For anyone wanting to listen to music at home or office, or juicing up the workout at the gym, headphones would serve as the most suited accessory to have by one’s side. The same is the case with people wanting to enjoy their gaming or for those who simply want to look cool while enjoying their favourite tracks. The headphones can also serve to express a person’s lifestyle. While all headphones serve the same main purpose, i.e. they allow the user to play or stream music from either a music device or a smart device, they are available in the market in many different forms. The main categories of headphones which ar based on the way they connect to the music source are the Wired Headphones and the Wireless Headphones. However, depending on the design of the headphones and on how they ensure that the listener gets the best listening experience, they are divided into many types which are dependent on the way they are designed.
Wired headphones are connected to the music source, which could include phone, MP3 player, music streaming device, or any other type of audio gadget with the help of a cable or wire. This ensures a perfect sound quality, and at the same time, the headphones do not need to have a power source of their one. Instead of having an onboard battery, such headphones draw their power from the music device they are connected to. The cable that connects the headphones and the music device serves as both an audio cable and at the same time as a power cable for the headphones. The user has to ensure that the music device is powered as long as he/she would want to enjoy listening to music. If the headphones are connected to an Apple device, they use a Lightning Connector while all other devices use a 3.5 mm audio connector. In both cases, the power and audio are both provided to the wired headphones by the music source.
Wireless headphones are ideal for those people who are usually on the move, or those would like to listen to their favourite music while working out, playing sports or and carrying out other outdoor activities. There is no need to connect these to the music source using a cable. They use wireless technologies to connect to the music source. This allows the user to stay free from tangling wires and allows for greater freedom of movement. One can simply walk around the house while the headphones are connected to the music source wirelessly. The same is true for anyone playing a sport which is played inside a court or for anyone going through a rigorous workout.
Bluetooth technology is used by most of the wireless headphones. This technology enables the digital encoding of the audio signal as well as its transmission wirelessly; however, this is true for only short distances. Most of the smart devices these days are enabled with Bluetooth technology. These include laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. This built-in Bluetooth technology enables the headphones to be paired with the music source very easily and quickly. The latest version of the Bluetooth technology is Bluetooth 5.0; however, most of the wireless headphones available in the market are based on either Bluetooth 4.1 or Bluetooth 4.2 technology. Bluetooth 5.0 has been developed after Bluetooth 4.2. For Bluetooth 4.1 technology headphones, the music source needs to be within a range of 33 feet while for Bluetooth 4.2, this range is increased to 100 feet. Bluetooth 5.0, in turn, has a range from as low as 100 feet to as high as 1,000 feet. Moreover, it is fully downward compatible with Bluetooth 4.9, 4.1, and 4.2. Bluetooth 5.0 allows for connection of 2 wireless headphones to the same music device, e.g. a phone. The user can play or stream two different music tracks for both of these headphones, or it could also send the same track to both the headphone users.
Bluetooth is highly reliable and is very popular with users of smart devices for their headphones. Most of the smartphones, tablets and laptops have the Bluetooth technology enabled, and the users can always connect their headphones to these. They can enjoy non-stop music while engaging is some other activity or might even work on their laptops on other programs while they listen to music. The Bluetooth technology enables them to get up and move sound whenever required without the need to pause the music. Many users would want to use the headphones instead of the Laptop speakers to concentrate properly on a piece of audio. They have the option of using the Active Noise Cancelation technology, which is available on many headphones. This technology allows the user to shut off the outside world when required by the press of a button and at other timers to let in the outside sound and voices to remain alert to their surroundings.
The wireless headphones do not use a cable to connect to the music device. For this reason, they cannot take their power from the music device as well. These headphones need to have a power source of their own. The wireless headphones use rechargeable batteries for this purpose. Most of the time these are Lithium-Ion batteries which provide long play times and charge quickly as well. It is common to have playtimes of 8 to 10 hours, and there are headphones which can play music for as long as 30 hours as well. Many wireless headphones have the fast charge feature whereby they enable at least an hour or more of playtime after getting charged only for 5 minutes. There are others which might give a playtime of 2.5 hours on a 15-minute charge. This fast charging ability is ideal for those people who would like to go for short sessions of some activity, e.g. workouts or any sport which would last for an hour or hour and a half.
The wired and wireless classifications of the headphones was based on the connectivity of the headphones to the music source, i.e. how they connect. It has nothing to do with the physical or electrical design of the headphones. These types are related to how the headphones deliver the audio to the user. These types are described below, and these are valid for both wired and wireless headphones:
In-ear headphones are designed in such a way that they fit inside the user’s ear canals quite snugly. Most of the headphones that are suitable for sports or sporty activities are included in this classification. These headphones usually have got rubber or foam tips in various sizes. The need for multiple sizes arises due to the difference in the size of the ears of the prospective users as well as the shape of their ears. These earbuds create a very snug and secure fit inside the ear canal of the user. They need to be secure as the user is likely to move about while playing sports or going through his/her rigorous exercise or workout. There are quite a few models of headphones available which are designed for professional use, and these allow the ear tips to be ‘precisely’ molded for the ear canals of a particular professional user. These types of headphones, as a result of their ear tips entering the user’s ear canals, are ideal in terms of ‘passive’ noise isolation.
There are a few in-ear headphones that are connected through a band. This band sits on the neck of the user. This type of in-ear headphones is popular with those people who consider the band sitting on their necks as a more comfortable option as compared to the standard in-ear headphones described earlier. They think that these headphones would not disturb their hairstyle. They are also considered to be more suitable for those users whose headphones for long hours. It is also quite easy to put them on or take them off.
The earbuds, on the other hand, boast small drivers, which sit on the ridge of the user’s outer ear. The earbuds are, however, only able to deliver a lower level of fidelity as well as noise isolation as compared to several other types of headphones. They do carry a price advantage as they are highly affordable. Many portable music devices include such headphones as standard accessory in their packages.
These over-ear headphones are sometimes also referred to as ‘full-size’ headphones or ‘around-ear ‘headphones. The most prominent feature which these types of headphones have is the employment of cushioning around the earcups which encloses the ears of the user. AS far as sound quality disconcerted, these headphones are considered to be the best among all. These are also instrumental in keeping the outside world shut off to the user as they conveniently isolate the sounds of the outside that are a mouse to the user, especially if he/she is trying to concentrate on the headphone audio. As this feature comes about due to the earcup design and the cushioning over it, this feature is termed as ‘passive noise isolation’. Such type of headphones is very popular in language laboratories, or at other professional settings, etc. and serve the users very well at homes, offices as well.
These are quite similar in terms of their design to the over-ear headphones. However, the cushioning employed in the design does not enclose the ears of the user but sits on the user’s outer ear. These headphones, similar to the over-ear ones, deliver high-quality audio; however, their bass response is less as compared to the over-ear headphones. The same is true for passive noise isolation. These on-ear headphones do not isolate the outside noise due to the way they are designed and let this noise into the ear of the user. This way, the world cannot be shut out of the user is using these types of headphones. On the other hand, the music which is being played on the headphones can be heard by people in close vicinity of the user as the audio from the headphones is leaked out.
These headphones are unique in terms of their characteristics that they leave the ear completely open. They boast a cheekbone-resting wraparound headband which rests on the cheekbone just outside the ear of the user. This way, the ears are completely exposed and stay open. Most of this type of headphones employ sound conduction through bones. The audio from the headphones completely bypasses the eardrums as the ears are open and not in direct contact with the headphones. Instead, the audio is carried to the eardrum indirectly through the vibrations that occur in the bones that form the user’s head. As solids are great conductors of sound, the eardrum gets the audio without the sound travelling into it via the ear canals of the user. The user can enjoy his/her favourite music, and at the same time, the ears are completely open to letting in the sound s from the environment. Their applicability is ideal for those users who run or cycle and who must be able to hear the traffic on top of the music they are listening to. This enhances their safety without compromising on their ability to listen to music while they run on a cycle. Some headphone models of this type have been made specifically for underwater use allowing the swimmer to listen to music while swimming and still being able to stay alert to the sounds in the environment.
These headphones boast extremely solid as well as acoustically isolating earcups. These headphones are ideal in terms of isolating the noise from the surroundings. This would let the user make good use of this technology to manage a perfectly pleasing and immersive listening experience. The user can also enhance the bass response to the level he/she would love. This is quite the opposite to open-back headphones which deliver a flatter response, which is not preferred by the audiophiles.
The classification mentioned above of the headphones is based on the way they are designed. However, there are other ways to classify them too. They can be classified based on technology employed in their working. The wired and wireless headphones are also exampling of classification based on technology. The other types of headphones based on this criterion are described below:
These types of headphones are ideal when the user is outside, and there is a chance of rain or when the user is going through a rigorous workout or playing a sport and sweating at the same time. These headphones have got certain materials employed in their construction, which tend to repel water or sweat. The user is thus able to continue his/her workout in the gym despite the sweat, and also can continue walking in the rain while enjoying his/her favourite tracks. There would be no need to take the headphones off and wipe them on the way. The headphones are rated for being waterproof based on a rating scale which is called the IP rating which is the Ingress Protection rating (ability to stop the ingression of dust or water, etc.) or sometimes referred to as the International Protection rating. It is used for both protection against dust or water. The first digit after IP is for protection against solids. The second digit is for protection against liquids. For this reason, the waterproof rating is written as IPX4, IPX7, IPX8, etc. The digit X is not applicable as it is for solids.
IPX0 stands for ‘no protection at all’. IPX1 and IPX2 refer to protection against dripping water. IPX3 is protected against spraying water while IPX4 offers protection against splashing water. IPX5 and IPX6 refer to protection against water jets. IPX7 rated headphones are protected against immersion in water up to a depth of 1 meter for as long as 30 minutes. IPX8 is the ultimate rating which refers to protection against immersion in water at a depth of more than 1 m for as long as30 minutes. Lastly, the IPX9 rating means the headphones are protected against high-temperature water jets. The exact underwater depth is different for different headphones in the IPX8 waterproof rating models. Most of the waterproof headphones have an IPX7 rating while the very good ones have got an IPX8 or IPX9 waterproof rating.
These headphones have either got Alexa, Google assistant or Siri built-into them, or they can use these on the smart devices they are connected to. For those users who often use voice commands to interact with these voice assistants, it is better to use headphones with built-in assistants as compared to the ones that utilize the ones on the smart device. This way, the commands are executed better, and the user experience is superior. In the case of using the services on the smart devices, sometimes, the experience is not seamless as capabilities could get limited. The user can use these services on headphones with built-in assistants with the push of a button and can manage the playback of their music, get answers from the assistants and check messages as well.
While ‘Passive’ noise cancellation stems from the design of the headphones, e.g. the use of the earcups, the active noise cancellation technology utilizes a built-in microphone on the headphones which measures the noise in the surroundings and then utilizes ‘Total Noise Elimination’ (TNE) technique to create an ‘inverse sound wave which cancels out the surrounding noise. This way, the user hears only the headphone audio, i.e. the music being played, the audio book or the podcast, etc. Different models of headphones feature different degrees of noise cancellation technology. Some are s flexible that they can adapt the noise cancellation to what the user is doing at that time.
The wireless headphones as they are generally referred too are not 100% wireless. As an example, the earbuds are wired together. For them to be true wireless, they need to be made available in pairs of completely separate and wireless units of the product. One would be required for each ear of the user. In this case, there would be no fear of any entangling wires at all. With such types of headphones, the low-profile ones normally fit inside the user ‘sear canals. The higher-end models would tend to stay put by wrapping around the back of the ears of the user. For these separate units to get charged, the battery provided with the product can charge both the units simultaneously.
In many cases, it is extremely important to keep the volume of the audio at levels which are considered safe for the headphone user. This becomes even more important when a child picks up the headphone and starts listening to music. Volume-limiting headphones are designed in such a manner that they ensure that the audio level of 85 dB would never be crossed. The same protection might be very important for some adults as well.
These types of headphones can monitor the user’s health by measuring the heart rate of the user. This is done as the user listens to music, and the data is picked up from the ears of the user. There are some responsive headphones of this type, and they can feed audio cues to the user which help carry out the workout he/she is engaged in. These headphones are ideal for fitness enthusiasts as they allow them to keep track of their heart rates, and this is managed without them requiring an extra device. Moreover, there are quite a few biometric headphones which boast compatibility with such popular fitness apps as the RunKeeper. This way, the user does not have to carry a smartwatch or other similar device if the heart rate monitoring is the main function which is desired by the user.