Headphones might not have been a must-have back in the day when coloured TV had just come out but they sure are today! With their types, shapes and sizes changing drastically over time, headphones have certainly become a necessity for most people owning smartphones and/or PCs.
Be it for casual listening, streaming videos or attending work calls, nearly everyone in today’s world spends a significant portion of their time devoted to their screens and requires some form of audio input which is why it is so important to buy a pair of headphones that suits your needs best.
We’ve put together this in-depth guide to help you with your purchase because we understand how precious money is, especially when you’re on a tight budget. This buying guide for headphones not only lists the many models that are on the market but also discusses the features, pricing, accessories and other key factors that buyers should consider when buying headphones.
How to choose the right type of headphones
Headphones aren’t just limited to a specific form and build, rather they come in several types to accommodate varying user needs. Let’s explore what each type of headphones has to offer and who they work best for.
Over-Ear Headphones (Wired)
Ever played one word – the game where your friend says a word and you have to say the first thing that comes to your mind? What comes to your mind when we say headphones? Is it a large, black headset with a chunky build (and a wire)?
Congratulations! That’s over-ear headphones for you, in a nutshell – the legendary OGs that have been in the market since the beginning and have a specific, as well as varying skillset many just can’t overlook!
Sound technicians, composers, and others who work in noisy settings frequently use such headphones because they wholly encircle your ear to form a shield that prevents outside interference from messing with your audio experience. Although most over-ear headphones compromise pleasure to attain greater volume at shorter wavelengths, certain models offer substantial drivers for strong bass and prolonged treble sensitivity.
Over-ear headphones are further divided into 2 distinct categories: closed and open-back.
✅ Suppresses outside noise
✅ Sealed cans
✅ Retains more sound
❌ Altered frequency response
❌ Sweaty ears
✅ Openings in cans
✅ Cripser, more natural sound
✅ Increased audio accuracy
❌ Higher chances of noise leakage
❌ Lets in outside noise
Should you buy over-ear headphones?
Yes, if you:
✔️ want a pair of headphones that lasts longer
✔️ seriously dread charging your devices
✔️ desire exceptional performance and no latency issues (sound delays)
✔️ want something that’s easy and cheap to repair
On-ear headphones are made for those of you who want to enjoy all the perks of over-the-ear headphones without the extra weight on your ears and with complete comfort. These headphones sit directly on top of your ear not all around your ear like over-ear headphones. This prevents your ears from heating up and provides you with a more compact option. Some of these headphones can even be folded for easy storage.
On-ear headphones use big drivers for precise audio transmission and bass response. Manufacturers can also cram huge batteries into these headsets since there is still some extra room in the on-ear headphone compartments. The only downside is that these headphones may not provide complete noise isolation and might even leak some sound to anyone sitting close to you.
Should you buy on-ear headphones?
Yes, if you want:
✔️ something more compact than over-ear headphones
✔️ lesser heat build-up while wearing for longer hours
✔️ larger drivers hence, better sound
Wireless headphones often come with neckbands and sound great, without a doubt. They’re the ultimate blend of wired and truly wireless headphones and offer some really cool features despite their somewhat basic design.
Source: Amazon UK
Their fit usually makes it easier for them to cancel out noise and have an impressive, longer battery life than most truly wireless earbuds. If you’re a gym freak or have running as your #1 hobby, these are perfect for you.
In addition, these headphones can be connected to smartphones, laptops and even TVs upto a range of 30 feet – making them the real deal back in the day.
Should you buy wireless headphones?
Yes, if you:
✔️ want to avoid tangled cables
✔️ are athletic and want something water-resistant
✔️ priortize portability above all
Truly Wireless Earbuds
Truly wireless earbuds are the newest obsession – almost everyone has these or wants to get them. Other than them being a trend, the reason for their popularity is that they can be used anytime, anywhere.
These earbuds work via Bluetooth so with these, you don’t have to be overly cautious about keeping the wire safe from your cats!
Another good thing about truly wireless earbuds is that they’re small and portable, which makes it easy to carry them anywhere you want. Whether you’re working out in the gym or in the mall, these truly wireless earbuds make your life so much easier – just put them in your ears, pair your device, connect and use!
However, one small problem that you might face is that you need to have them charged for them to be able to work but thats not that big of an issue, really.
Should you buy truly wireless earbuds?
Yes, if you want:
✔️ hassle-free headphones – no wires
✔️ a sleek, comfortable fit
✔️ greater compatibility
✔️ freedom of movement
✔️ exciting features
Do you have trouble focusing on one specific thing when surrounded by a caucus of sounds and are desperately in search of something to quiet it down for a bit? There’s good news for you. Many headphones are intended to physically seal off your ears and mute outside noise. It gets better – some even actively cancel noise.
Here’s how Noise Cancelling headphone work: The wavelengths of background sound are monitored by small microphones in each of these headphones, which then generate those very same waves out of phase to cancel them out.
Should you buy noise-cancelling headphones?
Yes, if you:
✔️ seek something to block out outside noise and be able to focus
✔️ are serious about music and want an uninterrupted listening experience
✔️ desire added protection for your hearing
Gaming headsets offer a convenient way to play games and communicate with teammates and friends and enhance one’s overall gaming experience.
Source: Review Geek
These over-the-ear headsets often have a large frame and glowing RGB lights, which, although appearing goofy, include practical hardware and software functionality. Not to mention, they also typically have a sharp microphone.
What distinguishes gamers using gaming headsets from gamers using non-gaming headsets and really gives the former the edge is Surround Sound – an exclusive feature; now found in many gaming headsets, that lets the user locate auditory cues and hint at directions.
Should you buy a gaming headset?
Yes, if you want:
✔️ superior 3D audio quality
✔️ a fun appearance
✔️ an improved gaming experience during your prolonged gaming sessions
Audio quality plays a *huge* role
While closed-back and open-back affect the audio quality to a certain extent, there are other things that go into play when it comes to an enjoyable and decent listening experience such as driver size, frequency response, sensitivity and impedance.
Don’t worry. We know how puzzled those words probably have you right now so, to make things easier, we’ll explain each of them in detail.
Simply like speakers, headphones include drivers— typically one on each side. The driver type and diameter determine the quality of the sound produced because audio quality greatly depends on the driver’s ability to vibrate air. The larger the driver size, the greater the sound quality.
Source: Hifi Helper
According to their power, headphones’ sensitivity describes how loud they may get. It is quantified in decibels, which are essentially a volume measurement. An suitable range for sensitivity for application is typically 90dB to 120dB / 1mW.
The various frequencies that headphones can reproduce in order to provide a complete sound are referred to as frequency response.
While the sizzle of cymbals and the sibilance on a vocal reside in the higher frequencies, instruments like bass guitars and kick drums are more at home in the lower ones. The body of a voice, additional percussion, guitars, and other instruments all exist between these frequencies.
Human hearing is only detect frequencies between 20Hz and 20kHz, thus headphones advertised with that range don’t really tell you anything about how they sound. Try looking for headphones with a frequency response of 20Hz–20kHz or above instead for a more personalized experience.
Impedance describes the resistance your headphones present to the current flowing from your headset amplifier. Any headphones with an impedance under 25 ohms ought to work OK if you intend to use them with a phone or computer. Higher-impedance headphones are, however, an option if you have a headphone amplifier, albeit how high depends on the amplifier.
Got a budget in mind? This will help.
The technology used to make headphones has a significant impact on their price. Here is a general description of what you can expect in a certain price range.
|Price range||What you can get|
|Under $50||Sufficient Bluetooth in/over-ear headphones|
Low-end wired and gaming headsets
|Between $50 and $100||Premium, robust gaming headphones|
Mid-range wired in/over-ear headphones
|Between $100 and $250||Wireless in/over-ear headphones |
Earbuds with decent features e.g. noise cancellation
|Above $250||Advanced noise cancellation|
In-ear, over-ear, on-ear etc available
Branded headphones (Wired & wireless, both) e.g. Apple
Accessories are a BIG plus
Cable dressing & length
The most crucial element in the signal’s quality is the cable wire’s electrical resistance since speaker wires must convey signals from the speaker to the amplifier. If you can afford it, we advise getting one made of high-quality copper because the metal’s low resistance can help reduce signal loss. If you’re on a tight budget, silver-plated copper is also acceptable.
When purchasing wired headphones, especially for desktop use, we advise getting at least a 3 metre long cable. A cable of this length provides enough versatility for you to get up while wearing them to open the curtains, turn on the light, or perform other tasks without facing any wire trouble.
Whether or not you have a detachable mic matters a lot when buying headphones. Consider purchasing some good headphones with built-in microphones so that you can use them with a variety of devices, unless they’re wireless models that support Bluetooth connectivity rather than requiring wired connections via USB ports or even an auxiliary jack port.
Source: Driver Easy
Depending on your headset type, you can also get additional microphones that pair with your headphones wirelessly or via a cable. Because these microphones are not permanently connected, they are more versatile and can be used for various tasks both, at home and at work.
Here are some other key elements you should consider
When buying wireless headphones/earbuds, always look out for extended battery life and a good charging case. Ideally, get a pair that lets you listen non-stop for more than at least 8 hours for a smoother experience.
The durability of headphones will depend on their build. Search for headphones that can survive being dropped or struck by items without breaking.
Use these to evaluate a good build:
- Metal components rather than plastic – better durability and audio quality
- Flexible headband – can bend easily without splitting into 2
- No loose parts – screws etc don’t fall off when handled roughly
Active noise-cancellation/Noise isolation
You obviously don’t want your boss to know you’re attending a work call while at a party, now, do you? Yeah, we don’t either.
Test your to-be headphones out by calling a friend or recording your voice while at a busy store/street to see how effectively they deliver active noise-cancellation (noise is cancelled out with a counter-wave before it reaches the ear) or noise isolation (soundproofing technology blocks the audio waves outside).
How awesome would it be to wear your wireless earbuds, true or not, while taking a long shower or listening to music in the rain? Very. Test your headphones’ water resistance for an enjoyable and versatile listening experience.
There isn’t really any straightforward answer to which kind of headphones you should buy because everyone has distinct listening patterns and brand and aesthetic preferences. Nevertheless, there is still a tonne of information available regarding what makes an amazing pair, independent of the specific models you choose, as long as they meet your demands. Examples include sound quality vs. price point, comfort levels, and design appeal.
We will recommend, however, prioritize functionality over design, battery life over continuous playback, and, if possible, water resistance.