The Complete Buying Guide for Headphones

Headphones started out as heavy and hideous metal gears used for military and aviation purposes. Today, they are as much of a fashion statement as a pair of cans, allowing you to enjoy your favourite tracks in private. Headphones suddenly sell like hotcakes. There are now various types of headsets to choose from, each having a one-of-a-kind design and multipurpose functionality.

Looking for the right pair of headphones can be tough and exhausting especially if you do not know where to start.  However, this complete buying guide for headphones will help you narrow down your choices and point you to the perfect pair that will suit your style and musical needs.

Buying Guide for Headphones – The Evolution of Headphones

The most beautiful thing about music is that it is ever evolving. Every time technology gives rise to a new headset gear, a fresh type of music is produced. Yet nothing is left behind despite the advancements. Even classical music found its way to the modern day and still stands as vibrant as it was centuries ago. These are all because of the dramatic materialisation of exceptional headphones in the market.

Big thanks to the technology that made headphones available  to the world, music lovers could jive to the beats and rhythm of the local opera house and jazz bars from the comfort of their own home. Folks do not need to purchase pricey tickets to enjoy good music.

Before the Walkman Generation came along and revolutionised the devices in the 1880s, the headphones weigh roughly ten (10) pounds and were often used by telephone operators. Comfort was minimal while sound quality was poor. The headphones could also cause shock to the user since they were connected to batteries. It was only in the late 20th century that headphones became a stay-at-home gears that are useful and comfortable during LP music listening.

Meanwhile, the latest generation of slimmed-down headphones started to inject high-resolution music or home-theatre sound directly into your ears in the 1900s.  Headphones enabled us to listen through stethoscope-looking gear and indulge in a seemingly live music performance. The first set of cans was manufactured in 1910 by Nathaniel Baldwin and was sold to the U.S. Navy.

In the 1950s, the first stereo headphones were introduced by Koss, promising worthy entertainment to ear canals. During this time, a full spectrum of sound was made available. A year after, the world’s first ever electrostatic pairs were launched in Tokyo, Japan. Since then, the headphone industry has been witnessing drastic improvements on the presentation and functionality of headsets. All of a sudden, ear cans had to be either portable or wireless. Styles suddenly varied from over-ear headsets to neckband gears. Supra aural headphones allowed the gear to sit on the ears, not around.

Cordless headphones followed suit. Manufacturers used infrared signal to allow the user wander around the house up to 150 feet without worrying about a cord. Then, ear buds and canal phones that fit just into the ear started to emerge in the 1990s. This new style help block external sounds that mess up the music experience. Technology also allowed headphones to send music to your ears the way you wanted it to sound. You can now eliminate ambient noises that spoil the fun of listening.

While headphones were originally designed to serve mainstream purposes, they serve other uses as well. You can use headphones to participate in webinars and watch videos from desktop. Today, manufacturers continue to revolutionise music and revamp technology to produce headphones that prioritise both style and sound quality. Indeed, headphones have come a long, long way.

They brought reform in the field of music and technology. Even more so, headphones made it possible for people to listen to their favourite songs without subjecting people around them to their musical preference. But headphones are more than a listening medium. With the right type and style, headphones can also be a source of fun and relaxation. In the 1980s, the first solution to people prone to headphone hair was presented – in-ear headphones. Both the ear bud and the in-ear headphone made their way onto the headphone industry in the 80’s. To this day some of the great headphones designs live on – see retro headphones.

However, it was only when Steve Jobs launched the white headset for Apple products that ear buds reached the peak of popularity. The tiny earpieces are either placed on the outer ear or inserted into the ear canal. Some models include clips to secure a more tailored fit. Using highly functional ear buds, you can listen to music and watch in-flight movie in maximum comfort. They are ultra compact and definitely lightweight. Some models even feature a microphone and track navigation controls integrated into the cord. Unfortunately, the sound quality and bass response of in-ear headphones are relatively lower in performance compared to full-size models. Some models are even difficult to insert and remove, making them less ideal for users who listen to music over long hours.

Buying Guide for Headphones – Different Types of Headphones

In-ear monitors

In-ear monitors (IEMs) have only been around since the late ’80s. They only became affordable about two decades ago, revolutionising the music industry in many ways. Basically, IEMs are ear devices used by musicians, audio engineers, and audiophiles to decipher music. They are also a great partner when listening to a personal mix of vocals and stage instrumentation for live performance or recording studio mixing. IEM is a monitoring system that provides various blends of audio sources to a performer on stage. Traditionally, floor monitors were represented by loudspeakers positioned on stage directed toward the performer. However, IEMs may be more distracting than helpful to the performer’s singing depending on the audio system.

In-ear Headphones Known as Ear Buds or Earphones

In the 1980s, the first solution to people prone to headphone hair was presented – in-ear headphones. Both the ear bud and the in-ear headphone made their way onto the headphone industry in the 80’s. However, it was only when Steven Paul Jobs launched the white headset for Apple products that ear buds reached the peak of popularity.

Ear buds are commonly given as freebie headphones with portable players. Although offered for free, they usually get junked in favour of higher-performance headsets that provide sound quality that can match full-size models.

The tiny earpieces are either placed on the outer ear or inserted into the ear canal. Some models include clips to secure a more tailored fit. Using highly functional ear buds, you can listen to music and watch in-flight movie in maximum comfort. They are ultra compact and definitely lightweight. Some models even feature a microphone and track navigation controls integrated into the cord.

With the right in-ear headphones, you can experience exceptional noise-isolation as well. They are also ideal with listeners who are wearing glasses, earrings, hats, and caps. It also shows no interference with your preferred hairstyle. A variety of ear tip sizes made from different materials is also available.

The sound quality and bass response of in-ear headphones has recently improved substantially compared to full-size models. In terms of technology, they have caught up with full-size headphones too, as there are many types of in-ear headphones. For more details, look at earbuds with mic, the most durable earbuds, earbuds for small ears, bass earphones and retractable earbuds.

Closed, Open, or Semi-Open Headphones

When you’re buying a new pair of headphones, check a buying guide for headphones. Closed headphones isolate you from the noise around you, while open headsets produce better sound at the expense of external sounds seeping through the cups. Choose depending on where you want to use them, and how much you need to isolate yourself from the undesired noises of the outside world.

Open and close headphones are almost the same in style. The headband rests on your head while the cups rest on top of your outer ears. On-ear headphones can be inexpensive portables or high-end home models. While on-ear headphones can have open or semi-open designs to cover the ears, some opt for fully sealed circumaural models. It has an excellent sound isolation that will not leak sound to people around you.

However, office employees still find open on-ear headphones more beneficial. They are ideal for those who see advantage from hearing the outside world. Additionally, on-ear headphones provide outstanding comfort. Compared to full-size models, they are less prone to overheating even when used all day. They underscore a microphone and track navigation controls attached on the wire. Extra ear pads are often provided by the manufacturer.

Full-size Headphones

Sound engineers and specialists describe this type of headphone as “circumaural.” This description encompasses any headphones with ear cups that completely enclose your ears. Because of their large size and excellent acoustic isolation, full-size headphones are often suited for home use rather than as a portable option during travels and commutes.

Since full-size headphones are relatively larger compared to in-ear pairs, they provide potential for maximum bass and loudness levels. The ear cups harbour larger sound stage, while the surround-sound feature effectively blocks unwanted external noises and seals music in. One relevant downside of full-size headphones is that some models have problems with overheating especially on the ear part. Also, the headband can often get in the way with earrings, glasses, and some hairstyles.

Bluetooth Wireless

Wireless headphones are often used in small apartments with thin walls that don’t permit loud media from speakers. They are also ideal for people who are always on the move, tired of a dangling cord getting in their way. No more tangled wires to trip you up. Also, Bluetooth headphones as a reasonable auxiliary device for workouts and portable use are relatively cheaper than high-end, full-size models.

The most popular format for translating wireless music is Bluetooth. However, there is a possibility of experiencing slightly poor sound quality as you prioritise the convenience in the file compression process. To counter this, invest in the latest headphones that support the aptX Bluetooth codec, which offers slightly improved fidelity in sound performance.

What’s disheartening about Bluetooth headphones is that the music automatically stops when your battery dies. Additionally, compressed audio files will leave your music sounding less vibrant and alive. In terms of hardware limitations, some models feature smaller buttons to control track navigations and volume.

Bass Headphones

Bass is the low sound that you hear in your music. It adds warmth and depth to your music listening experience. The headphones are better if they have better bass, but it still depends on what style of music you prefer. Some headphone manufacturers provide gears that emphasise the bass so you can feel the music thumping in your head. Music featuring more bass in it such as rock music obviously needs special bass headphones. These headphones are great if you are not very particular in having a well-balanced accurate headphone. Except for a couple of high-end models, in-ear headphones do not stand a chance against full-size headsets in terms of deep bass response or visceral dynamic range.

Headphones for Sports and Headphones for Running/ Sweat-Proof

Sports headphones are usually wireless or Bluetooth powered. They are sweat-proof and ergonomically optimised to suit you on-the-go lifestyle. Stay dazed by good music while running, jogging, and exercising. Sports headphones are perfect whether you opt for an indoor activity or outdoor sports.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

With noise-cancelling headphones, you can maintain privacy and concentration at work. Its anti-noise feature can reduce background noise, such as strong winds, airplane motor, and noises from public transportations. Noise-cancelling headphones do not completely eliminate the outside world, there are only better models that significantly hush the noise of airplanes’ air-conditioning systems. Such type is good for travelling on planes, trains, and buses.

Noise-cancelling headphones come in all forms and styles, from full-size to simple in-ear pairs. You no longer have to pump up the volume to overcome background noises.  You can now listen at lower levels and hear more low-level detail in your music, while significantly reducing pressure on your ears.

Noise Isolation Headphones

The idea of many in-ear and on-ear headphones is building a physical barrier between your ear and the unwanted sounds. This feature passively blocks out ambient sound. Fitted ear tips also play a role in sealing out external noise.

With over-ear headphones, the noise isolation is enough to soften the surrounding sound. With in-ear headphones, on the other hand, the sound reduced is based entirely on the quality of your headphone’s noise-cancelling feature and the ear tips.

DJ or Studio Headphones

There’s a significant difference between DJ and studio headphones. DJ headphones have a punchier bass and an extra sizzle in the treble. Their sound is more vibrant so it is easier to hear what’s happening in a loud environment. Meanwhile, studio headphones have a natural accurate response. The sound is controlled across the whole frequency range. This feature makes the music more suitable for mixing, recording, and other music arrangements.

Headphones with Microphones

Headphones with microphones allow hands-free usage. You can occupy yourself with other tasks while talking over your headset. It is also easier to take notes during a call.

Headphones for Gaming

Gaming headphones are engineered to cater to avid computer gamers. They are built to magnify the experience of chatting with your friends as you play. Aside from producing clear and balanced sound, gaming headsets are designed to provide comfort for long periods of wear. Some models offer virtual 7.1 surround setups.

Lightweight Headphones

When shopping for a pair of cans or earpieces, size and weight matters. For everyone who wears headphones from dusk until dawn, lightweight headphones are perfect choices. Sometimes you need to forget fashionable full-sized cans to attain comfort. The perfect headphones should be able to offer you three vital things: comfort, durability, and exceptional sound quality.

Waterproof Headphones

Plunge in the water with confidence with waterproof headphones. You do not need to forfeit the benefits of listening to music while working out and having a dip in the pool with your friends. Waterproof headphones are designed for sports enthusiasts who often partake in swimming activities and other sweat-inducing workouts.

Headphones for Kids

Headphones are not solely for adults to enjoy. Kids need headphones, too. This is why manufacturers started to build durable headsets for kids with small ears. But as an adult, you are responsible for protecting their hearing. Choose the cans that do not only fit your child’s head, also pick something that will not damage their ears. Choosing a pair of headphones for a child is more than the looks, durability, and cost. Know how the headphones will affect the child’s hearing.

If there is one accessory that people use on a daily basis that is almost as common as the smart phone, it’s probably headphones. It is now difficult to imagine a life without those gears. Whether they are the large retro headphones or form-fitting ear buds, headphones are truly a dominant accessory in the world today.

The headphones and other portable listening devices in use today are nothing like those that first emerged in the market. Technology allowed us to reap the benefits of full comfort, great style, and superb sound quality with just a pair of cans.

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