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Want to buy a good pair of headsets? It majorly depends on your specific requirements and situation. Are you buying headphones to use while traveling or while doing exercise? Will you be using them mostly for music production or casual listening? There are a whole lot of things you need to take into account. And there are ample features and specifications that separate good headphones from better ones and the better ones from the best ones. These features make all the differences between products of a particular brand. For example, an Audio-Technica headphone can be different from headphones of the same brand and so is the case with other brands.

If you’re unaware of features and terms, you may have a hard time finding the right product that can feed your needs.

Lucky for you, this is what we’ll be addressing in this post. You’ll be able to eliminate the jargon and understand what key features actually mean after reading it.

In-ear Vs. Over-ear Vs. On-ear Headphones

In-ear headphones

In-ear headphones or canal headphones are also known as earbuds or in-ear monitors. These two headphones can be placed directly inside each ear. They are great for commuting or exercising.

The benefits are:

  • They are placed closer to the eardrum and produce excellent sound quality
  • They keep out unwanted external noise

In-ear headphones come with a preference of various-sized tips. That’s why finding one that easily fits your ear canal is easy. Also, using the right-sized tip gives the best performance without affecting audio isolation.

Over-ear headphones

Over-ear or circumaural headphones can fit over the entire ear. Though an expensive model, they have the quality to keep sounds from both – bleeding out and coming in. Their increased size allows enough room for a larger drive a.k.a. speaker with better bass performance and louder volume. These headphones are not the right fit for athletic or on-the-go types. But, they are still the most favorite choice for music production or serious listening. The driver is placed away from the ear, creating a more spacious sound akin to what you hear from speakers. Sony’s MDR series and Audio Technica’s M-Series headphones are examples.

On-ear headphones

Also called supra-aural headphones, these headphones are designed to fit on top of each ear without completely covering them. It’s not wrong to say that these headsets represent a bit both of the above counterparts. They have better sound quality than in-ear headphones because of drivers. They are more portable and lighter than over-ear headphones. Also, on-ear headphones are less likely to direct sound straight down the ear canal than over-ear headphones are. But, they don’t seal out external noises.

Open-back vs. Closed-back Headphones

Do you know over-ear headphones have two unique flavors?  They’re either ‘open back’ or ‘closed-back.’ This means whether the back of the ear cups is sealed or open.

  • Open-back Headphones: Open-back style products can have more sound leakage. They can let sound escape from the headphones. They give an immersive listening experience through their unique design. They’re a great option for mixing in a quiet setting, but not for most other environments due to the exposed design.
  • Closed-back Headphones: These headphones offer enhanced noise isolation. They build a seal between the outside world and the listener’s ears. Nothing can come in and go out. They’re perfect if you want to record live audio.

Frequency Response

Headphone frequency response is the sound frequencies the headphones can produce. It is measured in Hertz. The lowest number of frequencies represents the amount of bass and the highest treble. Most headphones are designed to have a stated frequency response of around 20-20,000Hz, which is good for human hearing.

The number indicates sound quality as well as lets you pick the right headphones for a particular type of music. If you are looking out for headphones to produce music instead of using a studio monitor speaker, then consider frequency response. The numbers are really a good indicator of sound quality as well as can help you choose the right headphones for a particular type of music. For instance, if you want lots of basses, look for headphones that support a low bass frequency.

Headphone Impedance

Another factor to take into account while choosing a more professional pair of headsets is impedance. The impedance is measured in ohms. Most headsets are designed to have a low impedance value, such as 32 ohms. It means they don’t require much application power to make a loud sound. They work perfectly fine with smartphones or computers. Typically, impedance often ranges between 8 & 600 ohms, depending on the headphone/earphone model. A decent choice is one that ranges between 20-40ohms.

A headphone with hundreds of ohms requires a professional-grade audio interface or powered amplifier to deliver the same level. This may make them difficult to use outside of your home or studio but will result in a better stereo image, bass definition, and dynamics.

Noise Cancellation

Noise-canceling headphones are great for any situation. They have embedded microphones and electronic chips. They allow you to cancel out the outside noise. The headphone does this by recording ambient noise, then creating an inverse sound wave and feeding it back into the headphones to effectively block the sound.

Noise cancellation headphones work best for low and constant frequencies. They are less effective for mid-range frequencies and above. If you are on a flight, you experience the engine being reduced, but the baby crying in the front seat is not reduced. The effectiveness of these products varies from one headset model to the next.

Bottom Line

Most headphones are ideal for starting a track. You would like to switch to something more appropriate to the task like a pair of over-ears or a straight-up studio monitor setup when you need to mix everything down. When choosing a headphone, narrow down your choice and select one that suits your favorite music, and the audio gear you’re using them with.

Most of the technical details are displayed on the product box. Nevertheless, manufacturers may have their own measurement standards; above mentioned standards mean the same thing.

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