Cover Photo by : https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2019/08/the-best-gaming-headsets-for-your-console-or-gaming-pc/
Choosing a set of great headphones for your day-to-day routines or specifics can be complicated just as buying a pair of new shoes. Hundreds of brands and thousands of models and the prices will start from almost nothing like 99 cents and will go as far as a staggering $120,000. Why so many varieties, what options available in the market, what suits best your requirements, and does affordable mean cheap? And most importantly, can you use one set of headphones for all your needs? Let’s find out!
Headphones fall into three fundamental categories;
- Studio Headphones
- Consumer Headphones
- Gaming Headsets
Each type of headphones is made for different needs and they come in different models as well.
- Semi-open back
Let us elaborate on the functionality of each model to understand what suits you the best.
Also called “closed-back”, are sealed ear cups that keep in more sound and muffle ambient noise. These headphones will block out any noises from outside so you could entirely focus on what you hear through the headphones. Not safe enough for you to wear on your way to school, work, or a walk down to town though.
They press on the ears instead of the sides of your head. Typically lighter than over-ear models. Since they don’t stay tight to seal the ears, they are less likely to make your ears hot during long play sessions.
The most reputed “Earbuds”. They rest outside the ear canal and in some designs, a potion might extend towards the ear canal itself.
Very portable. Often uses Bluetooth to connect to your devices. The latest wireless models are called “True Wireless” which do not have any wire or band connecting the two earpieces or to power charge. The latter is even portable but they have fairly short battery life. And, no accidents due to long wires hanging around.
The typical design which some treat as “old school” headphones. But unlike wireless headphones, since these are wired to your devices, no concern about the battery life.
Yet, wires can be easily damaged affecting the functionality of the headphones.
A fully open backside protected by a steel net helps to release the sound pressure built inside the enclosure. This causes less fatigue in long play sessions. Best for mixing, mastering, and DJ-ing but not quite the best for instruments such as acoustic guitars, bass guitars, or other acoustic instruments, and/or any vocal recordings as the noises from around may interrupt.
Best for vocal and acoustic instrument recording. The sealing effect blocks the outside noises from interrupting the sounds. But the closed enclosure causes the reflection inside the headphone, and you end up getting a mixed sound, which makes this not the best for sound mixing.
In between open-back and closed-back headphones. Tiny holes on the backside of the enclosure minimize the reflection inside the headphone but the holes are not big enough to completely prevent it from happening. And since it’s not completely sealed, outside noises can make your sounds not accurate as through closed-back headphones.
An isolating design that physically muffles ambient noise. You can find options that work with or without battery power. Two major types of noise-canceling headphones;
- Passive-noise canceling: block out the sound that is based on the physical ear cup design
- Active-noise canceling: materials and internal components block the external noise by creating their sound waves
Headphones let you listen and enjoy something privately in your personal time as well as during the official work. In the modern device-centric world, headphones or earphones have become an essential part of human lives, irrespective of age groups. The convenience has increased its utility overall. And today we are overloaded with both cheap and pricey headphones, which may make it difficult to figure out what suits your requirements best.
Made to fit professional needs, although some studio headphone fans choose to use them for just about anything on a daily basis as well. Best suited to recording or mixing tracks and music. Versatile and favorite of professional recording engineers. Most reputed brands: Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic, Sony, Shure, Fostex, Pioneer, Audeze, and many more. Available in open-back, closed-back, and semi-open back models.
Build & Quality
Sufficient for field recording work. Strong cables could hardly get damaged by the rolling office chair wheels. Often have user-replaceable parts which allow you to order new parts from the manufacturer or buy from the local market on your own even if something does break. Commonly, metal headband at its core, metal parts in the ear cups, and other parts of the frame as well. Comfortable in general, but comfort during long play sessions depends on the model that you are using. See above for the details about models.
Often brighter and more detailed than consumer headphones. The reason why it’s best for music engineering is that you may hear every little flaw in the recording, mixing, mastering, and compression. You will need a good practice level to get comfortable hearing detailed music notes and modes.
We do not recommend Studio-style headphones for normal day-to-day entertainment usage and the reason is crystal clear.
Price vs. Performance
We do not see a rapid hardware improvement on studio headphones and they are not seen being marketed just about everywhere. When comparing prices, they don’t fluctuate between huge price ranges, and you may find nicely working headphones for a very affordable price.
Designed for Music & Entertainment. Most widely used headphones variety. Hundreds and thousands of choices available in terms of brand, style, design, build, options, model, color, and price. Often the quality is acceptable but always depends on your requirements. From large cushioned ear-cups to small plain earbuds, the choices are truly endless.
If you are looking for a pair of headphones or earbuds to plug in and listen to music, more affordable choices you can make. If you are quite after the high-end quality of sounds and design, many well-known brands available for you at your convenience. Sennheiser, JBL, Sony, Bose, Beats by Dre, Bang & Olufsen, Skullcandy, and Audio-Technica are only a few to mention.
Available models: over-ear, on-ear, in-ear, wired, wireless, and noise canceling.
It could be an expensive initial investment if you need a high-quality set of Consumer headphones. Not the best quality of music can be found for affordable prices. Not the best for needs such as Gaming purposes.
Build & Quality
Portable. Mainly focused on the design and look. All the screws are hidden and no additional exposed cables. Sit close to the head. Come in lots of sizes, styles, and colors. Comfortable build and entertaining sound. Could be fragile for drops and accidents. Wires can easily be damaged.
Bluetooth availability in modern designs, multiple device connection options, phone control, call support, and auto headphone calibration.
Often full body mid-range sound, warmer signatures with boosted bass, and relaxed treble. Accurate sound reproduction. Brands such as Sony and JVC have models that adjust their sound based on how good the headphones are sealed on the head.
Not the high quality as Studio headphones.
Price vs. Performance
Some are primarily designed for listening to music while some others are made for answering phone calls. Affordable headphones can come with mid-quality performance. Design quality may compromise the quality of performance.
Headphones with built-in microphones. HyperX, Razer, Turtle Beach, and Steelseries are the most reputed brands in the market. Available wireless or wired models.
Build & Quality
Padded ear cups and retractable mics ensuring comfort and necessary functionality. Most gaming headsets have removable/retractable microphones. Made to accommodate long play sessions. Many colors with different designs (marketing some most popular games or logos) available to choose from according to your preference and passion.
Affordable can be not the best build quality.
Designed to allow you to hear audio and virtual surround sound. No proper mid-range and they create distortion. Audio channels are divided into the side, subwoofer, center, and rear channels. The sounds are basically focused more on bass noises emphasizing video game sound effects. The very effect may discourage us from using these gaming headsets for usual day-to-day usages such as official calls or casual entertainment. But looking at how close the Music & Gaming Industries are working, these headsets are not bad news at all.
On PS4, Sony’s virtual surround modes are exclusive to their headsets.
Price vs. Performance
Jack of all trades.
Sounds won’t be as high quality as Consumer headphones, but these are actually capable of being used for regular entertainment if you are not too fussy about the sound quality. Cheap headsets often come with low-quality cables, plastics, hinges, and other components that may reduce their durability.
Studio headphones are for sound corrections, rather than for fun. Buying a set of good quality Studio headphones is a great choice to make if you are a sound professional. It could be a bad investment if you are just buying them for regular usage and pure entertainment.
Jack of all trades = Gamer headphones. They are specifically made for gaming, yet, they can be fun headphones for casual usage such as listening to music and video making.
Consumer headphones are the most common headphones which you cannot avoid in your life. The most expensive consumer headphone to-date is “Focal Utopia” by Tournaire that costs $120,000. Handcrafted design features 18-carat gold mounted with a trilogy of diamonds on the headband totaling 6.5 carats. Amazing or a bit too exaggerated?
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