Your tunes need a great pair of headphones for you to enjoy the best music quality. The challenge is to find an affordable pair of noise-canceling headphones that travel well. This article examines what makes a great headphone and what features offer the best value. So, read on to learn how to choose the right headphones for your music and lifestyle.
Three Questions to Ask Before Headphone Shopping
When shopping for headphones, you have three main questions to address:
- Do you want an around-ear, in-ear or on-ear style headphone?
- Do you want a wired, wireless or completely wireless style headphone?
- How much can you reasonably afford to spend?
You can find headphone options from quality manufacturers like BÖHM and TaoTronics that cost less than $100. Some manufacturers craft headphones for a specific use, such as gaming, home theater or music. How do you decide which ear style and wire option to choose, though? It depends on your situation. For example, some ear styles work better for in the office, while others are best for parents with children.
In-Ear Headphones aka Earbuds
Earbuds, or in-ear headphones, feature a small earpiece that fits inside each ear canal. Some styles have fins or wings attached that tailor the fit to the ear, securing it. These are common with sports earbuds which for wear during runs or workouts. Earbuds often come wired.
In-ear headphones take up little room in your bag and can even fit in your pocket. Those for use with cell phones and other mobile devices often feature a built-in microphone with simple navigation controls in the wires which help isolate noise. Their inner ear fit means they don’t interfere with glasses, earrings, hats or hairstyles.
Earbuds are lightweight, so they won’t add to the weight of a purse or backpack. However, it’s tough to find them with the same bass response and sound quality like the full-size, over the ear models. Also, long-term wear can become uncomfortable. The “Y” of the cable that connects to the headphone jack can become tangled, tearing the wires within and breaking the headphones.
These offer multiple sizes of ear tips and the materials used for the tips vary, including foam, rubber and silicone. Some sports models feature over-ear guides. This style works best for runners or other athletes, or for listening to music while running errands.
On-Ear Headphones aka Ear Pads
Ear pads, more commonly known as on-ear headphones, fit over your outer ear. Simple closed designs work well in an office environment to allow you to still hear office sounds without sharing your music with others. You can still hear the phone ring but enjoy your music, too. They’re also ideal for moms since you can enjoy music, but still hear your child cry.
Fully sealed styles, called circumaural models isolate sound better and block sounds from the outside. These work better for at-home use to create a distraction-free environment. The major benefits of this style include their compact nature. Some fold so they can fit into small spaces. They overheat less often than full-size headphones.
However, ear pads are not as good at noise isolation and don’t provide the bass response of full-size headphones. So, in an office or coffee shop, you may find the person next to you sharing in your music, whether they want to or not. You can find some styles with a built-in microphone and volume controls on the wire.
Many models include an extra ear pad set and a carrying case. The case commonly accompanies the folding style headphones. Also, you can choose from those with a coiled or straight cord.
Closed Back aka Full-Size Headphones
Full-size headphones, also called closed-back headphones provide a circumaural fit that fully encloses the ears. Most headphones of this type are best suited for home use, but one exception is the Beats brand headphones. This type blocks out other sounds, so you only hear the music. Full-size headphones offer the best bass response and volume levels. These often include a surround-sound effect.
The downside is that most options of this style aren’t portable. Also, they can overheat from frequent use. The phones fit over the head, rather than in the ears and the headband can flatten hair and get in the way of earrings and glasses. These work best for those who work from home or work with audio files.
Gamers find full-size headphones to be the best choice of the three types since they provide the best outside sound blocking qualities. They’ll allow the user to immerse themselves in the game.
Some styles do fold. You can find models with a detachable cord. Most house the microphone, playlist controls and volume controls on the cord. Like many on-ear models, these often come with an extra set of ear pads. You can procure an additional 3.5mm plug and daisy-chain it to share the music with another listener.
Choosing the right headphones for your music and lifestyle depends on your needs. For example, a musician requires headphones that block outside sound. A parent or babysitter needs to hear their children cry through the headphones.
Someone in an office environment needs a pair that keeps their music to themselves while letting them hear the phone ring or a knock on their office door. A runner needs a pair of headphones that won’t fall out from the jostling movements. But regardless of your needs, there’s a type of headphones for you.