Headphones and earphones are ubiquitous. But there are varying qualities of headphones available in the market, so which are the best headphones to buy? If you are shopping for a new set, our 2019 headphone buying guide spells out a few things to consider before you make that purchase.
Design: In-ear (intra-aural) vs On-ear (supra-aural) vs Over-ear (circumaural)
In-ear headphones are the small kind that you put in your ear canals. These are uncomfortable to use over long periods of time. They also tend to fall out of your ears every now and then, requiring you to stop all else and put them back in their place.
Their advantage is that you can share your music by giving one of the earbuds to another person. They are usually plastic or rubber earbuds. Some plastic ones have foam covers that tend to itch after wearing them for a while.
Connection: Wired vs wireless
Wired headphones have the disadvantage that their cables degenerate after a few months or a few weeks if they’re of low quality or you’re a heavy user. If you must get wired headphones, get one that has a detachable cable so that you can replace it when it gets bad.
Wireless Bluetooth headphones don’t have this issue that plagues wired headphones and usually come with inbuilt rechargeable batteries. They’re awesome for mobility since you can use them from up to 30 ft from where your music device is placed.
Comfort: weight, pressure, foam thickness
Look out for weights on the specs sheet of prospective headphones. Lighter headphones feel more comfortable.
For circumaural and supra-aural ones, make sure that the foams on the headphone cups are soft, thick and feel good against your skin.
Also, make sure that the cups don’t press too tightly on your head, else you won’t be able to use them for long without getting uncomfortable. The best headphones balance weight, pressure and thickness in a way that provides the best comfort.
Noise cancellation: active vs passive
Some headphones prevent noise from coming in and interrupting your music by almost completely sealing off your ear canal. Those are passive noise cancelling.
Some have active noise cancellation; they listen to the noise in your surroundings and generate sounds with frequencies opposite to those of the noise. When the noise frequencies meet the anti noise frequencies generated by your headphones, they cancel each other out to a reasonable extent so that the amount of noise you hear is greatly reduced.
Noise cancellation is an important feature for you if you live or work in noisy areas. In which case, it is advisable that you go for the best noise cancelling headphones that you can afford.
The price for good models starts around ₦7,000 and goes as high as ₦200,000 or more if you want the very best headphones. There’s a sweet spot that combines quality, comfort and durability at around ₦25,000.
Depending on whether you’re going to be taking calls or not with your headphones, you’ll want to look out for the ones with a mic. If you’ll be taking lots of calls with your headphones, wired in ear ones are usually your best bet because their mic is inline and you can bring it to your mouth and be heard clearly without having to talk loudly. You can also get call headsets like those in the Microsoft LifeChat series.
Wireless headphones usually have their mics placed somewhere along the cups and quite far away from your mouth, meaning you’ll have to really speak up to be heard on a call (not ideal in noisy or shared work spaces).
For wireless earphones, battery life is everything. To get the best headphones, go for one that is rated to give above 12 hours of music playback. Any model with a lower rating than 8 hours will be disappointing.
Band material: Metal vs Plastic vs Rubber
Headphones with metal headbands are the most durable and the least likely to fall and shatter. e.g. Bluedio T3.
Those made of thin plastic are the least durable, ready to break under the least amount of pressure. e.g. Bluedio Hurricane Turbine. Do yourself a favour and avoid this type.
Those made of thick plastic are better than thin plastic but not as good as the metal kind. e.g. Skullcandy Hesh.
Rubber earphones are super malleable, twistable, bendable and not at all likely to break in a fall. e.g. Sennheiser Hd 558.
Buying Guide Summary: Which are the best headphones to buy?
I recommend circumaural Bluetooth headphones with a metal frame, active noise cancellation, a battery life of over 15 hours, a nice, rich sound reproduction, combined together for just the right price. Such a headphone is my current one, the Cowin E-7. You can buy such headphones online for about ₦22,000. If you want a premium quality one by a popular brand name, you can get the Sony MDR XB-950N1 for about ₦90,000.
Hopefully, this earphones buying guide has been of use to you and you will have no trouble selecting the best headphones for your needs and your person. Happy headphone shopping and happy music listening thereafter.
Hey! Follow MobilityArena on social media!
Dara as a software dev at Andela and an aspiring music composer with a Soundcloud account: soundcloud.com/uncledara