choosing based on looks would only make sense if you were looking to buy headphones for style or fashion purposes. If however, you’re looking to buy headphones for how they sound, you shouldn’t really care what they look like. The best spec’d headphones around don’t look anywhere near what I would call stylish, simply because that isn’t their main purpose.
Look at the specs and if possible give them a listen with some of your favorite songs, and choose based on what you hear, not on what you see
5. Relying Solely On Other People’s Opinions
Still on the topic of choosing headphones by their sound, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t research reviews and ask your friends their opinion on certain headphones. This will certainly prove to be invaluable to your decision. But people’s opinions vary widely, and as so, you should always, and I repeat – ALWAYS – go with what sounds best to YOU.
If a set of headphones (A) sounds better to you than the set of headphones (B), even if (B) has a better spec sheet, I would advise going with the ones you like best, in this case (A).
Understanding Headphone Specs
What’s the best frequency response for headphones?
Frequency response is the measure of a headphone’s ability to equally reproduce all frequencies across the spectrum. In theory, a perfect frequency response graph would appear as a flat line at 0dB, with no hyped or attenuated frequencies.
The audible spectrum of frequencies, which ranges from 20Hz to 20000Hz (or 20kHz), is usually divided in 3 main regions – Low end/bass, Midrange, and High end/treble. No headphones are going to achieve a perfectly flat frequency response, which contrary to what you might think, can actually be a good thing.
Headphones have much smaller drivers than your typical Hi-Fi speakers, and so they can lack the ‘thump’ or physical sensation of a sound wave coming out of a speaker and hitting your eardrums. As so, for a pair of headphones to have a more “natural sound” to them, the Low end/Bass region should be slightly hyped (no more than 3 or 4dB) between the 40Hz and 500Hz zone, give or take.
The same goes for the High end region, but this time there should be a slight roll-off from 1kHz to about 8 or 9dB down at 20kHz. This compensates for the drivers being close to your ears, reducing exaggerated harshness and providing a more pleasant listening experience.
However, you may notice quite a few ups and downs (Peaks and valleys, technically) in the High end region of the frequency response graph. This is normal, but ideally, these peaks and valleys should be fairly small, averaging out to a flat line.
Exaggeration of these peaks and valleys, let’s say over 3kHz in width, can be viewed as either “coloring” of the sound or just plain poor headphone response, depending on the application of said headphones.
What is headphone impedance?
This is where it starts to get really technical, but I will simplify and try to break this down to bite-sized bits in terms of higher and lower impedances, so get ready.
Low vs High impedance headphones:
Headphones with impedance levels of less than 25omhs (approximately), are considered low impedance headphones. This means that they require less power to deliver a higher audio level. Taking this into account, a low impedance headphone will generally work well with low amplification equipment like your smartphone, mp3 player and other small portable devices.
Now, with high impedance headphones, approximately 25omhs and over, the tables are turned. This type of headphone requires more power from its source in order to deliver a higher audio level. Apart from making them exceptionally well protected from overloading damage, they are also usable with a wider range of audio equipment.
So which should you choose?
That entirely depends on the equipment you’ll be using your headphones with. Let’s say you’re starting a career in audio engineering, and you are looking for a pair of headphones to go along with your audio interface. In this scenario, chances are you would be better served with a pair of high impedance headphones.
Because you would be able to crank up the volume, as the audio interface would most likely provide the necessary amount of power, and not damage your precious new headphones. In the opposite scenario, if you were to connect very low impedance headphones to said audio interface and crank up the volume, they would most likely end up with damaged drivers – in other words, cause them to “blow out”.
Always do your research and at least have a general idea of the equipment you’re going to use your headphones with.
Stereo vs Mono
Here I’ll show you the simple difference between stereo and mono audio, which can sometimes cause confusion.
Stereo, or Stereophonic sound is something as simple as a high-fidelity signal that is comprised of 2 audio channels. In the case of stereo sound, each headphone earcup has the ability of reproducing different signals from different channels.
This can create the illusion of sound coming from multiple directions inside the headphones. Mono, or Monophonic sound, on the other hand is stripped of all channels but a single one, with the totality of the sound coming from a single direction, and with both earcups reproducing exactly the same audio content.
Therefore, mono audio can lack a sense of spaciousness or “size”. Bear in mind that most headphones will be able to reproduce either mono or stereo sound, as it is in the source that the audio signals will be sent through either one or more audio channels.
What is a good sensitivity for headphones?
Here’s the technical definition:
Sensitivity describes the decibels of sound pressure level, or dB SPL, that are produced when a certain wattage is applied, and is measured in dB SPL/mW (Decibels of Sound Pressure Level per milliwatt where 1mW=0.001W).
Put simply, sensitivity is how effectively a headphone converts electrical signals into acoustic signals, or even simpler, how loud the headphones will be for a given level from the source. Generally, the sensitivity of most headphones ranges from 80 to 125dB SPL/mW.
To put these values in perspective, 80dB is equivalent to the sound of a busy street, while 125dB is close to the sound of a jackhammer. On the same subject, there is a line that once crossed can result in permanent hearing damage in case of prolonged exposure. This line is called the Threshold of Pain, and it’s situated at 120dB.
Let me give you an example. Let's suppose your headphone’s sensitivity is 125dB SPL/mW.
This means that 1 milliwatt of power will generate 125dB SPL, which is over the threshold of pain. Needless to say, you should avoid prolonged exposure at all costs if you want to preserve your hearing abilities.
So, technicalities aside, you are now probably asking yourself “Ok, I understand the theory behind headphone sensitivity, but which one is actually better for me? Higher or lower sensitivity?”
Well, much like impedance, this will depend on the device you’ll be using you headphones with, but I can give you some pointers that should help you choose the right fit for you:
When you are looking at different headphones to determine the right sensitivity level for your audio device, the first step you have to take is look at the power output of your device. This will help you match up your headphones with your device in the best way possible.Let’s take a look at some examples:
If your device has a lower output level, like most smartphones or mp3 players, you main want to refrain from using low sensitivity headphones as this will result in a low SPL/mW, and most probably lead to increasingly distorted audio as you crank up the amplifier level.
This is known as “amplifier clipping”, which is when the device’s amplifier tries to deliver power beyond its capabilities. There is, however, an upside to lower sensitivity headphones, which is that they are harder to reach an overloaded state, and thus harder to damage.
On the other hand, the higher the sensitivity rating, the better your headphones will respond to a wide range of power outputs without requiring a lot of power for good performance.
High sensitivity headphones tend to get along well with low output sources, low sensitivity headphones are better matched with high output sources.
Soundstaging and imaging
Soundstaging and imaging are two concepts that are very commonly mixed up by those who aren’t very knowledgeable in the ways of sound.
So, in order to clear up any doubts that you may have regarding this topic, let me give you the exact definitions of these concepts:
The soundstage, as the name suggests, is the perceived “stage” in which the audio is being played from. You can imagine it as the actual physical stage where a band might be playing. The soundstage refers to the height, width and depth of this perceived auditory 3d stage.
Imaging, on the other hand, refers to the placement of the instruments or other audio sources, and how well they are individually defined inside the perceived 3d soundstage. Simple, right? There isn’t much more to it really, so I hope that cleared up the matter of soundstaging and imaging for you, so you can make a more educated decision when choosing your headphones.
What is the effect of driver size in headphones?
First of all, what is a driver?
A driver is an element inside your headphones that is in charge of converting the electrical signals it receives into acoustic energy. You could say it’s just like a tiny loudspeaker inside your headphones, there being of course one for each side.
There are different types of drivers, but they all consist primarily of magnets, voice coils and a diaphragm. As the diaphragm receives electrical signals, it vibrates and produces acoustic energy; our eardrums receive this energy, which is in turn decoded back into electrical signals in the brain, and thus allowing us to interpret these vibrations as sound.
So, are bigger drivers better than smaller ones?
A bigger driver will most probably have the ability to reproduce lower frequencies than a smaller driver. Although this may seem like a good thing, it also has a downside. Bigger drivers have the ability to move more air, thus delivering louder bass, but this bass isn’t going to be as punchy or sound as nice as it would when reproduced by a smaller driver.
At a certain point, the sheer size of bigger drivers can also begin to cause treble roll-off or distortion. So, in sum, bigger drivers may be able to reproduce a wider range of frequencies, but at the cost of punchiness and overall accuracy. However, this is no exact rule, as the quality of the materials, engineering and construction quality are what will dictate the final overall quality of the driver.
Now, as you have probably noticed over the course of this tutorial, acoustics are an often complicated matter, involving a lot of variables, so you should always take specs with a grain of salt. If at all possible, it is always best to go ahead and try a couple of different headphones before you commit to buying anything, because what ultimately matters is your own opinion and personal taste.
Total Harmonic Distortion
The goal of any headphones is to reproduce whatever signal it receives as faithfully as possible. But in truth, this is almost always not the case, as the sound will most likely be altered by all the components that go into building a headphone. This alteration is what is called distortion.
To give you an example, imagine if you would feed a pure 1kHz tone into a pair of headphones and perform measurements on the output. You would notice that there is some energy appearing at 2kHz, 3kHz and so on. These extra frequencies would be distortion of the original signal.
The total harmonic distortion is expressed as a percentage, and as a general rule, the lower total distortion your headphones have, the better. For perspective, most consumer level headphones have a Total Harmonic Distortion of less than 1%, where high-end “pro-sumer” and professional headphones have even less than that.
However, this is also the case where your ears are going to be the ultimate decisive factor, as in fact, a lot of extremely good sounding headphones have significant amounts of harmonic distortion.
Did you ever pick up a pair of headphones on your local audio store and thought “Hey, these headphones are incredibly light, I wonder if they’re any good? They just feel cheap and flimsy…” I myself am guilty of this erroneous assumption, and let me explain why you shouldn’t always be so quick to “judge a book by its cover”.
In general, we would assume that a pair of lightweight headphones wouldn’t be capable of delivering the thumping performance of a weightier pair, but this can actually be very far from the truth. So don’t be fooled by this, and make sure you use the one sense that actually matters when choosing headphones – listen to them, and you may be amazed.
If you don’t have a chance to listen to them, at least read the specs and try to get a better understanding of the product before you make any wild guesses. Some brands offer lightweight products for the “on the go” consumer, or for those who dislike the feeling of having a big pair of weighty headphones on their heads. My personal preference lies with the weightier headphones, but yours may certainly differ.
So when choosing your headphones, after you listen to them and check the specs, be sure to try them on for about 10 minutes or so to get a feel for their weight.
Different Types of Headphones
IEMs and Earbuds
IEMs, or In-Ear-Monitors, are named by their manner of placement in the ear, being specifically designed to rest deeper in the ear canal. On the other hand, Earbuds are designed to rest in the outer part of the ear, and are a very popular type of headphone among consumers.
But what are the pros and cons of each type?
In Ear Monitors
- If fit isn’t perfect, sound quality can suffer immensely.
My suggestion: Sennheiser Momentum M2 IEi
Only come in one size, and no possibility for tip exchange-ability except for the foam covers.
- Sound quality isn’t top-notch in cheaper earbuds, having to spend more for quality sound.
My suggestion: Sennheiser MX 365
Having small drivers, both (IEMs and Earbuds) tend to lack in the bass department but make up for it in portability.
On Ear Headphones
On-ear headphones are a type of headphone that rests on top of your ear, typically with foam pads for added comfort.
Bulkier than earbuds/IEMs.
- Bigger drivers will possibly lack punch in the low end and clarity in the high end.
My suggestion: AKG Y50
Over Ear Headphones
Like on-ears, the over-ear headphones are designed to be comfortable. They rest over your ears, covering them entirely.
Even bulkier than on-ears, taking up quite a bit of space both on your desk and on your head.
My suggestion: AKG K550
Open vs Closed vs Semi-Open Headphones
Closed headphones have a speaker mounted on a solid cup, which gives the advantage of isolating you from exterior noises, like in a loud mall for example. They also work the other way around, meaning that if you’re sitting in a quiet place and you want to blast some loud heavy music without the person sitting next to you listening to it, closed headphones are the way to go, as they will block most sound leaking to the outside.
This type of headphone is also great for monitoring. If for example, you’re playing your guitar through your headphones and want to be isolated from the direct sound coming from the instrument itself.
If you are using a microphone, this type of headphone is also a great choice as it will prevent the microphone from picking up any sound leaking from the headphones. This is a scenario often seen in the gaming world.
By contrast, open headphones have perforated earcups which allow air to freely pass in and out. As the name suggests, this makes for a more spacious and natural sound, which unlike closed headphones, creates the illusion that the sound is coming from outside the headphones as opposed to coming from inside your own head.The disadvantage to open headphones is that everyone around you can hear the sound coming from your headphones almost as well as you can, and it also doesn’t provide any outside noise isolation.
Semi-open/closed headphones, according to some people are just another marketing gimmick. They think because there isn't any proper definition regarding semi-open headphones. But that's not entirely true.
They're a combination of both of the above headphones' types. A semi-open headphones pair will give you more noise isolation and less music leak than open-backed headphones; but less noise isolation and more music leak than closed-backed headphones.
On a technical side, semi-open headphones also tend to have attenuation in-between open-backed and closed headphones.
Wired vs Wireless headphones
This is a delicate subject, and there is heated debate about the faithfulness of audio reproduction using wireless headphones. Personally, I have always used wired headphones because I simply don’t find that having an extra cable around is that much of a hassle, and I enjoy having consistent quality to my audio.However, I’ll provide you with facts that will help you make your own personal decision.
There are a number of factors in play when discussing wireless headphones
Traditional wired headphones use copper wiring as a freeway of sorts to receive electrical signals from your device. This is a lossless way of “communication” between the device and headphone, if you will. This is where the main problems of wireless headphones lie, and let’s see why. The majority of wireless headphones use 2.4GHz Bluetooth, which was not designed to stream high-definition audio.
This ultimately results in digital compression of the original signal, which means that when the audio reaches your headphones it will have lost a percentage of its original sonic qualities. In addition, Bluetooth uses the same frequency as many other common appliances such as microwaves, phones and even your wi-fi signal. This can result in audio drops, which can be a real bummer if you’re trying to enjoy a nice, immersive piece of music.
With wired headphones, your range will obviously be limited by the size of the cord, and that’s pretty much it. No more, no less. When it comes to wireless headphones however, the range may vary significantly. These variations can be due to receiver/transmitter pairing or Bluetooth class used.
So let’s break this down a bit:
Usually, Bluetooth wireless headphones will be using class 2 Bluetooth which has a maximum range of about 30 meters, although you can also experience significant drops in this value. The seemingly logical reasoning would be that a pricier pair of wireless headphones would get a better signal, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case, as the Bluetooth transmitter also factors in here.
This means that if you’re using an outdated phone with Bluetooth, chances are you’re not going to notice that much of a difference in range using the pricier pair. Class 1 Bluetooth however, will yield a much more efficient range of about 100 meters, but this technology is usually present in devices which draw out more current, like your laptop for example.
Again, this is also a point in which wireless headphones can fall short. Looking at 2 pairs of headphones, one wired and another being wireless, chances are the wireless ones are going to be much pricier, even if the specs of the two pairs are in the same ballpark. This is due to the wireless technology that needs to be installed into the headphone by the manufacturer, leading to higher priced components and labor costs, and ultimately a higher final price tag for the consumer.
This is where the wireless headphones really outshine their wired counterparts, and it’s one of the top reasons why people are willing to pay more for them.
Did you ever found yourself furiously trying to untangle your headphone’s cord to answer that really urgent skype call from your boss?
Or maybe just taking your headphones out of your backpack to listen to a quick song on the bus, only to find yourself arriving at your destination while you’re still working through a tangled mess of cords?
Or even worse, forgetting you have your headphones on and rushing out of your chair, sending your laptop crashing down onto the ground because of that damned headphone cord. I’ve had all three of these examples happen to me, and chances are you’ve also been through a similar situation, which could have easily been avoided if you had picked up a pair of wireless headphones instead. The clear winner in terms of portability is undoubtedly the wireless solution.
Different Headphone Features
Noise cancelation and sound isolating
Noise cancelling headphones, as the name itself suggests, use a certain type of technology in order to dissipate or effectively cancel noises coming from outside your headphones that might otherwise interfere with your listening experience.
Tiny microphones in the earcups listen for outside noises, which then have their phase reversed and are sent back into the output of the headphone, therefore canceling the noise.
A very easy way to understand this phase induced cancellation is to look at it as a simple equation: 1+(-1)=0 ; where 1 represents the original outside noise and (-1) is the phase reversed version of that noise.
Sound isolation, on the other hand, is achieved by the construction materials or design of the headphone itself, where a seal is created against your ears. Good examples of this are some IEM models.
My Headphone suggestions:
Noise cancelation – Bose QuietComfort series
Sound Isolation – Beyerdynamic DT 770 M
“Adaptive” or “Adjustable” noise cancelation
Noise cancelling technology comes in two flavors for you to choose. With adaptive noise cancellation, the headphone speaker output will automatically balance signal quality and noise cancellation for the best outside noise/actual signal ratio when you are actively listening to music.
Alternatively, when nothing is playing on your headphones, the noise cancellation will be heightened automatically in order to try and reduce the majority of the outside noise and provide a silent environment. Adjustable noise cancellation lets you adjust the amount of outside noise you want to have canceled out, which gives you more control.
This may be beneficial if you want to be more aware of your surroundings for a particular amount of time, and then have the noise cancellation back up again when you want to be fully immersed in your audio.
If you’re planning on listening to music into your old age and preserve the best of your hearing abilities, it’s wise to stick to lower volume levels, especially with headphones. Some headphones have volume limiting abilities for that exact reason, and they provide you with a safe maximum volume of 85dB no matter how much you try to crank up the volume. These are a good choice for kids’ headphones, as they will help protect their hearing.
My suggestion: Puro BT2200
Bone conduction is a type of audio propagation that uses the bones of your face and cheeks in order to pass the vibrations directly onto your inner ear, thus bypassing the eardrum. This is extremely efficient, as audio propagation gets better with the density of the material it is propagating through.
This means gases are at the very end of the spectrum, followed by liquids and then solids. With bone conduction headphones, you will be able to listen to your music with crystal clearness while still listening to all the outside noise via your eardrums, which makes this type of headphone excellent for joggers who may want to be extra aware of their surroundings.
My suggestion: Aftershokz Trekz Titanium
Biometric headphones are also great for use while exercising, and they are getting more and more popular among exercise enthusiasts. This is because you can comfortably listen to music while at the same time being able to track biometric information, like distances traveled, calories burned and even your heart rate.
This type of headphone usually comes paired with a smartphone app that allows you to monitor your stats, and even send audio cues to your headphones to warn you when it’s time to take a break, for example.
My suggestion: Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition
Surround sound in headphones is achieved by employing 2 different methods. Some headphone models actually use multiple drivers inside each speaker enclosure in order to reproduce the different channels in multichannel surround formats, although a lot of people tend to have negative experiences with this method in regard to overall sound quality.
The other method relies on the use of a sound card, home-theater receiver or a pre-amp capable of surround sound DSP, which stands for Digital Signal Processing, to try and emulate the sensation of direction present in true surround sound while using any headphones with the traditional number of drivers – 1 for each speaker.
My suggestion: Sennheiser GSP350
Microphones and controls
Microphones are usually going to be found in gaming headsets, usually mounted on a tiny “stalk”-like arm in front of your mouth. This allows you to talk to other people, whether you’re gaming or talking to someone on Skype. Some headphones might even have dedicated controls mounted on the cord itself.
These usually give you the ability to control your track status and volume, or if the headphones are bundled with your phone, chances are they’re going to have an extra “Answer Call” button. Naturally, in wireless headphones these controls will be somewhere on the headphone itself as there is no cord to attach the controls to.
Different Headphones For Different Purposes
Sports and fitness headphones
Fitness headphones are headphones that are specifically designed for use while you’re jogging, playing some kind of sports, going to the gym or doing any other activities that involve a lot of movement. With this in mind, these headphones are typically lightweight, comfortable, and do their best not to interfere with your activities.
You should definitely do your own testing of various models if possible, but as a general rule, IEMs are going to be your go-to fitness headphones, as these types of headphones are typically lightweight and plug directly into your ears in a tight fitting manner, providing a good resistance to body movement in order to keep them from falling out of your ears.
In this sense, you should go the extra mile to find the perfect IEM tip that fits your ear perfectly. You can also go the wireless route if you don’t want to have the headphone cord bouncing around while you exercise
My suggestion: Soul Electronics Flex
For home entertainment
Let’s say you’re a movie enthusiast, and you love to sit on your couch, grab some popcorn and spend the afternoon on your day off watching movies.Or maybe you just want to turn on your stereo and listen to a couple of CDs.
Whichever the case may be, there are a number of features you may want to look at. Noise cancellation is a plus, blocking incoming noise from the outside and allowing you to be focused on your movie/music. Going wireless may also be a good idea, so that you can lie down and wrap yourself in a blanket without the hassle of having a cable tangle around your neck.
Choosing a headphone with a good frequency response will provide you with better immersion, especially if they have a slight hype in the bass region, so that you can truly experience the sound of that huge explosion in the movie, while the hero walks toward the camera without looking back.
My suggestion: Sennheiser RS165 Power Acoustik HP-902RFT
Whether you work in a busy office or in a quiet noise free environment, chances are you’re going to have your coworkers close to you. If you fit in the scenario of a noisy office space, you will most likely benefit from noise canceling technology in your headphones, so that you can focus solely on your assigned tasks and avoid distractions.
While this is true, you should also bear in mind that your colleagues may want to speak to you from across a room, and with noise canceling headphones you may end up not being able to hear them. In the event that you work in a quiet space with other coworkers, you are going to want to be mindful of the sound your headphones may be leaking to the outside, which can possibly annoy the other workers or mess with their focus.
Given that, closed headphones with good isolation will be the best solution to avoid such a scenario.
My suggestion: Bose QuietComfort line
If you’re one to travel frequently, either just around your own city or around the world, you’ll want to invest in a pair of headphones with some specific qualities.Noise cancellation and comfort are going to be your main focus points here.
Firstly, the noise cancellation will help you get immersed in your audio as it will cancel the outside incoming noises from traffic, airplane takeoff, or people on the streets. So if you want to take a nap during your flight, you can do so without any extraneous noises bothering you.
Secondly, a pair of comfortable headphones is a must if you want to be able to relax while you travel, so look for over-ear headphones with good foam pads to keep your ears and head nice and comfortable.
My suggestion: Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b
Let’s face it, a lot of people want to look apart. And if you’re one of those people, you’re all about the style. You’re going to want to choose something that blends well with your personal style, and you’re in luck because there are a number of brands that sell super-stylish headphones with various designs, colors and sizes.
If you want your headphones to be flashy and noticeable, you may want to invest in colorful over-ear headphones which are bigger in size. Or maybe you prefer a slicker, elegant design? Then a pair of subtle earbuds will probably fit your liking. The search may be a bit daunting due to the sheer size of this particular market niche, but do your research before committing to anything and you won’t be disappointed.
My suggestion: Beats by Dre
We, audiophiles, are all about sonic perfection, and as so, we want only the best of the best when it comes to specs and components.Headphones that are designed for audiophiles are usually built with top of the line components to achieve the pristine sound our ears demand in order to truly enjoy a piece of music.
Much wider dynamic range, extremely low Total Harmonic Distortion and an extended frequency response are what you’ll find in these types of headphones, enabling you to listen to music as the audio engineer originally intended.
Of course, although these superior components and build quality provide extremely high fidelity sound reproduction, they also ramp up the price significantly. While this is true, a similar spec’d HiFi speaker setup would have a much higher price tag, so while audiophile headphones may not be packed with functionality or even be the prettiest around, you can’t beat them in terms of high fidelity audio reproduction.
My suggestion: Sennheiser HD-800 and Sennheiser HE-1
If you do live DJ-ing, or just like to practice at home, you’ll want to invest in a quality pair of headphones specifically designed for that purpose. This means having swiveling earcups, in case you want to hear how your mix is coming out on the PA system while still having one earcup safely installed on your ear to monitor the next incoming song.
A high quality, possibly coiled headphone cord will also prove to be a good add-on, as you will probably be moving around a bit, and this can prevent the cord from tangling in the middle of your show. If you’re going to be DJ-ing a lot of electronic dance music, you should also look for a linear frequency response across the spectrum, with a slight hype to the low end, as a lot of electronic music relies on sub-bass frequencies that can be harder to monitor through headphones
My suggestion: Sennheiser HD25
As a gamer myself, I do like to have a set of headphones that meet the optimal standards and functionality for this purpose. A high level of comfort is a must, as you’ll probably be spending multiple hours at a time with your headphones on, so good quality foam padding is highly desirable.
If you’re going to be playing multiplayer games, chances are you’re going to want to communicate with your team members, so it would be wise to invest in headphones which have an incorporated high quality microphone so that you can be heard loud and clear, leaving no chance of misunderstanding.
If you’re going with the headset type headphones, its best that they also are of the closed earcup type, so that there isn’t any sound leakage that can interfere with your microphone. Noise canceling functionality will also prove to be a welcome addition, so that you can keep your focus on the game and not be distracted by outside noises.
My suggestion: Steelseries Arctis 7
Things To Look For In Headphones
When looking for a pair of headphones, always be sure to have some main points in mind in addition to the other factors we have discussed in this tutorial:
Are the headphones durable?
Are those $500 headphones going to last 2 months before the cord breaks or the driver blows out? If so, I would say it isn’t a very prudent investment, as you’ll end up spending more money than if you had bought a more durable item, even if for that you would have had to either sacrifice a few points on other specs or spend a few extra bucks.
Are they comfortable?
If you can’t have your headphones on for more than 20 minutes before starting to feel pain or discomfort in your ears and head, I would also advise to either sacrifice other spec points for better comfort or spend a little more money on more comfortable headphones that will allow you to listen for extended periods of time without any pain.
Do they sound good?
Although subjective, this is without a doubt the million dollar question.You have really comfortable, durable, awesomely spec’d headphones, but do they actually sound good to your ears? If not, then all those specs aren’t going to be worth a dime, because you simply won’t be able to enjoy your favorite albums or movies.
I’ve said it a number of times throughout this tutorial and I’ll say it again – Do your research and test-listen before you commit to buying.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found everything you need to make an informed decision when choosing your new headphones.
As a music-lover myself, having prior in-depth knowledge of the concepts present in this tutorial was invaluable to sift through all the different models on the market and make the right headphone choice for my personal needs.
So, even if you didn’t have any previous knowledge of acoustic theory or how to understand all the different and often technical and complicated headphone spec sheets, now you can safely choose the headphone that is right for you based on what you learned here.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and also feel free to share the article on social media if you liked it and if you think it may be of value to your headphone-seeking friends.