Where should I buy headphones
Advice: which headphones should I buy?
After I wrote the first guides about headphones, I've been asked more and more, "Which headphones should I buy?", "How much money should I spend on headphones?", "Are beats good?", "What is the difference between in -Ear and over-ear headphones? "So I will answer these questions for you:
In ear headphones
Why should I buy in-ear headphones?
In-ear headphones are more mobile, lock in the sounds around you and are light enough to wear on the go, during training, or for almost any activity that involves a lot of movement and mobility. This is in comparison to over-ear headphones, which are much larger and heavier and also take up more space in your pocket. Buy in-ears if you're someone who likes music on the go and doesn't mind having things in your ear canal for more than a few minutes. Compared to over-ear headphones, you give up sound quality in every price range because it is difficult to build something small and then make it sound good as well.
What do I get with a € 40 budget?
Cheap headphones are entry-level models. They can still sound good, but the built-in parts are usually not of the best quality. Really good-sounding headphones in this price range are not common, but the ones that do exist have a clean sound at all frequencies. Lyrics in songs are so easy to understand, and not a single instrument should drown out another. Likewise, you shouldn't have to turn the volume up to hear all frequencies, especially when you have reached a volume where it already hurts. For example: If you want the bass to be louder, the shrill hi-hats shouldn't make your head burst. Headphones in this price range are usually made of plastic, silicone, and rubber. For the most part, they were built to last for one to two years and the build quality is geared towards cost efficiency.
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If you're a person who loses things easily, or just want to toss the headphones in your gym bag without worrying about them, or just don't understand all the hype about expensive headphones, this might be the category for you.
What can you expect for 100 €?
Headphones in this price range have better drivers, are more stable and have a more comfortable fit. Good headphones for around € 100 sound clearer, sharper and warmer than their cheaper counterparts, softer and gentler without high-pitched highs. Music sounds richer and voices are more natural. You can also perceive that the sound gets a “depth” or “spatiality”: You get a feeling of space, or where instruments are and where they are placed. That all sounds very subjective, of course, but you can also put it another way: It's like looking at a photo from a cheap 80 € printer or getting it from a real photo lab. You can see a difference, right? And that's the way it is here too.
These headphones are also made to last longer and feel more comfortable when you wear them for long periods of time. They should be able to get along with them for several years if used carefully. The materials are often of higher quality: stronger plastic, rubber, and some metal accents. You get attachments in different sizes, which are often softer and more flexible than the cheaper colleagues. The cables are more stable and do not get tangled up easily.
Who should buy in-ears in this price segment? People who listen to music a lot and are always on the go. Maybe you drive a lot of the subway to work, then you turn away the office noise to relax and work at your desk. Or you travel a lot through world history and need something on the trip. Whatever the reason, the main focus is portability for you, and you are a music fan who wants to listen to music anytime, anywhere. Headphones that sound good are important to you and you can tell the difference between a cheap and an expensive pair of headphones.
What do I get for a € 200 investment?
200 € headphones are already investments. These are carefully designed to accurately reproduce sound and are built to last for many years. Plastic and rubber are being replaced by metal, fabric and memory foam. Music reaches a new level of quality. Individual instruments can be precisely perceived from an entire orchestra, consonants are clear without sounding sharp and you will have an immensely deep sound field. Nothing will hum, hiss, or screech.
As a music lover, with such high quality headphones I forget that I actually have to make a judgment about the headphones because I let myself be carried away by the music. To go back to my analogy with the printer: the image is now part of a video that is shown by a high-resolution digital projector in a cinema. These headphones are for people for whom music is an integral part of life. You listen to every note, devour every nuance and appreciate good music. Headphones in this price range make this experience possible and also portable. Does that sound like something you're willing to pay extra for? Then these headphones might be for you.
What about gym headphones?
If you are looking for headphones for listening to music while exercising, make sure that they are protected against sweat, rain, and other influences that can be expected if you are interested in music while exercising. Of course, the sound quality shouldn't suffer as a result. In the price range between € 20 and € 100 there are a lot of representatives and if you are willing to pay a little more, you can even do without the cable and opt for a Bluetooth version.
Why should you choose over-ear headphones?
Also, some people just don't like the feel of in-ear headphones in their ears. If that's the case with you too. Problem solved. Get over-the-ear headphones. Over-ear headphones are made for longer listening in the home.
They are bulkier than their in-ear counterparts and whether they are tote bags or not, they still take up a lot of space in the backpack. In-ear and closed over-ears solve the same problem in different ways. In-ear headphones prevent noise from entering and over-ear headphones prevent this from coming in by covering the ear.
A word about the sound quality. Not so long ago the argument was made that in-ear headphones did not have the same sound quality as over-ear headphones. Objectively speaking, it is more difficult to make the drivers small enough to produce good sound. In recent years, technology has improved and you can now buy in-ear headphones that are in no way inferior to over-ear headphones in terms of sound quality. You just have to be willing to pay for it. Conversely, you could also argue that you get better sound quality for less money with over-ear headphones compared to in-ear headphones.
What do you get for 150 € and less?
Headphones, which cost around € 150, are a good investment for people who want more of their music experience.
The main reason to buy over-ear headphones in this price range is for sound quality. Good headphones in this area should have a clear sonic depth: clean, clear highs, soft, non-booming bass and it shouldn't overload the frequency range. When looking for headphones for recording your own music, look for a pair of flat-tuning headphones.
Many recording studios use headphones in this price range because they do a good job and are not that expensive. So you don't have to be careful what you do with these headphones when using them. Good ones in this price range should be stable to withstand a few years of use and comfortable for extended listening. Materials used include vinyl, plastic with metal reinforcement on the headbands, and the occasional steel accents. You can also see smaller details, such as gold-plated sockets, interchangeable ear pads and foldable, interchangeable ear cups.
What do you get for 400 €?
Headphones in the € 400 range are suitable for those who want to shut the world out and are looking for something meaningful to listen to. When I listen to music that I've heard hundreds of times before, I notice details that I didn't notice before. But be careful: once you've listened to music with such headphones, it will be difficult to hear the same music with other cheaper headphones.
While the headphones in the € 150 range are more for musicians to use as a monitor for their own music, the € 400 headphones are for sound engineers, producers and mixers who want to make a final analysis of the professional recording. The materials are also getting better in this price range. The padding on the ear cups is softer and more comfortable, the seat becomes more ergonomic and very comfortable. You not only get the gold-plated sockets in the € 150 price range, but also occasionally exchangeable cables, leather (or high-quality synthetic leather), hard protective covers and a lot of stainless steel. These headphones feel more robust and of higher quality in the hands.
And then there is the sound. The experience should be extreme: the frequency response is more delicate and the highs are crisp with smooth and velvety lows. There is a feeling of being in a certain room and the music surrounds you completely.
Why should I buy on-ear headphones?
On-ear headphones try to strike a balance between comfort and portability.After dozens of hours of researching hundreds of models, I found that you should only buy on-ear headphones if you find in-ear headphones uncomfortable and are looking for something more portable than over-ear headphones. I tried to find the perfect balance without sacrificing sound quality and so we come to a price range of € 20 to € 300. If you forego a bit of portability, you get better sound for the money with the over-ear headphones.
Noise canceling headphones
Why should I buy noise canceling headphones?
I only recommend buying noise-canceling headphones if you really need this feature. Noise-canceling headphones offer the same sound quality as less expensive, non-noise-canceling headphones, so the categories described above should be looked at if you're looking for more value for money.
All proper noise-canceling headphones use microphones and digital processing to eliminate noise from the outside world. This special digital processing creates an opposing sound wave that simply switches off the noise from outside. However, these headphones don't work with magic. There are certain noises, for example the hum of the air conditioning, the hum of an aircraft engine or the constant murmuring of an open-plan office, that this technology can effectively suppress. But you will still hear a baby's screams or when someone tries to speak to you directly.
Because they hold several major noise-canceling patents, Bose currently makes the best in-ear and in-ear noise-canceling headphones. Both versions cost the same, so the decision which variant you choose is more of a personal nature.
Noise-canceling over-ear headphones perform better because they can block out high and low frequency sounds better than their in-ear counterparts. They are of course much larger than in-ear headphones, so probably more useful in a large office. The over-ear variant physically blocks more sound than the in-ear headphones, so they reduce the noise a little better overall. Nevertheless, you will not feel perfect performance if you wear glasses, as the frame with the headphones touches and a perfect fit is so impossible.
Noise-canceling in-ear headphones are great for removing low to mid-range frequencies. They are far more portable than over-ear headphones and you won't have a problem with them if you wear glasses. They don't offer the absolute best noise cancellation but might be the right choice for anyone who wants to use them on the go.
Why should I buy wireless headphones (with bluetooth)?
Bluetooth wireless headphones are designed for listening to a device that is not physically wired. However, since the transmission quality with Bluetooth cannot be compared to a cable solution, the sound quality also suffers. If you can get along well with a cable, you should definitely stick with one cable. If you are looking for headphones for your workout, you should jump to the “Headphones for the fitness studio” section.
I scoured around 50 models to find the best bluetooth headphones. I think I found the best balance between sound quality, comfort, durability and price. My choice actually sounds better than headphones, which otherwise cost twice as much.
Wireless home theater setups output a dedicated transmitter to feed multiple headphones simultaneously from one source. There are several niche reasons why you should invest in such a system: You live in an apartment and show consideration for your partner, roommate or neighbors, you need a private listening experience that is not possible with the cable on the sofa, you are hard of hearing and you need headphones to better understand dialogues or you want to have headphones for your children to give yourself a moment of peace. But if none of these situations apply to you, you should opt for another category above.
Should I take the money and buy a new pair of headphones?
When reading reviews, the thought quickly arises that you have to buy the most expensive to be really happy. But I didn't test like that. But there are also a few reasons why you might not want to invest extra money in a new pair:
1.) You are not able to use the expensive headphones very often. Do you have a certain budget to buy a single pair of headphones? Then think about where you will use it the most. Do you have a pair of headphones that can survive sweat and wetness in the gym? Are the headphones mainly used in the subway? Do you travel a lot through world history and that by plane? Depending on your personal circumstances, it may even be better to buy several headphones for each application rather than one expensive pair of headphones that only mediocre takes care of all the requirements. Yes, the € 300 headphones are fantastic, but if you rarely use them you should think about whether the investment is really worthwhile. For the same € 300 you can get an inexpensive pair of workout headphones, a portable pair for commuting, and a pair for work so that you can enjoy your music all the time.
2.) You mostly hear music via streaming. This is an area where there is actually a lot of discussion and controversy. You can see streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Apple Music, and others compressing your files so that they load faster and don't require as much data volume. This process ensures that there are a lot of people discussing data compression on this topic. Some services offer the possibility of increasing the data quality, but the quality via the mobile network is usually still too low.
What does this all mean in relation to the headphones? It means that even if you have the best sounding headphones in the world, you won't hear any improvement in the sound of compressed audio files compared to normal headphones. Do you primarily listen to CDs? HD download or other high quality tracks? Or do you want to invest now in order to stream high-quality audio files later?
3.) It is just not important for you to spend a lot of money. That's fine! Not everyone has to spend a lot of money to be happy. If so, be happy and enjoy what makes you happy. In my selection there are always options that don't cost a lot, but still sound good. And if you only spend as much money as you want, the headphones will do their job too. Why should you spend € 30 on a serving of mashed potatoes covered with truffles when you're actually much more in the mood for € 3 fries? Do not let yourself be pressured. If you are happy, so am I.
When should I decide to upgrade?
1.) When the headphones start to crackle or even have complete dropouts. Unless you are entitled to an exchange under the guarantee or the headphones were so expensive overall that you send them in for repair, it is worth buying a new pair, especially if you want to buy some for 15-30 €.
2.) When the headphones no longer fit your lifestyle. It is probably not worth using headphones that cannot cope with the task in this situation. Maybe you thought over-ear headphones were perfectly fine, but now they are annoying in your handbag because they take up so much space? Your ears are so small that after 15 minutes they start squeezing and your ears hurt? Maybe you've just started running and now need a pair? Then it's time to get something new. Headphones should bring joy into your life and if you keep getting annoyed with the headphones, it's definitely time for new ones.
3.) When you really need more. Big, full, natural sound. Maybe you start mixing your own music. You feel like listening to CDs, vinyls or HD digital tracks. You've been on the road so much lately and you really need noise cancellation to block out the hum of motors and so you can concentrate. You want to analyze the nuances of your favorite recordings or you don't feel like throwing away cheap headphones every year, but want to own some that will last for several years. Whatever the reason, you can say that no matter what you choose, the sound will definitely get better. Does that sound like something to you? Then take the plunge.
What are "open" headphones and do you want them?
"Open" refers to headphones that have a perforated cover around the ear cups, allowing air to circulate.
While most headphones sit like a can on the ear, open-top headphones are like a sieve. The sound from the headphones can sound like this mixed with the air, and some people believe the experience is more natural, open, and expansive.
What are these headphones for? On the one hand, they are suitable for sound engineers who do a bit of mixing. But why is it such a niche headphone? Since the open loudspeaker allows air inwards, noises can also penetrate outside. You shouldn't use these types of headphones for commuting to work, for recordings in the recording studio, in the office, in the gym or in general anywhere you could bother people with them. All in all, open-back headphones are not suitable for the average user.
What are celebrity headphones?
I'll tell you a secret: companies pay celebrities a lot of money to use their name and image on products. Shocking isn't it? In many cases, the celebrities had little to nothing to do with the design or manufacture of the product.And just like Britney Spears didn't come up with the secret formula for Pepsi, your favorite artist probably didn't add anything to the headphones other than a smile for the camera. But don't be fooled by the fact that your favorite singer or rap star was sitting in the recording studio and tweaking the sound himself. Also, you shouldn't fall for it and think that they would wear their own headphones in the studio too. Unless there is a photo shoot that day, it probably won't be.
I just want to explain that a lot of companies think that you stick a celebrity on a product, then change the color, raise the price and fool the user into believing that they have bought a higher quality product. Then an inferior product was sold to people of good faith. There are many headphones out there that sound much better than the Beats (Dre, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber), Sync (50 Cent), etc. See for yourself and read reviews about where these headphones end up and what lower price range other headphones sound better at.
For many, the value of these celebrity headphones is just the idea of being part of a network or making a fashion statement with them. That's okay if you're wearing the headphones like an expensive hat and want to make a statement with them. But if you want the headphones for this because they have a good sound, then you should trust your ears rather than the marketing.
For example, you got the Beats Studio for well over € 250 in the beginning, but you can also spend the same price for the better-sounding Bose Quietcomfort 25. Not only does the Bose actually cancel the noise better (better than anything else on the market), it also sounds fantastic and the noise cancellation works rather poorly on the beats.
If you can have the best, why dump the money on something else?
Headphones decision support - open, closed or half-open?
Music shapes our attitude towards life - whether at home or on the road on the street. Those who do not want to be disturbed by loud ambient noises in their own four walls and also want to disappear into their own musical world in the recording studio should use classic headphones. However, there is no such thing as the best headphones, because, depending on the intended use, either open, semi-open or closed systems are more suitable for individual purposes. So the question arises: Which headphones should I buy?
|Headphone system||Brief description||Areas of application|
|Open headphones||Anyone who values an original, multi-dimensional sound cannot ignore the open headphone system. Open headphones just rest gently on your head and ears. This has advantages in summer, for example, when it gets a little warmer under the auricles. The real advantage, however, lies in the acoustics, because open headphones allow spatial sound - at least within the limits of technical feasibility. In return, however, they do not shield outside noise, which severely limits the area of application.||+ Perfect for spatial sound generation - Not suitable for on the go or professional recording and studio applications|
|Closed headphones||Closed headphone systems encompass the entire ear. As a result, the space between the ear entrance and the sound generator is completely sealed off, there is no need to fear disturbing ambient noises and the bass reproduction takes place with the necessary emphasis. In the long run, however, the low wearing comfort has a negative effect, as heat builds up quickly.||+ Ideally suited for recording studio recordings - very low wearing comfort in the long term|
|Half-open headphones||If you cannot opt for open or closed headphones, half-open systems are the right choice. They try to combine the advantages of both headphone variants and to compensate for the disadvantages. Half-open headphones do not achieve the compact sound of closed headphones and do not offer such a transparent sound as the open system. On the other hand, they are more comfortable to wear than closed headphones and filter out ambient noise, especially lower frequencies, better than open models.||+ Due to its comfort and the filtering of low interference frequencies, it is predestined for home use in particular + Not as limited in terms of sound as open and closed systems, but also less good at reproducing transparent and bass-heavy sounds|
Cordless or wired?
If you have decided on closed or open headphones, the question arises whether the headphones should be connected to the sound output device with or without a cable. In this case, too, both options have advantages and disadvantages.
- Wired headphones. Wired systems are the only sensible choice for professional purposes, but wired headphones also guarantee unrestricted and interference-free sound in the home. Cabled headphones are optionally supplied with a 6.3 mm stereo jack plug, for example for connection to an amplifier, or with a 3.5 mm mini jack plug for less professional requirements in the home.
- Wireless headphones: Cordless headphones offer the advantage of the greatest possible flexibility. A receiver is always installed in wireless headphones, but a transmitter is also required in order to receive sound. The following technologies are differentiated under wireless headphones:
O Infrared: The sound signal is transmitted via an IR diode. Disadvantage here: Receiver and sender must have unrestricted contact.
Digital transmission: This technology is currently the best option for wireless sound transmission and has meanwhile replaced the interference-prone analog radio transmission. Even Dolby Surround or Dolby Digital 5.1 can be implemented.
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