Headphone Buying Guide

Right here at Sound Guys our fundamental purpose is that can assist you, the reader, discover the product that’s best for you. There’s rather a lot that will get mentioned in our critiques and finest lists, and for those who’re new to audio it could appear a little bit daunting at first. On this information we’ll be going over a number of the issues it’s best to know before you purchase a pair of headphones and what it’s best to search for in relation to choosing the pair that’s best for you.

Sorts of headphones

First, let’s begin with the fundamentals and try the key kinds of headphones. You’re in all probability already conscious of those and for those who’re not, hold studying. We’ll undergo a number of the execs and cons of every sort of headphone so you possibly can perceive which one would finest go well with you. It’s value mentioning that there are all the time exceptions to the foundations so these execs and cons apply to most, however not all the merchandise in any explicit class.

In-ear headphones

The primary sort of headphones are additionally the smallest. These are known as in-ears/earbuds, and the headphones that got here along with your telephone or mp3 participant probably fall into this class. There are many causes to purchase in-ears over different kinds of headphones, however their largest benefit is the truth that they’re so simply moveable.



Transportable. As a consequence of their dimension and weight, in-ears are probably the most moveable of the three sorts of headphones. You possibly can simply stash them in your pockets when not in use and if that’s an excessive amount of, even dangling them round your neck isn’t too intrusive.

Noise isolation. Earbuds are inclined to have wonderful noise isolation since they get positioned straight in your ear. When you’re undecided precisely what noise isolation is, we go extra into element on this information.

Nice for train. This type of ties again into portability however goes a step additional. Earbuds are just about the headphones of selection in relation to figuring out. Certain individuals nonetheless use different kinds of headphones, however these are by far the preferred due to how light-weight they’re.


Sound High quality. For probably the most half, sound isn’t the sturdy level of earbuds notably within the low finish. Bigger headphones are in a position to reproduce a extra pleasing sound just because they’re in a position to . Greater drivers usually means higher sound, and earbuds use tiny drivers to take care of their moveable kind issue.

Wires get simply tangled. Once more, this doesn’t apply to all in-ears, however for probably the most half the wires get tangled on a regular basis. Like, all the time and it may be actually annoying.

You would possibly like: Greatest Earbuds of 2017

On-ear headphones

Transferring up in dimension, subsequent are on-ear headphones. Not like earbuds, these don’t go in your precise ear canal—reasonably they sit on prime of your outer ears. The band can go behind your head or over it, however the drivers are all the time positioned proper in your ear.



Additionally moveable. Although they’re not as straightforward to stuff in your pocket as in-ears are, these are additionally pretty moveable. They’re often for individuals who need a step up in sound high quality, however don’t need something too large or cumbersome. A lot of them even have hinges that assist them fold to half of their authentic footprint.

Greater batteries. Together with an even bigger dimension comes extra room to suit a bigger capability battery. The extra listening time, the higher.

Higher sound. These aren’t meant to slot in your pocket, so many on-ears use bigger drivers which give higher general sound.


More durable to hold. Sure, on-ears are nonetheless moveable however they’re not as moveable as earbuds. Throwing them in a backpack is simple, however good luck attempting to stash them in your jacket pocket.

Not the perfect noise isolation. As a result of they sit on your ear and never in or round them, they often enable some exterior noise to enter.

You would possibly like: Greatest On-Ear Headphones of 2017

Over-ear headphones

Over-ears are the biggest of the three kinds of headphones and a number of the merchandise that you just’re in all probability most aware of fall underneath this class.



Greatest sound. Once more, this isn’t all the time the case, however normally massive over-ears are inclined to sound the perfect as a result of they’ve the biggest drivers within the ear cups. Some producers lean into the bulkiness, and create headphones which can be constructed for sound high quality above all different issues.

Largest batteries. Noticing a pattern right here? All of it comes again to dimension. Having extra actual property to work with offers producers the liberty to stuff massive batteries in these to make them final a very long time.

Consolation. Bigger ear cups imply extra even weight distribution. Moreover, many producers benefit from the scale so as to add supplies akin to reminiscence foam, leatherette, and velour.


Hardest to hold. Since they’re bigger, over-ears are usually harder to hold. Some include carrying instances to guard them throughout journey, however they’re nonetheless not practically as straightforward to hold round as the opposite two kinds of headphones.

Value. This varies relying on how good any given pair of headphones really are however since over-ears are inclined to have the perfect sound high quality, additionally they are usually the most costly.

Energy. Whereas that is a particularly uncommon difficulty, generally the high-end headphones you purchase require using an amp. That is usually reserved for fans and headphones which can be extraordinarily specialised.

You would possibly like: Greatest Headphones of 2017

Bluetooth headphones

Simply probably the most controversial headphones right here at SoundGuys, Bluetooth has taken the market by storm in 2017. Together with Apple’s unceremonious abandonment of the headphone jack, Android telephones have additionally adopted go well with; driving up demand for this sort of connection.

Like different connection sorts, there’s no “higher” or “worse” in relation to Bluetooth, simply tradeoffs. Nonetheless, Bluetooth provides one other layer of Professionals and Cons to your shopping for selections, so it’s value going over.


Wi-fi listening. Get your headphone cable caught on issues on a regular basis? Bluetooth headphones don’t have that difficulty.

Sound high quality is best than it was 5 years in the past.Bluetooth codecs If in case you have an up-to-date telephone, have come a great distance in the previous couple of years. Even a lot as to have the ability to compete in high quality to some wired headsets. In fact, each your telephone and your headphones need to help the identical requirements, so you should definitely analysis this before you purchase.


Battery. The place you as soon as may pay attention with out having yet one more factor to cost, now your headphones depend on a battery. It’s a ache with the smaller form-factor objects like really wi-fi earbuds, however the bigger the headphones, the higher battery life you usually get.

Wi-fi alerts have inherent weaknesses. Wi-fi listening is all cool and good, however you could discover that generally you endure from interference. It’s changing into an increasing number of uncommon, however it could nonetheless occur.

Compatibility. Whereas the entire sound high quality difficulty is in a much better place than it was, points can nonetheless stay if you don’t have tools that may speak to one another. Newer headphones may have bother with older telephones, and older headphones usually don’t help respectable codecs like aptX and LDAC.

Issues to know

There’s lots of technical jargon in relation to headphones, however they’re value understanding for those who’re trying to put money into a pair for your self. These are a number of the most typical phrases that get thrown round when speaking about audio in headphones.

Frequency Response

That is the spec that tells you the vary of sound that the product is able to producing measured in Hertz (Hz). When you look on the field of any audio product this quantity is often round 20Hz – 20,000Hz, with the primary quantity representing the bottom frequency and the second representing the very best. This quantity varies relying on the product, however for reference, people can solely hear between 20Hz – 20,000Hz which is why that’s the vary most merchandise intention for.

Some individuals say that merchandise that produce sound above or under these frequencies are pointless, however that’s not essentially the case. Certain, you gained’t be capable to hear these excessive frequencies until you’re a bat, however when merchandise have a barely wider frequency response, l5Hz – 25,000Hz for instance, it offers the sounds on the two excessive ends a little bit extra room to breathe. In different phrases, what you possibly can hear will sound a little bit higher. That mentioned, most individuals can’t even hear the distinction in the event that they’re in search of it, so it’s not a very powerful facet of headphones to the typical shopper.

There’s additionally the issue that no headphones available on the market output every frequency on the similar quantity as all of the others. Each set of headphones on the market will emphasize sure notes over others, and that may have penalties in your music. Generally it’s going to make issues sound much less clear, or it’s going to all however mute a number of the devices in a tune. These are issues you possibly can’t divine from a quantity on a spec sheet.

Noise Isolation vs. Lively Noise Cancellation

That is a kind of issues that sound related, however imply very various things. Noise isolation simply implies that the product bodily sits between your ear and outdoors sound, thus blocking exterior noise from coming into your ear.

Lively noise cancellation (ANC) works otherwise, although the tip purpose is similar. Merchandise with ANC have tiny microphones in them that choose up exterior sounds. The headphones then produce the other sound wave in an effort to actively cancel out the undesirable noise. It’s all primarily based on physics and wave properties in order you possibly can think about, it’s not a simple factor to perform. When headphones declare noise cancelling we often give their effectiveness a point out in Product Reviews as a result of it varies from product to product.


If somebody whispers in your left ear, you’ll know to look over your left shoulder. In a way, that’s what sound stage is. It’s the flexibility of a pair of headphones to breed spatial cues in a room. In different phrases, how good a pair of headphones are at tricking your mind into considering that there are sounds coming from a sure route.

This varies with headphones, however normally the bigger over-ears are higher at reaching this than smaller in-ears as a result of the sound has an opportunity to bounce round your ear earlier than reaching your eardrum. Earbuds pump sound straight into your ear, so there isn’t a lot room for sound to maneuver round and create the phantasm of area. This type of leads into the following subject.

Open vs closed again

Closed-back headphones are in all probability those which can be most acquainted. The drivers in closed again headphones are enclosed within the ear cup save for the half going through your ear. This manner sound bounces round however has nowhere to go however into your ear. All these headphones are good for those who don’t need exterior noise coming into the ear cup, and in addition for those who don’t need the particular person subsequent to you listening to your music (which is known as sound leakage). This makes it an amazing possibility for commuters or anybody utilizing headphones in a public setting, like an workplace.

As you will have guessed, open-back headphones are the other. They don’t have their drivers enclosed within the ear cups. As a substitute they go away the motive force uncovered, so exterior noise can move freely into the earcup. Naturally this isn’t the best situation for those who commute or in usually noisy areas. The good thing about open-back headphones come if you use them at dwelling or in a studio setting. As a result of they permit sound to enter the ear cups from the environment, the music has a significantly better soundstage. In fact, this additionally implies that for those who put on them out in public you’ll hear what’s occurring round you pretty simply.

What’s flat/impartial sound?

Many instances you’ll hear somebody discuss with a pair of headphones as having a “flat” or a “impartial” sound. Principally which means that the headphones are reproducing the sign they’re receiving from the supply system with as little deviation from it as doable. It could seem to be that is one thing that you just’d need all headphones to do, however there are the explanation why most don’t.

Typically, a flat sound isn’t a really thrilling one. So many headphone producers give a slight increase to sure frequencies in an effort to make them sound extra interesting to the listener. This isn’t precisely a nasty factor, since some individuals like extra bass of their music whereas others desire vocals and devices to take priority. A flat sounding pair of headphones is used whereas audio is being produced or combined in order that the audio will sound its finest no matter what sort of system it’s performed on later. When you’re not producing or mixing audio, you don’t essentially want a pair of impartial headphones until you like that sort of sound.

Essential Options to search for

Noise Cancellation. If noise cancellation sounds prefer it’s for you, there are some nice choices on the market. Don’t anticipate each little sound to magically disappear, however you’d be stunned how a lot sound really does get eliminated when utilizing a great pair of headphones.

Battery Life. If the headphones you select are Bluetooth or have energetic noise cancelling, all the time check out the battery life. You don’t wish to be caught in the midst of a commute or exercise and have your headphones die on you.

Collapsible ear cups. When you go for on-ear or over-ear headphones, it’s all the time good to concentrate as to if or not they fold. When you’re going to make use of them whereas out and about, you need ones which can be simpler to retailer.

Water resistance. This primarily applies to exercise earbuds, however guarantee that your sweat gained’t harm them. Most headphones designed for health can face up to sweat, but it surely’s all the time good to double examine simply to be protected.

Constructed-in microphone/management module. When you’re not keen on pulling your telephone out of your pocket, some headphones have management modules and mics on the wire or constructed into the headphones that allow you to do a lot of issues. You possibly can reply telephone calls, entry Siri or Google Now, and management your music. All the time examine what the controls are and see in the event that they match your preferences.

Use Circumstances

Crucial factor to think about is the way you’re going to be utilizing the headphones. When you commute, you in all probability don’t need open again headphones. When you’re going to be mixing film soundtracks in a studio, you won’t need a pair $10 in-ears. The audio market is exploding and there are actually hundreds upon hundreds of merchandise on the market. Chances are high, there’s quite a lot of which can be going to fit your wants completely and now that you understand what every thing means, discovering it shouldn’t be too tough. Blissful searching!

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