Music motivates everyone. Whether you crave high-energy tunes to juice up your workout, private listening at home or work, an adrenaline-pumping gaming experience, or just a great-looking, great-sounding accessory to express your personal style, you'll find headphones that fit your needs. Most of us are tethered to our devices for at least part of every day, listening to music on the go or watching videos on a tablet, laptop, or phone. The right pair will let you enjoy a late-night movie without disturbing your sleeping partner or listen to music at a crowded coffee shop. With so much variety in headphone styles, including wired and wireless models, you may want to consider more than one pair for different uses. You have many choices these days: from tiny, in-ear models that will slip into a shirt pocket to big, over-the-ear models that can help immerse you in the music and make you look like a DJ.
Factors to consider before making a purchase
Some headphones ditch the wires in favor of Bluetooth. Bluetooth technology has improved over a period of time where it’s hard to tell the difference between wired and wireless unless you’re an expert. If you’re not a fan of tangled wires or are looking for some wireless buds for exercising, Bluetooth is definitely the way to go.
Noice cancellation reduce unwanted ambient sounds using active noise control engineering. Noise cancellation makes it possible to enjoy music without raising volume excessively. It can also help a passenger vsleep in a noisy vehicle such as an airplane.
If the headphones you choose are Bluetooth or have active noise cancelling, always take a look at the battery life.
Collapsible Ear cups
If you opt for on-ear or over-ear headphones, it’s always good to pay attention to whether or not they fold. If you’re going to use them while out and about, you want ones that are easier to store.
This mainly applies to workout earbuds, but make sure that your sweat won’t damage them. Most headphones designed for fitness can withstand sweat, but it’s always good to double check just to be safe.
Built-in microphone/control module
If you’re not fond of pulling your phone out of your pocket, some headphones have control modules and mics on the wire or built into the headphones that let you do a number of things. You can answer phone calls, access Siri or Google Now, and control your music. Always check what the controls are and see if they match your preferences.
Like speakers, headphones might emphasize different parts of the audio spectrum, and you might prefer one sound over another. If you can, try headphones before buying. Over-the-ear models are great for listening at home but could be too large to be easily stowed when you're traveling. Smaller, more portable models might sacrifice some sound quality, but they are definitely handy. Earbuds and insert models are great for listening to music on the go. If you'll be doing a lot of flying, consider headphones with active noise-reduction technology.
This is the spec that tells you the range of sound that the product is capable of producing measured in Hertz (Hz). If you look on the box of any audio product this number is usually around 20Hz – 20,000Hz, with the first number representing the lowest frequency and the second representing the highest. This number varies depending on the product, but for reference, humans can only hear between 20Hz – 20,000Hz which is why that’s the range most products aim for.
Types of Headphones
These come in two types. The “closed” models cup your ears, sealing in sound and muffling ambient noise. But they might also block out some things you want to hear, such as a doorbell or a child's cry. Some people find that their ears get hot if they wear them for a long time. “Open” headphones have openings in the ear cups. You'll be able to hear more external sounds, but sound can also escape, perhaps enough to disturb someone nearby.
These are typically lighter than over-the-ear models and don't press on the sides of your head; rather, they press on the ears. Many wearers find them more comfortable and less likely to make their ears hot during long listening sessions. But they can allow more ambient sound to enter. On-ear headphones, like over-the-ear, also come in "open" and "closed" versions. Some can fold for storage and come with carrying pouches.
Earbuds rest in the bowl of the ear, outside the ear canal, though a portion might extend into the canal itself. Earbuds are fairly common, as they typically come with iPods and other portable audio players. Insert-style models are inserted into the ear canal, forming a seal that can help keep out extraneous sounds. Most come with additional earpieces (canal tips) of varying sizes to ensure a secure fit.