A man wearing headphones

When it comes to reviewing techy things, a large amount of subjectivity is always involved. Especially with headphones. I’ve managed to dissect all these categories to make it more simple for you to understand. If you’re going to pay for something,  it’s very important that you know you’re getting the best value for your money.

1. Choosing Headphones Or Earbuds

Many people will ask, what is the difference between headphones and earphones? I use the term ‘headphones’ which is the generic term used for all the different types. however, there’s another broad term called ‘earphones’ which is used just as much.

Before you read this guide, you should already have a rough idea of which type of headphones you want. Maybe you’re not too sure of which type you’re going to get yet.

Here is a general definition of both types of headphones:

  • a device consisting of a pair of earphones joined by a band placed over the head, for listening to audio signals such as music or speech
  • an electrical device is worn on the ear to receive radio or telephone communications or to listen to a radio, MP3 player, etc

2. Deciding Which Type of Headphones

Also known as circumaural headphones. The term circumaural refers to how they literally go over the ears which is where it got its nickname from. These headphones come with ear pads that cover the whole ear. They are very suitable for home use due to their comfortable padding.

Being headphones they’re bulky by default, which also means they’re not very stylish. This may be quite depressing for any fashionistas reading.

Pros: circumaural headphones provide a great bass response. Impeccable comfort and stellar sound quality are provided due to how well the padding grips to the ears.

Cons: They’re quite large and bulky which can be uncomfortable for people with big heads. More storage is consumed, meaning they’re not very portable.

On-ear

Also known as supra-aural. These are headphones that consist of smaller pads which go over the ears but don’t cover them entirely. Supra-aural headphones are known for being good at isolating noise.

In order to monitor music privately, a lot of DJs use supra-aural headphones, due to the good level of noise isolation.

Pros: These are one of the most comfortable types of headphones. Since they don’t encase the whole ear, there’s no chance of it getting off your ears getting hot and sweaty.

Cons: Tight headphone fit can become uncomfortable over time which is very common with on-ear headphones.

In-ear

While most of us crave the intense bass and the robust feel of over-ear or on-ear headphones. There are situations in which having these bulky headphones can be troublesome and annoying, despite how good they sound.

At times like these, it’s more beneficial having something that’s compact, lightweight, and less prone to falling off. In other words, having a nice pair of in-ear headphones can easily fit your budget.

Pros: In-ear headphones are super portable which is good if you’re using them on the go. They’re quite hard to lose since the jack literally lives on the phone as soon as you plug them in. Well, mine do.

Cons: while some headphones do provide a high amount of quality, you probably won’t get the same quality that you would with on-ear or over-ear headphones. Earbuds are prone to falling out of your in the first few days of usage. However, after a few days of usage, the bud will start to get used to your ears and they’ll stay in.

3. Set a Budget

Another important factor in any headphone guide is setting a budget. I even do this whenever I buy any piece of technology. This is a certain amount I refuse to go over.

Many of you set budgets on things like phone contracts or a new leasing programme. Use the same analogy when buying headphones. set yourself a maximum amount in order to restrict yourself from buying something you can’t afford.

Let’s make something clear. If you only have £20 to spend on new pair headphones, you’re somehow not going to get a pair of decent headphones for that amount of money.

If you’re looking for in-ear headphones, anything above £60 should be able to produce high-quality audio and satisfy your ears. Obviously, if your budget is higher then you’re going to get what you paid for.

For over-ear and on-ear headphones, your budget will have to increase if you want something of a high quality. This is because they produce clearer and better audio.

4. Consider Special Features

If you’re reading this headphone guide and you’re a daily commuter or you’re just always on the go, noise cancelling headphones are guaranteed to help bring peace and quite to your journey.

When ambient outside noise is being cut out, the advanced technology used is called Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). Firstly, built-in microphones pick up the noise that’s around you. The headphones then produce their own out-of-phase sound waves which destroy the unwanted noises.

If you’re looking to purchase a pair of high-quality headphones with this feature, it’s a hefty price. A budget from £250 and onwards should provide you with an excellent product.

Wireless is a good feature to consider when choosing the right headphones. The name is pretty self-explanatory. They don’t have wires and cables which allows you to live a tangle-free life.

Not only are they wireless, the majority of wireless headphones allow the user to do a few things. The user can playback music, pause and skip the music from the headphones.

Wireless headphones require battery power so you’ll have to charge them quite often. Either that or you’ll have to swap out the batteries once in a while, this may become quite annoying over time.

The sound quality is not as impressive on wireless headphones compared to other headphones which is one of the biggest drawbacks. So if you really like the idea that it’s wireless, then I guess you don’t count sound quality as a really high factor.

5. Comfort

When choosing the right headphones, comfort is very important. If you’re a heavy user, you won’t be very happy if you were in discomfort after a few hours of use.

Try out the headphones you’re thinking of buying make sure that they are a comfortable fit. The better the fit when buying over-ear headphones the more comfortable you’ll be over time. For on-ear headphones, the smaller the cups, the better.

The headband of headphones can also determine your comfort. You want to go for something that has a fair bit of padding if you want that head of yours to stay comfy. I’ve seen a lot of headphones with just a metal or plastic band. When I’ve compared them to headphones with padding the difference in comfort is huge.

The same as earbuds, you’d want to make sure that you have a range of tips to choose from. If the headphones don’t come with extra earbuds, you can easily purchase some online. The design of the earphones should be suited to the ears if you purchase earphones without earbuds. Apples newer earphones are a very good example of this.

Weight is an important factor when it comes to the long-term factor. The lighter the headphones, the more comfortable you’ll be. If you’d like extreme comfort, purchasing super light headphones with a foam padded headband would be the most suitable.

6. Sound

When it comes to choosing the best headphones, undoubtedly the most important factor would be the sound in any headphone guide. Without any sound, the headphones would be useless.

You should know by now headphones deliver a better quality sound than earphones. It all makes sense, it has bigger speakers, bigger drivers, so why won’t it produce a better sound. If you really value sound, I’d advice you to go with headphones.

Frequency response. This is the range of audio frequencies the headphones can reproduce. You and I have a frequency range of 20 – 20,000Hz, which is the same range most headphones have. If you listen to music with a lot of bass. Then you should go for headphones with a lower frequency. You may not hear the bass much but you’ll certainly feel it.

When it comes to sound performance in headphones, the driver plays a major part. Mainly because it’s the component that actually creates the sound. As a general rule, the bigger the driver, the better the sound quality, which is especially true for bass performance.

Headphones with a driver of 40mm or more is a very good bet. Whereas a driver with a size of 15mm and above would be ideal for a pair of earphones.

7. Evaluate the Noise Isolation

The most annoying thing is when you turn up the volume because your music is just getting drowned out by the noise of traffic. Noise isolation is the ability to attenuate unwanted noises.

Good quality sound isolation is beneficial as it can prevent you from buying noise cancelling headphones. Doing this can save you quite a bit of money.

In-ear headphones tend to be the best at blocking out noise due to the seal they provide in the ears. Earphones without earbuds can also be effective when isolating noise. But I’ve found that earbuds rest more comfortably in the ear so you’ll probably prefer them too.

On-ear headphones isolate noise better, which means the music actually sounds like it’s actually in your head. On-ear headphones also tend to produce a sound that’s distorted. Over-ear headphones don’t isolate noise as well, so people will be able to hear your music which is quite embarrassing if you ask me. However, over-ear headphones produce a more natural sound without sounding distorted.

8. Use an In-line Remote Control

Most people use streaming services such as Spotify, Apple music, and Soundcloud in order to access music while using the internet. Many busy people don’t even bother to skip songs on their playlist. Simply because they can’t be bothered with or their hands are dirty. When my phone is on low battery and I’m listening to music, I don’t use my phone at all in order to save battery. This is where an in-line remote comes in handy.

An in-line remote is a feature placed on the wire of headphones. In-line remotes consist of a built-in mic which allows hands-free calling and a small remote. The remote allows you to play the music forwards or backwards, jump through songs, and play and pause the audio.

Common smartphone brands like Apple and Samsung configure their headphones slightly different from one another. Most in-line remotes are compatible with Apple and Samsung and other big brands with new phone models. Some headphones have different versions for IOS and Android in order to be compatible with more devices. However, it may not work for very old phone models. If you feel like you have a very old model, it’s time to upgrade.

9. Choose Headphones That Match Your Lifestyle

Music certainly motives me whenever I go the gym for a session. Lightweight headphones are definitely the best fit for working out. You want to make sure that the headphones don’t get it your way. Some earbuds feature different styles of clips in order to keep drivers in place. Some headphones use a band which rests on the back of the head, which allows for comfort and sturdiness.

Headphones built for sports and fitness are usually made with water resistant features which protect the headphones against sweat which can damage them. This is also where the in-line remote comes in handy as you won’t want to be constantly changing the music. Instead, you can just use the in-line remote.

On a flight, I’m pretty sure you find the droning sound of the engines quite irritable. Some of you should have already guessed what type of headphones is the best for a flight. That’s right, Noise cancelling or sound isolating headphones. In terms of fit, you’d probably want something lightweight and easy to put away. Wireless headphones are great for portability.

Home Entertainment

For extensive home usage and seriously long music sessions, there aren’t any pair of headphones better than over-ear headphones. Their huge driver and robust bass allow for a great sound quality. A ‘soundstage’ effect is produced by the big cups that come with over-ear headphones.

If you’re not keen on the size of over-ear headphones, there are styles such as in-ear models which can be also as good. Just make sure that they live up to your headphone standards.

In order to choose the right headphones just make sure that you choose a very comfortable fit. Make sure that the sound quality is great and you’re satisfied with the amount of bass it has. Look at the specification of any headphones you’re interested in and use this headphone guide in order to make sure it’s right for you.