The good thing about headphones is that there are a lot of options and the problem with that is the process to find a fit and style that works for you becomes difficult because headphones are not just accessories these are an expression of your style. Not every type is the same. Some are good for personal listening and some are designed for the gaming experience. We at ShopTalkPlanet love technology and hence in our goal to spread this love, we urge people to understand the fine piece of art before they buy it. Hence in our series of buying guides, we have now brought you buying guide for headphones. So, tap on that star icon to bookmark this page because you are going to get a lot of information and some of our recommendations in each category in this guide.
Style and Fit
Let’s start with the basics. In this section, you will choose your headphones based on portability and ear comfort.
In-ear or Earbud headphones
- Tangled wires
- Bass response is not very good
- Sometimes causes discomfort over extended use
- Small sound drivers (8 mm -10 mm)
In-Ear headphones are small and extremely portable. These headphones or you can say earphones are very travel-friendly. You can easily pack and store them and take them with you wherever you go. These types of earphones are inserted into the ear canal and fit easily.
Most models come with microphone and control buttons built into the wire that helps you to attend calls. Since these types of earphones do not cover your ear you don’t feel uncomfortable as your ears are open and air to them is not blocked. But for the same reason, your ears pick up environmental sounds.
To maintain their compact and lightweight feature, In-Ear headphones use tiny drivers and hence the sound quality is not that great as compared to other types of headphones that are bigger and cover your ears. But with the latest technologies, you can still get great music experience with In-ear headphones. The only annoying part of In-ear headphones is when the wires get tangled. But we also have options for Bluetooth earphones.
I like to listen to music or Ted Talks while travelling to work daily and Bluetooth In-Ear Headphones are my favorite. These types of headphones are idle for workouts. You get different tip sizes with these types of headphones so that you can choose the right size for you. Prolonged use of In-ear headphones may sometimes cause discomfort but with the right choice of ear tips, you can use these for 6-7 hours continuously without any discomfort.
Tip: If you are looking for something that can accompany you during your day-to-day travel and easy to carry then In-ear headphones are an idle choice
On-ear or Earpad headphones
- Better sound
- less prone to over-heating ears
- Relatively portable
- Bigger sound drivers (30 mm – 40 mm)
- less effective noise isolation
- sound leaks
You can also call them as supra-aural headphones, open-backed headphones, semi-open headphones, closed-back headphones etc. These types of headphones sit on top of your outer ears but do not entirely cover them. In-ear headphones sometimes can cause discomfort with prolonged use because they are inserted in the ear canal but on-ear headphones are comfortable for long use as the cushion of headphones rests on the outer ear.
On-ear headphones are not too big or bulky as compared to the over-ear headphones that we will discuss in the next section. You will not be able to stuff them in your pocket like In-ear headphones but still, you will be able to fold them up and keep in your back-pack or just around your neck that makes you look cool.
These headphones use large drivers and hence provide much better sound than In-ear headphones. They come with cushions with a larger area and hence are less prone to overheating ears. No wires and hence no problem of tangles wires. The headband that connects the ear-cups goes over your head. On-ear headphones do not provide noise isolation as good as In-ear and over-ear headphones hence you will be able to hear outside sounds. Also, the sound leak is one of the problems with these types of headphones. People sitting beside you might be able to hear which Tylor Swift song you are listening to.
Tip: If you want good sound quality and bass effect and do not want too bulky headphones than you can go for this type. Also, since these headphones do not block the external sound completely while listening to music you will be aware of your surroundings which some people may prefer if they are walking in the park or sitting in the office.
- Very comfortable
- Biggest sound drivers (above 45 mm)
- Detailed sound
- Passive sound isolation
- too bulky
You can also call them as around-ear headphones, full-size headphones, circumaural headphones, closed-back headphones, earcup headphones etc. These are very big in size and their earcups wrap around your ears entirely with their cushions and hence are very comfortable.
The Over-ear headphones use drivers bigger than other types that are above than 45 mm and hence produce great sound with passive sound isolation. Since over-ear headphones cover the ears, it effectively blocks the external noise and gives you a comprehensive music experience. Since the earcups are larger the weight distribution on ears is even and if you choose the headphones with right cushion material these are the most comfortable types of headphones for the use of long durations. These are heavy set and hence difficult to carry around. So, if you are not carrying a back-pack you may not want to take these with you.
Over-ear headphones seal the music in. There won’t be any sound leaks and your neighbours in the metro won’t make any complaint about the noise.
Over-ear headphones can be of two types. One type comes with closed-back, the most common type. These are, as the name suggests fully covered at the backside and have no vent to allow airflow. Over the extended use, these might cause heating and sweat on ears. Another type is open-back over-ear headphones. These allow airflow and hence keeps the ear cool avoiding heat and sweating but there can be some sound leakage in open back type of headphones.
Tip: If you do not want to compromise with the sound quality, bass effect and loudness level and have a good budget then over-ear headphones are the right choice for you.
So, now you know all the types of headphones but which one is right for you? Some listen to music and some study on youtube channels. Some listen to while jogging some while sitting comfortably in the back seat of their car. Let’s get some more information on which type of headphone is suitable for my routine.
If you are looking for something that you can use to:
- Listen to music while travelling
- Take calls
- Watch youtube videos
- Occasionally watch movies on a laptop
We recommend In-ear headphones that are easy to carry and handle. Comfortable for occasional use and provide enough sound quality for daily light usage.
Wired In-ear headphones or Bluetooth In-ear neckband headphones are a good choice.
Sports and Fitness
For activities that involve movement like :
- Gym workout
You require headphones that involve no wire and should be lightweight.
We recommend In-ear Bluetooth headphones with neckband or ear-clips. Neckbands and ear-clips make sure that your headphones stay put while you are moving. If you are ready to spend some more money then you can go for the headphones that we call as Truly wireless. Truly wireless headphones don’t even have neckbands to eliminate the chord.
If you use your headphones while travelling you need something portable and lightweight. For that purpose, you can go with In-ear Bluetooth headphones with ear-clips or neckband. If you spend time on a plane or bus then you need headphones that do not leak sound and provide a good amount of noise cancellation. In this case, over-ear headphones are the best choice for you. Plus you won’t get distracted by your surroundings.
If you travel in your car alone then you might not be worried about external noises. You can go for on-ear headphones then. Also, remember not all on-ear headphones leaks sound. There are many good options if you select carefully. Just keep reading.
If you are a music enthusiast and play musical instruments or a singer in making you might not want to compromise on sound quality. Over-ear headphones are made for you. Their large ear-cups cover your ears and provide awesome bass effect and immersive sound experience. They are expensive than other types of headphones but worth it. Over-ear headphones prevent leakage of sound to surroundings and prevent external noise to interfere with your music. You can choose wireless over-ear headphones if you do not want the hassle of wires.
Gamers prefer deep bass and high volume. Over-ear headphones are natural for them. If your preference is to use your headphones continuously for long hours Modern Warfare campaign then you may prefer wired over-ear headphones so you don’t have to worry about dying batteries in the midst of a campaign but if you are anything like me you may want to keep two wireless headphones one in use and one in charging 😉
You can also go for on-ear headphones for gaming purpose because you might not be worried about sound leaks or outside noise while sitting in your game room. Plus since on-ear headphones do not cover your ear entirely it keeps your ear cool and avoids sweating and heating.
If you are a fan of online streaming services and like to binge watch TV series or movies on your TV without leaving the comfort of your home then you need something that gives you a theatre-like surround sound, robust bass and high-frequency response. In-ear small drivers cannot provide that level of experience. You have to go for over-ear headphones that cover your ears and gives you complete sound experience. If you feel the weight of over-ear headphones distracting then on-ear headphone is another option for you. Wired headphones are preferred choice for this category because then you don’t have to worry about batteries but wireless headphones can also be considered if you binge-watch for around 7-8 hours.
Features to look for
Let’s look at some of the important features that are easy to miss while buying but can make your life easy using a headphone.
If you attend calls using your headphones then you need to look for the one that comes with a mic on the wire or built into the earcups. Apart from answering calls you can also access Google assistance or Siri on your phone and use other voice command features of your smartphone.
In terms of connectivity, you get three options.
- True wireless
Most of the wired headphones come with a 3.5 mm jack cable that is compatible with almost all smartphones and laptops. If the device you are using as a source does not have a 3.5 mm port then you can easily find a connector wire that can connect your 3.5 mm jack cable to your device.
The benefit of wired headphones is that you never have to worry about the drainage of batteries. You can use these for as much duration as you want without the hassle of recharging them. There is one problem with wired headphones that the wires get tangled too frequently and sometimes it becomes a pain to entangle them. This may also lead to damage of wire and ultimately the headphones. To eliminate this problem we have wireless options.
Wireless headphones come with Bluetooth connectivity. They can be paired with any Bluetooth enabled device. That can be your smartphone, laptop or your TV. These are the preferred choice for sports and outdoor uses as you do not need to connect them to the audio source using cable. You can stream audio up to 10 m away from the source.
The problem with wireless headphones is that you need to recharge their batteries. If you are travelling you need to carry a power bank to recharge them if you are going to use them for long hours. Headphones with huge battery life are also coming in the market so that will not be a big problem in the near future.
Since they encode audio digitally and compress the files their sound becomes less dynamic than that of the wired headphones.
Even wireless headphones have some kind of cables in the form of neckbands or connection between two earplugs and hence are not truly wireless. This category of headphones comes with just two earplugs and nothing else and hence we call them True wireless headphones.
True wireless headphones or you can just call them earbuds, come in pairs of separate units- one for each ear. Some models are inserted inside the ear canal and some wrapped around the back of the ear. These are expensive as compared to other types of headphones. Since these are very tiny you need to be extra careful not to lose them.
If you want more control over your music then you need to be very careful about the control module you get built-in your headphones. Some headphones come with a single button that you can use to play and pause your audio and some headphones come with more controls that let you answer/reject calls, play, pause or stop your music and control volume.
We are getting voice assistance feature these days in almost everything so why not in headphones. We have options that come with built-in Amazon’s Alexa, apple’s Siri or google assistant. You can control everything with your voice commands without using control buttons.
Protection against water
If you use your headphones while working out then you should go for the water-resistant headphones. This feature will protect your headphones from getting damaged due to sweat. Plus water-resistant headphones are easy to clean. If you go for waterproof headphones than you can use them while swimming as well. You need to check the metres below water for which it will remain waterproof.
You do not want your headphones to die on you when you are in the middle of a long road trip or an intense workout session. Always check for the battery life if you are going for wireless headphones. Many wireless headphones come with storage cases that charge your headphones at the same time.
I hope you have gained a lot of information about what to look for when buying a headphone but if you are still confused I would recommend you to check the usage section of this article once again because, in the end, it’s all about the kind of routine you follow while using your headphones. For day to day use you can go for wired In-ear headphones which are cheaper, compact and have no charging issues. For professionals, you must go for over-ear wired headphones because they give you an immersive experience and there is no issue of batteries with wired ones. For outdoor uses, your preference should be wireless headphones but always check the battery life as per your use.