Things you need to know before buying a Headphone:
Choosing a headphone can be intimidating whether it is a cheap plastic one or the one you bought after spending equal to mid-range smartphone, we all use or have used headphones at some point in time. Getting the right headphones as you can make a massive difference between a dull adventure and an emotional one. So choosing the perfect one for you is a task as there are lots of other headphones than you see or hear.
Moreover, it starts to choose between earphones and headphones as both have their advantages. Where in-ear headphones are small and get dig deep in your ears and help isolate the noise with powerful bass reflexes and crystal clear sound. While headphones give you the studio/concert feel without hurting your ears over a long duration. Moreover, this goes on and read along our jargon buster to choose whether you want an earphone or a headphone.
Types of headphones:
With increasing demands, the companies are bringing the latest earphones with different fits and style. The following are the three most popular styles to wear a headphone.
In-Ears (In-Ear Monitors): These are the most common headphones known as earphones which goes deep into your ears powered by small drivers (usually 8-12mm). These are the smallest and most portable of all kinds. Since they are easy to wrap and store, which makes them best for Travelling and Commuting.
On-Ears (Supra-aural) headphones: The headphones which correctly sits on your ears and more significant than the in-ears. These come along with headphone comes over your head to keep either of ear cups placed perfectly on your ears. These style of headphones comes with large drivers (usually 30-40mm). These are less portable than in-ears but can be folded up when not in use. Best for using for a short period.
Over-Ears (Circum-aural) headphones: These are the largest and often the most comfortable headphones. These also have large drivers similar to On-Ears, but each of the ear cups is entirely around your ears. Due to large size, the drivers are usually of above 45mm to deliver more detailed and loud sound. The only drawback is that these are least portable and mainly for home or office use.
Drivers are the core components of any headphone with the purpose to convert the electronic signal into audible sound signals to the headphones that can be understood by the human ears. There are a vast number of drivers used in headphones, coil (dynamic) being the most used one, other than that are planar magnetic drivers, electrostatic drivers, and balanced armature drivers. All of the mentioned drivers used different technologies to power the sound, some offering more power and better sound than others.
Dynamic drivers are used in most of the headphones while balanced armature drivers are used in in-ear headphones due to their small size. Whereas planar magnetic and electrostatic drivers are the largest and especially for home stereos and over-ear headphones. Moreover, even some headphones use hybrids, the combination of two drivers (commonly with dynamic and balanced armature drivers). However, more significant drivers do not mean they produce better sound but is a crucial factor, especially for bass.
We look for headphones with better bass and sound output, but there are lot more reasons to consider a headphone with a hobby or feature which makes it different from other pairs of headphones. Let us generalize that below:
Noice Cancellation: Noice cancellation is the most common looked out feature while searching for headphones and these days all different types of technologies are used to achieve the background noise cancellation. One of the techniques of which is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) using which drowns out other sounds to offer peace atmosphere to the listener.
A headphone with ANC uses small microphones to pick outside sound and produce noise in different frequency and cancels out the outside sound. However, these do not work correctly if the outside sound keeps varying as the microphones are not capable of picking up the sound quickly and adjust to different frequencies. However, these headphones are most useful to drown out uniform frequency sounds like of machines, droning sounds, airplane engines, A/C hum sounds and more.
Gaming: As depicted by the name, Gaming Headphones are specially designed for using it while playing games on a computer, gaming consoles or portable devices to enhance the overall gaming audio experience. Some headphones are designed to provide virtual audio experience for upto 7.1 channel to help in identifying the direction of the audio. These can also be used for multiplayer voice chat to enhance dialogues and sound effects.
Wired/Wireless: This is one of the most important factors to choose a pair of headphone where Wired headphones come with a cord to connect to your device via 3.5mm audio jack. While the wireless headphones are free from cords/cables and links to your device via Bluetooth.
Furthermore, the wired headphones offer better sound experience using different sound enhancing technologies while the wireless ones are easy to store and can be used without worrying about the cable length and tangling. Wired headphones can connect only to devices with a 3.5mm jack (or using connectors) while wireless headphones can connect to any device with a Bluetooth feature in it.
The frequency response range denotes the full capability of a headphone can achieve of sonic frequencies. As we know the human ear can only hear frequencies ranging from 20-20,000Hz, so you will find headphones with this frequency range. However, there are some headphones to carry an even broader range of spectrum which can’t be heard but felt to provide a better tone and responses with better midrange, lows, and highs. You can check the frequency range of any headphone on its box or the specs sheet.
Soundstaging and Imaging:
Soundstaging in the ability of headphones which creates a final sonic stage and image for you (in your mind). This concept uses your imagination power and the sonic stage technology to create the impression of a live performance experience where our mind feels the sound of different elements emerging from different locations on a virtual stage. Moreover, this ability separates different sonic components to produce more realistic and true-to-life sound experience which is also a function of imaging.
This is best judged by trying out the headphones personally and open your ears specifically for sound separation and clarity, which is not found in the specification of the headphones.
The impedance of headphone pictures the amount of power is needed to control the pair of headphones. In simple terms, a headphone with low impedance requires less ability to draw which make them useful for devices with weaker amplification like portable devices. However, they are also most suspected to blow when used with high amplification devices.
A headphone with high-impedance often require a dedicated amplifier or boosted amplification to drive and to deliver more powerful, inspired performance in the result. These headphones are least prone to blow-outs, as they are designed to handle increased amplification. So it is essential to check the impedance and buy according to the device you will use. You can check the impedance on the box or the specification of a headphone, Impedance of 15Ohms or less is easy to drive while the impedance of 50Ohms and more requires amplification for better results.
However, these days smartphones are designed to drive headphones with impedance as high as 80Ohms easily, and thus higher impedance is not a serious issue.
Value for money:
With the increasing availability of the gadgets and accessories, choosing one becomes impossible so the last critical factor to decide which one to go for is the amount you are spending to get those set of headphones. As, if the sound output of $100 headphone and $1000 is same, you should obviously go for the cheaper one. It does not mean in every case the expensive one will have the better sound, so always go for the headphones with better design and materials used.
More expensive headphones are made using high-quality materials and better technologies to deliver the improved sound quality. E.g., $40 (Rs 3,000) headphones will sound good but not as good as the $80 (Rs 5,000) ones. Saying that with $80 headphones you will hear better sound orientation and clarity you have never heard on cheap headphones. Also, while cheap $10 headphones will not sound that good and will hardly run for a year or so but if you choose to spend a little more and relax listening to music for years. Also, remember to invest in those which you feel worth for, i.e., you should get what you are paying for in quality and sound experience.
All the list mentioned above are the important things you should know before you buy a pair of headphones. Apart from the design and extra features, all of the above-explained things have a different impact on the audio output, and these are the specifications the manufacturers use to sell their products. Also, we think with this article everything would be clear with the purpose of buying a new headphone.