Everything You Should Know When Buying a New Pair of Headphones
With so many different brands, models, types and varying prices, shopping for a new pair of headphones can be a challenging process, to say the least. Some headphones are ideal for loud, over-the-top basslines featured in today’s pop music, while others offer a more refined sound that treats all spectrums of the frequency with the respect they deserve.
Types of headphones
There are three basic types of headphones:
- In-ear and earbuds
- On-ear headphones
- Over-the-ear headphones
In-ear headphones are the ones you insert inside your ear canal. They completely seal off the listener from the environmental noise, which is why most people prefer to wear them when walking through the city, or taking a bus or a train ride. Some people don’t like the process of inserting the in-ear headphones, as it makes them feel uncomfortable to be completely cut off from their surrounding environment. If you’re one of those people, then earbuds might be the right choice for you, as they are far less intrusive when compared to in-ear headphones.
On-ear headphones represent the middle ground between in-ear buds and large, bulky, over-ear headphones. They are generally more comfortable than the in-ear option and most models can be folded and packed away when you’re not using them. Over-ear headphones might be the largest, but they’re also the most comfortable type of headphones. They are usually far louder than their smaller counterparts and offer a somewhat passive sound-isolation as they completely cover the ears.
When it comes to specialized headphones, the vast majority of them can be placed into one of the following three categories:
- Gamer headsets
- Noise cancelling headphones
- Wireless headphones
Gaming headphones, such as those offered by Razer and Steelseries are designed to improve the in-game sound experience by providing virtual surround sound or true 5.1 or 7.1 surround experience. According to gamers, this greatly increases their ability to identify and pinpoint the direction from which the audio is coming from. Most of the time, they are fine-tuned to enhance player dialogue and the in-game sound effects.
The trend of buying noise cancelling headphones has seen a sharp increase over the last couple of years for two main reasons: noise pollution is ever-present in the cities and the noise canceling technologies are only getting better. They work by using a small microphone to pick up the surrounding noise and producing an opposite sound wave to cancel out the noise. Have in mind that they don’t fare well with sounds that vary in frequency and intensity and are generally considered to be quite good for drowning out noise that is constant, such as airplane or bus engines, the hum coming from the air-conditioner, etc.
As their name implies, wireless headphones work without any cables or cords, which is ideal for those who tend to forget they have them on until they get up and feel the well-known yank of the cable. They are paired either by the base unit, in which case they work by either using infrared or radio frequency, or can be paired with a device using Bluetooth.
Open- or closed-back
When it comes to open- or closed-back headphones, the deciding factor is often tied to personal preference. Although open-back headphones offer a more accurate listening experience, they do allow sound to escape and as such, are generally better for indoor use. Closed-back, on the other hand, prevent other people from hearing what you’re listening to and as such, are better suited for outdoor use.
Other factors people consider when purchasing a new pair of headphones include the impedance, frequency response, imaging and sound staging. These terms are generally used to describe the amount of power needed to drive the headphones, the range of frequencies they can produce, as well as the quality of the produced sound stage. People tend to throw this terminology around, but ultimately miss the most important aspect of buying a pair of headphones, and that is the comfort. Make sure that the headphones you’re getting are a good fit for your ear and then worry about whether they can produce the accurate sound frequency.