Wednesday, April 10, 2024

What should I consider when buying headphones?

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Before purchasing a set of headphones, there are a few things you should consider first: your budget, desired features, and how they will be used. For example if your goal is strictly sound fidelity then you might want to buy an expensive pair that has the perfect sound signature for optimal quality sound reproduction while using them at home. However, if you’re looking for a versatile pair of headphones that can be used for multiple applications then you might want to consider something more moderately priced with features like noise cancellation and a fold-able design for easy transport. Below we breakdown some common features to help you find your perfect set of headphones.


When buying a new pair of headphones, your first consideration should be comfort.

No one wants to not enjoy their headphones due to an uncomfortable fit or endure hours on end with aching earlobes. Comfort is about more than just size and weight, it’s also about the material used for construction as well as how they feel against your skin – do they make your head sweat? Do they pinch? Can you wear them all day without any discomfort? Do they work well with your glasses? Below is a great budget headphone that is very comfortable.

AKG Pro Audio K240 STUDIO Over-Ear, Semi-Open, Professional Studio Headphones
as of April 6, 2024 2:43 pm


The next thing to consider when buying a new pair of headphones is durability. How long will these things last? What materials are being used in construction and what guarantees does the company offer if anything goes wrong down the line? This is especially true if choosing headphones for yard mowing or headphones for working out.

What should I consider when buying headphones – Quality of sound

Obviously you have to always find headphones with excellent sound quality. Do try to find one that comes highly recommended by audiophiles and of course take some of recommendations into considerations when finding the best sounding headphones.

Over-ear headphones vs in-ear headphones

Both ear and over-ear headphones provide its own drawbacks and benefits. Sound quality is hard to correlate across different types of headphones as usually higher-end earphones typically sound better than budget pairs of headphones.

For a truly huge range of sound with lower distortion and a comfortable fit over-ear headphones are usually the ideal choice.

Considering investing in DJ headphones, see which works best Wired vs Wireless DJ Headphones

If you are interested in great sound in a small package and without the extra bulk of over-ear cans, you may want to consider some quality in-ear phones.

Type of Over-ear Headphones: Closed-back or Open-back

If you are considering over-the ear phones, read on to find out more about different types of over-ear headphones to determine which meets your needs. We also have an entire article dedicated to this topic; Which is better Open-back vs Closed-back Headphones.

Pros and cons of closed-back headphones

Closed-back headphones offer a few distinct advantages over their open-back counterparts. Chief among these is superior noise isolation, which is perfect for commuters and students looking to focus in on their studies or work. Additionally, closed-back headphones often provide a more bass-heavy sound profile, making them perfect for music lovers looking to get lost in their favorite tracks.

Closed-back headphones are great for listening to music while in public and for recording music.

That said, closed-back headphones can also have a few drawbacks. Chief among these is that they can often be less immersive than open-back headphones, as listeners can sometimes hear sound leaking in from the outside world. Additionally, closed-back headphones can be a bit uncomfortable for extended listening sessions, as they can put pressure on the ears.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is an example of a closed-back headphone with great portability.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black, Professional Grade, Critically Acclaimed, with Detachable Cable
as of April 6, 2024 2:43 pm

Pros and cons of open-backed headphones

This open-back design lets air through the ear cups, so that there is no pressure build up. They also offer a large, natural soundstage that closed-back headphones typically cannot match.

Consider open-back headphones for critical at home listening and mixing audio.

The downsides to this design are that they do not ideally meet the conditions needed in loud areas. They don’t reduce background noise so your ears won’t be disturbed. This causes larger sound leakage so aren’t ideal for use in an office or library where you can keep your own audio to himself. However these are good choices at home when listening. They are not for use for working offices as they have larger leaking surfaces and less internal noise per unit area compared to closed-back devices.

The GRADO SR225x Prestige Series is an example of a great sounding open-back headphone.

GRADO SR225x Prestige Series Wired Open-Back Stereo Headphones
as of April 6, 2024 2:43 pm

Noise cancellation capabilities

After identifying if you prefer over-ear vs in-ear and open-back vs closed-back, determine if noise cancellation is important for you. Most noise cancelling headphones provide you with the ability to filter off the noise, block or hide your level of noise that you like. Sometimes people want quality headphones to keep in the background to play in the house. Others love headphones which blocks out noise completely.

Dynamic Drivers vs Planar Magnetic Drivers

Next up on our list of What should I consider when buying headphones is to determine the type of driver. Sound can be generated via electromagnetic fields that enter the eardrum in wave which cause the eardrum to vibrate. It sends a signal to the brain and helps interpret the audio. A headphone driver is a speaker device inside that moves air through the sound field with pressure waves, thus allowing you to enjoy your chosen sound.

Dynamic drivers help in improving the sound reproduction. Planar Magnet drivers improve your sound quality. A couple of budget dynamic driven headphones are unlikely to compare well to a pair with magnetic speakers at lower voltage to the same thing. If you are looking for a powerful and clear bass response with high distortion and a large sound stage then Planar Magnetic headphone is an effective choice. The complex design of the planar magnetic driver means small errors in phase responses and stereo images that can change the way the audio is reproduced however these are not usually very noticeable but these are not usually noticeable.

The HIFIMAN HE-400I is a great introduction to Planar drivers

HIFIMAN HE-400I Over Ear Full-Size Planar Magnetic Headphones Adjustable Headphone with Comfortable Earpads Open-Back Design Easy Cable Swapping
as of April 6, 2024 2:43 pm

What should I consider when buying headphones? It’s an important first step in finding a perfect pair of headphones that fit your needs. We hope this article has you started down the right path to musical nirvana. If you know the type of headphone you would like, make sure to checkout our Best Headphones Under $200 along with our Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Review for some great suggestions.

Hi, I am Quinn. I am an experienced audio engineer who has worked in the audio field for the past 20 years. I enjoy most genres of music and enjoy home recording and learning about new recording techniques. In my free time I enjoy reviewing the latest audio gear and gaming.

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