Things to Consider When Buying Headphones

There is an endless list of things to consider when buying headphones. Whether you are looking for new headphones that allow you to crank up your home cinema without disturbing the whole house, need a pair to take with you for listening on the go, or are searching for something for general use, there is a lot to think about when shopping the vast headphone market.

There are more headphone options than ever before. From completely wireless earbuds to classic wired over-the-ear studio quality monitors, and from inexpensive budget-level offerings, to premium audiophile units with price tags to match.

When searching for a new pair of headphones, it is crucial to consider several factors to be sure that you find a pair that fit your needs and budget.

Wired vs. Wireless Headphones

The first decision you need to make when selecting new headphones is the choice of wired vs. wireless. There are pros and cons to each type. However, how you intend to use your headphones may dictate your choice. If you are primarily using your headphones while sitting at your desk or close enough to your receiver that you can easily plug in, wired headphones can deliver the very best in audio quality without any need to charge or replace batteries. There is also very little chance of interference or dropped connection. But, if you are mostly connecting to a phone without a headphone jack, plan to sit far away from the source, or would rather not worry about wires, wireless connections have come a long way. Wireless headphones are available in both Bluetooth and RF connections. While the technology has improved dramatically in the last few years, the compression necessary for the connections does result in some loss of audio quality.

Headphone Wear Style

There are three basic categories of wear style for headphones: earbuds, on-ear, and over-the-ear.


Earbuds provide the ultimate in portability and convenience. They are perfect for active use and situations where on-ear or over-the-ear options are too bulky or cumbersome. This is another area where technology has improved drastically, but earbuds still tend to lack the responsiveness of larger, more traditional headphones.

On-Ear Headphones

On-ear headphones rest on top of your ears and tend to offer better sound reproduction than earbuds while being lighter and more compact than over-the-ear models. Because they do not seal off the ear, they allow some amount of outside noise the leak through which some find helpful if they still need to pay attention to things going on around them.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

Over-the-ear headphones tend to offer the best possible audio quality. Because they are usually larger overall and create acoustic isolation, they tend to create an audio experience unmatched by smaller, more portable options. However, they are not nearly as mobile, making them a better choice for those using them solely for home use.

Headphone Comfort

Wear style is one of the most significant contributors to overall comfort in headphones. Some appreciate the ultra-light weight of earbuds, while others can’t go for long stretches with something in their ear. The light weight of on-the-ear models feels more comfortable for some than the, usually heavier, over-the-ear models. However, within each category, several factors impact comfort. With earbuds, the tips are often the most critical feature. Some come with replaceable tips so that you can choose the right size for your ear canal. With on-the-ear and over-the-ear units, the headband tension and quality of the pads are essential to consider. Headbands that are too tight can get uncomfortable after a while. Those that are too loose may lead to slippage. The right pads are also critical especially for over-the-ear models. Too hard and they become uncomfortable. Too soft and they won’t protect you from the hard plastic underneath. The final thing to consider, especially for on-the-ear and over-the-ear units is weight. You will want to find something heavy enough to allow for high-quality components but light enough to stay comfortable.

Headphone Audio Quality

Sound quality can be entirely subjective. Some users rank deep bass as the most critical quality of audio. Others want as much tonal quality as possible across the frequency spectrum. While the price is definitely not the only indicator of audio quality, you do tend to get what you pay for when it comes to sound quality. Because everyone has different tastes and may listen to different types of audio, it is best when you can listen to music and movie soundtracks you are familiar with before choosing a pair that will sound best to you.

Headphone Price

The perfect pair of headphones isn’t so perfect if you can’t afford them. On the other side, a cheap pair may leave you wishing you had spent a little more. While quality tends to go up with the price, that isn’t always the case. Some very affordable models will give you years of high performance and some expensive models offer little to no improvement over more budget-friendly options.

It Comes Down to Choice

The best pair of headphones will be the pair that is best for you. Find the right features for you, the performance that fits your needs, and a price you can afford, and enjoy your new headphones.