For the most of us, headphones are one of those gadgets we don’t leave the house without. Hence, it’s natural to think hard when we’re supposed to choose the right pair. There are many criteria to think about. Obviously, the sound has to be of high quality, but not only that! When we count in the price, comfort, design, endurance and how big we like them to be, we get an equation that seems impossible to solve! Even more so if 18kHz doesn’t really mean anything to you!
Frequency response, impedance and sensitivity
If some of these words sound foreign to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone! However, it’s very important to understand what they mean when buying headphones.
Maybe you remember learning in physics class that people can hear sounds that have the frequency higher than 20 Hz, and up to 20,000 kHz. Then why do they produce headphones which have the frequency response from 15 Hz to 28,000 Hz? Because the real sound has parts with all of those frequencies! Even though, in theory, we can’t hear that, you will notice that your song sounds better on headphones with a higher frequency response!
If the minimum frequency is lower, you will have a nice bass sound. If the maximum frequency is higher your music will, in general, sound clearer and more pleasant – you will get the most of it! Although, it’s worth mentioning that the quality of the bass depends on how good is the noise isolation. If the bass is important to you and you’re wearing glasses all the time, you should consider buying open-back headphones, because your glasses will probably create small gaps between your head and the ear pads, which will interfere with sound proofing. Open-back headphones are designed in a way that maintains good bass quality, regardless of the external noise.
Impedance is basically the resistance your device has to electric current, which means that you can’t connect a cheap pair of headphones with an impedance lower than 18 ohms to a piece of audio equipment with high amplification – you will damage them! The higher the impedance, the wider range of equipment you can use! If you’re listening to your music only from your phone or a portable music player, you’ll be fine with an impedance of 25 ohms or so. BUT if you buy headphones with extremely high impedance, you won’t get a high quality sound from your phone! They will simply shut out the signal.
Decibel (dB) is the unit used to measure the intensity of the sound – the loudness. But beware! Listening to loud music on your headphones can result in hearing loss, which can be permanent!
We recommend paying a bit more for headphones that have a high quality sound proofing, rather than choosing a louder pair. If you often find yourself in a loud environment, do not solve your problems by turning up the volume!
Balancing your budget with choosing a brand that guarantees quality
Headphones have become a pricey accessory, so we recommend for you to determine your budget. How much are you willing to spend? With headphones, durance is not guaranteed with the number of digits on your bill. If you invest a lot in them, you will get a nice sound, but how long will the cord last? Will the headband break? Does the padding tear easily? It’s extremely annoying when you decide for once to put in some serious cash and enjoy some sweet sound with a great pair of headphones, that will become your inseparable companion for the next few years, only to find out that it was just a dream..! Obviously, a lot of headphones today come with a warranty, but let’s be honest – they will never last as long as during their first run.
There are some brands that are praised for their build quality and endurance. Most of them are German and Japanese (surprise surprise). Among them the most famous are Sennheiser, Shure, AKG, Sony, JVC and Pioneer. But, of course, there are also companies like Grado labs. Notice that all of these companies have existed for over 50 years (some of them were founded before World War II). Grado labs, for example, is a family run company. They tend to care about their products in a way that’s not strictly business-like. They take pride in their quality! You’ll probably notice a lot of people using and bragging about their Skullcandy or Beats by Dre headphones. Meanwhile, if you do a bit of research, you’ll find out that they paid that pretty penny so the company can invest more in marketing, not manufacturing (the reviews are awful)! Of course, there are exceptions, like Audeze and Westone which are manufactured in USA. Their headphones and earbuds have really good reviews!
The build and design
When you combine the needed quality of sound with your price range and a well reviewed brand, it’s time to settle the matter by choosing the most comfortable headphones of the remaining ones. There’s no better way than trying them out! Don’t be lazy and take that walk to the nearest tech store!
If you’re trying to decide among a few of them that fit well, choose the one with the most flexible headband (the ones that are not completely made of hard plastic). If there are more of them, check the reviews on padding endurance.
Don’t care too much about how pretty they look! It’s better to estimate the quality of the materials by feeling the headphones with your hands and comparing them to the things that you remember breaking and tearing easily! Your intuition will help you decide.
Also, one more thing that needs to be taken into account is the weight. Your neck might hurt from carrying heavy headphones for an extended period of time.
To sum things up..
..make a decision based on logic and rational thinking! Make a list of pros and cons for the headphones you like best! In reality, you will make a decision that will be at least a bit biased, but that’s what makes a difference between people and computers. If you’re not ready to spend more than 30$ don’t sweat too much, headphones are expendable gadgets anyways.. If you work as a DJ or have a similar occupation, your time won’t be lost if you conduct a serious research of high quality and expensive products, or consult with an expert!
After making your choice, we hope you’ll enjoy your favorite music like never before! May your new headphones serve you well for a long time!
Hello, my name is Danny Brown.
I am writer and editor at HeadphonesEncyclopedia, I’ve been reviewing all kinds of electronic devices, audio and video equipment for almost a decade. My specialty is audio equipment and I have a strong passion for headphones, speakers, and home theater systems. I spend hours and hours testing and evaluating audio equipment in order to offer you unbiased reviews. Since we all have different tastes when it comes to sound, don’t take my reviews for granted. They can offer you a lot of useful info but you should definitely test (hear) the headphones/speakers before making the purchase.