Picking out the right headphones is not what it used to be back in the day when not a lot of quality models were available. Nowadays, you can go to just about any electronics store and pick out a decent pair at an incredibly low price.
On the other hand, the abundance of choices comes with its own problems. The market is overflowing with various wired and wireless options, and it may be difficult to pick the best one. After all, aside from wanting to get the best possible sound, you should also be looking at things like the particular type, frequency response, and a variety of other factors that may have an impact on the overall experience.
If you’re on a tight budget, you should educate yourself with a guide for the best cheap headphones. Don’t base your decision on the price alone! Below a certain threshold, all options might turn out to be equally sub-par, unless you’re buying a used model.
Before getting into the differences between specific models, you should get familiar with all the things you need to know about headphones to make an informed decision.
Type of Headphones
There are three basic types of headphones you can distinguish between in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear headphones. They’re all equally “good,” and when it comes to picking out a specific type, you should choose one that feels the most comfortable. You probably already have a preference, even if you don’t know about it yet.
In-ear headphones are the smallest ones of the bunch and are, therefore, the best option for urban commuting. If you don’t mind having to untangle the cord every time you take them out, you can easily store them in your pockets. Of course, it doesn’t apply if you went for the wireless ones.
On-ear and over-ear headphones are very similar at first look, but they differ fundamentally in how they’re fixed on your ears. On-ear ones go right on top of your ears and stay right there. Some users find it incredibly uncomfortable, while others swear they can’t wear any other ones. Be careful with on-ears, though! If you’re listening in public, people may hear your music, as they aren’t exactly closed off.
The over-ear kind is also the largest one of the three, as it encircles the whole ear and provides the best isolation. It’s the perfect type to make sure no sound gets out into the public, but then again, they’re not the easiest one to commute around in, due to their size.
Finally, if you opt for either an on-ear or in-ear pair of headphones, you’re also facing the choice between open-back and closed-back headphones. Open-back ones allow air to pass through above the earpieces and therefore prevent pressure from building up, which has a positive effect on the quality of your sound. If you’re not a music producer or a quality freak and just want to listen to music casually, it shouldn’t make that much of a difference.
This is a term that refers to how wide the frequency range in your headphones is. Lower-limit frequencies are the bass sounds and higher limits apply to the treble. If you like hard-hitting, bass-heavy tracks, you should look for models that can support a wider range than regular devices. The response in your usual pair of headphones is 20-20000 Hz.
Drivers and Sensitivity
These two aspects are both related to sound quality. Drivers are what actually produce the sound you’re hearing whenever you press “play” – the general rule is that larger drivers create better sound, but it’s not always the case. You shouldn’t pay much attention to size when picking out in-ear models, since no matter which one you get, none of them will be bigger than large, over-ear, open-back headphones.
Sensitivity is the maximum amount of decibels your headphones can operate. The industry standard is set at around 110dB/mW. If you like your music really loud, you should look out for special models that can operate at elevated volume levels.
The Bottom Line
No matter what kind of headphones you get in the end, what matters the most is the sound they produce and how comfortable they are to wear. Aside from these aspects, you can also look at additional functions, like active noise canceling and battery life in the case of wireless earphones. However, keep in mind that there are a lot of crappy models that advertise themselves as having all these additional trinkets. Still, you won’t even be able to make good use of them since they don’t meet the fundamental standards regarding sound quality and sensitivity. This is why you should always look at the technical aspects first and foremost, especially if you’re working with a tight budget.