Are you in the market for a new pair of headphones? Before you buy pair of headphones, makes sure that you read this as there are a few homes truths that you need to be away of as they are important. One point I would make, these home truths are based on buying headphones to listen to music on and therefore if you're trying to buy a pair of gaming headsets then you need to look elsewhere.
Generally speaking if you're interested in buying gaming headset's you're more interested in the game your playing and less interested in the noise coming from your headphones. To listen to music, we're only interested in the sound that is produced and therefore the speaker quality is very important, however;
Rule #1: There Is No Such Thing As The Best Headphone
The first and most important rule to understand whenever you embark on the journey to search for headphones is understanding that there’s no single headphone that’s better than the rest. Just like automobiles, the headphones have been made for various purposes. You have the roadsters, SUVs, supercars, 4x4s, sedans and the compacts thus you always to choose what’s best for your daily needs. There is no single car that is capable of tackling snow and also wins races on the drag strips. The earlier you understand this simple fact, the more money you’ll save. The most important thing is getting the right headphones for your music and not the most expensive set of headphone that your budget allows.
When selecting headphones, the most important factors to put into consideration are the fit, portability, power requirements and the appearance in case they are going to be used in public. The fit is not always an easy factor to be certain of when you can’t try the headphones before buying. This is because some ear pads won’t have a satisfactory fit to the ears. Power requirements are not a simple matter of just looking at the headphone’s impedance based on the fact that sensitivity or efficiency does not always track directly with the impedance. Another issue which is indirectly related to the power requirements is whether the headphone has an option for balanced use or another connection which isn’t a 6.35 mm or 3.5 mm jack and plug.
Portability can be used to refer to many things like appearance in public, having a safe and secure fit so the headphones don’t shift off of the ears, amount of isolation from the ambient noise, whether the headphones can be worn around your neck when not listening or whether it requires a carry case and also when extra amplification is needed.
Rule #2: The Best Headphones Depends on What Your Listening Too
If you think comprehensively about it, a typical Classical song and a typical Rock track are very different. The presentation of the music is very different; the instruments involved, energy of the music and even the way they were recorded are different! As a result, you have to adjust your choice of headphones to fit your particular choice of music.
After listening various headphones, we found out some headphones have the right qualities for Classical and other for Rock and yet others for Electronica. This is referred to as the sound signature or character of the headphone.
Back to the automobile analogy. In case you are driving downtown in Chicago after winter, the road is normally full of potholes. It would be a nice experience to ride in a nice SUV as compared to using a typical sports car with a stiff suspension. It does not matter if the sports car cost three times the price of the SUV but it’s just the wrong type of car for the road. The same case applies to headphones. A £1,000 pair of headphones can sound extremely awful while on the wrong music. Sees you do not believe me? Just try listening to Linken Park using the £2,000 Sennheiser HD900.
Rule #3: Two Pairs of Headphones Is Often Better Than One Expensive Pair
What I’m simply saying here is that it is normally better to own three £100 headphones rather that owning a £300 headphone. Or even three £300 headphones than one £900 headphone. Why? It’s simply because most individuals do not limit their playlists strictly to one genre. By following the logic from the second rule, the perfect headphone-music pairing experience is going to be better as compared to one expensive headphone being paired to the wrong type of music.
This is why the headphones are fun to use. It’s relatively easy to switch between one pair to the other. Just try to imagine if you were listening to the speakers, you would require 3 different rooms so as to set up all your 3 different sets of speakers.
It’s really same with any sub-genre or genre of music that the sound coming from different tracks and artists can vary a lot. As a result, having more than just one headphone is an added advantage. When only one set of headphone is available at a given time, one option is using a headphone which is capable of accommodating a wide range of music genres. However, there might be compromises to be considered. Another option is carrying two headphones one around the neck or on the head and the other option in a carry case. Some of the smaller headphones can actually make this quite easy to do.
Rule #4: Open Vs. Closed Back
Open back normally results in a more natural sound. However, they also leak the sound in and out when in use. This means that you can’t use the headphones in a library or even in a plane flight because the sound of the music might leak out and thus disturb people around you. In addition, you can’t use these headphones in loud public places because the noise from the outside will constantly disturb your music. Therefore, even though the open back headphones give you a more natural reproduction, based on the above stated reasons, they are mostly limited to use at home or while in the office (in case you have your own space in the office). On the other hand, closed back headphones aren’t always inferior to the open back headphones. These headphones are usually easy to drive thus making them a great choice for the portable set ups. Furthermore, they also tend to have a punchier bass that’s good with majority of the mainstream modern music.
One more thing, the open back headphones mostly require more amplification power as compared to the closed back headphones. For instance, some open back set of headphones such as Alessandros and Grados still fall in the semi-portable categories but they could benefit from any amplifier thanks to their open back designs. Therefore, the bottom line is that closed-back headphones are normally more practical and easy to live with. On the other hand, open-back headphones have a potential of sounding extremely good.
The examples which have been listed here are just good general rules. However, one thing for you to keep in mind is in the mid-to-lower price tiers is that the open-back headphones are not nearly as common as closed types. The smaller the list of choices available the more limited reviews for those items. This could make the process of getting an ideal fit more difficult. Openness and Sound stage are mostly given as the main advantages of using the open-back headphones. However, this is just a general rule and certain closed-back headphones have shown to excel at these properties. An important thing for consideration is the music itself because the sound perspective and stage varies greatly in different recordings.
Rule #5: Amplifiers
The rule that I normally use is that the bigger the sizes of the headphones, the bigger the need for amplification. Factors like impedance and driver sensitivity will definitely matter but the overall rule of thumb is that, always use a dedicated set of headphone amplifier for the full-sized headphones. A portable amplifier can even be enough depending on the headphones type. Also, always remember that the open back headphones normally require a more amplification power.
There are many types of amplifiers that are available to the extent that there’s no shortcut to study all options unless you just settle for the most generic approaches. The important things for considering are power in case you do not have enough power for the headphone as well as the dynamics in your music which results in clipping. Sometimes the clipping is normally soft and it isn’t readily noticed. However, you will eventually discover that many of the detail go missing or even get veiled with the limited dynamics. Another factor to consider is whether to use the DAC which might be a separate DAC or be built in the same enclosure as the amplifier. Most DACs normally improve the music sound over DACs which are built into the computers.
Rule #6: Garbage in = Garbage Out
Garbage in equals Garbage out commonly referred to as GIGO is a very popular phrase that’s used in emphasizing the importance of having a good source. This can even be the soundcard in the laptop, the quality of the portable audio player or even the CD player that you are using so as to listen to music. The better the source, the better the sound at the headphone’s end. This is why we’re seeing more audiophile DAPs (audiophile digital audio player). They are quite expensive but they normally sound good.
That’s all for now. Make sure that you have fun with the search for good headphones and enjoy the journey!