Ashleigh Allsopp explores the di erence between in-ear,
over-ear, wired and wireless headphones
Looking for better sound from your iPhone,
iPad, iPod or Mac? New headphones are
likely to do wonders, especially if you’re still
using Apple’s standard Earpods. But there are so
many headphones out there, varying in price, style
and type, so it can be di cult to decide what type
of headphones are right for you. It’s also tricky to
know what to look for in a new pair of headphones,
particularly as there’s little opportunity to try them
out for more than a few minutes before purchasing
them. Here, we bring you buying advice to help you
choose which headphones are right for you.
What to look for
When looking at potential headphone purchases,
you’ll notice that the main di erences between them
are usually type, comfort and sound quality.
Choose a headphone type
You’ll fi rst need to decide whether you want
earbuds, in-ear, on-ear or over-ear headphones.
In-ear headphones sit inside your ear canal, so
they’re small and very portable. While the quality
of in-ear sound is typically not as good as on-ear or
over-ear headphones, they’re normally considerably
better than earbud, which rest outside of the
ear canal. However, the fi t of in-ear headphones
depends on the shape of your ear (although many
in-ear headphones come with various tip sizes so
you can customise them to fi t better).
On-ear headphones are usually
smaller than over-ear headphones,
as they rest on the ear, whereas
over-ear headphones cover the
entire ear.Both of these types
of headphones tend to have
better sound quality than similarly
pricedin-ear and earbuds, but
they’re often not as ideal when it
comes to portability.
Wired or wireless
On-ear and over-ear headphones are
also sometimes available as wireless
models, so they’ll normally connect
to your iPad,
or Mac using
that Bluetooth can
mean that your music
undergoes some compression
that may make the sound quality less
satisfactory than wired headphones.
Specs and sound quality
Manufacturers will list the specs of their
headphones, but much of that information –
particularly the frequency-response numbers
– don’t actually mean a lot. That’s because
there’snostandard testing methodology for
headphone frequency response.
This means that the best way to decide whether
you’ll be happy with the sound quality is to try them
out. Headphones with the best quality will have a
good balance between treble (upper), midrange and
bass (lower) frequencies. They should have rich, full
sound without sacrifi cing detail.
Smaller headphones can have di culty delivering
a good bass response because of the especially
small drivers (speakers). This means that, even if you
can hear the low frequencies, you probably won’t be
able to feel that punch. A vendor trick, though, is to
emphasise certain bass and upper-bass frequencies.
However, while this might impress you the fi rst
time you try them out in-store, they can be tiring to
listen to for long periods of time, and can mean
inaccurate audio reproduction.
Other handy features
In addition to the all-important type and sound
quality decisions, there are other things to consider
when purchasing a new pair of headphones.
Most headphones now come with a remote
control and microphone on the cable (assuming
they’re wired, that is). We fi nd this feature
immensely useful, as it means you don’t need to
take your phone out of your pocket when a song
you’re not so keen on starts playing, for example. It
also means you can answer calls from your device
for hands-free use.
Perhaps, if you’re planning on using the
headphones with your iPad or Mac, the in-line
remote and mic won’t be as useful for you, but for
iPod and iPhone users it’s a worthwhile feature.
Best place to buy
In an ideal scenario, you’ll
want to have a listen to
the headphones before
you cough up your cash.
Retail stores usually have
headphones on display
for you to try. If you’re
ordering online, though, it
doesn’t mean you have to buy
without knowing whether the
headphones will be any good.
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