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Which are the Best Headphones for Me?
Table of contents
It can be hard to determine which headphones are the best ones for your individual needs. There are a number of headphones on the market and the headphones that are great for one person may not fit your needs at all. For example, if you intend to use your headphones with a home theater system, lower-end earbuds are not going to serve you well. Below we have broken down the most common purchasing groups when it comes to headphone consumers, helping the people within these groups understand which headphones will best serve them. If you identify with more than one of these groups, don’t worry. You will simply need to go with headphones that cover the features needed for all the selected purchasing groups.
High-end users demand high quality and high performance when it comes to their headphones. Sound quality is of ultimate importance. If you’re willing to spend hundreds of dollars on headphones, you want them to perform up to your expectations. That means being able to play them at high volumes with crisp sound quality and no distortion.
Most high-end headphone users will require a dedicated amplifier to get the best sound experience. That is because high-end headphones usually require more power to produce the necessary volume range than the standard music device can supply. Keep this in mind when purchasing your high-end headphones. If you purchase headphones that have an input impedance of 300 ohms or more (which they likely will if you are looking at high-end headphones) then keep in mind that you will also likely need to purchase a dedicated amplifier for those headphones.
Also keep an eye on the THD of the headphones you are purchasing. While everyone should aim for a THD of below one percent, as a high end user you are going to want a THD that is as low as possible. The best high performance headphones can come with a THD of 0.1 percent or less.
Frequency response will also be important to high-end users as headphones without proper frequency response will not offer the level of bass that many high-end users demand from their headphones. Look for headphones with a low number of at least 20Hz and a high number of at least 20 KHz to get the best performance.
If you are a studio professional, your needs are very different from that of the average user when it comes to what to look for in headphones for your recording sessions. While most users want to have the widest range of frequency possible, studio users should look for headphones with a neutral frequency response. This is because the headphones that are designed to boost low and mid-range bass are designed for general listening. When using them in the studio, they quickly become a nightmare while you are trying to equalize a track. Headphones that offer neutral frequency response will ensure that the changes that you make in your equipment or software are accurate and balanced and will also sound good when played back on other systems.
Comfort is also important as you will likely be wearing your headphones for long periods of time. Because of this you need to make sure the headphones are light enough to be worn comfortably for long durations and fit your ear properly so your ears don’t become sore over time.
In addition to the above, you will also want to focus on headphones with noise-cancelling properties. This is due to the fact that you do not want outside noises distracting you while you are working on music. To ensure that outside noise doesn’t interfere with your work, look for headphones with high-quality noise cancelling effects.
The popularity of home entertainment systems has brought new demands to the headphone market. No longer are headphones only for listening on the go. Now there are consumers who want to use high-quality headphones in the comfort of their living room so they can enjoy the sound of their home entertainment system without disrupting the rest of the house.
Headphones with surround sound technology are usually best for home entertainment needs. These headphones tend to use multiple drivers per ear in order to offer a more immersive experience. Whether you are watching movies in your living room or on your laptop, headphones designed with the home entertainment user in mind offer higher quality sound with a wider soundstage.
Input impedance will be important when buying home entertainment headphones. The higher quality headphones will have an input impedance of 300 Ohm or more. While many consumers who purchase headphones with this level of input impedance need a dedicated amplifier to even use the headphones, home entertainment systems and computers can usually generate the power these headphones need in order to produce the volume range that is needed from them.
If you don’t want to be hooked up to your laptop, computer or sound system with a corded headphone set, look for headphones with wireless capabilities to get freedom during your listening experience.
If you use your headphones primarily with your iPod, MP3 player or other portable music device, you’re going to want to pay attention to the type of ear coupler that is best for you. Gone are the days when a Walkman was used with over-the-head headphones featuring a large over-the-ear design. While over-the-ear designs may be suitable for some iPod and MP3 users, most prefer modern earbuds when it comes to their ear coupler of choice.
In addition to the ear coupler, you will also want to pay attention to the THD of the headphones you are buying. A lower THD means less distortion. If you don’t want your music distorted when you turn up the volume of your iPod or MP3 player, you need a THD of 1 percent or less (and, if possible, less than 0.1%). Just remember, the lower the THD, the more expensive the headphones will tend to be.
Cost is another thing to consider for iPod and MP3 users. As these items are often taken on the go you may not want to invest hundreds upon hundreds of dollars into a set of headphones. There is a risk that the headphones will become lost or stolen when you are away from home. If you want the best of the best, you can always purchase a more expensive set of headphones for when you use your device at home and a less expensive pair when you take your music on the go.
As a frequent traveler there are a few things you will want to keep in mind when shopping for headphones. The first is the noise cancelling properties of the headphones you are considering. Airports, airplanes and other places of travel can be quite noisy, so noise cancelling properties are indeed important. With that being said, you will probably want passive noise cancelling headphones rather than active ones because these are more portable in nature. They work by fitting directly inside of your ear canal and use plastic or foam to physically seal your ear. Not only does this block out all noise, but it also helps you avoid the “hissing” sound that can be caused by active noise cancelling headphones.
Size will also be of importance as you don’t want to lug around large headphones that won’t fit in your pocket or purse when they aren’t in use. This is another reason that passive noise cancelling headphones are the best choice. They tend to be smaller. Earbuds are usually a popular choice among travelers as they are affordable, portable and do not create an inconvenience when on the road.
When purchasing headphones for travel, you also need to pay attention to the input impedance of the headphones you are buying. This is because headphones that have an input impedance of 300 or more will likely need a dedicated amplifier. Since dedicated amplifiers are not the easiest things to travel with, you will want to stick with headphones that do not need one.
Athletes have unique needs when it comes to headphones. You want headphones that are comfortable yet powerful. The style of the headphone will be very important as you want headphones that will not fall off while you are running, jogging or performing other strenuous activities. Most athletes prefer behind-the-ear headphones as they are similar to earbuds but offer more support in regards to keeping the headphones in the ear.
Cord length is also important when you are purchasing headphones for athletic purposes. If the headphone cord is too short, it won’t reach your ears from your wristband, waistband and/or pocket. On the other hand, if the cord is too long, you may find yourself tripping on it. Make sure you measure how much cord you will need and buy a set of headphones that has a cord long enough so that the headphones won’t be jerked off your head when you are in motion. If the cord is too long, you can still buy the headphones if you have your heart set on them, just make sure you purchase an accessory that will keep the cord wound up and out of the way.
For athletes THD is another important feature when shopping for headphones. This is because the THD of your headphones will determine how loud you can listen to them without the music becoming distorted. The lower the THD, the louder your music can be played without distortion of the music. Look for headphones with a THD of 1 percent or less.
Gamers have very unique needs when it comes to headphones. What most people need from their headphones gamers do not need and what gamers need from their headphones are not of concern to those who need their headphones for musical purposes.
The first thing you will need to do when shopping for headphones is to look at models that come with a built-in microphone. If you have a built-in microphone it will save you the trouble of having to buy two separate pieces of equipment to chat with your gaming friends. There are many quality headphones on the market that have built-in microphones as an added feature and they can be very affordable as well.
You will also need to be sure that the headphones you buy have a connector that is compatible with the device you are using. A laptop will require a different connector than some of the gaming systems on the market, so make sure you purchase headphones that have a connector that will fit into the jack of your computer or gaming console.
In addition, you will also want to purchase headphones that have noise cancelling effects. Sometimes it can be hard to hear the other gamers who are trying to chat with you over the gaming server. Having headphones that cancel outside noise can make it easier to hear the other players so you won’t have to strain to understand what they are saying.