Imagine an evening of solitude – a clear stream flowing by, a music device, and a pair of good headphones. Personally, we would give an arm and a leg for that to happen this evening.
There are all kinds of headphones people choose, from over the ear headphones to behind the neck headphones and even headphones without wires. Now the problem of plenty is a pleasant one when you have your options sorted out. At any rate, you do not need to be a pro. But being a noob is not advisable either.
In today’s long jump of a piece, we will take you through the various types of music headphones and tell you about the hits and misses of each. As we go about it, we’ll also talk about some important considerations that will help you make an educated decision when purchasing your next set of headphones.
Different Types of Headphones
Closed back headphones
One perennial complaint we keep receiving from readers is that they do not land a decent pair of over the ears headphones, which combine non-cancellation and surround sound in equal measure. In such cases, our suggestion is a pair of Sony over the ear headphones.
To set things straight, headphones with a closed back are masters of blocking peripheral noise, thus cutting you off from the world in a sense. If you are someone that likes to catch every minute detail of a song and give two hoots to co-passengers, this is your hunting ground.
Make no mistake if you come across a pair for a real steal of a price. These are considered to be some of the best headphones for music and you will often find them on the ears of musicians in recording studios and music show judges.
Closed back headphones come in two distinct classifications:
- Over-ear headphones, and
- On-ear headphones
We understand if you get a little worked up with this over and on superlatives. But there’s no shying away from a little brainstorming if you are really looking for the best headphones out there. Anyway, these are right next on our list.
- Comfortable and cushiony
- Great noise cancellation features
- Very minute detailing
- Impeccable bass and genuine overall sound quality
- Bulky and cost-intensive
- Not suitable for casual listeners (non-professionals)
Open Back Headphones
Like you would guess from the name, open-back headphones have open ear cups instead of closed ones. This lets some sound be absorbed by the environment. Does that spoil their chances of becoming the best headphones out there? Not necessarily.
Open-back headphones give a nice little airy vibration to the sound. If we were to compare, we could call it a miniature model of speakers in a room. Unlike closed back headphones, some sound goes out into the listener’s surroundings. But what would make someone buy these?
It turns out that these are the most popular studio headphones for mixing sounds in studios. Audio engineers are somewhat addicted to the leakage that these headphones create. These headphones deliver true sound and do not allow build-up of superficial frequencies, which is common with closed back headphones.
Many true blue audiophiles prefer to use these with songs to test headphones. Although they might not intend to work in a studio with these, they still go for open back headphones to get a crack at the original sounds that the artist went after.
- Delivers true sound
- Keeps low frequencies low and high frequencies high
- Does not build any superficial frequency
- Ideally suited for mixing and mastering sound
- Reveals your podcasts to others
- Could be irksome for people around you
Again, like the name suggests, these headphones rest on top of the ears. It is easy to be confused on the differences between on-air headphones and over-ear headphones. Honestly, even I was a while back. For one, both are good quality headphones. Here’s how you sort them out.
On-ear headphones are nearly the size of the ears. They move over the head and wrap around the ears of the person wearing it. The on-ear design is also known as supra-aural earphones.
The design of on-ear headphones partially mimics the effect of open back earphones, as they allow some mixing of sound with the environment. Unlike over the ear headphones, on-ear headphones aren’t really good at ‘sound isolation.’
Regardless, on-ear headphones are still considered to be some of the best wireless headphones money can buy. This is because these are great at not bombing your ears. They do not make you sweat profusely either. On-ear headphones are also generally lighter than over the ear models. This creates less pressure on the top band that rests on your head.
- Easy to carry
- Does not cause much sweating
- Minimizes frequency modulation
- Some sound is lost and some noise is gained
- Lacks the surround-sound effect
Some experts rank on-ear headphones as the most comfortable headphones. The correct technical nomenclature for these would be circumaural devices. They fit up, over and around the ears such that our auditory organs are cupped by them. The top headphones in this category will help you achieve complete sound isolation and nearly perfect noise cancellation. The end feel is one of a delicate intimacy between you and the sound that surrounds you.
If you do not want the cut from the world while listening to music, you can look for some decent over-ear headphones that have an open back. This will give you almost the same effect while allowing the device to breathe and bring in some air too!
Is this also the best headphone in terms of comfort? Turns out, yes! The top-end models are made of fine materials including velvet and leather. There is also a lot of cushioning that prevents the pressure exerted by their weight (yes, they can be seriously bulky).
Nevertheless, over-ear headphones are all truly high-quality headphones and undoubtedly the kings of swag. Think of your favorite hip-hop name, add ‘headphones’ and run a quick image search. You will know where we are going.
- Surround sound effect
- Comfortable and snug fit
- Fine materials used in cushions
- Cancels environment noise
- Could cause sweating
- Truly heavy headphones
Speaking of portability, convenience, and versatility, in-ear headphones are perhaps the most popular headphones on the market at the moment. These are also technically known as canal phones. If you are not an at-home or studio sound engineer, the in-ear variants could well be the headphones of your choice. In fact, you do not even need to spend a ton if you are willing to buy a pair of these.
The in-ear headphones are among the fastest growing accessories in the music industry. As technology grows, we can totally see these headphones replacing the bulkier variants in the professional studios too. Unlike the headphones that surround your ears, these go a little deeper into the ear canals and as a result, you receive the sound a little closer to your eardrums. If you can latch on to the best sound quality headphones, you can even consider a higher investment in these models.
Just like the closed back headphones, no sound escapes into the environment with in-ear headphones. There is no better alternative for those who listen to leisurely music on the go. And of course, these headphones are ideally suited for intense workout music as well.
- Lightweight and portable
- Effective noise cancellation
- Varied price range to choose from
- Fit for the gym
- Not studio material
- Low-end models can cause dizziness
These can be easily confused with in-ear headphones. And for the sake of doppelgangers, they look just the same too! And before we know it, there is a long in-ear headphones v earbuds debate that takes shape.
Now, earbuds are more like mini-speakers that are placed right inside your ear canal cavities. Much like in-ear headphones, earbuds are quite portable and compact at the same time. However, the mini size of the speakers could prevent them from creating the desired level of sound isolation.
The quality of sound you get with earbuds depends hugely on the budget. If you are willing to spend generously, you will get great quality headphones that can compete with any other category under the sun. Nonetheless, the X factor of earbuds is their size and their size only. Earbuds do not quite compete with in-ear headphones in terms of flexibility. Using earbuds in the gym could result in their falling off during intense workouts.
Since earbuds come in a universal size (one size that should fit all), you could say the shape might cause a little discomfort for some people. But the different ear tips that are accompanied by a pair of good sounding earbuds take care of that.
- Compact and portable
- Good noise cancellation feature
- Impeccable sound quality
- High bass on even low-end models
- Could be uncomfortable after a while
- Block all sounds from the environment around
Big technology fan? Hate cords? Bluetooth headphones are your best buy. As it is, the world is moving toward wireless technology with great pace. I am typing on a wireless Microsoft keyboard, using a wireless Dell mouse and hope to find some wireless charging solution for my Dell Inspiron soon. Bluetooth technology allows nearby devices to connect through radio waves. But they do not depend on radio towers and follow their own frequency. Talk about self-sufficient technology!
There is a small computer chip inside behind the neck Bluetooth headphones that connect them with your music playing device. So if you connect your headphones via Bluetooth, you still get the same sound like you got with other headphones – without the cord hassle.
The benefits of using a Bluetooth headphone are rather obvious. Whether it is at the gym, at home, on a boat, in the air or just on another planet, you have your phone with you and the head has the headphone – there’s nothing in between. And losing the cord does not mean you compromise on the sound quality. That remains just where it is. Some complaint of a slight ‘lag’ in sound transmission, which is only natural.
- Lightweight and portable
- No hassle of pesky cords
- Noise cancellation and surround sound
- Uncompromising quality
- Slight lag in sound transmission
- Not fit for real-time studio work
Noise canceling headphones
The marketing industry uses phrases like ‘sound isolation’ and ‘noise cancellation’ far too often for convenience. Well, we do not contest the fact that other headphones can do it effectively. It’s just that they are not as professional as the headphones that are actually built for noise cancellation.
With the help of some inbuilt technology, these are the best headphones for the money in the market. These headphones actively work to reduce the sound that your brain picks from your surroundings, giving you the quiet environment you seek.
How do they work? There is a small internal engine inside these devices. The engine picks up the low frequencies around you. There is a small microphone built on the outer side of the ear cups. The engine creates opposite and equal frequencies, canceling noise.
Noise-cancelling headphones are particularly popular for air travel. These are some of the best wireless headphones money can buy because they filter out the sound of other passengers and block the noise of the plane engine too.
But air travel is not the only ideal use case scenario of these high-quality headphones. They are capable of doing almost anything and everything that you want them to do – right from studio recording to sound engineering.
- Only effective headphones for air travel
- Can be used for all kinds of purposes
- Use technology for noise cancellation
- Prevent feelings of dizziness
- Potential pocket diggers
- Can be big and bulky
Choosing the Right Pair of Headphones
So what are the best headphones for you? We have already been through the major types of headphones available on the market at the moment. Now let’s quickly list some important factors that you must consider before you arrive at a purchase decision.
Size and Shape
The shape and size of your headphones will greatly define the level of comfort. It is also a subjective consideration. Some may love around the neck headphones, while others could totally detest them. Portability is another major factor here. Do you need a pair that fits into your pocket, or in your backpack? Are they to leave at your desk or take on a plane? Consider what you’ll use them for.
Headphones come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and costs. Big headphones do not necessarily cost you extra. It is really a weighing balance of the pros and cons of each model. Also, vet the purpose of use to judge cost-effectiveness.
You should also evaluate the professional value (even if you are a leisure listener) if you are spending beyond a certain threshold of money in the job. Consider what role they will be able to play for you as you consider budget and how they compare to others in a similar price range.
Warranty and Repairs
Some best music headphones models can be really costly. If they go kaput, it may be a real pain in the neck. It is always wise to consider buying a pair of high-end headphones only after careful study of the warranty conditions. Find a warranty that will assist you easily if your headphones happen to malfunction or break.
Compatibility with devices
This is no longer a huge problem since most headphones have evolved to their best state today in terms of connecting with devices. Most should automatically be compatible with most devices you currently use. There is little hope for 80’s devices, though.
If you are truly aiming for a product that offers high definition noise cancellation, you should invest in the right types of headphones only. While all headphones claim some degree of noise cancellation, only a few dedicated ones manage to do the job without a hiccup.
True sound index
If nothing else, you should expect your headphone to return the sound that the music composer made it for. This is where it becomes crucial to check if the headphones at best buy prices also give you a true feel for different frequencies of sound.
While behind the ear headphones (typically the wireless ones) have a lot of fanfare and positive vibes building up around them, there is no denying the fact that wired headphones are still vital lifelines of the music industry. We are witnessing the true evolution of sound in terms of accessories available to us. At the same time, market competition is helping us lay a hand on these products at never-before rates. It is necessary that we make use of this opportunity – and choose the right products as we do so.
We hope this article helped you gain a grip on the different types of headphones available to us, and points each of them hit and miss. Follow us for more updates on some of the best headphones and other music technology accessories.