Perhaps none of human hobbies is as subjective as music. It is almost impossible to predict which one a user prefers, and not everyone would like others to listen to their music.
Accordingly, for individual listening, such a device as headphones is extremely popular.
The first headphones appeared a long time ago, but due to the impossibility of creating small speakers, they were relatively large. Now there are compact plug-in models with several emitters, wireless modules. At the same time, huge studio headphones are produced, which, moreover, are connected to special amplifiers. How not to get lost in this diversity? Our article will tell about it.
Headphone form factor
The first thing you should pay attention to when choosing headphones is the form factor. The conditional purpose of the headphones and the ease of use in a given situation depend on it. The following headphone form factors are available:
- Inserts and inserts. This type of headphone is the most compact and inconspicuous. Earbuds are called headphones that are held in the auricle.
- Overhead. This type of headphones is characterized by the fact that the speaker housing is superimposed on the auricle from the outside, but does not completely cover it. As a rule, lightweight headphones for the player are made in this form factor. They combine good portability (often a folding design is used here) and sound close to full-size models.
- Full size (encompassing). Completely cover the auricle. These headphones have a bulky design, but do not limit developers in the use of any technology. Because of this, most professional models have this form factor. Its disadvantage is the large size, so these headphones are popular as stationary, although this is subjective, no one forbids using them on the player.
Meizu EP21HD in-ear headphones
Plug-in, in turn, have rubber ear pads that are inserted into the ear canal for better sound insulation.
Xiaomi Quantie In-Ear Headphones (HYBRID) Steel
As you might guess, these headphones have the smallest driver size. Therefore, conventional dynamic headphones made in this form factor are inferior in sound quality to large headphones, all other things being equal.
However, there are so-called reinforcing headphones, which can surpass models with large speakers in terms of sound accuracy. They will be discussed later.
Headphones Koss RUK40 S (Silver)
The disadvantage of this headphone format is the impossibility of perfect sound insulation.
Audio-Technica ATH-AVC500 earphones
Headphone attachment types
It is also important to choose how, in fact, the headphones will be mounted on the head. There are the following types of attachment:
- headband. This is an arc that runs vertically along the top of the head and connects the two “halves” of the headphones. This type is most convenient, since the load is distributed over the maximum area. The length of the headband is adjustable even on the simplest models
- The occipital arch — runs along the back of the head, without interfering with wearing a headdress. The weight load with this type of attachment falls on the ears. It is popular on sports models, as the headphones do not fly off the user’s head during a sharp “braking”.
- Ear clips — allows you to place on-ear headphones without using the headband. Since there is no bow, you can wear a headdress with them, lean on something with the back of your head. The disadvantage of this fastening is that the headphones require getting used to, as the auricles are clamped.
- Earbuds and in-ear headphones do not have a special mount.
Headband Marshall Major II Pitch Black
Headphones Koss Sporta Pro — one way to use — in the “mode” of the occiput
Koss KSC75 — clip-on headphones
Types of headphone drivers
In this part of the article, it would be appropriate to talk about the technical side of the issue.
It is clear that the design, build quality, and brand promotion affect the cost of headphones. But the main thing in them is the sound quality, isn’t it? For starters, how is sound produced in headphones?
There are at least three types of drivers used in headphones:
- Dynamic, or speakers. In them, oscillations occur due to the movement of the coil, to which the current is supplied, in a magnetic field. This is the most common type of emitters. A characteristic feature — the nature of the sound strongly depends on the configuration of the headphone case, including the so-called acoustic design.
- Headphones with a balanced armature (reinforcing). Nowadays, such drivers are used in plug-in models. In them, under the influence of current, a special plate vibrates — an anchor, and these movements are transmitted to the membrane. The advantage of this design is higher accuracy, the disadvantage is a small sound frequency range for a single emitter. Due to this shortcoming, many armature headphones use several drivers designed for different frequency ranges. Armature drivers, by themselves, are compact in design and require no resonant space in the headphone housing.
- Electrostatic headphones. In them, a thin and light membrane oscillates in an electrostatic field, and thanks to its properties, the sound is better than dynamic headphones.
Speaker diameter is one of the most important characteristics of dynamic headphones.
Three reinforcing emitters in the headphone case
Top models costing thousands of dollars can have up to 12 drivers.
Electrostatic headphones Stax SR-307
Electrostatic headphones require a special amplifier, are expensive, but, despite these shortcomings, are in demand among connoisseurs of the most natural sound.
As mentioned, the nature of the sound in overhead and surround headphones with speakers is highly dependent on the acoustic design of the case. What is it?
The fact is that the sound speaker is flat and in the headphones one side is turned to the ear. The other side of the speaker “looks” towards the body.
If the headphone case is closed, and does not transmit sound from the speaker on the opposite side of the ear, then such headphones are closed. These headphones have good sound isolation and deep sound.
In the event that the speaker is not “walled up” from the back, the headphones are open.
The sound of such headphones is “light”, as if the sound source is at a distance from the ears. The downside of this solution is that the headphones do not have full isolation, that is, extraneous sounds are heard in them. Also, people around you can enjoy your music as the sound comes out.
There is also an intermediate option — semi-open headphones, which in terms of quality is average between open and closed.
So, in general, we have decided on the type of headphones that suit us. How to choose from similar models?
Here the technical characteristics of the headphones come to the rescue, which can tell about the nature and quality of the sound. We list the most common of them.
Sound frequency range
The name of this characteristic, perhaps, speaks for itself. This characteristic is measured in hertz.
For example, Sennheiser CX 300-II headphones have a sound frequency range of 19 — 21000 Hz. Accordingly, if the device to which the headphones are connected will “try” to send a signal to them with a frequency that is outside this range, then they simply will not react to it in any way.
On the other hand, the human auditory system is at best capable of perceiving the range of 20 — 20,000 Hz, so this characteristic does not really matter, it is better to perceive it as a value that indirectly shows the quality of the headphone emitters.
Nonlinear and harmonic distortion coefficients
The first thing you should really pay attention to when determining the sound quality in headphones is the coefficients of non-linear and harmonic distortion. These are different characteristics, but they are similar in that they indicate the extent to which changes in the signal are made by certain headphones.
These coefficients are measured in percentages, and, accordingly, the smaller they are, the better.
In good dynamic headphones, the harmonic distortion coefficient is 0.1%. In electrostatic — can be less than 0.01%.
Headphone impedance is a characteristic that indicates the functionality of headphones.
The larger it is, the more demanding the headphones are on the power of the supplied signal.
For example, headphones with an impedance of up to 32 ohms are best suited for portable devices. Headphones with high impedance should be used on stationary devices (amplifier, computer sound card), on a portable they will sound very quiet.
In practice, it may turn out that two different models of headphones may have different volumes, even with the same impedance and on the same source. This means that louder headphones have higher sensitivity.
The sensitivity of headphones is measured in decibels per milliwatt, the higher it is, the louder the headphones, all other things being equal.
Other features and functions
In addition to the type of headphones and the main characteristics, there are other things that are no less important for someone that you should pay attention to. Let’s list them.
First, these are the properties of the cable and connector. The most common jack is a 3.5mm jack, but larger headphones for stationary use will have a 6.3mm jack.
The cable itself can, for example, be removable, and also have different lengths, sections and materials. On top models, a fabric sheath of the cord is common, which protects it from damage.
One of the important qualities when choosing headphones is their sound isolation, that is, the possibility of normal listening in noisy places. In addition to passive sound isolation, headphones may have a feature called active noise cancellation.
Bose QuietComfort 25 Active Noise Canceling Headphones
It is arranged as follows: a special microphone registers external sounds, and then the headphones emit the same sound, only in antiphase to the external one. Thus, this noise is not perceived by the user’s ear, and the headphones can be used in noisy places, such as transport.
Separately, it is worth mentioning such a category as wireless headphones.
They can be divided into two categories:
- Bluetooth headphones for phones and similar devices. To date, these headphones are diverse, and can have a lot of functions, up to their own MP3 player and FM tuner. An example is Bluedio headphones.
- Home wireless headphones. They work over a radio channel and are equipped with their own transmitter, which also serves as a docking station for charging.
Headphones Bluedio T2+
Also, the latest generation of Apple headphones can be attributed to this category. Their appearance suggests that, perhaps, wireless headphones will become more popular than wired ones.
Sennheiser RS 120 II Wireless Headphones
In general, wireless headphones are very comfortable, but have two drawbacks — the increased price and the need for charging. It is also worth noting that all professional headphones are still wired, perhaps due to the fact that wireless technologies introduce certain distortions into the signal.
Usually, when a user buys a device, one model is enough for him. In the case of headphones, different types are suitable for different tasks. In addition, for many people, choosing and listening to different models turns into a hobby.
Our article gives an idea of the most important features of these or those headphones, but there are many intermediate and original designs on the market that are not mentioned here. As a result, the best option would be to try on and listen to the headphones yourself, and our article will help you find the right direction of choice.