There is no doubt that headphones are one of the most sold accessories of every type of user, whether its bought to be used with a smartphone, a laptop, or a dedicated MP3 player. Almost every consumer out there owns a headphone of some kind. While headphones, in general, do come bundled with most gadgets, it’s a good idea to invest in a better set of earphones if you want the best in audio quality and the model that suits your budget, your music preferences and more. The problem comes when users find it hard to choose a headphone between different brands and variants. So, it’s important to know some of the important factors about the different types of headphones and its real purpose before investing. Take a look at our in-depth buying guide for headphones.
What are the different types of headphones available?
Over the years, headphones and earphones have rapidly evolved in such a way that there are now different variants that are meant for different types of users, be it if you want the best in sound quality, or you don’t want to get distracted from outside noise, or if you want to go wireless, rugged headphones or otherwise. We will list out the different form-factors below.
In-ear or earbud style
These are the types of earphones that are small in size and mainly consist of just earbuds that securely fits in the outer area of your ear canal. Despite its smaller size, the drivers on these earphones somewhat rival the performance of full-sized headphones. They are compact to carry on your pocket, lightweight and also offers excellent noise isolation. Although, there are different earbuds that also feature inbuilt noise cancellation technology. The best part is it doesn’t get in the way while you wear a cap, spectacles or sunglasses and so forth. Some of the earbuds come with in-line remote for controlling the volume or answering a call. Another bonus feature is that the earbuds can be removed for cleaning and usually each in-ear earphones do come with different sizes of earbuds (S,M,L).
This is one of the most general types of headphones preferred by consumers. While it does look like a full-sized headphone, the on-ear headphones are comparatively smaller and lighter with smaller earcups that do cover the outer area of the ear. And because of this, chances of overheating and sweating around the ears in less than the full-sized models. That said, the bass effects noise-isolation performance is lesser than full-sized headphones.
Full-sized or Over-ear
The full-sized or circumaural headphones are the ones which feature large ear-cups, offering way better noise isolation and with the best of bass effects and audio loudness of music tracks. However, because of its large size, full-sized headphones are better used indoors at home rather being a portable device. That said, some of the full-sized or over-ear headphones come with a foldable design and a detachable cord. Also, it easily interferes with your hairstyle, glasses and so forth.
The demand of wireless headphones is increasing over time, especially with the lack of 3.5mm audio jacks on many flagship smartphones and the latest Apple iPhones. These headphones basically use Bluetooth transmissions and with the recent boom of NFC, users will be able to pair their devices with a single tap. Another good thing is that wireless headphones do allow the connection of more than one device, such as a smartphone and a laptop. Wireless earphones come in both full-sized ear cups as well as in-ear variants. One of the few downfalls is that wireless headphones can lose connection if the streaming device is quite far away or that interference can be there if the main device is in the pocket.
Unlike the noise isolating headphones that block outside noise with just the earbuds, noise canceling headphones reduce the unwanted noise by using active noise control. They generate a wavelength that’s the negative of the ambient sound (picked up from the outer end of the headphone with the help of tiny microphones), thereby reducing the sound. This is more useful when users want to have a good sleep while the sounds of the plane are significantly reduced. However, this can hamper the true sound quality of the music tracks. Noise canceling headphones come in in-ear, full-sized and also wireless headphone form-factors.
There is no fun and in working out hard without your favorite and motivative music tracks, and the general headphones are not designed to resist sweat, water and athletic sessions. That’s why companies are also focusing to release the sports headphones are quite durable for all your tough workouts. Sports headphones can be wired or wireless and mostly come with in-ear designs (since a full-sized cup is too big for sports).
What are the advantages of in-ear earphones over the full-sized headphones and vice-versa?
While both the headphones produce great sound quality and noise isolation, in-ear headphones are more portable to use and don’t interfere with the things you wear, such as sunglasses, caps and so on. These earphones offer a comparable amount of sound quality and bass (depending on the model). But when it’s the other way around, over-ear headphones come with better bass effects and higher noise isolation and more room within the large earcups for better sound. However, these large earcups could be a problem for long-term use and it can start sweating on the user’s ear. That said, there will be some level of discomfort when you wear either type for hours. So, it is important to choose the right model that doesn’t cause any discomfort on your ears.
Does the quality of the in-ear buds matter?
In a way, yes. Because one of the most important aspects while buying an in-ear earphone is the wearing comfort because you are practically inserting the earbud within your ear canal. Since its designed to sit firmly on the ear canal, the earbuds should not cause any sort of discomfort to your ears. Usually, good in-ear earphones come with silicone earbud tips. Also, the quality of the earbud tips justifies how much the in-ear earphones can isolate the outside noise. With better quality, users will also be pleased to wear it for hours of music playback.
Can I replace the lost in-ear earbuds?
Generally, most of the companies use the same type of in-ear buds for almost all its products and it’s not hard to find them online for purchase. However, it’s best to keep it always safe as it can get lost easily. Since the earbuds are easily removable, chances are that the earbuds can get detached, while you take the earphones out of your pocket. The earbuds fall off without your knowledge and you will only notice it once you try to put on the earphones. And without the earbuds, you basically cannot hear the music tracks properly.
Tell me the difference between open and closed back headphones?
Headphones are also distinguished in the way the drivers are placed within the device. There are two types of headphones: Closed-back and open-back headphones. In the case of closed back headphones, the sound drivers are located in the ear cup portion that faces the user’s ear. Since the sound that comes from the driver can only travel in the area where the earcups cover your ears, the sound will not leak out easily. And since the drivers are not exposed and can’t be seen from the outside.
But in the case of open-back headphones, the drivers are not placed inside the earcup portion. And since the drivers can be seen outside, it’s evident that outside noise can easily enter the earcup. That’s not to say they are not good, as open-back headphones are better suited to be used at home or in a studio. But if you are a frequent commutator, the closed-back headphones are the better choice.
Do we need a headphone amplifier?
The final sound quality of the music that you hear isn’t just only judged by the capability of the headphone, but also how the source of the music handles the processing like the MP3 player or a smartphone. And while most of these devices may or may not come with their own built-in amplifiers, they aren’t powerful enough to drive high-end headphones. Only a very handful of costly MP3 players in the market come with good, built-in amplifiers, and these are designed for audiophiles. With a combination of the best headphones playing uncompressed music tracks along with a great headphone amplifier, users will be able to enjoy the absolute clarity of the music with higher dynamic range and better details.
That said, depending on your budget preferences, you only need to spend on a pair of good earphones or headphones that is good enough for the normal consumer. If your budget permits for a later point, you can invest in a separate headphone amplifier so that you can boost the performance out of your top-of-the-line headphones. There are a couple of things to keep in mind though. Noise-cancelling headphones do not require a separate headphone amplifier because they already feature its own built-in amp. And if you are using a gaming headphone or a mid-range audiophile headphone, you don’t need to invest in an amplifier.
Are wireless headphones and earphones worth the purchase?
Wireless headphones are essential if you don’t want the wires to get in your way and accidentally tangle with your hands, sunglasses, cap or while you wear a chain. These types of headphones also allow you to keep the source of music or audio on one part of the room and walk freely and hear the music without worrying about the wires. However, unlike the standard headphones which only depends on the audio source for power, the wireless headphones have its own battery, which is good in one way, but you will need to recharge them on a timely basis. Most of the wireless headphones in the market to offer a decent battery life.
Does wireless headphones or earphones allow to be connected to multiple devices?
Yes, most of the headphone manufacturers now make wireless headphones that are capable of connecting to multiple devices, such as a combination of smartphone, a music player and more. The user will be able to pick up a call with the wireless headphone with the smartphone, while they were listening to the music from the music player or a laptop. (The music playback will most likely get automatically paused and will resume once the call is ended). This also applies to the case if the person is hearing music from the headphone’s built-in memory and the playback will get paused during a call.
What are the benefits of having NFC with headphones?
Having NFC technology on a headphone means you will be able to connect to multiple devices via Bluetooth with just a single tap. It’s a hassle-free method of syncing with devices and there will mostly be no requirement for you to connect manually by searching the device through your smartphone’s Bluetooth menu. It’s also quicker to connect or transfer files with different devices by using NFC.
Are there any benefits of using headphones with USB Type-C ports?
Since the introduction of the Apple iPhone 7, many Android smartphone makers started following the same design change that helped to reduce the thickness of the smartphone and also boosted the demand for more wireless headphones. That said, if wired headphones are a must and if you happen to own a smartphone with no headphone jack, then your only option is to invest on a wired headphone with a USB Type-C port (this applies only to certain Android smartphones). Additionally, most of the latest smartphone and also laptops have started selling with USB Type-C ports.
One of the main advantages of using headphones with USB Type-C is that it will significantly improve the music quality because the source of music doesn’t need to send analog signals through the headphone wires. And since the headphones already pack its own digital to analog converter and filtering circuitry, the amount of noise will be reduced. These are just one of the technical aspect in theory, but it also depends on the type of circuitry that the source has for the conversion of audio signals. While manufacturers now a day include 3.5mm to USB Type-C converters for connecting proper high-end headphones, not everyone will be happy to use extended converters on the go.
Which are the best headphone brands that are available in the UAE?
The best headphone brands include Sennheiser, Bose, Beats, Turtle Beach, AKG, Sony, Skull Candy, Jabra, JBL, Creative, Sol Republic, Samsung and more. All of these brands offer good in-ear earphones, cheap headphones, over the ear headphones, wireless headphones and more.
Where can I find the best headphone prices in the UAE?
You can easily find the best headphone online prices at Souq.com, AWOK, Noon.com, LetsTango, CrazyDeals, Buy on Dubai, GadgetBuy, and other online retailers such as Sharaf DG online, Jumbo Electronics online, Jacky’s Electronics, LuLu Webstore, Carrefour and more. For those who want to try out the headphones, you can visit any of the main retailer shops in the UAE and also dedicated music shops based on the brand.
Some important headphone specifications
This is one of the initial factors that users will always come across while reading the specifications of a headphone. Frequency response is simply the range of audio effects that the headphone can produce (the bass, mids and the treble), and it is measured in Hertz. And while it is said that human ears can only hear between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, there are headphones that support frequencies from as low as 5Hz, and can climb higher than 35,000 Hz. These extremely low or high frequencies ranges might not be audible but it enhances the overall headphone listening experience. The lower frequencies mean that the headphone is capable of producing better “thump” and bass effects, while higher frequency headphones can produce sharper sounds.
It’s simply the electrical resistance of the headphone that explains how high can the volume be produced with the headphone. Most of the headphones come with an impedance that’s less than 50 ohms. These headphones are well suited for both home use as well as on-the-go music experience while connected to your smartphone or any other music device. However, headphones with high impedance (around 100-600 ohms) are better suited for home use. Sennheiser has some good headphones with high impedance. Also, keep in mind that any headphone with very low/very high impendence may not offer good sound quality.
It’s the factor that explains how loud can the headphone play the audio than a music source with the same volume settings. Or in other words, a more sensitive headphone can play louder from a less sensitive device like a smartphone. Unfortunately, different manufacturers explain the level of sensitivity for their headphones in different ways so it is hard to directly compare different brands and models.
The driver is one of the primary units of a headphone that’s responsible for producing the sound and consist of magnets, voice coils, diaphragms and other vital components. Generally, a larger driver means that there is more power for better frequency range and a headphone could have multiple drivers for multiple frequency ranges. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the driver can cover the frequencies accurately and some of the large-sized drivers can create a cleaner bass effect. But in the case of headphones with smaller drivers, users will be able to hear deeper bass effects and better high-frequency sounds. Usually, full-sized headphones come with large 42mm drivers and in-ear headphones come with small-sized 6.5mm, 9mm or 12mm drivers. While manufacturers explain these specifications on their product pages, it still doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good headphone and the only way is to try different models and spot the differences.