Earphones and Headphones Ultimate Buying Guide
If you are looking for new headphones or earphones but you are not sure which one is the best for you than read below. In this article we are going to cover an ultimate guide to choose the best headphones and earphones. There are various models around you can choose from but all of them are different and you are confused what to choose. If this is your case then go further and read below:
The first question you should ask yourself before buying new headphones or earphones is: What do you look for in earphones or headphones? Well if sound quality is the first thing that comes into your mind when you ask this question than you have to think twice. Of course sound quality is important but think for example do you like big bass or do you prefer open, full-range reproduction that emphasizes overall accuracy.
Other factors may include noise cancellation, weight, fit, comfort, portability but we will discuss below for each one of this factors. Ask yourself again: Do you need simple and high quality headphones and earphones to use with your phone or mp3 player or are you looking for professional headphones you are going to use for professional work? Choosing the right headphones depends on the reason you are going to use them.
Headphones VS Earphones/Earbuds – What’s the difference?
As I said above you should choose Earphones or Headphones depending on your needs. Usually high-end headphones are used for professional work such as recording and mixing song while another type of earphones usually called earbuds are being used with mp3 players, smartphone and other portable devices. There are several in-ear headphone that shouldn’t be confused with consumer-grade earbuds. These kind of in-ear headphones are designed for applications like monitoring live performances and other uses where you need to listen carefully what is being played.
To help you understand better the types of headphones and earphones, and choose the best one between many possibilities we gonna categorize headphones and earphones/earbuds in these two basic applications.
Sweetened VS Flat Frequency Response
Let me guess something, you have heard the same material using different headphones and usually you have noticed a difference between different headphones. These differences are due in part to what we call “sweetening”. It refers to the EQing of the headphones that make the music better. In several earbuds and headphones the bass frequencies may be emphasized to counter the natural leakage of bass through the open back or ear canal.
But the most popular headphones and earphones/earbuds for general use are sweetened in some way. They are designed for consumers and usually are not bad. There are two types of sweetening modes: Free Field (FF) and Defined Field (DF). The first one Free Field simulates an open listening environment without any reflection and the second one simulates an enclosed listening environment such as a small room.
For professional and critical use you don’t need any sweetening at all, but instead you need a flat frequency response that lets you to compare and set sound levels precisely. These kind of headphones are used for critical listening usually when monitoring a mix.
1 – Circumaural: This are very popular headphones and can be closed or open-backed. The term circumaular stands for the way the headphones cups the ear. Usually this kind of headphones are called also “over the ear headphones”. Circumaural headphones encircles the ear totally and forms a seal. They are very comfortable for the ear and provide good isolation from external sounds. If you need a professional headphone definitely you should choose a circumaural model. They are perfect for DJ who need to monitor music in the loud environments.
2 – Supra-aural. Headphones of this type are also very popular. They are very similar with circumaural headphones but instead of encircling the ear they rest on it. Usually people are being very comfortable with this kind of headphones but sometimes it depends. Since they don’t encircle the ear they are not a good sound isolator. So it’s up to you to choose what’s fit best on your needs.
3 – Open Air. This kind of headphones are called also as open-back headphones. They can be circumaural or even supra-aural headphones. The back of the each earpiece is open and it allows the sound to move in both directions. They don’t isolate sound at all. That being said they are not recommended for professional use such as DJ and recording studios. They are good for general use, listening songs or anything else because the only positive things about them is an open, airy sound that doesn’t tire the ears.
4 – Semi-Open. As the name says this headphones stands between a fully open design and a closed-back design. They have some good qualities such as low distortion, offer a stereo field and extend low-frequency response. This type of headphones are used the most on recording studios where there are no open microphones to pick sound leaking from them.
5 – Closed or Sealed. This are the best headphones if you need a total isolation of the surround sounds. The back of each earpiece is closed and they have and effective seal around the ear that will prevent sound. Closed headphones are good to use for monitoring sound in loud environments and also in recording studios because they keep sounds from leaking out and being picked up by microphones. They also have a strong bass response, so the most of DJ like this kind of headphpones. The only negative thing about this kind of headphones is that they can cause fatigue of the ear if being used for a long time.
Here is a good review on lifehacker about “Open” and “Closed” Headphones.
6 – Portable Headphones. This type of headphones are lightweight and equipped with foam earpads. They come along with multiple players but the one who are included in the player package is a cheaper headphone and it’s not good at all. So you may want to replace it with something more professional for better sound quality. They are the ideal type of headphones for general use. Because of the fact they allow you to hear external sounds they are suited for use when hearing what’s going on in the environment around you.
7 – Earbuds. They are the best solution if you are looking for something portable, good and light weight. Earbuds fit into the ear and isolate the sound so only you can hear it. There are various type of earbuds and some of them are really good. They offer excellent sound quality but usually the bass response can be weak in some models. So choose wisely and do not look for cheap headphones because they not only fatigue your ear but also have a “shit” sound quality.
8 – Earbuds and Noise Canceling Headphones. This kind of headphones are designed for travelers. They will fit perfect on your ear and will remove almost totally the background sound. It’s terrible to listen music while you are driving a car, traveling by train, airplane, ship and so on because of the high level of background noise. So if you are a travel you should buy one of this noise canceling headphones. They remove the background noise because they use phase-canceling technology. Various models also comes with bluetooth so you can be free of cables.
DJ Headphones. There are numerous headphone models designed for DJ use. They are mostly circumaural, closed-back headphones that will isolate the sound and remove the environment noise. Mostly of them are two-cup headphones but there are DJ who prefer single-sided headphones with just one cup. This allows them to hear the environment sound and the mix in the same time.
Wireless Headphones. This type of headphones have the advantage of having no cable. Wireless headphones operate on three basic types, infrared, RF and bluetooth. The most used are bluetooth headphones because they can operate in a longer distance while infrared headphones have a shorter reception distance and require a straight line. RF usually transmit further and work even through walls. But the only issue with them is noise and sound quality.
So now you have an idea of what kind of headphones exist on the market worldwide. It helps you better understand the headphone types and find the one that fits your needs. So it’s time to choose the best headphone that fits your needs.
How to choose the best headphone and earphone/earbuds
Besides sound quality that is the most important I give comfort a high value. Personally I think that if headphones are not comfortable with the ear they doesn’t worth no matter how good their sound quality is. For closed-back circumaural headphones the larger the ear cup the better it is but for the headphones that rest on your ear it’s completely different, smaller is better. Also leather and fabric padding are very comfortable and soften the pressure.
Another important factor in long-term comfort is also weight. In most of the cases the lighter the headphone the better it is. If you are a person that use headphones a lot than the ideal headphone should be super-light and with foam pads.
The headband is also an important factor related with comfort. Usually the most popular headphones have over-the-head band but there are also headphones that have behind-the-neck headband. There are people that like headphones with over-the-head band and also people who like over-the-neck headbands. So choose it on your own. It doesn’t affect so much in overall comfort because something that may be comfortable for many people can be uncomfortable for many others. The headband should be adjustable and the ear cup must rotate to fit perfect.
Durability is also important because you want your headphones to last, do you? No one like to buy new headphones every month because the old one is broken without any reason. Being more durable means the headphones should be heavier. So choose wisely and make sure to put in a safe place when they are not in your head. Also be careful with the cables because they are delicate and can quickly splits if you are not careful.
Cables should be long enough for any situation. But very long cables are not recommended because it affect sound quality by introducing noise and lowering the volume. So it doesn’t worth sacrificing the sound quality for longer cable. Better get headphones with shorter cables because you can easily buy extension cable of equal quality and it won’t affect the sound quality. But if it’s possible you should avoid extension because no matter how good it can be still sometimes it can affect the sound quality. So if you are a sound quality freak like me than better avoid any extension.
Also I pay a lot of attention to single-sided vs double-sided cables. Single-sided have internal circuitry to carry the proper signals to ear pieces. Also single-sided can be better than double-sided because they can become easily tangled.
Finding the best headphones for me is a hard decision. Since I like to use music a lot even when I am working I prefer using headphones instead of speakers so I make sure to find headphones with excellent sound quality, a bit bass and that doesn’t fatigue the ear. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something if you wanna get the best somewhere else. I sacrifice durability. As I told you I use a lot headphones so I make sure to use lighter headphones and this costs me. I have broken several headphones. Once it happens to broke two in a month because I let them on my working table and they can easily fall down.
Well that’s all! If you have any recommendation for us feel free to write in the comment section below. Every advice on buying headphones guide will be appreciated. It will help a lot our users to choose the best headphones.