What sort of headphones should you buy?

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Headphones seem like a relatively simple product line at first glance, but as you explore the audio world and slip down the various rabbit holes it houses, you learn that there are many different types of headphones available.

We’re not just talking about brands but the design and style of headphones and earphones can have a dramatic effect on your listening experience.

The question we want to answer today is how these different styles of earphones differ.

Let’s begin with the basics, earphones versus headphones.

While earphones and headphones are used interchangeably, there is a difference and it’s important to know those differences.

For earphones there are two main variants.

Earphones which sit in the fold of your ear rather than in it and generally allow more ambient sound through.

Then you have in-ear earphones which go into your ear canal and fire sound directly into your ears. Generally this cancels more ambient noise and combined with noise cancelling technology, you can get rather close to the sound profile of larger over the ear headphones.

As for headphones we have two variants with two styles for each. There are over the ear headphones which – as the name suggests – covers the entire ear which is good for noise cancelling.

Then you have on-ear headphones which sit on top of your ears and allow more ambient sound through like earphones would.

As for the styles you will find open and closed back to be the most popular. Open-back headphones allow more ambient noise through while closed back headphones are generally used for headphones with noise cancelling features.

What features should I look for?

Flipping over the packaging of headphones will generally reveal a flurry of numbers the average buyer may not understand, so let’s point out what features and numbers you should be looking for.

Let’s start with the most important – frequency response.

For the average person you shouldn’t need a frequency response of greater than 20Hz – 20KHz. Unless you have a golden ear, there isn’t need for much more than that. However, if you are shopping for a headset with a microphone you will want that frequency response to be as wide as possible for the best experience, at least for the person listening to you.

For wired headphones or earphones you will also want to make check impedance figures. This figure will give you an idea of how hard it is to drive the headphones. Simply put, a higher impedance will require more power to work properly. However, if you are shopping for a pair of daily headphones, generally you won’t need to worry too much about impedance.

Now we need to talk about codecs.

Codecs are used in Bluetooth earphones and headphones as a way to preserve the quality of an audio file from the source to the output. There are many codecs but you should look for headphones or earphones that support SBC (sub-band coding) and AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) at a minimum. SBC is the universal standard for Bluetooth headphones so any device can support the connection. AAC is favoured by Apple but isn’t supported by all manufacturers.

For general consumer grade headphones we would also highly recommend a set of earphones or headphones that make use of the Qualcomm aptX codec. This codec preserves a lot of audio quality and we highly recommend it if your choice of headphones or earphones supports it.

Finally wireless versus wired.

This really comes down to what you are using your headphones and earphones for. If you’re sitting at your desk plugged into an amplifier then wired is the way to go. For those on the move, wireless might be best for you.

The fact of the matter is that audio preference is very personal and you will spend a bit of money finding the design, style and features that work best for you.

Thankfully, brands like Taotronics and 1MORE available through local distributor Syntech, offer a wide range of headphones and earphones, all at affordable prices. Whether you want earphones with active noise cancelling or headphones with aptX support, Taotronics has an extensive lineup of products available right now.

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