Headphones Buying Guide

Who doesn’t want to hear better music? As with most things in life, there are trade-offs depending on how you use your headphones. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you buy:

3 Types of Headphone Design

In-Ear

head
LG Tone (left), JBL Synchros E10 (right)

In-ear headphones sit inside your ear using your ear to hold them in place. They generally have no headband, although some wireless models often have a neckband or similar construction to house the battery and Bluetooth antenna. In-ear headphones are lightweight and great for travel because they’re so small. And because they fill your ear canal, they’re great at blocking out noise, which can be ideal in an office or if you’re traveling.

On-Ear

onear
Beats by Dre Solo HD (left), Skull Candy Grind (right)

On-ear headphones use ear pads that sit on top of your ears instead of cupping over and surrounding your ears. Because they don’t have to fit inside your ear like in-ear headphones, the manufacturers can use larger drives that move more air, providing you with more bass and better sound depending on the quality of the drivers. Portable headphones of this type are smaller than their over-ear cousins (below), allowing them to pack easier, and because the area around your ears is still open to the air, your ears and head will stay cooler.

Over-Ear

over
Bose QC35 Noise Cancelling Headphones (left), Beats by Dre Studio  (right)

Over-ear headphones completely surround your ear, which helps muffle outside noises by isolating your ears. They’re also the preferred headphones if you’ll be listening for an extended period of time because they take the pressure off your ears. And if you’re looking for the best headphones for sound quality, they’re generally the over-ear type.

4 Things to Consider

Noise Cancellation

Noise cancelling headphones work by recording outside noises using microphones, and then adding cancelling frequencies to your music to silence the outside noise. The sounds that are added to your music are the opposite of what’s happening outside, and when heard together they cancel each other out. The technology works excellent, especially from a leading company such as Bose. You can even find the same technology in many automobiles today being used to silence wind and tire noise.

Wireless

wireless
Beats by Dre Powerbeats 2 (left), LG Tone Infinim (right)

Ready to cut the wires? Wireless headphones use Bluetooth technology to connect to your music player. They’re a great option if you’re doing something active like exercising, working on an outdoor project, or walking. The effective range of Bluetooth is about 30 feet, which is plenty of range considering you’ll generally have your device in your pocket or at your desk.

Portability

portable
audio-technica Wireless On-Ear Headphones (left), Beats by Dre Solo 2 Wireless (right)

Are these headphones going to spend 80% of their time at your desk? Will they be spending time in your carry-on luggage? Are you going to wear them on public transportation? If you’ll be traveling with your headphones, you’ll want to consider a set that folds into a travel case like these Audio Technica headphones.

Exercising

ex
Bose SoundSport Wireless (left), Kicker EB300 (right)

Using headphones for exercising really comes down to two things: water resistance and stability. You may not be swimming in a pool or walking in the rain, but you’ll be sweating. You definitely want the internals of your headphones to stay dry. Although the outside of your headphones will likely be plastic, the internals are filled with metals that rust. The second factor is stability. Most people will run with their headphones, and exercise headphones are built to stay attached.

If you have any questions about headphones, we’ll be happy to answer them on our Facebook page.