The Guide to Choosing Headphones

There are two basic ways for us to listen to music, and it is either we let others hear what we hear, or we enjoy the music on our own. For those that want to enjoy listening to music alone, one of the best accessories or peripherals to have is a pair of headphones. 

At its core, headphones are two loudspeakers that produce sounds that can only be heard properly by one person, and this is due to the fact that they are much smaller compared to regular loudspeakers, and the sound they create is isolated by a pair of ear cups that fit securely and comfortably on the user’s ears.

Today, there are already thousands of different headphones produced by various brands or companies around the world. However, there are only a few headphone models that are considered to be better than the others. 

In order for you to know which pair of headphones are high-quality in terms of sound and durability, you must have knowledge about the various aspects of headphones so that you will know what to look for. This article will provide the basic things that you need to know about headphones to make a better decision on what to buy. So, let’s already get things started with the guide to choosing headphones.

What are Headphones?

Headphones are a pair of loudspeaker drivers that are small and can be worn over the ears of the user. A loudspeaker driver, also known as an electrodynamic speaker driver, is a transducer that turns electrical audio signals into sound waves. All types of headphones and earphones have loudspeakers, although the ones found in headphones are typically larger than the loudspeakers on earphones. [1]

However, there are much bigger loudspeakers used for audio monitors and speaker cabinets, although they don’t provide a private listening experience since they are loud enough to let more than two people hear the audio they emit. On the other hand, headphones have fairly small loudspeakers that allow just an open person to hear the sound. In addition to the small loudspeakers, the private listening experience of headphones is improved by the ear cups, which are a pair of cotton or leather cups on top of the loudspeakers.

The headphones would usually have a cable attached to them, and at the other end of the cable, there will be an input jack that can be plugged into an output jack of a phone, computer, video game console, or music player. However, there are also wireless options that can be connected using Bluetooth technology.

What are the Different Types of Headphones?

There are different types of headphones to choose from, and each of these types has its pros and cons. Knowing the various types of headphones is important, especially if you have particular needs or preferences when it comes to listening to music or using an audio accessory. Here are details about the different types of headphones that you should know about.

Closed-Back Headphones

If you want a pair of headphones that do a great job of blocking out peripheral noise, you should get closed-back headphones. As their name already suggests, closed-back headphones have a closed exterior, which means that the loudspeaker drivers of the headphones are sealed securely inside their compartments and underneath the earcups. 

With closed-back headphones, the sound that the loudspeakers produce can only go out in one direction, which is into your ears, and this means that the sound is much louder and clearer. In addition, the sound wouldn’t also leak out of the loudspeakers’ compartments, so other people won’t be able to hear what you are listening to.

Since others won’t be able to hear the audio of the headphones, you also won’t be able to hear most of the outside noise, so closed-back headphones offer a little bit of noise cancelation too. The drawback to closed-back headphones is that they can be bulky and heavy, so they may be uncomfortable to wear for a longer period of time. [2] But closed-back headphones are still a great option for those that want to hear high-quality audio with little to no noise. Here are three of the best closed-back headphones on the market.

  • Sennheiser HD 569 – one of the most popular pairs of closed-back headphones is the Sennheiser HD 569, a relatively affordable audio accessory that has 38-millimeter transducers for sufficient bass and treble frequencies.
  • Focal Elegia – these are closed-back headphones that are quite expensive, but once you hear the audio they produce, you will definitely say that they are worth the purchase. The Focal Elegia has very balanced bass and treble frequencies, and it also has great noise soundproofing features so that outside noise won’t interfere with the audio of the headphones.
  • AKG Pro Audio K72 – another affordable pair of closed-back headphones is the K72 by AKG Pro Audio. These headphones have 40-millimeter drivers that produce plenty of bass and sufficient treble response.

Open-Back Headphones

The exact opposite of closed-back headphones is open-back headphones, which have an open compartment for each loudspeaker at the back. Open-back headphones are preferred by people that want an “airy” sound, which is also the same sound produced by a sound system inside a room. Moreover, this “airy” sound is suitable for mastering or mixing tracks, as the sound is much more natural, and the bass and treble frequencies of the audio would be more balanced compared to listening to the audio on closed-back headphones. [2]

With closed-back headphones, the bass frequencies can be quite overpowering, so listening to the audio on open-back headphones instead would provide you with a better listening experience if you don’t want too much bass. Of course, the downside to open-back headphones is that the sound leaks out of the loudspeakers’ compartments, so other people near you may be able to hear the audio. But, the pros of the open-back headphones far outweigh their con. Here are three open-back headphones we highly recommend.

  • Philips SHP9600 – this pair of open-back headphones feature 50-millimeter drivers that offer a great bass response and fairly balanced midrange and treble frequencies. Because they are open-back, these headphones deliver natural-sounding audio.
  • Samson SR850 – an inexpensive pair of open-back headphones is the SR850 by Samson Technologies. This model produces studio-quality audio at a very affordable price. These headphones have 50-millimeter drivers with very balanced and dynamic frequencies.
  • Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO – if you have the budget for mid-tier headphones, you should check out the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO, which are professional headphones that are designed for mixing and mastering tracks. A great feature of these headphones is their velour ear pads that feel very comfortable around your ear even after you wear the headphones for hours.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

While closed-back headphones offer noise cancelation, it doesn’t offer the same levels of sound isolation as the true noise-canceling headphones. Besides having a closed-back design, noise-canceling earphones also have a technology that drowns out or reduces the outside noise that leaks inside the loudspeakers’ compartments. So, noise-canceling headphones are actively decreasing outside noise while you are listening to music, audiobooks, or podcasts. [2]

In order for the noise-canceling headphones to reduce outside noise, it has a very small built-in mic that picks up outside noise and adjusts the noise-canceling capabilities of the headphones based on the volume of the noise. Because of its superb sound isolation feature, the noise canceling headphones are also great for those that want to get good sleep when there is too much noise from outside your room. But keep in mind that noise-canceling headphones are significantly bulkier and heavier compared to closed-back headphones, although it is a good trade-off if you really have 100% sound isolation. Here are three highly recommended noise-canceling headphones.

  • Sony WH1000XM3 – a wireless pair of noise-canceling headphones that has an effective sound isolation feature is the Sony WH1000XM3. These headphones have 40mm liquid crystal polymer drivers that have balanced frequencies and amazing clarity.
  • Soundcore Q30 – in terms of affordability and quality, the Soundcor Q30 is arguably one of the best options. These headphones have three modes of noise cancelation, which are transport (for use on airplanes), outdoor (for road use), and indoor (for home and office use).
  • Beats Studio3 – a very popular model of noise-canceling headphones is the Beats Studio3. These headphones have a real-time audio calibration that adjusts the frequencies of your audio to make them more balanced. In terms of battery life, the Beats Studio3’s batteries can last for up to 22 hours. 

Gaming Headphones

Gaming headphones can either have a closed-back design or an open-back design, but the difference is that the gaming headphones have a built-in boom microphone, which is specifically used for communicating with players to organize strategies or tactics while playing a multiplayer video game. The microphone that is built into the gaming headphones is arguably one of its most important features because, without it, the headphones wouldn’t really be suitable for gaming. However, microphones are only used in multiplayer games and not single-player games where you don’t have to talk to any real person.

Most gaming headphones have a futuristic design, and some of them would even have LED lights that can have customizable colors. The con of gaming headphones is that most of them have a USB input, so you can only use them on gaming PCs or video game consoles that have a USB port. Check out these three great gaming headphones.

  • Razer Kraken – the most popular pair of gaming headphones is arguably the Razer Kraken. These headphones have 50-millimeter drivers with 7.1 surround sound so that you can hear where enemies are hiding in the game you are playing. The Kraken also has an improved cardioid mic that reduces ambient noises.
  • Logitech G535 Lightspeed – a pair of wireless headphones that are great for gaming is the Logitech G535 Lightspeed, which features the Lightspeed wireless technology that has no latency and can create a reliable connection between the headphones and the gaming PC or console for up to 12 meters.
  • HyperX Cloud II – one of the most comfortable pairs of gaming headphones on the market is the HyperX Cloud II. This model features memory foam ear pads that feel soft on the ears, and it also has a microphone that you can detach if you don’t want to use it.

Bone Conduction Headphones

A peculiar type of headphones is the bone conduction headphones, which are significantly smaller compared to other headphone types. Instead of wearing the accessory over your head, the bone conduction headphones are typically worn behind your head and next to the lobes of your ears. Moreover, the bone conduction headphones also don’t work the same as the other headphones, as instead of having loudspeaker drivers directly on your ear, the bone conduction headphones would emit sound waves onto the bones near your ear, and the bones would then amplify those sound waves so that you can hear the audio better. [3]

Bone conduction headphones are suitable for people that aren’t comfortable wearing bulky and heavy headphones, as well as earphones that can come off your ear pretty easily. The headphones’ position behind your ear makes it more secure, especially if you are doing activities that require constant movement, like cycling, running, and swimming (if the headphones are waterproof). But the downside to bone conduction headphones is that they don’t produce high volume levels, but this is not technically a con if you are listening to music at low volumes. Take a look at the three bone conduction headphones we recommend. 

  • Panadia Bone Conduction Headphones these headphones are very lightweight, as they weigh only 29 grams. In addition, the Panadia headphones also have an IPX7 waterproof rating that allows you to use them while you are swimming in three feet of water for 30 minutes.
  • Mojawa Bone Conduction Headphones – another great pair of bone conduction headphones is the Mojawa Bone Conduction Headphones, which can deliver high-quality audio while also reducing echo and ambient noises by up to 60dB.
  • Tayogo Bone Conduction Headphones – these are inexpensive bone conduction headphones that have a 120mAH battery that can last for more than 24 hours with only 2 hours of charging time.

What Should You Look for in Headphones?

Fortunately, looking for the best headphones is very easy as long as you actually know what to look for. Here are some of the things that you should look for when buying headphones.

Wired or Wireless

Based on your personal preferences, you should be able to choose if you want wired or wireless headphones. If you are just going to use the headphones at home or in the gaming room, wired headphones are already a great choice. However, if you are going to wear the headphones outdoors, the wireless option would be ideal since you don’t have to worry about the cable length or if it will get tangled in your backpack or on your neck.

Audio Quality

Of course, audio quality should be one of the top priorities when looking for headphones. If you have the chance, you should try out different headphones in physical stores so that you will be able to hear the quality of the audio for each of those headphones. Find headphones that have balanced frequencies so that you can just adjust those frequencies using an equalizer or EQ on your phone or computer.

Durability

A lot of cheap headphones don’t really last long, so you should find ones that are very durable, although you may need to prepare more than $30 if you want a durable and reliable pair of headphones. In the long run, buying a pricier pair of headphones will save you more money, as continuously buying cheap and flimsy pairs is not really a good idea since you have to spend money frequently, especially if the headphones last for only a few weeks. So, it would be better to just save money first and buy a pricey but durable pair of headphones.

Positive Reviews or Feedback

If you want to check out a pair of headphones’ durability and audio quality faster and easier, you should read or watch reviews and see if the ratings or feedback are positive. The reviews would usually tell you everything you need to know about the most popular and newest pairs of headphones, from their cool features to their pros and cons. Some of the cool features you will find in headphones are designs suitable for glasses wearers and detachable microphones. Take time to check out reviews if you don’t have time to test out different headphones personally.

Conclusion

And, there you have it, a simple guide on choosing the perfect or most suitable pair of headphones for you. Pick the right type of headphones and check reviews for different products or models so that you will surely buy headphones that have great audio quality and can last you for years. 

References

[1] Techopedia. (2017, January 12). Headphones. Techopedia. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/7551/headphones 

[2] Sean. (2022, January 24). Explained: What are the Different Types of Headphones? The Wire Realm. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.wirerealm.com/guides/different-headphone-types-list 

[3] Lutkevich, B. (2020, March). Bone Conduction Headphones. WhatIs.com Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.techtarget.com/whatis/definition/bonephones