Cheat Sheet: Buying the right headphones

What do you look for in a pair of headphones?

With an unfathomable amount of headphones on the market, buying new headphones can become a tedious task, especially if you don't know anything about them. When looking to purchase new headphones, there are a number of considerations that need to be made to allow that you are buying the correct headphones for the purpose that you desire. Sound quality is obviously important to everyone (duh!), but there are so many other considerations that can make or break a good headphone.

Headphone vs In-ear Earphones

The most common/ essential determinate of a headphone is the 'type' of headphone. Earphones are most common amongst casual music listeners due to their accessibility, as they are usually included with the purchase of an Mp3 player. There are a number of high-end earphones that are worth the investment, which are to not be confused with the stock standard models that are packaged with an MP3 player. If you are after something with a little more comfort, the headphone is your option as it offers more cushioning, which also encloses the ears and isolates external sounds.

Style & Comfort

Comfort is vital when deciding on a pair of headphone as they can feel deceivingly comfortable when worn for brief periods of time. It is recommended to try headphones on, and even try having them on for 20 minutes before deciding whether they are the right fit or not. Other considerations of style and comfort include the weight of the headphones and the overall comfort of the headband.

Portability & Durability

Dishing out your valuable monies is tough when buying new headphones, so it's critical to make sure you are buying something durable and portable. The sturdiness of the headband is vital, and is always worth considering.

Features

Knowing your headphones, and the features that they individually offer can be the difference when comparing certain headphones.Headphones can offer a range of features such as:

Volume Limiting: The ability to keep the volume at safe levels (usually 85dB or less). Common amongst children.

Noise Cancelling: Noise-cancelling headphones capture the audio sounds external to the headphone and remove that sound before reaching the ears of the listener. Common amongst travellers.

Biometric: The ability to monitor your heart rate by gathering information directly from your ears while you're listening to music. Common amongst fitness enthusiasts.

Bluetooth: Deliver high quality audio wirelessly. Common amongst commuters or fitness enthusiasts.

Surround Sound: Employ multiple drivers within each speaker to actively reproduce multichannel sound formats. Common amongst gaming and home theatre use.

Microphones: Some headphones employ microphones in their speaker for smartphones, MP3 players and even DJs.

Equalisation modification: Where the sound equalisation has been minimally modified to emphasise certain sound elements. Common amongst DJ headphones.

Choosing the right headphone for its intended use

With that information in mind, it is critical that you CHOOSE HEADPHONES FOR ITS INTENDED USE. Is it for DJing, Studio, Sports, Fitness, Fashion, Gaming or for children?

Tech Specs/Cables

Now this is where it gets nerdy (not really). Some headphones that are built with the same tech specs don't necessarily sound the same, as each brand/model may offer their own signature DNA. Some tech specs to consider are:

Frequency Response (Hz): The range of frequencies a pair of headphones can reproduce. Human hearing is generally estimated between 20Hz – 20kHz

Sensitivity (dB/Mw): Headphones sensitivity measures the amount of volume they can produce with the amount of power it requires. Higher sensitivity (100db or higher) is recommended with portable listening devices and DJing.

Impedance (expressed in ohms): A measure of electrical resistance. Impedance is important for longevity of a headphone in the studio and in the club, due to their loud sound output.

Still can't choose?

Aside from all the technical considerations, there is no better test than actually listening and comparing headphones. Like anything in life, you will generally notice that you will 'get what you pay for'.

Happy Listening!