For anyone planning to buy headphones, the experience might turn out to be similar to the one when buys a car. There are lots of different types of headphones, and there is a lot of information out there as well. There is misinformation as well, and therefore, it becomes crucial to do some research and homework before one embarks upon purchasing a pair. Pre-purchase research will be highly beneficial and will make the difference between getting pure, the immersive pleasure of high-quality audio or conversely, feeling in the dumps when stuck with a headphone that does not provide the required quality if sound and causes ear fatigue as well. One must also be careful not to get ripped off while purchasing these and ensure that one gets all the features that one is paying for. Many people have very special interests and may want to buy more advanced gaming headsets. Therefore, from the very simple headphones that provide good quality music with deep bass and a rich treble to ones that are ideal for gaming and watching Action /Thriller movies on Netflix, there are a lot of headphones that lie in between.
Factors to Consider
There are lots of different types of headphones, and they have various forms and designs. The overall form factor of the headphones is important because the choice of the purchaser will depend upon his/her preference for one of these forms. There are in-ear, over-ear, and on-ear headphones, and one needs to choose one of these forms first. Similarly, the design of the headphones is also an important factor to consider. ‘Design’ here does not refer to how it is artistically designed and whether it is elegant, sleek, or appealing, but refers to the basic design format in the sense whether the headphones have an open-back design or a closed-back design. The listening experience for these two different designs could be huge, and the purchaser needs to know exactly what he/she is looking for. Another very important factor to consider is whether the headphones are wired or wireless and whether they have support for Voice Assistants like Siri or Google Assistant. Many come with built-in Alexa. Finally, brands are an important consideration as well. Many people would feel safe to stay with such brands as Bose, Sony, Beats, Sennheiser, Shure, and Audio Technica, while others might feel quite comfortable with other lesser-known ones like Libratone, JBL, Soul, etc. While the well-known brands provide high-quality audio tech, the lesser-known have got a lot to offer as well. However, one might not want to indulge in cheap headphones from manufacturers who do not have an established track record in the audio industry. At best, one needs to be very careful while buying any of these headphones. The big-name brands are trusted because they have an established track record over long periods and enjoy an indisputable reputation in the field of mobile audio tech.
To allow the reader to get a good idea of all the factors mentioned above, a detailed description of the various forms and designs of the headphones is provided below.
Forms of the Headphones
Over-ear headphones are Circum-aural headphones. They cover the ears completely and provide big spacious sound. The padding in these earphones makes them feel comfortable on the ears, and thus ear fatigue is reduced. The over-ear open-back models are known for their high-quality audio output; however, they might fare poorly when it comes to passive noise isolation. The design itself does not allow noise to be isolated properly. Passive noise isolation is the ability to isolate ambient noise by the headphone design without involving any electronic circuitry to get rid of the sound. The closed-back model of the over-ear headphones provides excellent passive noise isolation. However, they are not appreciated for their bloated bass. Over-ear headphones are quite popular with people who listen to music at home on their desks or for office use. They passively block out the ambient noise in the offices. They are also used while traveling. The benefits of the over-ear models are that they have an expanded soundstage, strong bass response, well-detailed music as well as dynamics. They are, however, quite big and bulky and do not match very well with the modern active lifestyle of most people.
- Good for use at home or office desk or while being in one place.
- The closed-back models of these headphones have good passive noise isolation.
- Strong bass, expanded soundstage, and music are well-detailed.
- The over-ear headphones are big and bulky.
- They can cause the ears to sweat.
- They do not match the modern active lifestyle.
These headphones are also known as supra-aural headphones. They provide big sounds like the over-ear headphones as well; however, they are more manageable due to their smaller size. While there are some open-back on-ear headphones, most of the headphone models in this category are the closed-back type. They provide passive noise isolation to a satisfactory degree as long as they fit well on the ears of the listener. These headphones are also used for listening to music at home or office and also used for traveling purposes. The advantages they provide over the over-ear headphones are that they are lightweight and more compact; however, given these advantages, they compromise on the power of the sound only a little bit. The soundstage is undoubtedly smaller as compared to the over-ear headphones. There is, however, a tricky match that is required in these headphones. The ear-cup size has to be matched to the size of the listener’s ears. This cannot always be done perfectly. If there is a mismatch, both heat and pressure will build upon the listener’s ears resulting in discomfort and ear fatigue.
- The on-ear headphones are lighter as compared to the over-ear ones.
- They can be used for traveling as well as at home and office.
- The passive noise isolation is satisfactory.
- The on-ear headphones have got a smaller soundstage.
- Their audio quality is slightly lower as compared to the over-ear ones.
- The earcup size needs to be matched with the ears of the listener, which could prove to be tricky.
These headphones are also called ‘canal phones’ or in-ear monitors. They have been given the shape of a bullet as they are inserted into the ear, and they seal themselves just a little outside the ear canal. As a result of the insertion inside the ear, they provide a high degree of passive noise isolation. However, the eartips on these headphones need to fit perfectly to ensure that no ambient noises will get inside the ear. Most in-ear headphones come with eartips of different sizes, and the listener chooses between small, medium, or large ones. The ones that fit perfectly will seal the ears better, and ambient noise will not be able to get in. Moreover, the better the fit, the better will be the audio quality inside the ear as the sound of the music will not leak to the outside. As different people require different eartips, the eartips are removable, allowing the listener to choose the size that fits him/her the best. In-ear headphones are very popular these days, and their popularity is increasing by the day due to their compact size and lightweight nature. They are ideal for commuting and even for conducting exercises while listening to one’s favorite tracks. These types of headphones fit the modern active lifestyle perfectly and are preferred by many young and dynamic listeners. They are pocket-size and ideal for active listeners. They provide a high degree of passive noise isolation and also carry a strong potential for high-fidelity. There are no real; drawbacks for these -in-ear headphones except that for some people, they are a bit uncomfortable. Moreover, in the case of low quality and cheap models, some might fall off the; listener’s ears while he/she moves. However, the good quality ones offer a comfortable and snug fit and do not fall off even of the listener is conducting vigorous exercises. Such models are the sports models, and they provide a no-worry for at all times.
Use of the Term ‘Earbuds’
In-ear headphones are also being referred to as ‘earbuds‘ these days. Originally, the earbuds are the type that is provided by the airlines for travelers to listen to music while on their way to their destinations to kill flight boredom or watch movies and listen to the audio track of the film. The earbuds are the least expensive option, and these are the ones that are usually provided by the portable media player manufacturers as well. However, most recently, the term ‘earbuds’ is being used for proper in-ear headphones. The vocabulary is particularly more popular with the wireless in-ear headphones as they are being referred to as wireless earbuds these days. The original earbuds did not provide proper passive noise isolation and had poor sound quality. However, the modern in-ear headphones, which are referred to as earbuds, provide high-quality audio with proper passive noise isolation.
Portability/Sound Quality of In-Ear Headphones
While all headphones are technically ‘portable,’ the smaller ones are more portable. That is why the lightweight and compact in-ear headphones are considered to be the most portable. Many of these can be easily tucked away in a pocket after being folded. This way, when they are not in use, they stay safe, secure, and well within reach of the listener while on the go. Many of these earbuds have the ability to be used along with a smartphone as they have got built-in microphone/s and have inline control for volume adjustments, track skipping, and for answering, placing, or rejecting calls. The only disadvantage for an audiophile is the loss of audio quality due to the use of small drivers in these headphones as compared to the use of larger drivers, which provide a higher quality of bass and treble. However, for most applications, the sound quality is fairly good, and with the advancing technology, it is getting better with every newer model.
- In-ear headphones are compact and highly portable.
- These headphones fit the modern active lifestyle perfectly.
- With improving technology, the sound quality is getting better than ever.
- Being compact means smaller drivers and, thus, less powerful sound.
- Some people feel irritated by the insertion of in-ear headphones or earbuds.
- Some people tend to lose them easily.
The choice between the different forms of headphones, as well as their designs, rests with the listener. Some listeners are quite comfortable with in-ear headphones and do not find the insertion of the earbuds into the ear as irritating. However, many others get disturbed by the introduction. Many people prefer to use the over-ear or on-ear headphones and are quite comfortable using them, especially at home and office, while sitting at their desks or resting on an armchair. There are others, however, who are overwhelmed by the size of the over-ear or on-ear headphones and complain that they are interfering with their earrings or eyeglasses. Thus, it is entirely up to the preference e of different listeners as to which type of form of the headphone is preferred by them that suits their lifestyle and their taste.
Design of the Headphones
As mentioned earlier, the design of the headphones does not refer to the artistic or aesthetic design or whether the headphones are elegant, sleek, or appealing. Instead, it relates to the technical difference of being an open-backed design or a closed-back design. These designs are explained below:
Open-back headphones allow the sound to pass through the back of the ear cups. This is in complete contrast to the closed-back headphones, which do not allow this to happen. As such, no pressure is built up in the open-back headphones. The sound is allowed to escape through the backside of the earcups into the surroundings. This area of earcups at their back resembles a cheese grater, usually. This escape allows the sound delivered to the listener to have improved clarity and an enhanced natural character. Therefore, the open-back headphones provide an organic listening experience and give a feeling to the listener as if there is space to breathe. However, as a result of the escape of the sound from the back of the earcups, the open-backed design of the headphones is not suitable for use as a pair of studio monitors because they cannot provide acoustic crosstalk.
Open-back headphones cannot be taken out to public places. A lot of the sound is allowed to escape into the surroundings, so the persons in the vicinity of the listener will hear everything that is being listened to on the headphones. Even the level of detail will be quite high, thus causing the people around the listener to be annoyed. As there is no proper passive noise isolation, the listener will also be bothered by the noise from the surroundings. Open-back headphones are also quite vulnerable to the elements. As there are perforations on the back of the earcups in the area that usually resembles a cheese grater, light rain can easily seep into the ear cups and can cause some damage. For this reason, open-back headphones cannot and should not be taken out to public places. The best possible use of such headphones is in the studio for high-fidelity or when the listener wants to mix and master music in the comfort and privacy of his/her home.
- The sound of these headphones has an enhanced natural character.
- The sound has got a high degree of clarity.
- They provide an organic listening experience to the listener.
- They leak sound to the outside so they cannot be used in public places.
- They do not provide proper passive noise isolation.
- Even light rain can result in water seeping in through the perforations, and damaging the headphones.
Closed-back headphones do not allow the sound to escape from the back of the earcups. As such, there are no perforations or cheese grater type of area at the end of the earcups. These headphones trap the sound inside the earcups. Moreover, they keep the external or ambient noise out of the headphones and provide a high degree of passive noise isolation. The back of the earcups ids enclosed in the case of the closed-back headphones. The design of these headphones inherently makes the sound a bit ‘stuffy’; however, in most situations, the listener will prefer to use these closed-back models as their pros outweigh the cons. If the listener has to choose between noise from the surroundings filtering inside the earcups and slight loss of clarity, he/she will most likely go for the latter.
Closed-back headphones are used by recording artists in the studio. These headphones do not allow any sound to leak out of the back of the headphones and prevent the sound from bleeding into the microphones, which could otherwise ruin the recording. While some recording artists might want to have their headphone mix loud, it is still better for the sound engineer to provide the artist with headphones that do not allow the sound to bleed. Closed-back headphones have a downside as well. They make the ears of the listener to sweat because the headphones do not breathe as easily as the open-back ones. This could get a bit uncomfortable, especially during long recording sessions.
For recording engineers and music producers alike, it is best to have at least one pair of closed-back headphones and one pair of open-back headphones. This way, they can have a fairly good idea of how the different types of listeners in the outside world listen to the music recorded by them.
- The headphones do not allow any sound to leak outside.
- The headphones provide good passive noise isolation.
- These headphones are good for use in recording studios where the sound bleed is not desired.
- The headphone sound could be a bit stuffy as it is not al; lowed to escape at all.
- They could lead to sweaty ears as they do not breathe.
- The headphones could prove to be uncomfortable during long recording sessions.
Semi-Open Back Headphones
These fall in between the closed-back design and the open-back design headphones. Sound leakage does occur. However, it is less than what is encountered with open-back models. Semi-open headphones provide a rather realistic stereo field with an extended low-frequency response and low distortion. These headphones are mostly employed in recording sessions where there are no open microphones that can pick up the sound that leaks from these headphones.
- Sound leakage is less than the open-back models.
- They provide a realistic stereo field.
- The distortion is low, and the frequency response is extended.
- They cannot be used in recording sessions where there are open microphones.
- They could pass some ambient noise if used outside.
- They are vulnerable to slight damage during rain if used outside.
Wired vs. Wireless Headphones
Regardless of the form of the headphones as well as their design, all the headphones described above are available in both the wired models as well as in the wireless models. These are described below:
As a result of the recent high level of popularity of the wireless earbuds, the wired headphones are moving towards extinction as fare as their popular usage is concerned. However, there are many features a wired headphone provides, which make it a good choice for people who want to listen to very high-quality audio with detail, deep bass, and a rich treble. The difference between the audio quality of the wired headphone as compared to a wireless one, cannot be felt in a noisy environment, however, if using the headphone at home, in the library or at a very quiet place, the difference in audio quality is discernable.
Wired headphones connect to the audio device, whether it is a smart device or a traditional music player with a 3.5 mm cord, which transfers the audio signal to the headphones from the source device. As a result of the length of the audio cable and the necessity of the audio device to lie within the distance equal to the maximum length of the cord, the listener cannot move around a lot. As such, it is not possible to move away from the music source. However, if the music source is a portable one like a smartphone or a tablet, the listener can have the music device on his body and move around easily. The dangling wires do cause a bit of inconvenience as they are hard to handle and can entangle, causing some discomfort. The compensation, however, is the perfect transmission of the audio signal from the music device to the headphones. While the actual sound reaching the ears of the listener is affected by other factors like the size and quality of the drivers. Whether outside noise has been perfectly blocked out or not, in general, the audio quality of the wired headphones will be slightly better than the sound quality provided by the wireless headphones. At this point, however, it is noteworthy to mention that with the help of the latest Bluetooth technology as well as the active noise cancelation technology, the audio quality of the wireless headphones or even earbuds has come a long, and is considered to be very close to that of the wired headphones now.
Some people do not like the idea of pairing and re-pairing the wireless headphones via Bluetooth to the source device. They would rather plug in the 3.5 mm audio cable into the music source and just relax because the music will start playing right away with no worries about losing connection while the music is going on. Although Bluetooth technology used for pairing devices and connecting the wireless headphones to these devices has come a long way, yet, it is possible to experience e delays in the pairing process, and it might need to be repeated. In the future, however, the use of wireless headphones will become easier as the technology improves even further. However, one needs to wait for the time when the audio quality, as well as the pairing or connection, will be exactly like that of the easy connection and sound quality of the wired headphone.
- The audio signal transmission over the wired connection is superb.
- They have got a very powerful sound with deep bass and rich treble.
- They connect instantly when plugged, and there is no delay as in wireless headphones for pairing.
- The dangling wires are a lot of hassle for many listeners.
- Even if the listener moves around the house, he/she has to carry the music device around.
- The headphones are hard to handle while traveling.
The wireless headphones, as hinted above and as the name suggests, connects wirelessly with the music devices which are Bluetooth enabled. Bluetooth technology has been around for a long time now, and its older versions like 4.0 have been replaced by 4.1 and 4.2 in the past. These days Bluetooth versions 5.0 and 5.1 are also being incorporated into many wireless headphones. However, either 4.1, 4.2, 5.0, or 5.1 are available in most of the headphones in the market these days. While version 4.0 is seldom used, the 4.1 and 4.2 versions provide better connectivity as compared to version 4.9, and the latest versions of 5.0 and 5.1 allow for quick pairing, stable connectivity, and very low power consumption. These advantages allow the newest Bluetooth wireless headphones to exhibit very high sound quality, which comes close to that of a wired connection and minimize dropouts. The telephonic conversation, as well as the music, has no cut-ins or cut-outs. In terms of interference, the previous Bluetooth versions were vulnerable to interference from other Bluetooth devices as well as Wi-Fi. However, the latest versions are less susceptible to such interventions.
The greatest advantage with the Bluetooth wireless headphones is that they fit very well in the modern active lifestyle.; They are very lightweight and compact, and especially if the headphones are in the shape of wireless earbuds, they are highly portable and easy to use. They are ideal for use everywhere, including at home, in the office, while commuting, biking, going around town, playing sports, or even while conducting exercises in the gym. Many wireless earbuds are sweat and water-resistant and can be easily used in the gym or near the beach. There are some with a waterproof rating that can even be used while swimming. As such, these types of headphones have the greatest potential in the future because they can be used in many different situations and activities that are a part of the modern active lifestyle. As Bluetooth technology improves further in the future, the wireless Bluetooth headphones are likely to provide even higher quality audio with very quick pairing with devices and very stable connectivity.
- The headphones are light and compact.
- They allow a high degree of freedom.
- They match the modern lifestyle perfectly.
- Their sound output is not as powerful as of the wired ones.
- The Bluetooth pairing might take a while to occur.
- The connectivity might be affected by other Bluetooth devices and Wi-Fi.
True Wireless Headphones
Wireless headphones connect wirelessly with the Bluetooth enabled smart devices. However, many wireless headphones are designed in such a way that the two earpieces connect through a cable or wire. As such, they are not true wireless headphones or earbuds. As opposed to these, some true wireless headphones or earbuds connect to the Bluetooth enabled source wirelessly, and the two earbuds also connect using Bluetooth. Thus, there is no need for a cable connection between the two earbuds. With most true wireless earbuds, one of the earbuds, which is the primary one, connects to the music source via Bluetooth. As soon as this is done, the other earbud, which is the secondary earbud, also connects to the primary earbud using Bluetooth. These processes occur very quickly, and a very stable connection is accomplished with the source music device. There are also some true wireless earbuds in which both the earbuds can connect to the music source device.
True wireless earbuds are very stylish and are pocket-sized. They are ideal for use while exercising because of having no dangling, disturbing wires at all. They provide a very high level of freedom to the listener in every respect. The only drawbacks they have are that they have lower battery lives and are easy to lose. These shortcomings are, however, compensated by the use of the latest Bluetooth versions, which consume very little power, and thus, the playtimes are lengthened.
Furthermore, many true wireless earbuds come with charging cases that enable them to be used for 4 or 5 times their playtimes. As far as preventing them from getting lost, many manufacturers allow the use of apps that can trace the earbuds if they get lost. The sound quality of the earbuds is lower as compared to the wired headphones firstly because of the wired connection transferring the audio signal better than the Bluetooth connection and secondly because the true wireless earbuds are compact, so the size of the drivers is also very small. However, with advanced technology in Bluetooth communication and by the use of active noise cancelation technology, the sound quality has also been improved a lot.
- True wireless earbuds have no wires at all and thus are highly portable.
- Some of these earbuds can fit inside the pocket.
- The sound quality and connectivity have improved tremendously over the years.
- The playtimes can be increased with the help of the charging case.
- The earbuds could be lost easily by some people, although some manufacturers provide apps to trace them.
- The audio quality is affected by the small size of the drivers.
- Playtimes are affected by the use of active noise isolation technology.
Sports or Workout headphones
Sports or Workout headphones can be wired or wireless. However, most people will prefer to use wireless ones as they go through vigorous movements while playing games or doing exercises in the gym. Among the wireless headphones, the true wireless ones would always be the right choice as they will have no wires at all, which could be intrusive while playing or exercising. The same is true for jogging as well. No sportsperson will want to stop the exercise or slow down while jogging to fix the headphones and then move on again. Sports headphones have a very comfortable and snug fit, and they stay securely in the ears for worry-free jogging or exercising. The lighter the headphones, the better they are for great sports or workout sessions. True wireless earbuds are thus, ideal for this purpose. While low-quality sports headphones might have a one-size-fits-all policy, the high-quality ones usually come with eartips of different sizes enabling the listener to choose the ones that fit the best and are not liable to fall off the ears even during vigorous movements. Battery life is another factor to watch for, but the best battery life is usually with over-ear headphones, which are bulky and big for sports and workouts. A better option is to use the in-ear true wireless earbuds and use the charging case to keep them charged for a long time. As it is normal for sportspersons to sweat while running, jogging, playing sports, or exercising, it is always a good idea to go for sweat and water-resistant true wireless earbuds that have got a waterproof rating of IPX4. This rating allows the headphones to be used even in light rain as they do not get damaged by the splashing of water. They can also be conveniently used while exercising or playing sports as dripping sweat does not harm them.
The case of swimming or water sports is different. The IPX4 rated headphones cannot be used for swimming and water sports. For these, at least IPX7 or IPX8 rating is required, with the latter being better. With an IPX7 rating, the headphones will not be damaged even if submerged in water at 1-meter depth for as long as 30 minutes, and for the IPX8 rating, they will not suffer any damage while being submerged in water at 1-meter depth for more than 30 minutes. The exact duration they can stay inside water is different for different manufacturers who make IPX8 wireless headphones.
- Sports headphones resist water and sweat.
- The headphones provide a very secure fit, and they do not fall off the ears even during vigorous movements.
- Headphones for swimming have got IPX7 or IPX8 rating.
- True wireless headphones for sports, being light and compact have small drivers.
- The audio performance is not as strong as that of larger wired or over-ear headphones,
- Some water-resistant headphones might not be resistant to sweat.
Gaming headsets can double the enjoyment associated with video games and allow the listener a fully immersive audio experience. Normal headphones can also play the sound of the video game; however, the high-quality gaming headsets will highlight the important sounds of the game. They will deliver richer music and let the gamer customize the soundscape for various applications. They also allow the player to communicate with teammates using the built-in high-quality microphone. Gaming headsets are even purchased by gamers who have got very high-quality speakers at home because they will allow the player to play at night without waking up the rest of the household. Gaming headsets are available art premium pricing as well as in the budget pricing. They offer a very comfortable fit as gamers tend to play for hours on end. The audio quality is also very high, and most importantly, the latency is very low; thus, the game video and audio go very close to each other. Gaming headsets are mostly over-ear or on-ear headphones and use wired connections to get the best possible and powerful sound. Many of these headsets connect wirelessly as well and still provide high-quality audio with very low latency.
Wireless models are more expensive as compared to the wired ones; however, they do allow a lot of freedom to the gamer. Generally, wireless gaming headsets go better with PS4 and PC; however, they are mostly not compatible with Xbox One and vice versa. For this reason, any wireless gaming headset that provides a 3.5 mm audio cable option as well as the most suitable one to purchase. The best way to treat gaming headsets is to test them on a mix of fighting scenes, shooting scenes, action/adventure games, and music as well. For wireless ones, the playtimes are also an important criterion. Comfort levels can be assessed by using these for long hours. However, it is still important to know that sometimes, a headset might be uncomfortable for one person and quite comfortable for the other. Headsets with 3.5audio jack will hook on to most game source devices. Some gaming headsets are PC-based and connect to a PC via USB.
- The gaming headsets provide very high-quality audio.
- These headsets allow important game sounds to be highlighted. /
- The sound has very low latency.
- They can be used for watching movies and listening to music as well.
- The gaming headsets could be a bit bulky for other types of uses besides games.
- The wireless ones will not connect to Xbox one unless they have a 3.5 mm audio cord option as well.
Active Noise Cancelation (ANC) Technology
This technology can be used in wired headphones as well but plays the most important part of wireless headphones. As wireless headphones have smaller drivers as compared to the wired ones, it becomes all the more important to co0mpletelky shut out the outside noise to the listener, enabling a truly immersive audio experience. Automatic Noise Cancelation (ANC) technology makes use of the Total Noise Elimination (TNE) technique to generate a reverse signal to that of the ambient noise, thus canceling it out c0ompletely. For this purpose, a microphone is installed on the earcup, which gathers the outside noise, and the ANC circuitry cancels it out. With the outside world shut out, the listener can concentrate wholly on the music or the headphone audio and can get all the details in the music very clearly.
It is important not to confuse the electronic circuitry based active noise cancelation with the design-inherent passive noise isolation or reduction. The former uses the electronic circuitry to generate an inverse signal to the noise. It completely neutralizes it whereas, the passive noise reduction is inherent to the headphone design, e.g., closed-back or over-ear designs that reduce noise by insulating the ears from the outside noise. Active Noise Cancelation is being increasingly used in in-ear earbuds, which are compact and highly portable. This technology enables these earbuds to provide immersive audio experience to the listener. The same technique is very useful during telephonic conversations as well as tit enables perfect communication between the two sides on the phone.
At times, the listener might want to be alert to the outside sounds, e.g., call-out announcements at the airport, train station, etc. or the sound of the traffic nearby. The headphones featuring this technology allow the listener to shut it off when the immersive experience is not required, and outside sounds need to be heard as well.
- Automatic Noise Cancelation (ANC) enabled headphones to allow for the truly immersive audio experience.
- It can be shut off to stay alert to outside sounds.
- It is very useful for a clear telephonic conversation.
- The ANC enabled headphones to consume more battery power when ANC is turned on.
- The playtimes for ANC-enabled headphones are lower as compared to compatible headphones without ANC.
Bluetooth Wireless Connectivity
The operation of wireless headphones regardless of what type of form or design they have is dependent upon the Bluetooth wireless technology, which allows them to pair with Bluetooth enabled source devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, etc. Various versions of Bluetooth technology are available with different headphones. These versions are Bluetooth version 4.0, 4.1, 4.2, 5.0, and 5.1. Each subsequent version is better than the previous version in terms of the stability of the connection, as well as the ability to pair easily and quickly. The power consumption of version 5.0 and 5.1 is very low as compared to the previous versions. Thus, these versions enable longer playtimes. This becomes crucial for very compact and small in-ear earbuds that have smaller batteries.
Bluetooth 5.1 is the latest version, which allows Bluetooth devices to pinpoint the physical location as well, to the nearest centimeter. This feature helps to create even more stable connections. Previously, the Bluetooth proximity systems could find out about the distance from the device but could not pinpoint the direction. The combination of range and trend allows the Bluetooth devices to exactly pinpoint the location of the devices. This is helpful if someone loses the earbuds, and they have to be tracked down using an app from the smartphone. The Bluetooth range for version 5.1 is 33 feet, and the wireless headphones need to be within this range to work. Some manufacturers use range extender antennae and can get longer intervals like 60 feet, etc.
Bluetooth Audio Quality
Bluetooth wireless connectivity is prone to interferences by other Bluetooth devices, as well as Wi-Fi. However, with every succeeding version, this shortcoming is improving. The audio quality is dependent upon the audio signal transmission over the Bluetooth wireless connection, and this has been growing with time as well. Many wireless headphones make use of the newest Qualcomm codec to provide very high-quality audio to the listener. aptX Adaptive allows for the combination of low-bit audio rate transmission, robust and premium sound quality, low latency as well as scalability to create a very powerful and enjoyable seamless wireless listening experience. This is true in situations where the radio frequency (RF) environments are very challenging.
- Bluetooth technology has come a long way in terms of stability of connection and audio quality.
- Bluetooth pairing is performed only once for a device. It is paired the next time automatically.
- The new Bluetooth technology pinpoints the location of the device accurately for a better connection.
- The audio quality and signal transmission are still short of the wired connection.
- Bluetooth connection consumes battery power albeit, lower as compared to the previous versions of Bluetooth.
- Bluetooth enabled wireless headphones to require charging case to increase playtime
Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung have come up with Artificial Intelligence (AI) based voice assistants. The headphones which are enabled with these voice assistants allow for a lot of versatility as they permit the listener to answer, reject or place calls using the voice assistant without the need to touch the controls on the earpieces of the headphones. The listener can activate the voice assistant using voice commands, e.g., Hey Siri, and then search for information using audio commands. The listener can also control the tracks, i.e., skip tracks, play, pause, resume, and adjust the volume with voice commands. The use of voice assistants is very convenient for those people who like to use voice commands to get things done. They are also very helpful at times when the smartphone is not within reach of the listener. This might happen during travel or even at home when one feels too lazy to reach out to the phone. Thus, while all these commands are possible via the control touchpads on the earpieces of the headphones, the option of being able to do so using voice commands is very convenient and useful at times. Many headphones come with Alexa built-in, and others allow the use of Siri and Google Assistant as most of the headphones are compatible with both Apple and Android. The use of these voice assistants is getting very popular and increasing by the day. Voice assistants are available on in-ear earbuds as well, which are very small and compact.
Apple’s AirPods are perfectly optimized for Siri, and Google’s assistant is being used by many other wireless headphones. Amazon has also partnered with many headphone manufacturers to include a built-in Alexa with their headphones. Samsung has also been quite active with its voice assistant. Amazon had earlier missed out on the smartphone market, and as such, Google and Apple dominate the voice assistants outside the home. Headphones provide a great opportunity for Amazon to expand its voice assistant’s base by partnering with headphone manufacturers. As more and more headphones are enabled with voice assistant technology, the use of the assistants is likely to grow. This is especially true for people who have an active lifestyle or who are on the go most of the time.
- The voice assistant enabled headphones to provide a voice option on top of the touch controls.
- The voice assistants are very convenient in situations when the smartphone is out of reach.
- In the future, voice assistants are likely to grow in both popularity and usage.
- There are no known disadvantages of the voice assistants except that they consume a bit more power as compared to touchpad controls.
Branded Vs. Unbranded Headphones
There are many well-renowned manufacturers of Headphones, regardless of whether they are wired or wireless, over-ear, on-ear, or in-ear ones. Many branded headphones from such manufacturers as Bose, Sony, Beats, Sennheiser, Shure, and Audio Technica are very high-quality. In contrast, there are some very good ones from other less renow3ned companies like Libratone, JBL, Soul, etc. The high-quality and renowned manufacturers produce headphones that provide premium sound quality and are loved by the music aficionados. Bose has been making very high-quality audio products for over five decades, and the reputation of this manufacturer is highly impressive.
Quality Features of Branded Headphones
For branded headphones that have got headbands, these are very comfortable as the padding does not allow any discomfort on the head at all. They are also made very light with high-quality materials. The earcups boast a highly ergonomic design and provide a very snug and comfortable fit. The fit is usually so secure that a bit of head bobbing will not shake the headphones at all. The quality of the current noise cancellation technology is also superior. The connectivity via Bluetooth is also very quick and easy, and the sound quality is mind-blowing. This is true for all top brands described earlier. For a person using a branded headphone from one of these manufacturers for the first time, it is like listening to the music track for the first time, as it sounds so amazing. The sound of the drums, the violin, bass guitar, etc. very distinct and amazingly clear. The greatest experience that one can have with these quality branded headphones is the immersive listening experience. To the listener, it appears as if a live band is playing the music not two inches close to the ears, but 20 feet away all around him/her. The tracks play without any digital distortion and moderate and clean bass tone. The listener will feel as if the guitarist is playing the guitar right in front of him/her.
The branded headphones also come with companion apps from the manufacturers, which allow a lot of customization to the listener. Some even provide USB-C charging, which is not available with many other headphones in the market. Thus, it appears that going for branded headphones from top manufacturers has its worth and provides the listener with quality, reliability, and better support.
- The branded headphones provide mind-blowing sound quality.
- The sound of the various instruments is very clear and distinct.
- The listener gets to have a feeling of attending a live concert.
- There are no conceivable disadvantages except the higher price tag associated with top manufacturers.
The manufacturers like Libratone, JBL, Soul, etc. might not be as established or as much well-known as the brands described earlier. However, they produce very high-quality headphones as well, regardless of whether they are over-ear, on-ear, in-ear, or closed or open back designs. They also provide wired and wireless headphones that embody the latest technologies like active noise cancelation, voice assistants and Bluetooth, etc. These manufacturers also provide above-average quality and allow the listener to revel in an immersive listening experience at affordable prices. The manufacturers are establishing themselves as reliable and high-quality headphone producers. With time, their market shares are likely to grow in view of the excellent price to performance ratio.
- The headphones from these manufacturers provide above-average performance and high-quality audio.
- They incorporate all new technologies like new versions of Bluetooth, automatic noise cancelation, and voice assistants, etc.
- They are moderately priced and allow listeners to enjoy a good price to performance ratio.
- The manufacturers are gradually on the way to popularity and on the path to become renowned established brands.
- The headphones might not exactly match the very high-quality top brand manufacturers.
Expensive vs. cheap Headphones
It is normal to have extremes in the market for headphones as there are very high-quality and expensive headphones in the market and a stark contrast to these, there are very cheap ones ass well which could go as low as $25. A typically expensive headphone is described below:
Focal Stellia headphones are a classic example of luxury and high-tech combined to bring the listener a very expensive pair of headphones marketed at $3,000. Those people who have purchased these have described even their unboxing experience as incredible. Once these are put on the ears of the listener, they are superbly comfortable. They have got a closed-back design and beryllium speakers. They are very impressive sonically and will impress the staunchest of audiophiles. While they might appear to be exorbitantly priced, they are worth it in every respect. The headphones have got an exceptionally clear sound, expanded soundstage, and dynamics for closed-back designs. The materials used in the construction, as well as the design, are sumptuous. They have got low impedance so they can be easily plugged into dongles or portable players. They are not small but are made in such a way that they are more comfortable despite it. Such headphones are truly appreciated by not audiophiles but those who want finesse in a combination of design, materials as well as functionality.
- They are dressed in full-grain leather.
- The cushions are made out of very thick memory foam
- The woven cables, Aluminum yokes, and the contoured hard case give a sense of high quality
- The sound quality is awesome.
- The size is rather large.
- The price seems exorbitantly high.
- Bass appears to be heard instead of being ‘felt.’
Headphones have started to look more and more like pieces of art these days. Some connoisseurs would be willing to spend as much as $3,000 or more on such pricy headphones as the Focal Stellia headphones, yet most people will want to have the latest technology available to them at very low prices. On the pattern of differences between Picasso and finger painting, the purchaser will like to settle for something in between the extremes in the case of headphones as well. Inexpensive headphones are available in all types of types, like wired headphones or even wireless headphones. Many of the cheap headphones are quite beautifully crafted and have appreciable audio quality as well as design. Many use metals like Aluminum and are compatible with both iOS and Android. There are cheap in-ear buds available that have got the inline remote, good audio quality, and boast a lively sonic presentation. The bass might not be all that great, but the soundstage is usually adequate. Most of these cheap headphones lie close to $50 in price; however, even price as low as $25 is available. Many of these low-priced headphones have Bluetooth wireless capability, inline mic, and touchpad controls, etc. and provide an acceptable level of audio.
- The low-priced headphones provide acceptable sound quality.
- They incorporate the latest technologies, as well.
- The cheap headphones are affordable by all and sundry.
- They might have high latency; thus, not very suitable for video games or action-packed thriller movies.