Buying Guide: What to Look for When Choosing Headphones

It’s a familiar sight. Everywhere you turn these days there is a sea of faces with an abundance of funky looking ear devices, sitting there like an overhead fashion statement. Blue ones, pink ones, furry ones, and shiny ones.

If you have joined the headphone revolution, you may be confused over the abundance of headphones available. So here are some handy points to consider when investing in a new pair.


So, first things first, what is your budget? Headphones, as is the case with technology in general, come in a varying range. If sound quality is uber important to you, then you are looking to spend in the region of £100-£300. If you’re just looking at a device so you can spend time chatting with your gran,  then you can pick up a pair for less than £100. Even cheaper if you scour eBay, or similar second-hand retailers.

If you do decide to invest in a brand spanking new and shiny pair, then you should check the quality of headphones by taking your old ones along with you to compare the sounds. Most shops will allow you to try anything you’re considering purchasing. Listen out for specific details and ask yourself some questions such as “can I distinguish between each instrument. Are the different instruments clearly separated in space, and are their positions stable.” If you are buying a pair of better quality headphones than your existing ones, then you should be hearing a much clearer and more distinct sound.

Types and Style

If, like me, you once thought that headphones were ‘much of a muchness’ think again! There are so many headphones on the market for different purposes. Depending on personal preferences there are in-ear, and over-ear, options. Some headphones are better for traveling; compact and portable, whilst others are better for home use.

If you mostly listen to music through your headphones then choosing a model with extra bass will improve the sound quality, and make an amazing difference to your experience. If you mostly just use them for talking to people or listening to audiobooks, then you may want less bass and a cheaper brand.

It is worth doing some research and reading up on some reviews before you make your decision. There are chat rooms and forums dedicated to tech discussions, the experts over at compare and review headphones for all uses; swimming, sleeping, and music, as well as a variety of styles. They also provide some professional top tips and buying guides.

As we have seen already, headphones come in all shapes and sizes. You may be unfamiliar with the terms circumaural and supra-aural, these refer to how the headphones cover the ear. Circumaural completely covers the ears, perfect if you want an all-inclusive music extravaganza to enjoy. They are also known as closed-back headphones. Supra-aural headphones sit on the user’s ears, rather than covering them completely. These are ideal if you use headphones whilst on the move, and need to be able to hear external noise, such as traffic and the like. They are lightweight and small whereas, circumaural tend to be large and cumbersome.

Other styles of headphone include:

  • Open back
  • In-ear
  • Earbuds
  • Bluetooth

Open back allows some sound to be released, a choice usually made by audio engineers and those concerned with mixing music, as it gives a more authentic sound.

In-ear versions are amongst the most popular and a great ‘all in one’ option for great quality sound, alongside versatility and convenience. Obviously not the healthiest type, as there is some concern as to whether it is safe long term to use an earbud directly placed in the ear canal. So it is useful to bear this in mind.

Earbuds, although similar to in-ear headphones, are not placed in the inner ear, they simply sit on the outside ear. This can be problematic if you are a runner, for example, as they can easily fall out. They also aren’t the best option for sound isolation. If you just need them for the occasional chat on the phone, they will be enough, but not ideal for true music/exercise enthusiasts.

The obvious advantage to Bluetooth audio devices is they are wireless. They are easily connected to smartphones and other devices and are very discreet. They are very durable so outlive their wired counterparts. How often have you seen someone walking along seemingly talking to themselves? The modern phenomenon that is Bluetooth! Another advantage of Bluetooth is its lower impact on the environment.

So, whatever you choose, be sure it’s right for you, so you can get the best use out of your product. Do your research, and you’ll be bopping down the road in no time! Happy shopping!

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