Everything You Need To Know before buying Headphones

The world of headphones has various products to offer with prices ranging from a few hundreds of rupees to some of them even costing upto lakhs. To understand why is there such a huge difference, we need to dive into it. Choosing a headphone may be more decisive once you know the varieties available in the market.

Headphone

There are different types of headphones which come in both wired and wireless forms. We will segregate the different types based on the below parameters.

By design

Earbuds and in-Ear earphones:

In-ear headphones and earbuds, also known as earphones, are convenient to carry and use almost anywhere since they are tiny and lightweight. They are great to use at the gym, on the bus, or in the office. While technically earbuds stay at the edge of the ear canal, the in-ears have silicone tips and inserted into the ear. Some people may find the in-ear headphones uncomfortable. They prefer the less intrusive earbuds that rest at the edge of the ear canal. They come both wired and wireless (using Bluetooth technology).

  • Pros: They have a small size, ultra portable, and lightweight design.
  • Cons: In-ears provide fuller sound compared to earbuds but can cause fatigue and are uneasy for long listening sessions. Earbuds, on the other hand, do not produce a fuller sound and lack deep bass.

True wireless earbuds:

These are wireless Bluetooth earphones without any cables connecting the earbuds. The earbuds are highly portable and mostly extremely lightweight. They usually come along with a charging case for portable power on the go. So why go for true-wireless earbuds, and why not to choose them?

  • Pros: They are incredibly lightweight, comfortable to wear and often unnoticed by the user due to their no-wire design.
  • Cons: They may not be very secure during gym workouts or exercises and may fall off.  
True-Wireless-earbuds
True Wireless Earbuds along with charging case. Picture Credits: Amazon.com

On-Ear headphones:

These are bigger than earbuds but smaller than the over-ear headphones. Unlike the over-ear design, these sit on top of ear lobes rather than engulfing them inside their padding. They provide better audio experience as compared to the smaller earbuds or in-ears. They offer a balanced usage between the bigger over-ear and the lightweight earbuds. So why to and why not to choose an On-ear headphone?

  • Pros: Better audio experience than earbuds and more portable than the over-ears. They allow some ambient noise which is safer in traffic. However, we do not recommend using headphones if you are walking in the streets or driving.
  • Cons: They press on the ears and cause ear fatigue after a while. They are not at par with over-ear headphones in the audio experience.
On-Ear-Headphone
On-Ear Headphones

Over-Ear Headphones:

They stay entirely covering the ears, which makes them less susceptible to ambient noises. With an active noise cancellation technology integrated, it is a pleasant experience to use in noisy environments. For example, in public transport and offices.
Since the cup sizes are quite big, they are not very easy to carry in a normal-sized bag. They do not press the ears and are more comfortable during an extended listening session, provided the climate is not hot and humid. They have mainly two variants, the Closed Back and the Open Back, mentioned in detail later in this article. So why to and why not to choose an over-ear headphone?

  • Pros: They usually have big sized cups and have the largest drivers, which allow reproducing the most comprehensive frequency range with deep bass and crystal clear treble. They offer a more expansive sound stage and have better imaging quality. Detailed explanation for soundstage and imaging has been provided later in this article.
  • Cons: Since the cup sizes are quite big, most are bulky and not very easy to carry in a normal-sized bag. They are usually expensive, especially if they have active noise cancellation technology.
Over-Ear-Headphone
Over-Ear Headphones

By Usage :

Gaming headsets :

Why choose a headset for gaming? A good headset may make an enormous difference when playing games. Whether you prefer to get immersed in the game with the surround audio or you want to listen to every footstep of your enemy to understand where they are, selecting the proper set of audio-gear could be a significant job. You ought to look at overall build quality, how comfy they are, and how they seem, and in the event, the microphone sounds excellent. If you do not require a microphone, then most wired, then audiophile headphones are a fantastic alternative.

Gaming Headsets. Picture credits: Amazon.com

For sports (for running and use in the gym)

Which headphones is best for running or exercising? Whether you are running a difficult trail or lifting weights at the gym, a good set of sports headsets will motivate you to keep going. Look for water and sweat resistance and also a secure fit so that your earphones do not fall out while doing strenuous exercise. Also, check for a wireless option that provides more usability during workouts. Few models let to control the ambient noise so that you are aware of the world around you. It is helpful when you have to cross a crowded street.

Sports Headphones wireless. Picture credits: Amazon.in

For TV usage :

If you like to watch late-night TV without disturbing family or roomies, getting a pair of TV headphones. It is a great way to enjoy your favourite shows and movies. However, not all headphones are made for watching TV. Some of the best-sounding cans can also be useless for watching TV if they have lip-synced issues.
Wired headphones almost have no latency and very good for watching TV. Yet, it can be not very pleasant to have a long cable running from the TV to your couch. Bluetooth headsets can have problems with audio lag. So look for Bluetooth headsets that have low latency to be suitable for watching TV.

Headphones Specially for TV. Picture credits: Amazon.in

Designed for Kids :

Why do you need headphones for kids? Since your child may require to take online classes, getting a suitable pair of headphones that does not damage hearing is the first thing to keep in mind.
Specialists often caution against the chance of hearing loss because of repeated usage of headphones. It is vital to find a headphone that includes a limiter to limit the loud tones to avoid the kid’s ear discomfort. Owning a child’s headphones is a great way to keep the child occupied as you keep yourself involved with other activities.

Kids Headphones

Specially for Audiophiles :

When to choose audiophile headphones? You need a great pair of audiophile-level headphones if you count audio quality above everything else. These headphones usually aren’t the most suitable alternative for regular usage due to their absence of active features. However, they’re renowned for fully immersing yourself in your music while at home.
They generate sound precisely, and most of them can produce a large and spacious soundstage that simulates listening to a song on genuine tower speakers. They appear well-built and are suitable to entirely relish the music without being reminded that you’re wearing big cans. Audiophile headphones are almost wired without any Bluetooth connectivity, thus you won’t find any wireless options on this list.

Audiophile-Headphones
An Open-Back Audiophile Headphone. Picture credits: Amazon.in

BT headsets for calls :

Nowadays nearly every pair of headsets have a microphone and built-in controls; it’s simpler than ever to receive a telephone call. Bluetooth headphones with good microphones are the essential ingredient of a good headset for calls.

Bluetooth Headset for calls. Picture credits: Amazon.com

For Office use :

Are you looking for headphones that can create a sense of peace and release stress caused by non-stop chit-chat and noises while you are in the office? There are headphones specially designed for work or in an office-like environment suitable to use without causing exhaustion for extended use.
Most of them have active noise cancellation (ANC) features that can help you keep focused on your work by blocking out background noise and chatty coworkers. For the ANC feature to work, they have a battery that lasts an entire day. They also have minimal leakage, which means you can turn up your volume without bothering nearby colleagues.

Office headphone with ANC. Picture credits: Amazon.in

For Travelling :

The most crucial feature necessary for travelling usage is an active noise cancellation technology in your headphone, also known as an ANC. Apart from an ANC, portability, comfort and day-long battery life are also significant points to check. Most of the Office headphones also serve well for travelling purposes.

By Enclosure Type :

Open Back :

This design leaves the back of the headphone cup open so that sound can easily pass through it. It creates a natural listening experience by ultimately allowing sounds both in and out of the headphone cans. They are generally found on over-ear headphones and meant to be used in the privacy of one’s home. They offer exceptional soundstage and imaging quality but have terrible noise isolation and have the challenge to produce deep bass.

An Open-Back Audiophile Headphone. Picture credits: Amazon.in

What is Soundstage:

A headphone’s soundstage determines whether the sound is perceived to be coming from inside or in front of the head. It also creates a perception of how open and spacious the sound is. The more the headphones acoustically interacts with the environment, the better the soundstage. It is this reason why over the ear headphones provide much better soundstage compared to the earbuds or in-ears. The audio content has nothing to do with the soundstage; instead, the headphone needs to create the perception of space and openness.

What is imaging quality:

The headphone’s imaging quality determines how accurately the instrument’s positions are perceived while listening to a song.

Closed-Back :

This design has the outer part of the headphone cap completely closed, thereby not allowing sound to pass through it. While technically most earbud and on-ear headphones are closed-back, we concentrate on over-ear options in this article.
Most over-ear or on-ear headphones have a closed-back design. Closed-back headphones retain music to the listener by blocking out some background noise from coming in and limiting audio leakage, which prevents bothering people.
These headphones are trendy and satisfy most listeners due to their usability and noise isolation without bothering those around you. They also tend to have more bass than open-back headphones.

Semi-open back :

These provide balanced usage between the closed back and open back, meaning they sound more natural and open than the closed-back and provide some noise isolation and better bass than the open back.

By Sound quality :

Bass-heavy headphones :

If you are a fan of EDM, hip-hop or other bass-heavy music genres, then you might look for a gear that compliments them and designed to enjoy them.
Along with thumping bass, the next most crucial aspect is clarity and details in the sound. Else it will sound muddy or muffled without the crispness.

Sought by DJ :

A nice pair of closed-back studio headphones are usually a decent option for the DJs.
The most reliable DJ headphones have either swiveling earcups or a flexible headband to monitor the set from one ear and the mix with the other. A long coiled cable is generally a norm for DJ headphones.

DJ Headphones. Picture credits: Amazon.in

For Studios:

Studio headphones are usually closed-back headphones that monitor the live recording without leaking any noise in the microphone.
Yet, for mixing, many sound engineers prefer more spacious and immersive open-back headphones since they can be more comfortable after a long day spent in the studio.
Studio headphones also demand an immediate response, so latency is a significant factor, and thus wired headphones are preferred for recording goals. The best-wired studio headphones usually have a coiled wire to give you a wide range to move around your studio.

Active Noise Cancellation: The Headphones which have an active noise cancellation block out unnecessary environmental noise that causes fatigue and distraction. They are good at blocking most outside noise, especially bass frequencies like a bus engine or flight. 

They need external power to work, which uses an inverted sound waveform to nullify the noise. Check how does Active noise cancellation work by clicking the link.

FAQ
Q: What do I need to know before buying headphones?

Usability: Do you want a headphone for home, office, casual walking, jogging in the park, sports or for some other use? Based on your specific activity, choose the headphones that offer the best results. For example, if you are looking for a headphone for office, then you may consider active noise cancellation embedded in it. Or if you like one for your gym sessions, consider a lightweight, water-resistant design that does not fall off from ears during intense workouts.

Sound Quality: This is of paramount importance not only for the audiophiles but also for general users who want to enjoy powerful audio in their budget. 

Quality of the microphone: Most users need a headphone with a mic for voice calls since it is a daily requirement. To have a smooth experience, consider the mic with good quality to not cause an issue.

Comfort: This is necessary to check if the product is comfortable to wear and not cause fatigue or irritation.

Build quality:  A good quality product comes with good built quality to last the test of time and a great user experience. Check for this aspect while deciding on which headphones to buy if you spend a handsome amount for it.

Q: What are the qualities of a good headphone?

Good Sound Quality: This is of paramount importance not only for the audiophiles but also for general users who want to enjoy powerful audio in their budget.

Good Quality of the microphone: Most users need a headphone with a mic for voice calls since it is a daily requirement. To have a smooth experience, consider the mic with good quality to not cause an issue.

Comfortable to use for long sessions: This is necessary to check if the product is comfortable to wear and not cause fatigue or irritation. 

Premium Build quality:  A good quality product comes with good built quality to last the test of time and a great user experience. Check for this aspect while deciding on which headphones to buy if you spend a handsome amount for it.

Q: What should I look for in a headset?

Quality of the microphone:  To have a smooth experience over calls, consider a headset with a good quality mic to not cause an issue.

Comfort: This is necessary to check if the product is comfortable to wear and not cause fatigue or irritation. 

Build quality:  A good headset comes with good built quality to last the test of time and a great user experience.

Q: What determines the sound quality of headphones?

Quality of the Materials used for making the voice coil, diaphragm, magnets and even the housing determines the sound quality.

The technology used-> For example: Moving coil dynamic coil, planar magnetic(which are very expensive).

Driver size: With the similar quality of materials and technology used, bigger driver size generally produces a better dynamic range, which means you get deeper bass and clear treble.

Q: Should I get earbuds or headphones?

If you are looking for a portable gear that you can easily carry anywhere and do not plan to use them for long listening sessions, go for an earbud. You may also consider a wireless option if you plan to use in the gym or consider a true-wireless option for further ease of use.

Q: Which are the best headphones to buy?

It depends on usability. Check the article: Click Here to decide which headphone or earbuds will be best for your requirements.

Q: Why choose in-ear headphones? Why choose in-ear earphones?

In-ear headphones and earbuds are very convenient to carry and use almost anywhere since they are tiny, lightweight and ultra portable.

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