Many of us spend perhaps disproportionate amounts of time and money on listening to music through headphones of one kind or another. There are numerous types of these to choose from, and a little basic knowledge about what’s on offer and what your requirements are can pay dividends.
Whether you’re simply looking to get beyond the bog-standard iPod earbuds or want something to stick on the end of your system’s audio cables, then the following quick guide could come in useful.
The form factor is important, as this will be largely dictated not only by the environment you intend to use the headphones in, but also the particular type of music you prefer to listen to. The basic choices are earbuds, ear pad headphones and full size headphones.
These are neat little earpieces that go right inside the outer ear, and there are also variants that penetrate into the ear canals. The main advantage of earbuds is that they’re convenient for when you’re out and about. They are also rather more comfortable than regular padded headphones if you happen to wear glasses.
The downside, however, is that the sound quality tends to be inferior to that delivered by over-the-ear headphones and some models also have a habit of falling out more easily than others.
Ear pad headphones
These are small pads that cover a part of the ear rather than all of it. There is a degree of sound leakage in both directions because of this, but they’re still extremely popular. Their main selling point is that they’re probably the most comfortable type of headphone as they sit lightly on the ear rather than obtrude into it or squash it like the other types.
The construction is open-backed and provides better sound quality than earbuds, and they’re also highly portable and can be whipped out at a moment’s notice.
The main drawback is that ear pad headphones are not really suitable if you want to listen to music in a loud environment such as on a plane because they’re not designed to block outside noise. Motorhead or Led Zep might be okay, but Mozart piano sonatas will be a non-starter.
Equally, they’re unsuitable for use in exceptionally quiet environments like a library. The bass response when compared with over-the-ear models usually also leaves something to be desired, although sound quality in general is good.
Full size headphones
Purists tend to prefer these models because the bass response is fabulous, the overall sound quality excellent and there is next to no outside noise interference. There are both open and closed types available and they normally come with a lot of padding, making them extremely comfortable to wear.
On the downside they are not exactly portable and in some cases can cause a music lover’s nightmare – sweaty ears! Full size headphones are ideal for home use, however, and used in conjunction with sophisticated sound systems and high end audio cables they can deliver stunning results.
Noise cancellation and isolation
These two terms are often confused so it’s worth mentioning them. Headphones that cancel noise play back an inverted version of the ambient sounds that effectively cancels them out. They are relatively expensive, highly effective and use batteries to power them. They are available in both full size and earpad models, although the former are most efficient.
With noise isolation headphones the noise is blocked out by a physical barrier around the ears. They do not use batteries and are cheaper than noise cancelling headphones, although not as effective.
Author Bio: David Elliott has worked as a studio sound engineer for over 10 years and is a self-confessed music addict. Years of listening to heavy metal has given him a unique insight into just how important a good pair of headphones really is. He finds out more about headphones and audio equipment at http://www.thecableco.com/.