Shopping for the right headphones can be a pain. You might see racks full of countless options at your local electronics or convenience store and it is hard to tell which ones you should get.
With so many brands, styles, and prices to choose from, how can you know which one is best? How will you know which headphones sound the way you want them to sound?
The first decision you should make is what kind of headphones you want. If you want something that is light to carry and will fit in your pocket, you can go with in-ear headphones. If you want something that’s higher quality sound, you could aim for on-ear headphones or over-ear headphones.
A brief caveat to the above point: There are a number of emerging, high-quality earbuds such as Apple’s AirPods Pro or Nuheara’s IQbuds2 MAX. These devices offer rich sound fidelity and advanced features such as active noise cancellation in an in-ear form factor.
However, be prepared to spend a bit more for such premium earbuds. Find a more detailed comparison of AirPods Pro vs. MAX here.
Why Headphones over Earbuds
Over-the-ear or on-ear headphones are bulkier and more of a hassle to carry, but they usually deliver superior sound and are more comfortable for your ears than in-ear alternatives.
However, if you truly want to judge the quality of headphones, you will need to look at the specifications, or “specs” for short. Turn to the back side of any headphones and you will see a chart with a lot of confusing numbers.
Interpreting these specs can be quite a chore, especially since the headphones usually don’t come with a handy guide that translates everything into common English. Knowing what the specs mean is the easiest way to determine which headphones will be for you. Here is a useful guide to help you know which specs are best:
This number indicates the amount of frequency the headphones can pick up from the music. Your headphone specs might read something like “20 Hz – 20,000 Hz,” which is a human’s normal range of hearing.
The first number indicates the deepest frequency the headphones can pick up, while the second number indicates the highest frequency they can pick up. Obviously, the lower the first number and the higher the second number, the greater a range your headphones can hear.
The larger a headphone’s driver diameter, the better quality their sound will be. In-ear buds generally have a diameter for 13.5 to 15.4 mm while over-ear and on-ear headphones usually have a diameter of 30 to 55 mm.
Over-ear and on-ear headphones are considerably more expensive than most in-ear counterparts because they have room for bigger and more numerous drivers.
A headphone’s impedance describes how much power is required to deliver high-quality audio. If your headphones have a high level of impedance (25 ohms or more), it will be better protected from blowing out due to blasting music.
The ideal level of impedance depends on what you will be using the headphones for. For example, a device with a low level of impedance should be fine if it’s connected to a portable music player, but might be irreparably damaged if connected to a high amplification device such as a DJ mixer that’s blasting music. That’s why DJ headphones can often go up to 70 ohms.
Sensitivity refers how loud headphones will play sound or music. It is usually measured in decibels per milliwatt (dB/mW). The higher the dB, the louder your music will be.
However, listening to music 85 dB and above can damage your hearing, so if you have headphones with that much sensitivity, you should probably keep your device at a lower volume.
If you want your headphones to last a long time, pay attention to this number. The specs should tell you how many milliwatts your headphones can take before they become damaged or worn out.
This is especially important if you are buying expensive headphones that are hard to replace.
The next headphone purchase you make could make a drastic difference in how much you enjoy your music and YouTube videos for however amount of time it takes for you to replace them.
If you buy the cheapest pair of headphones your local convenience store has, don’t be surprised if the music sounds muffled or distorted.
Make sure to do as much research on what sort of headphones you want before you commit to buying them. That way, you will know what you want and make the most out of your purchase.