Whether you're at home or on the go, many of us spend a lot of time listening to music on our headphones. If you're looking to get beyond earbuds and invest in a nice pair of headphones for yourself here's some advice on how to choose. An investment in good headphones can give you a lot of pleasure when compared to money spent on a stereo system.
Headphones come in 3 basic types in-ear, on-ear and over ear. The first thing you should narrow down, when deciding on headphones is which form factor you want. You'll want to make this decision based not only on where you'll be using them but what type of music you're listening to.
In-ear headphones and earbuds are small earpieces that fit into your ears. Earbuds generally sit in the outer “concha” of your ears, while in-ear variants fit into the ear canal.
The big advantage of earbuds is size you can easily stick them in the pocket while traveling. The sound quality of basic earbuds is generally poor but there are premium models which can perform significantly better.
On-ear headphones sit on the outer body of your ear and can be comfortable enough for long term wear. Their larger size makes it easier for them to produce better bass response. Their on-ear design also makes it possible to hear some level of outside noise
For the best possible performance the most popular choice is over-ear. This style encircles the ear and sits onto the side of the head. There are then two main variants to consider closed back and open back.
Full size over ear headphones are capable of providing great bass response both in depth and clarity.
Closed back designs will block out a certain amount of outside noise, particularly if the earpad fit is good. Open backed headphones are generally among the best design for true audiophile performance, the open back design allows the speaker units to move easily and provide a very detailed sound. The open design does, however, allow the headphones to be heard by others sitting nearby.
The best over ear headphones are generally made from premium materials like various real leathers to ensure that they last well. Various type of sponge/memory foam pads create a comfortable listening experience helped by headbands and fittings that are engineered to fit from small to large.
You don't want to buy headphones solely based on what you see online, reviews are a great way to narrow it down to a few models, and to know what issues you want to keep an eye out for on any given pair. Check Amazon for reviews from real people, as well as reviews on HiFi Choice, What HiFi and HiFi News etc.
Your best bet for buying headphones is to find a local retailer that specialises in audio and will let you try out different pairs of headphones. A good way to find a store near you is to check the manufacturer's web site—they'll usually have a store locator that will show you who’s in your area.
If you can't find anything, you can buy online, but make sure you buy from a store that has a good returns policy. Some site allow for “No Quibble” returns which takes the risk out of things, check if they cover the delivery costs too.
It’s also worth remembering that top quality headphones generally sound better when they’ve be used, “run in”, for a couple of days continuous use.