Regardless if you need a souped-up gaming headphones or just an all-around great sounding accessory to take to the gym, there is a perfect pair of headphones that fits your needs and style. However, there could be hundreds of headphone styles on the market, what are the important factors you need to keep in mind while shopping around? That’s what we’re here for! Learn all about the different types of headphones below and find out what style and features work great for your needs:
Table of Contents
Headphones by Types
Headphones come in an array of design but they are categorized into two types: wireless and wired headphones:
As the name implies, wired headphones come with wires that connect the device to an MP# player, a mobile phone or any streaming device. Because it’s wired, the sound quality is excellent and there’s no signal loss at all. Wired headphones do not require batteries so these headphones are perfect for gamers, travelers, and joggers.
Wireless headphones do not come with wires so users can operate the device without bothering with limiting cables. These headphones are designed for sports and outdoor use. To connect to a streaming or audio device, the headphones come with Bluetooth, a connectivity technology that encodes and transmit audio sound wirelessly over short distances. Although wireless, these headphones offer stable audio transmissions although they are more fragile than their wired counterparts. Some wireless headphones can connect straight to the television too!
Image used under Creative Commons from Toshiyuki IMAI
Headphones come in different designs and each one is meant to suit a specific lifestyle. Choosing what headphone design to get is a matter of preference:
Earbud headphones are compact, practical, and inexpensive. The headphones feature an earbud-style speaker, which can be inserted on the edge of the ear canal. Earbud earphones are widely available and most do not offer noise cancellation capabilities. If you are looking for earphones with the noise-cancelling feature, here are our recommendations.
The audio quality will vary from model to model and the bass response is weaker than an over-ear headphones. Still, earbud earphones are great performing audio accessory and they are travel-friendly too.
Also known as canal headphones, in-ear headphones offer exceptional audio clarity because the headphone creates a tight seal in the ears when worn. In-ear headphones are also light, compact, and portable, making them the perfect headphone to bring to a trip. The noise cancellation capability of in-ear headphones is excellent and they block outside noise too.
However, they can be uncomfortable to wear when used for an extended period. If the in-ear headphones do not fit your ears very well, they can fall out of the ear. Just like earbud-style earphones, in-ear headphones are perfect for outdoor and sports activities. Here are some of the best in-ear headphones we’ve reviewed.
These headphones are worn over or behind the head with the speakers sitting on the outside of the ears instead of inside it like traditional in-ear earphones. On-ear headphones come in two types: circumaural or supra-aural. Circumaural headphones are on-ear headphones that cover the entire ears while supra-aural headphones have a compact body and smaller earpieces.
On-ear headphones generate richer bass and other low-end sound thanks to their larger drivers. Because these headphones sit on the ear, they are more comfortable to use. As such, on-ear headphones are ideal for extended use. They can be bulky for travel too but there are wireless on-ear headphones that are travel-friendly.
Behind the Neck Headphones
Unlike traditional headphones where the band rests on the top of the head, behind the neck headphones’ band rest on the neck. Behind the neck, headphones feature smaller earpieces, slim neckband that connects the earpieces and they come in wired and wireless variants.
Headphones Features to Consider
Noise canceling and Sound Isolation
Some headphones are designed to block noise and capture ambient sounds. These noise-cancelling headphones and earphones are electronically phase reversed to effectively reduce annoying outside noise and isolate sound. These headphones are made from materials that serve as a barrier between the ears and the outside noise around you. Noise-cancelling headphones fit snugly inside the ear canal to reduce noise, some of which are designed for children who are sensitive to sound.
Microphones and Extra Controls
Depending on your preferences and needs, some headphones come with an array of features for optimized use. These headphones are perfect for gaming, for calls via a mobile device, or as headphones for intense music listening. Some headphones come with in-line microphones along with volume, track, and mute controls. These headphones could also work with a specific operating system. Stripped down versions of advanced headphones are perfect for music listening and/or taking calls.
Cord Length and Design
Cord length and design will vary from brand to brand. Most headphones come with the traditional Y cord or double sided wiring wherein the wire is connected on either earpiece. However, other headphones come with single sided cord wherein the wire connects to the left earpiece, others come with asymmetrical cords. Wireless headphones do not come with wires and uses Bluetooth for audio connectivity.
Image used under Creative Commons from Charli Lopez
Shopping Tips: How to Choose the Right Headphones for You
Over-ear, on-ear or in-ear?
The choice will be a matter of comfort. If you don’t like earpieces being inserted into the ears, go for on-ear headphones. But if you’re more comfortable with headphones with smaller earpieces, choose in-ear headphones. Portability and user-friendliness are also factors that could affect your choice. Larger headphones may be sturdier than in-ear headphones but they are also bulky and a pain to travel with. Smaller headphones may be fragile and the sound quality isn’t as crisp as larger headphones but they are portable and lightweight.
How the headphones will be used is also an important factor that holds much weight in terms of what headphones to get. If the headphones will be used strictly for intense music listening, go for high-quality headphones that offer fantastic audio quality. If you plan to take your headphones to the gym so you can block the noise while you work out, go for smaller, in-ear earphones with noise-canceling feature. If you’re swimming and you want to listen to your favorite tunes, choose waterproof headphones.
Headphone design is a matter of taste, some prefer the convenience of compact, in-ear headphones while others want a DJ style, over-ear headphones. In-ear headphones offer the best audio isolation but the audio quality isn’t the best. On-ear headphones offer excellent audio quality but people with sensitive ears won’t find these headphones comfortable to use at all.
Headphone durability will vary from brand to brand. Generally, the price of the headphone is indicative of its quality with expensive headphones being more durable than cheaper ones. However, not all cheap headphones are low in quality, some are built like tanks! Check out our review to find out which affordable headphones are worth trying out.
It’s important to try a pair of headphones in person to get an idea how comfortable they are while in use. The last thing you want is an expensive pair of headphones that you cannot stand using because they pinch the ears. Some headphones come with cushioned earpieces to ease pressure on the ears but comfort level will vary according to the size of your head.
Of course, the most important factor you need to consider when shopping for headphones is the audio quality. The audio quality will vary from brand to brand so it’s best to test the product out in person to make the best choice. If you’re shopping online, always read reviews from trusted sources before making a purchase. An expensive pair of headphones does not necessarily mean the audio quality is fantastic, so don’t let the price be the sole deciding factor when shopping around.
Most headphones are affordable but advanced ones cost hundreds of dollars so to get your money’s worth, make sure the brand is offering warranty just in case you got a lemon. How well the warranty is upheld is also important. For instance, Sennheiser offers a 2-year international warranty on all products while Grado only offers 1-year warranty in the US only.