Owning a set of headphones is nowadays second to nature, especially with their newfound affordability. These small gadgets have become a necessity to anyone who loves to enjoy listening to audio privately without external disturbance. Even though everyone will confess that buying them is not rocket science, when asked to identify their different types, their features, advantages and disadvantages, it turns into an extremely complex topic. This is because most people never consider their most important features before investing in them. Instead, they are attracted by the design, colors and physical appearance. Apparently, most people do purchase them blindly without any deliberation on whether they will work as desired or not.
Without further ado, let’s dive into their different types that are in the market, and exactly which of your needs will be satisfied by investing in each of them.
Types of Headphones
- Very affordable.
- Lightweight and compact thus easily portable and stored.
- Better sound quality for their price.
- Provide a snug fit into the ears.
- May cause discomfort in the ear canal for some users.
- They may damage ears if the user listens to audio at very high volume.
- They do not allow awareness of the user’s environment thus may be unsafe to use in busy spaces.
Just like in-ear headphones, earbuds are lightweight and very compact thus easier to carry around. However, they are usually fitted in the outer ear, directly at the opening of the ear canal. It only faces the ear canal without sticking into the inner ear.
Due to this kind of placement, earbuds hardly offer any noise isolation. Instead, they leave an allowance for ambient noise, which keeps the user aware of their surroundings. This makes it difficult for clarity of acoustics to be achieved, hence tempting the user to raise the volume to dangerous levels, which may lead to hearing loss.
On a positive note, keeping the user aware of their environment makes it safer to use the earbuds, such that even as you walk along the street, you will be able to hear any oncoming traffic. Similar to the in-ear models, most manufacturers of personal music gadgets such as phones and tablets love to include the earbuds in their packages. Their affordability makes them popular among people who want to invest in low budget earphones. Earbuds, also referred to as earphones are suitable for athletes, fitness trainers and people who want to listen to music on the move as it allows the user to be fully aware of whatever is happening around them.
- Lightweight and compact thus portable and easy to store.
- Offers awareness of the user’s surrounding environment thus safe when used in busy environments.
- Poor acoustic quality.
- They come in one-size, which may be uncomfortable for some users.
- They may slip out, as they do not provide any reliable grip because they lie just above the ear canal.
- They may cause ear damage when used at high music volumes.
On-ear models are also known as supra-aural. As their name suggests, these audio gadgets are designed with soft pads that press against the user’s ears. Their design and functionality are between the earbuds or in-ear and the full-size types. They are a little lighter and smaller than the circumaural, but they do not offer great portability as the earbuds and in-ear brands.
Since they are positioned against the earlobes, they will offer reliable diminution of outside noise, thus offering great sound quality. The material used over the earcup should include comfortable cushioning of high quality to prevent discomfort that may result from the pressure they exert over the ear. Since they are smaller and lighter yet offer great sound quality, they make the perfect choice for travelers.
- Offer great sound quality.
- Allow considerable awareness of the environment.
- Moderately lightweight.
- Smaller than the full-size kind thus portable.
- The pressure exerted onto the ears may cause discomfort.
Also referred to the circumaural or full-size kind, the over-ear models comprise of a headband that connects two earcups that totally cover the user’s ears. Since these earcups surround the whole ear, they will offer the most reliable noise isolation, which allows the user to concentrate fully on whatever audio they are listening to. Although they are heavier, bigger and less portable, the circumaurals will offer the best sound quality that will get you to forget all its demerits.
Since its headband is generously padded, it greatly reduces the discomfort caused by its weight and size. These over-ear gadgets offer supreme sound quality making them the number one choice for the studio environment and for gamers. Due to their heaviness and big size, they tend to be avoided by travelers. Instead, people prefer using them at home and in their offices.
- The best sound quality.
- Perfect outside noise cancellation.
- Comfortable headband and earcups.
- Offer the best general quality.
- Total noise cancellation, which may be dangerous in some environments.
Other Types of Headphones
In addition to their major categorization determined by the way they are worn or used, these essential devices can also be classified into different groups based on other criteria.
For instance, the designs used in noise-cancellation as well as their different connection technologies, may be used to group them differently. The additional types of these devices are described below.
Apparently, the four main types reviewed above can actually be split further into these smaller categories.
The open back models usually have the back of their earcups open or meshed. This balances the transfer of sound out of them and the entry of external ambient sounds into them. By including sounds from the user’s surrounding, open back styles are great at bringing out a more natural speaker-like sound. It also lets the user to be aware of the surrounding environment, especially if they may need to listen to particular cues from their surroundings. This property can be observed in some circumaural and supra-aural types.
The open back variety of these devices are great for people who need to listen to their surroundings for example if you are walking along a busy road, for musicians who may need to hear feedback from their directors and travelers who want to enjoy music without virtually losing themselves from their surroundings.
These come with the backs of their earcups sealed. They are designed to block most of the ambient noise from the neighboring environment. There is no flow of sound into or out of them, thus offering a less natural sound quality. They often produce lower frequencies of sound as compared to the open back ones without compromising the strength of the sounds. Both supra-aural and circumaural models can have the closed back design.
Due to this, users of the closed back types get crisp clear sounds, making these pieces great for gamers, transcriptionists and musicians. Closed back ones may also be referred to as sealed back.
Semi-open Back Headphones
Semi-open back varieties create the perfect compromise between the closed back headsets and open back headsets. These semi-open back kind features a chamber outside its diaphragm that partially blocks sound from traveling into and out of it, while letting some of it through its vents or openings. These headsets give you a bit of the crisp clear sound experience, while giving you a taste of the ambient sounds from the adjacent environment. As much as most people may believe that the semi-open back sorts are just a marketing stunt, they really do exist and they offer some greatly admirable functionality.
Most of us own a pair or two of wired earphones. These are usually connected to the audio source via a cable that transmits sound currents and waves into the speakers within the earpieces. Most earbuds, in-ears, supra-aurals and circumaurals are usually wired. This kind of technology is quite affordable as compared to that used in most wireless types. As much as they are readily available in any market, they are messier and less effective especially when the cords are tangled and damaged.
Unlike wired headsets that connect the audio source to the earpiece via a cable, wireless types do this via wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, FM radio or DECT. These allow for handsfree operation and quell the probability of tangling of cords. It helps if you find wireless models with the high fidelity technology as they produce a higher sound quality. Even with the best telephone headsets and Bluetooth headsets being developed by the day, no other wireless headset can match the Apple’s wireless earbuds’ supreme quality.
Headphones with detachable cables
These are a little bit of a compromise between the wired and wireless types of headsets. As much as most of them do not make use of wireless connecting technologies, having their cords detachable makes it easier to remove the cords whenever they are not in use. This prevents tangling of the cords, which may lead to damage of their inner wires especially during travel or storage.
For people working in busy environments, their cords may be tugged under high pressure. This level of impact may cause damage to the inner wires of the cables. However, with detachable cables, if any high pressure is experienced during tugging of the cables, they are pulled out with ease, thus no destruction caused.
Every headphone user has their own idea of what their ideal choice would be. While some may purely consider their design, it helps if you look deeper in terms of the most reliable features. Even with the diverse types mentioned above, technological advancements keep coming up every single day.
Lately, models with remote controls, in-line mics, water-resistance and foldable designs have become very common. If you are an avid headset user such as a gamer, it helps to find the perfect equilibrium between what you love and what works effectively. For instance, the gaming environment calls for maximum concentration, which can only be achieved by noise isolating kinds such as the over-ear or on-ear types.
The best news about all this is that whatever features you dream of, your budget cannot kill your vision of owning your ideal earphones, as there are countless pocket friendly topnotch brands in the market.