Music is an integral part of every human emotion. Music has been in this generations DNA for long now. The sounds that go in through ears and soothes the soul is all that one looks for but do they get that? The audio experience is one of the most underrated privileges of human life, more for some and less for others, Music is for everyone and the devices that thump those beautiful, inspiring and raging audio into us are no less exquisite. So, here at SuggestPhone, we decided to write this piece to help to understand the intricacies of selecting the earphones/headphones those are just perfect for you.
Everyone is different, so is everyone’s taste, we respect that difference, so here’s the ultimate guide you were craving for, For the love of music, a treatise on how to select the perfect headphones for you, sounds like Beethoven, right?
*Words ‘earphone’ and ‘headphone’ have been used interchangeably in some common areas.
Headphones as you might know come in 3 form factors before we get onto the technical aspects, let’s figure out how many types of headphones are out there.
In-ear earphones/ earbuds
The smaller ones, which just get tuck into your ear pinna are called in-ear headphones. These small audio boxes can be further of two kinds - The ones that just sit in the ear cavity and the other ones which get deep inside your ears.
Both of the types are pretty prevalent nowadays and some people love the deep in-ear headphones while the others prefer the simple earbuds. Both of the designs have their merits and demerits, It's up to you how you weigh them. The earbuds can cause pain in the ear pinna if they are too big or heavy.
In-ear earphones, on the other hand, might not fit all and feel uncomfortable or keep falling from the ears. Though different sizes of tips do come with these kinds of earphones to fit according to ear size. The in-ear ones are more noise reducing and offer a better audio experience.
The earbuds are equally useful, for example, while commuting, earbuds are a better choice. The sound quality is not bad, but you won’t experience a deeper, richer sound as in case of in-ear headphones.
headphones called headphones because of the circular headband that goes along the head while wearing are a great choice if you are looking for a better audio experience and you don’t care about the heaviness and the size. Headphones also come in two flavours: The on-ear headphones and the over-ear headphones.
On-ear headphones have a smaller ear-print, are light and smaller compared to the over-ear ones. The on-ear headphones are made to cover just the year of the user while the over ear ones cover the entire ear and more. If you like light stuff, the on-ear ones are the ones for you.
The second type sure looks sort of bulky and are heavy(not by very much) but provides incrementally better sound experience than on-ear headphones. I personally like the tradeoff for lightness with a fraction of surrounded sound experience, and hence on-ear ones are my personal choice.
Though wireless headphones are not that different to form an entirely different design category It definitely matters a lot. Wireless headphones are more expensive with the benefit of movability and lightweight. If you like keeping your audio source like smartphone somewhere close and yet move around, take a jump or do some flipping, wireless headphones are for you. They provide freedom from wires and are your only choice for cutting-edge flagships like iPhones and Google Pixel 2.
If your music time does include a little room for moving, wireless is a great choice, but If you are a working rock like most of us, Its no use to pay that much extra buck for some headphones, whose main USP won’t be put to use by you. The sound quality is a notch less than the wired candidates but ultimately It's your choice to make, what do you put ahead? mobility or sound quality.
Also, these require charging like any other electronic handheld device so don’t forget to charge them every odd 5 hours of usage, that can be a bummer for some. Although there are headphones which are wireless along with the option for plugging in a 3.5mm cable, that’s cool, right? A big salute to people behind this revolution.
The Headphone Jargon - Understand How To Buy The Perfect Headphones
Impedance? Drivers? and what not. You must have seen this all technical specs painted all over the websites you visit looking for a rad piece of audio gear, but of course you are not a sound engineer and you won’t care to know what these heavy terms mean, what you do care about is the sound, so in here we are gonna debunk the major technical jargon that you will find about audio gear, understanding these will sure shot help you get the best out of those numbers and make the right choice for your ears.
1. Headphone/earphone Drivers
Drivers are the heart of any audio gear, they lie at the centre of your audio experience. Drivers convert electrical signals into audio signals for your ears. Drivers come in multiple flavours, including the usual dynamic (moving coil) drivers, balanced drivers, planar magnetic drivers, electrostatic drivers and a lot more. All of these flavours differ on the basis of technology they use to power the sound that reaches your ears. As always, some of these driver types are better at their job than others.
Dynamic drivers find their place in all kinds of audio gear, balanced drivers are found in in-ear earphones due to their minimal space requirements. While electrostatic and planar drivers are found in heavyweight, over-ear headphones. Some headphones use a combination of these technologies and are hence called hybrid drivers. In simple language, the bigger the driver the more powerful the sound, but It's not true every time as is with megapixels on smartphone cameras.
Drivers are the most significant part of the headphone experience so look out or bigger drivers if you want a more powerful output, don’t stick tightly to it though. For perspective, commodity headphones that come with the smartphones usually have a driver of around 15mm, the big over-ear headphones contain a bigger 30-50mm driver. Got that?
For those who know a bit of electronics, you know what Impedance is lads. Well, Impedance is the circuit’s resistance if you may say. So naturally a circuit resists the flow of electric current through it, this property is called Impedance of the circuit or in this case the impedance of the earphone circuit. So, simply the greater the impedance (resistance) to current, the less It’ll be able to flow nice and smooth and less sound would be produced.
Low-impedance headphones are less power hungry and can be powered with source device only like the headphones that come bundled with your devices. Also as it has happened with us quite sometimes, these headphones get fried up when used with a high power source like a big desktop or so.
High Impedance headphones are not bad though, as It may seem to you. High Impedance requires separate amplifiers, and don’t get fried like the low impedance ones. Having dedicated amplifiers, these headphones exude more powerful and rich sound.
So whenever you are on the hunt for new headphones, do look out for the impedance values and If it is good enough for the source device you intend to use. Impedance values of 150hms and low come under low impedance side of the spectrum while the ones having more than 500hms of impedance do require some external amplification. While It's worth noting that most smartphones and media players of today are comfortable in powering headphones with impedance values of 800hms.
So If your headphones have an impedance greater than 500hms, It's not necessarily a sign for external amplification, your smartphone just might be enough. Remember the mantra, “High Impedance means requirement of heavy duty amplifiers”.
3. Magnet Type
When diving down, you might see the term like ”Neodymium magnet drivers”, before you take neodymium for a radioactive substance, allow me to clear the air. Magnets are at the core of sound production.
Magnets used in audio gear are mostly of 2 types- Neodymium and Ferrite. Though, they don’t create much of the difference in sound. Neodymium is found in modern equipment and is certainly stronger than Ferrite magnets. Magnet type effects the cost of production of a headphone, not much effect on the sound, so don’t care that much with the heavy magnet names, like these.
4. Frequency Response
Frequency response refers to the spectrum of frequency the headphone can exude. For the curious scientists out there, frequency refers to the number of times a sound wave travels a distance in unit time or inverse of the time period. See? we know science.
The larger the frequency range the earphones cover, the better they are. It simply translates to the variety of sounds the headphones can produce. For reference, homo sapiens - Man the wise as you may like to call ourselves, we can only hear sound frequencies in the range 20-20,000 Hz, so smartly most headphones stick to that range. Greater frequency coverage allows for better highs and lows.
5. Sound staging and Imaging
Soundstaging refers to the ability of the audio gear to create an acoustic image of sound in your brain, making It feel like you are inside the sound, i.e live performance. Imaging is the mapping of distinct and individual aspects of music such that It appears originating from different directions much like 3D sound, not exactly but sort of. Better staging and imaging results in a more deeper and realistic experience. Earphones with better staging and imaging are quite certain to take you “into the zone” with their true to life sound production.
6. Wireless Technology
If you have not been living under a rock, you know that nobody is loving wires anymore. Big consumer product manufacturers like Apple and Google are pushing the race to go digital and wireless with audio, well If you are an of the golden era of the headphone jack, you’d definitely find it repulsive but wireless seems the true future. Wireless headphones are at the front of the race to rid wires. There are lots of new technologies powering this wireless vision, here are some major ones-
Unarguably the most commonly used wireless technology in headphones. A Bluetooth enabled smartphone, which includes everyone on the planet can pair wirelessly with the Bluetooth headphone and that’s it. You are good to go. Don’t enjoy your freedom too much because you can’t go beyond 10 metres of range from the source device. Bluetooth is super secure technology but not the best when it comes to audio quality transmission.
- NFC (Near Field Communication)
Besides Bluetooth as primary technology, some modern age wireless headphones are also NFC enabled, what that essentially means is that just bring them close and tap to an NFC enabled device like Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
- Radio Frequency (RF)
No Kidding, some headphones have also gone on the roadeo using RF, Sennheiser RS120 is an example. The advantage of radio frequency is that unlike Bluetooth there’s no area limitation, RF can cover a much larger area than Bluetooth. These type of headphones are primarily used with TVs and Desktops for gaming. The sound quality is a lot better than Bluetooth but expects Interference because of other RF devices in the surroundings, that’s very unlikely because of the frequency band you operate upon, but nonetheless, it can happen.
7. Noise Cancellation
The Noise cancelling headphones as the name is quite descriptive itself, cancel the noise but they don’t only function by cancelling the outside noise. The headphones pick up the outside noise, cancel it up while playing your content. Noise cancelling headphones are very coveted in the audiophile community. These are also very expensive.
Sensitivity usually measured in dB/mW, signifies how much sound (loudness in decibels) per milliwatt of electric power do the headphones produce. The higher the sensitivity the greater the efficiency of headphones and the higher sound you get for the same amount of power consumed. Generally, the value of sensitivity lies somewhere between 80 to 110dB.
Curtain Fall: Sound Check…SuggestPhone
Well, that’s all for this article people. We hope you enjoyed reading this one as much as we loved writing it for you. Don’t forget to take a look at all the things we mentioned in this post before buying some earphones/headphones. Also, sharing is caring so please share this with your friends and family to let them know too, about earphones and how to buy the perfect ones.
We now have a treasure trove of technical articles and posts, to help you out with all your smartphone needs. Do give us a visit regularly to be the first to know more. Also, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get notifications as soon as the SuggestPhone kitchen presents a new post.
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