Things to Look Out for When Buying Headphones

For audiophiles, headphones are more than just an electronic device that emits sound waves. It goes way deeper. It can mean the difference between a good and a bad day.

For other non-power users, headphones fulfill some role in their day to day activities.

The headphones movement is no longer a simple hobby. It is now a culture. This culture now demands that if you have to buy headphones, you have to get the best ones for your needs.

We hope this guide will help you out.

1. Your Lifestyle

Your lifestyle is the most important consideration before you go buy shiny new headphones. To a great extent, your lifestyle will determine if your headphones will be a significant tool for you or just another toy you toss around in your home.

For the Active and Sporty


This refers to you if you have a demanding workout regime to which you adhere strictly.

Stickiness: Physical activity comes with some measure of dampness and sweat. Selecting full overhead headphones with leather earmuffs may not be your best bet. Consider earbuds instead, as they don’t accumulate sweat and dirt.

Freedom of movement: This mainly applies to runners. If you are a runner, then earphones that allow you to move with minimal hindrance should be top of your list. Wireless earbuds will be great for such sports.

For the Sedentary Worker


This refers to anybody who uses their earphones in a convenient environment. They’re convenient in the sense that for most of your workday, you remain stationary. If you are a gamer or a customer care agent, get in here! For this choice of earphones, you should consider the following.

Nature of work: For programmers and gamers who want an immersive experience, full-on headphones are perfect. You might also want to consider a set with active noise cancellation. That way you won’t get distracted from your games nor your debugging.

Workers/Professionals: If the nature of your job requires you to be able to hear your colleagues over your headphones, then you can get either earphones or open-back headphones. Also, ditch a headset with noise cancellation feature so that you can keep your job.

2. Ergonomics and Design

Headphones come in various designs and builds. There is the conventional headset, which wraps above your head with soft earmuffs. Another is the wired headset with small comfortable muffs and an ear-hook that sits above your ears.

And more recently the apple earbuds are taking over the scene.

All these designs have their pros and cons. To ensure you select the best for you, here are some tips.

Wired vs. Wireless: This debate will rage on for ages. The preference for wired headphones over wireless is premised on battery life. Wired headphones rely on some external source of power like your phone or PC, so you don’t have to worry about running to the charging dock every other hour.

Wired earphones may produce better sound than their wireless counterparts. They don’t have a power constraint to worry about after all. You also don’t have to worry about connection problems.

Unlike the wired headphones, wireless headphones do not suffer from tangling or incompatibility with ports, so you can use them over a more extensive range of devices than their wired counterparts.


Earbud vs. In-Ear Headphones: Earbud earphones sit above your ear canals while in-ear headphones are designed to sit inside the ear canal. Don’t fret. They are both safe.

The drawbacks of the earbuds stems from poor noise isolation. Ambient noise always finds its way through. The in-ear headphones do a better job of noise isolation. This improves the overall user experience. But in-ear headphones can irritate the ear if used for prolonged periods.


On-Ear vs. Over-the-Ear Headphones: On-ear headphones sit atop the ear while the over-the-ear headphones completely cover the ear. They are both excellent for an immersive audio experience. The over-the-ear headphones provide better noise isolation, however. They both suffer the problem of accumulating grime. Also, use for prolonged periods causes discomfort to the users.


Clip-on vs. Over-the-Neck Headphones: These two are major contenders for fitness enthusiasts. They are both designed to be non-intrusive and yet sturdy enough to hang on to you during motion. The clip-on earphones, however, provide less intrusion, as they are wireless. The over-the-neck counterpart stays better on you during intense training sessions.


3. Sound Quality

Sound quality is another essential factor to consider in selecting headphones. Headphones are judged based on three parameters:

Sensitivity: This refers to how loud your earphones can potentially get. For safety reasons you should ensure that your earphones are not too loud for you. Any device that can go as high as 102 decibels is excellent.

Driver size: The larger the driver, the better the bass. Some audiophiles enjoy the richness of lows and hence prefer larger drivers. This choice is entirely dependent on your preference.

Resistance: This determines the volume range of your headphones. Ensure that you get headphones with a respectable ohm rating. An ohm rating of 30 is okay and will serve you well for the most part.

Wrapping It Up

Buying headphones will always be an art in the consumer world. There are no perfect headphones, so don’t get dismayed with the trade-offs you may have to make. Remember that the goal is to choose the best for your needs.

Image credit: black wired headphones lying on flat white table top

Nicholas Godwin
Nicholas Godwin

Nicholas Godwin is a technology researcher who helps businesses tell profitable brand stories that their audiences love. He's worked on projects for Fortune 500 companies, global tech corporations and top consulting firms, from Bloomberg Beta, Accenture, PwC, and Deloitte to HP, Shell, and AT&T. You may follow his work on Twitter or simply say hello. His website is Tech Write Researcher.

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