As entertainment becomes increasingly mobile, an excellent pair of headphones is a required accessory for all your portable gadgets.
Things to Keep In Mind
Whether you listen to music at home or in the gym or on the go, there is a pair of headphones on the market that will meet your needs. The following criteria will help you choose the product that best compliments your lifestyle.
* '''Sound''': Of course, the most important thing about a pair of headphones is how it sounds. This is where personal preference can play a big roll in your purchasing decision. If you like a full spectrum of sound, you're going to prefer Shure's high-end models. If you're a fan of heavy bass, the Ultrasone HFI-550s or the Sennheiser HD212 Pros are strong choices. Noise reduction features can be very important when working professionally towards a final mix and sound isolating headphones ensure that you don't annoy your mates on the train after work. If you're a serious audiophile, you can expect to pay in the hundreds for high-quality performance headphones, but it can be worth it.
* '''Comfort''': For casual listeners and professional sound engineers alike, comfort is of extreme importance. There is nothing worse than headphones that are too tight and don't fit properly within or over the ears. Folding headphones and full-size headphones are probably the most comfortable models, generally speaking.
* '''Look''': Personal taste and style will make you gravitate towards either the full-sized headphones or ear buds. Audiophiles looking for high quality sound should bet on full-sized headphones in order to ensure the most realistic sonic experience, while active-minded individuals may prefer ear buds for their light weight and streamlined size.
* '''Portability''': If you are always on the go you might prefer something lightweight and compact. Full-sized headphones are more suited for watching DVDs, gaming at home or working in the studio. Runners might find the non-slip, over the ear styles more useful for exercising.
* '''Durability''': Most headphones are built for active lifestyles and come with one year warranties. Foldable headphones are relatively delicate and require more care. Ear pads wear out easily but are inexpensive to replace. Shure's best models offer long-term warranties that ensure that your high end cans do not fail you too soon.
* '''Cords''': Headphones come wired or wireless (see below for more info). Some wired headphones come with self-contained/built-in volume control. This handy option makes volume control easily accessible, especially if your CD player or MP3 player is tucked away in your coat pocket. Earbuds sometimes come in nifty compartments, similar to women's makeup compacts, making storage simple, safe, and tangle-free. See the Earbudz by Koss.
* '''Connectivity: '''Most headphones come with a standard audio jack. However, some professional grade headphones come with jack expansions to ensure that they can accept output from any device.
If you prefer the luxury of pure unadulterated sound yet are surrounded by the noise of life, then noise cancellation head phones are the answer to your prayers. For those who travel or frequently use public transportation, you may want to consider looking into noise reduction headphones. There are two main types.
* Noise-cancelling headphones work fairly well at reducing ambient noise.
** They come in all form factors, ranging from full-size to in-ear models.
** Tend to be expensive, averaging around $200 a pair, since active noise-cancelation circuitry is pricey to manufacture.
** Some brands that make reputable noise-cancelling headphones are Koss, Bose, Sony, Sennheiser, Aiwa, Panasonic, and Jensen.
* Noise-isolating headphones are better at reducing ambient noise.
** These headphones seal the ear from outside noise and they come in a variety of form factors from over the ear to in-ear.
** Used by professional musician especially singers to isolate their voices while performing live. Ultimate Ears manufactures custom-built monitors for music enthusiasts that conform to the shape of individual ears.
* Grado is a classic high-end headphone brand with a great reputation for sound quality. However, many of their headphones emanate a lot of sound around you that others might find disturbing. For music afficionados who are willing to spend a pretty penny on headphones, see more hi-end headphones, or check out Stax.
* Amplification is an important factor when considering high-end sound. Consider buying a headphone amplifier to improve the quality of the sound, especially for large headphones. For smaller portable headphones this might not be a practical option.
* Some of Shure's most expensive models can rival the best high end headphones. The manufacturer's three-drive systems are great.
Most wireless headphones, while useful when hanging around the house, haven't demonstrated great sound quality as they often receive interference from other mobile devices, such as cordless phones. Therefore they produce static, hissing, and other undesirable effects. Bluetooth headphones may reduce some of these problems, but they have a short range and are not widespread.
These three are nifty devices that would make a good gift for anyone -- or for yourself!
Stereo sound is designed to present a soundstage to the listener when the sound emanates from two speakers in a room. In this situation, you can actually hear each speaker with each ear. However, with headphones, only one ear hears the left channel, and one hears the right. This means you will not hear truly balanced stereo surround sound. Most people have used headphones and are used to this. Though if you're not, you might also want to experiment with some binaural recordings. These recordings are made in such a way that the headphones give off a realistic sound. Of course, not much content is available in this format, but it is something to try just for fun.