1. headphone fitting types
In-ear headphones, also known as earphones or headphones, are the most common types of headphones out there. These are the types of headsets that are mostly included in the box when you buy a new phone.
This type of headset is one of the cheapest of the three types of headsets on the market on average.
Reading: Headphone buying guide 2020
They are highly portable and some can offer effective sound insulation from noise. Unlike over-the-ear or over-the-ear headphones that stand out when worn, these can be worn discreetly to avoid a lot of attention.
Although the sound of in-ear headphones can’t match that of in-ear or over-ear headphones, they sound just as good.
For sports, in-ear headphones are one of the preferred options. Its portable nature and lightweight design make it much easier to exercise. there are also advanced pairs of in-ear headphones that are designed primarily for sports activities.
For people with sensitive ears, in-ear headphones can cause discomfort. these headphones lack added comfort, especially when worn for longer periods. To minimize these negative comfort effects, you can try ear tips instead of standard silicone tips. For maximum comfort, you can customize the ear tips with your local audiologist.
pros: portable, better passive noise isolation cons: discomfort after prolonged use example: rha cl2 planar
Also called supra-aural headphones, which means over-the-ear headphones, they are headphones that are designed to rest on the ear.
On-ear headphones are in the middle of headphones, meaning they’re useful in most areas but masters of none. These headphones are not as portable as in-ear headphones, nor do they sound as good or comfortable as on-ear headphones.
However, the best pairs of in-ear headphones have a combination of portability, comfort, style, and better sound.
So, who are on-ear headphones designed for?
With the versatility these headphones offer, they would be good for someone who wants a little bit of everything in one package. They’re portable, foldable, and play better music than in-ears, but they’re also less bulky and cheaper than over-ears.
For a person who is on the go and would like better sound quality, on-ear headphones are ideal as they are less bulky and don’t stand out as much compared to on-ear headphones.
advantages: portable, very foldable for travel, better sound cons: strain on the ear after long listening sessions example: grade sr60i headphones
On-ear headphones are also known as circumaural or full-size headphones. These headphones feature large ear cups that fit the entire ear of most listeners.
With cushions that surround the ear, circumaural cans isolate outside noise from what someone is listening to improve overall sound quality. this will be useful if you want to keep a user more focused on doing a task because they won’t be easily distracted.
In addition to providing the wearer with a distraction-free environment, the circumaural style also keeps the sound out by preventing sound leakage, helping others around you not be disturbed by your music.
On-ear headphones are less portable due to their bulkier nature and more prominent build. however, they offer rich sound and superior comfort compared to other headphone designs.
For listening at home or in the office, over-the-ear headphones are a better option. I also wear over-the-ear headphones when I travel because I think headphones help with the pressure on the plane.
benefits: comfortable, better sound, expanded soundstage, larger battery size for a wireless type. cons: large, bulky, expensive, may require an amplifier to get the most out of them. example: focal light
For more information, a more detailed and informative guide to the three types of headphone fitting, please refer to the following article… headphone designs explained: in-ear, over-the-ear and over-the-ear
2. earmuffs design
Closed-back headphones are completely sealed at the back, so when you wear them, you’ll get less noise interference from the outside world.
Although closed-type earphones may not sound as natural as open-back earphones, they will surely block outside noise and give you a better listening experience even when used in noisy and crowded areas.
If you’re always on the go, whether it’s on a plane, your car, or a train, closed-back headphones are a solid choice. In addition, closed headphones can be used in the studio to record music.
The main concern when wearing closed-back headphones for a longer period of time would be heat buildup on the earpads, as they don’t have vents to let out excess heat generated around the ears. however, this can be easily fixed by removing the earphones for a few minutes when used for long hours.
Compared to open-back headphones, closed-back headphones won’t give you a better soundstage or live music effect, and this is mainly due to their closed-back nature.
I would also recommend getting closed-back headphones made from anti-resonant materials to ensure the negatives of listening to music in closed cans are reduced.
See our roundup of the best closed-back headphones on the market.
advantages: better sound isolation, cons: muffled soundstage, example: oppo pm-3
Open-back earphones, as the name suggests, have an open-back design to allow air to flow in and out of the earphones. with open earphones, pressure never builds up in the earphones, making them sound more natural, airy, and clear.
however, you will get better sound quality only in case there is no noise nearby. This is because the nature of the open back cannot block outside noise effectively; therefore, when used in noisy environments, you will hear everything around you.
Open earphones also cause interference by disturbing other people around you. If you are in the library, office, or sitting close to a person, sound leakage from the headphones, especially when listening at high volume, will cause discomfort.
Also, due to their open nature, these earphones tend to be more fragile than their closed counterparts, for example moisture or water can quickly enter sensitive parts and cause destruction.
Open-back headphones are good for home listening, critical listening, or listening to high-quality audio files. however, they are worse when you use them on the go, in noisy environments, on airplanes, or in the office.
We also have an article here on using bluetooth headsets on a plane and other wireless devices that you might want to read.
Read more about our best open-back headphones or, if you’re a gamer, our best open-back gaming headphones.
pros: better soundstage, richer audio for critical listening cons: loss of sound, example: philips x2/27 open-back headphones
Semi-open back headphones are headphones that open partially to allow air to pass in and out of the ear cushions.
While these types of cans have some advantages over open-type earphones, they also have their disadvantages. headphones with a semi-open back will let noise through and allow sound to leak out, though not as much as open-backs.
The semi-open design offers natural sound like the open back, but you also get similar sound isolation as the closed-type design.
Semi-open headphones are good for listening at home, but won’t work efficiently in noisy areas.
pros: improved soundstage, good noise isolation cons: sound leakage, example: akg k240studio semi-open studio headphones
Read more about open, closed and semi-open back headphone designs in this post describing the difference.
3. type of headphone drivers
Most headphones you come across use a dynamic driver.
Also known as a moving coil headphone transducer, dynamic drivers use alternating magnetic fields to create sound by displacing air. a dynamic driver is like a smaller version of the large drivers you usually see in home speakers.
A dynamic driver consists of three main parts that make up the driver, the neodymium or ferrite magnetic element, a voice coil, and a diaphragm attached to the voice coil.
For it to work, first, the magnet magnetizes the voice coil. when the moving coil receives current, it creates a magnetic field. Depending on the current flow, the moving coil is attracted or repelled towards the magnetic field. this, in turn, causes the diaphragm attached to the voice coil to move to displace air and ultimately create sound.
With simple working operation and low cost of materials used, dynamic drivers do not require a lot of power to work properly and therefore are cheaper in price.
however, being so popular, dynamic controllers come with their share of problems. one of the biggest complaints about these drivers is that they are very likely to distort audio at high volume. although this is true, with growing technology and good engineering, distortion in a dynamic driver is slowly being ironed out, especially with higher end models
advantages: cheaper, disadvantages: susceptible to distortion, example: sennheiser hd600
balanced armature (ba) drivers are smaller than dynamic drivers, making them only available on in-ear monitors (iem). however, balanced armature drivers are more expensive than dynamic drivers.
Balanced armature drivers lack bass response because they don’t displace air to produce sound. because of this, ba drivers come in combination with dynamic drivers to overcome this problem.
Balanced armature drivers were first developed for people with hearing aids. however, with improvements, ba controllers are primarily used by music producers for sound playback or when exercising due to their small and lightweight nature.
advantages: small and light, requires less power, premium sound. cons: expensive, needs additional drivers for bass response example: 1in-ear plus treble
Planar Magnetic, also known as “isodynamic” which means having the same strength or “orthodynamic”, a Yamaha marketing term, is a kind of cross between dynamic and electrostatic controllers.
Like dynamic drivers, orthodynamic headphones use the magnetic field around a conductor through which electrical current flows to drive the diaphragm. Like an electrostatic driver, a planar magnetic speaker’s diaphragm is a thin sheet of flexible transparent film, but unlike an electrostat, the film has very thin, flat electrical conductors.
Flat magnetic drivers have always been in the industry but have recently seen a resurgence with more prominent headphone brands like audeze, hifiman, oppo introducing new flat magnetic cans. In general, planar magnetic headphones are expensive, but most audio hardware manufacturers have introduced inexpensive orthodynamic headphones like the fostex trp 150 and hifiman he-400 that retail for under $500. /p>
Unlike other driver technologies, some flat magnets are better at reproducing bass. some will also manifest low non-linear distortion numbers.
Also, planar drivers generally behave as resistive loads for the amplifier, which can have some advantages.
however, most planar magnetic earphones tend to have low sensitivity values and may require a bit of current to get the most out of them.
orthodynamic cans tend to be a bit heavy compared to other driver technologies. learn more about planar magnetic drivers.
pros: low distortion, easy amplification, wide frequency response cons: heavy, example: audeze lcd2c
Electrostatic headphones or speakers are not only different from popular dynamic type headphones and speakers, but also use advanced principles to work.
many factors affect the sound of a headphone, what distinguishes electrostatic headphones is that the diaphragm, which produces the sound, is evenly placed over its entire surface. the driver is also lightweight, thus it has a fast transient response.
Electrostatic earphones are faster than any type of earphone. they also have a clarity that other headphone drivers can’t match.
The disadvantage of electrostatic headphones is that they are expensive. they put out great sound, but the price tags that come with them are not affordable for most people, for example the stax sr-009 headphones cost over $3000.
Electrostatic headphones require more power to deliver all their features. Because of this, owning an amplifier or “energizer” will be a requirement for the owner of an electrostatic headphone.,
Benefits: Low distortion, Great soundstage, Cons: Expensive, Requires an amp to get the most out of them Example: Sonoma model one headphones electrostatic
Bone conduction technology has been used for many years. one of the first users of this technology was the military. bone conduction headphones would allow communication on the battlefield without the user losing the sensation of ambient noise.
People with hearing problems and hearing loss can also benefit from this technology. Instead of sending sound through the eardrum, bone conduction headphones send audio through the bones of the skull.
Other uses for bone conduction headphones include:
- for diving
- for sport
so what is the difference between bone conduction headphones and “regular” headphones? In addition to using bone conduction, this technology also requires a power source to drive the transducers.
For people who are not hearing impaired, bone conduction hearing aids may not be the best option, but for people who are deaf and have hearing aids, bone conduction hearing aids help deaf people hear sounds without the need for surgery .
benefits: benefits people with hearing problems, keeps the ear free especially when training in traffic disadvantages: lacks good sound quality example: aftershokz aire trekz
read more about the six different headphone drivers
4. headphone connectivity
Technology has advanced in the world of audio, but while this is happening, most people, including me, still prefer wired headphones to wireless headphones.
Most people shopping for a new pair of headphones are torn between these two options, wired and wireless. Below, I’ll show you a few reasons why wired headphones may still be the best option for you.
To start, let’s take a look at the sound quality. For a long time, wired headphones have had the edge over wireless headphones when it comes to sound quality. While this might still be true, wireless headphones, especially Bluetooth headphones, have seen a considerable improvement in their audio quality. However, not all bluetooth headsets have the same high sound quality, and you would have to get higher-end wireless headsets to experience better sound. High-end wireless headphones are expensive, but if you’re looking to spend less and get better sound quality, wired headphones are still the best option.
Wired headphones also have advantages in terms of compatibility and battery life. Armed with a 3.5mm headphone jack, a wired headphone user has less to worry about headphone compatibility. When it comes to battery life, aside from some wired headphone models that come with a battery to power features like noise cancellation, wired headphones are completely battery-independent.
If you want some tips on how to prevent your earphones from getting twisted and tangled, please read this article.
pros: better sound, cons: keeping them on your phone example: beyerdynamic dt 990 pro
Wireless headphones have seen tremendous growth in recent years. this is because they allow you to enjoy your music or sound while being connected to your phone via cables.
Well, if you’re bothered by dangling cords between your headset and phone, a pair of wireless headsets would be a better option for you.
Most wireless headphones use bluetooth connectivity, which needs to be paired with the source so you can hear or hear sound wirelessly.
If you’re an audiophile who takes your music with you on the go, wireless headphones are the perfect solution. before selecting your wireless bluetooth headset,
- check for aptx capability which improves overall sound quality compared to standard bluetooth streaming.
- make sure the battery life is sufficient to last longer while using them.
Benefits: Wireless listening, sound quality is improving, Drawbacks: Rely on a battery for operation, example: sony wh1000xm2
Wireless technology has come a long way. In a research study conducted by Future Market Insights, it is estimated that the number of wireless headphone units sold by 2025 will account for more than a third of the entire market share.
For this reason, wireless technology has evolved over the years, and now true wireless technology becomes the newest in the industry.
So what is true wireless?
Unlike wireless earbuds, true wireless earbuds don’t have wires. to work, a master headphone is connected to the playback device and transmits the audio signal. the secondary earphone then connects to the primary earphone and receives the audio signal.
True wireless compares in many ways to wireless technology. the size of the earphones and the sound quality are more on the same level. however, true wireless earphones come with less power capacity with an average of 4-5 hours. To compensate for the low power, most true wireless headphone manufacturers will include a portable charging case that supports up to 500mah of power.
benefits: wireless listening, very portable cons: reliant on battery power, low power capacity example: enacfire e18 p >
5. headphone specs
There are different things you need to know when buying a headset, but what should you know about the frequency of the headset?
headphone frequency response is a measure of the headphones’ ability to reproduce all frequencies, i.e. bass, midrange and treble, from the lowest to the highest pitch.
The average human ear can hear frequencies between 20 hertz and 20,000 hertz. while most categories fall into this range, here at soundgearlab, we’ve tested headphones with higher frequency response up to 35,000 hertz.
so how does frequency response affect the quality of a headphone? the human ear can hear neither the lower frequencies 20000. but they do improve the overall listening experience of the headphones.
The approach to use when selecting your headphones should depend on the choice of music you listen to. For edm, reggae, bollywood, techno, and dancehall genres, I advise you to use low-frequency headphones. while lovers of pop, rock, and classical music genres can solidly choose high-frequency headphones.
When it comes to human beings, sensitivity is the measure of how much pressure a person can withstand in a situation. but headphones can also become sensitive.
so what is headphone sensitivity and how does it affect the sensitivity of your headphones?
Sensitivity is how effectively a headset can convert an electrical signal to an acoustic signal. this simple explanation indicates the volume of a headphone in different sources.
Sound sensitivity is measured in decibels (db) of sound pressure levels (spl) and the safe range for a headphone’s sensitivity is between 70db and 110db. the sensitivity of a headset is designed to prevent our ears from being damaged.
high and low sensitivity
With high sensitivity, better headphone driver performance is guaranteed without using much power. however, there may be potential for distortion at higher volumes, which could damage your ears or headphone drivers.
on the opposite side, low sensitivity headphones will require more power to drive the headphone drivers. but despite the power required to drive the drivers, low-sensitivity headphones last longer because they don’t damage the drivers. however, for better sound quality, headphones with low sensitivity should be paired with high power devices.
Learn more about headphone sensitivity and its effect on headphones.
high resolution audio
Hi-Res Audio, or Hi-Res Audio, has been slowly gaining popularity, primarily due to the launch of streaming products and services that support Hi-Res standards.
high resolution audio is a term used for audio files that have the highest quality of sound reproduction or in other words the sample rate must be higher than that of the cd which is 16 bit/ 44.1khz.
to begin with, when recording a file, it is in the range of 16 bits at 44.1 khz. popular mp3 files usually come at a lower speed of 64 to 320 kbps.
In addition to mp3, there are also other file extensions. lossless audio formats like flac, wav, alac and aiff. these are used for the highest quality digital recordings in studios. the file size of these formats is around 10-15mb/minute, which makes a lossless song 50-80mb, unlike mp3 which comes in at 3-10mb.
In late 2014, the Japan Audio Society (JAS) together with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) developed a standard for High-Resolution Audio. In the process, the Hi-Res Audio logo was designed to be used by any kit that supports the Hi-Res standards agreed upon by the Alliance. In addition to identifying Hi-Res Audio devices, the logo would also make it easier for consumers to make a better purchasing decision.
For headphones to qualify to be classified as Hi-Res, they must produce a top frequency of at least 40khz. That said, headphones were capable of producing Hi-Res sound long before the Hi-Res Audio logo.
But to experience High-Resolution Audio, you must not only have Hi-Res compatible headphones, but also lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound.
stereo vs. mono
In recent times, mono headphones have been discontinued mainly due to the popularity and versatility of stereo headphones.
what is a mono headset?
To start with, I guess you already know that mono means one. therefore, when it comes to monaural audio, the sound comes out of a single channel which is often centered in the sound field.
This means that when you get a headset that comes with monaural sound; each earphone will transmit an identical sound.
what are stereo headphones?
with stereo, two or more channels create the sound. a stereo headset creates the impression of surround sound because the sound produced appears to come from multiple directions
Which is better?
To decide which one is best for you, you have what you will use them for followed by other factors.
In my case, I would prefer stereo headphones to mono any day.
However, if you have one ear due to an accident, medical conditions, or any other reason, mono headphones will be fine because all multi-channel signals are mixed into one channel.
If you like games, need headphones to watch movies or listen to music, stereo headphones will come in handy as they offer a richer and more elaborate experience.
In other cases, when you’re listening to audio that doesn’t require stereo output, it’s better to go with mono mode as they are relatively cheaper.
Headphones come in different impedance levels, such as 8, 16, 32, and some up to 600+ ohms.
So what is headphone impedance and how does it affect the sound quality of headphones?
First, the headphone impedance is the power required to drive the headphones. the impedance is generally designed to obtain better volume levels at the expected voltage level driving the equipment.
In a nutshell, lower impedance powered headphones require little power to deliver high audio levels. while headphones with higher impedance power need more power to deliver high audio levels.
Low impedance headphones will work well with phones, portable music players, and other portable devices that have weak amplification. this is because low-impedance headphones are likely to turn off when using powerful amplifiers.
high-impedance headphones are slightly more durable but require higher signal levels to match the same output as low-impedance headphones. these high impedance headphones require a headphone amplifier to function properly. Here’s a list of the best headphone amps under $100.
so, before you buy a headset, check the equipment you’ll be using it with.
total harmonic distortion
Although the total harmonic distortion (thd) of a headphone is not that important when selecting your headphones, I would recommend choosing the ones with the lowest thd.
So what is total harmonic distortion?
When using your headphones at high levels, the driver/speaker may not be able to move at the fast pace required. this leads to sound distortion, manifested by musical notes popping, fading, or crackling.
how does the total harmonic distortion of a headphone affect you?
In general, headphones with a higher percentage of thd are more likely to be easily distorted. so, as I said before, if possible, look for a pair of headphones with the lowest noise possible.
In the headphone market, you will find headphones with different levels of thd. Most popular headphone manufacturers have a thd below 1%, while high-end headphones have a thd below 0.1%.
Formally known as USB Type-C, USB-C is a relatively new connector for delivering audio, video, data, and power.
Unlike the traditional 3.5mm audio port found on most electronic devices, USB-C improves music quality but slightly. noise cancellation is another benefit of the usb-c port. While you can get a great noise-cancelling headphone with a 3.5mm jack, USB-C offers a more reliable power supply and a slimmer form factor for noise-cancelling headphones.
usb-c comes with its advantages, but it also brings its fair share of disadvantages. a bigger disadvantage of usb-c is compatibility. Over time, more and more manufacturers will include USB-C interfaces with their headphones, but for now there will be a lack of compatibility between audio equipment.
so, before you select a type of usb-c headset, make sure your phone or audio equipment has a usb-c port to work with.
advantages: improved music quality, advanced hardware communication, noise cancellation capabilities, cons: not compatible with most devices at this time, example: libratone q adapt usb-c
You can improve the output sound quality of the headphones with an amplifier. In general, a headphone amp is more like the amps used to power larger speakers.
A few factors can determine if your headphones need an amplifier. but first, if you don’t have good quality headphones, a headphone amp won’t do you as much good. however, as the quality of your headphones increases, so do the possibilities of using a headphone amplifier.
Another factor that determines the use of a headphone amplifier would be the impedance of the headphones.
impedance in headphones varies widely. at the low end, the impedance is around 16 ohms and goes all the way up to 600 ohms. there are some headphones, such as the sennheiser hd424 that have incredibly large impedance values of over 2000 ohms.
generally, the higher the impedance, the more the headphones will benefit from an amplifier.
6. special headphone features
Whether it’s relaxing on the beach in a hot summer, wearing them in the shower, swimming or working out, waterproof headphones can come in handy if you want to keep your music going without worrying about water destroying the drivers. .
When it comes to waterproof or waterproof headphones, the main goal is to make it easy for you to take your music with you even when completely submerged in water.
There are different types of waterproof headphones. For a person who exercises, you can get a sweat-proof earphone, and this type may differ in style and design from other waterproof earphones. For swimmers, waterproof headphones like the H20 Audio Headphones are better, as they are supported and used by Olympic swimmers.
After years of testing, in 2017, Google, in partnership with Boise, finally introduced headsets that include Google’s voice assistant. functionality was first used with bose qc35 11.
a headset with built-in voice assistant can read notifications, read reminders, appointments and much more.
over time, the quetcomfort35 11 has grown to be compatible even with amazon alexa.
with this trend, the voice assistant integrated in the headphones is on the rise and could increase in the coming years.
however, the technology is not yet fully developed. As with the QC 35 11s, you’ll still need to touch a button to activate the voice assistant.
however, 66 audio is still the first wireless headset to activate the voice assistant using the “alexa” wake word.
apple has also been planning to include voice activation access to siri in its future airpods update.
microphone and controls
I bet most people prefer headphones that come with an in-line microphone and controls. these functions are not only mandatory, but also make our headphones easier to use.
Before you buy a new headset, you have the option to decide the types of in-line controls you’d like a headset to have.
Different types of controls come with a headset, and these controls will allow you to adjust the volume, mute the audio, skip tracks, or answer and end calls.
The number of controls also plays a key role in the ease of use of the headset. a headset with a control will be limited to just allowing you to play/pause, answer/disconnect calls, or change tracks. compared to two or three button controls, the latter being better, and will have more features that will differ between different headphone brands.
When selecting your headset, also be sure to check for compatibility issues with the headset’s microphone and controls with the device you’ll be using. Some earphones are only compatible with iphone products, so they won’t work with android or nokia systems and vice versa.
if you want to know where the microphone of the iphone 11, iphone 8 or iphone 12 is, we have articles to help you.
The use of biometric technology has been used for most years for identification or access control. Over time, biometric technology has also been incorporated into wearable technology devices to track information related to health and fitness, such as heart rate monitor, calorie output, step count, etc.
In the recent past, 2014, headsets, also called hearing aids, were also designed to include most biometric features as wearable wrist-worn devices. however, the earphones will have an additional advantage, such as hands-free calling, real-time audio commentary, and music playback.
The first biometric headsets to become popular were the Jabra Sports Pulse in 2014.
Because most people wear their headphones to the gym or when working out, brands have upgraded sports headphones to include biometric data like their wrist-worn cousins.
If you’re buying a headset to use in the gym or working out, then you should consider a headset that has biometric features to help you get the most out of your workouts.
With this headphone buying guide, I hope you’ll make a better, more informed decision when buying your first or next headphone. feel free to leave a comment below with suggestions or questions related to this topic and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.
If you’re looking for a headset for a teenager, you can check out this guide.