What are the most important things to consider when choosing headphones? With so many options and brands of headphones it can be hard to know where to start. To help, we’ve created this simple guide to buying the right headphones.
Why do you need them?
The first thing to decide when selecting a pair of headphones is what you need them for? Are they for study, work, casual listening, your commute or exercise? Headphones are available custom-designed for any of these uses - for instance, sports headphones are made to hook around the ears so they stay in place during the rigours of exercise, while some are also wireless so you can exercise freely without getting trapped in cords.
If you travel often or are prone to getting distracted by background noise, you will not regret investing in a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones. Noise cancelling headphones reduce ambient noise by actively cancelling out unwanted and annoying sounds. They are perfect for listening to music or watching movies on a flight, train or bus, as well as for drowning out distractions while trying to study or work uninterrupted.
For serious audio enjoyment, it’s worthwhile investing in a pair of top-quality, comfortable headphones, but for casual on-the-go use you can get away with a relatively inexpensive set.
Of course, the more specific your needs are, the more you should be prepared to invest to enjoy the features and specifications you want.
The next decision is choosing the type of headphones you want - in-ear, on-ear or over-ear. This choice will largely come down to what you want to use them for.
In-ear headphones are very portable and generally inexpensive, so are perfect for using on-the-go. They are ideal for exercise and come in specially designed sports versions. Noise cancelling and Bluetooth connectivity can be found on certain models, but this is less common compared to over-ear varieties. On portability and convenience, in-ear headphones can’t be beaten.
On-ear headphones go over the ears, but don't fully cover the ear. These headphones are portable enough for on-the-go use if you’re after higher sound quality. Since they are not fully enclosed, they do allow sounds in from the outside environment, which is great if you still need to be aware of your surroundings, like on a run or in the office. However, they are less effective at blocking out ambient noise, such as on a plane, train or bus.
Over-ear headphones are certainly not just for real audiophiles anymore. When it comes to comfort and both sound quality and clarity, over-ear headphones have no rival. They are ideal for use around the home or at work, as they are not as portable or inexpensive as in-ear varieties. Many models come with noise cancelling, so are perfect for blocking out the outside world. Sure, they can look a bit geeky, but geek is the new cool anyway!
Comfort is one of the most important factors to consider and will depend largely on your preferences and where and how you will use your headphones.
Over-ear headphones usually come with a lot of padding, so are generally very comfortable. But since they are fully enclosed, your ears could get a bit hot inside them - that’s awesome for winter but perhaps not summer.
On-ear headphones can be more comfortable than both in-ear and over-ear versions since they are well-padded and sit on your ears, so are cooler.
In-ear headphones meanwhile are generally pretty comfortable - unless you really dislike putting something inside your ears. Most models come with different sized ear gels to suit the size and shape of your ear.
Since comfort is largely a personal preference, be sure to try out a few models to find a design that works for you.
Cord or wireless
We all know some kind of black magic is at play when it comes to headphone cords. One moment they’re all free-flowing, the next they’re tangled in a bunch of knots that would’ve made Sir Edmund proud.
It’s now easier than ever to cut the cord with your headphones and avoid the frustration of pulling apart the knotted mess some tech-demon has summoned up in the darkness of your drawer or pocket. The range of Bluetooth headphones has exploded recently and this trend is just going to intensify.
Already, the iPhone 7 no longer has a headphone jack, while Samsung has hinted it too may ditch the jack on the Galaxy S8. So investing in a good pair of Bluetooth headphones means you’ll be able to connect to any other Bluetooth device in the future regardless of what port it has.
Freeing yourself from a tangle of cords will make any listening experience immeasurably better, but are heaven-sent for sporting activities and playing musical instruments especially.
Some purists argue that the sound quality of wireless headphones doesn’t quite match that of the wired variety. However, this is less of an issue with the latest wireless technology. Besides, the joys of going cordless far outweigh any slight loss in fidelity. Just imagine never having to untangle your headphone cord again before getting your tunes on!
One other consideration with wireless and noise cancelling headphones is battery life. Since both of these functions require additional power, charging or replacing batteries becomes a necessity. So check the battery life of the device you’re keen on and make sure you’re happy with how often you’ll need to charge or replace batteries.
Your budget will be the other major factor to consider. If sound quality, comfort and style are your main criteria, investing in a mid to high-end set of headphones is well worth it - especially for frequent flying, regular exercise or serious listening.
For a day-to-day on-the-go pair of headphones, there are pricing options to suit every budget. Even less-expensive sets have a good lifespan and decent sound quality. It’s also worthwhile factoring in how much you’re willing to spend on replacing your headphones should you lose them, which is a realistic possibility with smaller varieties as they can rather easily be left behind on the bus or in the back of an Uber.
The reality is if you love your music, the best advice is to invest in two pairs of headphones. A portable pair for when you’re out and about and another higher quality set for long trips, sports and full enjoyment of your music or movies.
Remember Noel Leeming is here to help. Our in-store specialists can help you choose the best headphones for whatever your needs are and whatever your budget is. Just come in talk us.
Still want to know more about headphones? Ask us how we can help you today!
Call us on 0800 555 989 to make your booking or see us in store.
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