“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” – Maya Angelou
That is precisely my favorite thing about headphones – they let you immerse into a world of your own, a world that is impervious to noise pollution. It has never been easier to enjoy life at your own pace; all you need is your favorite tune and a pair of headphones.
Never has a song sent more shivers down my spine or made my arm hair stand up straight than when I heard it through headphones. Music actually does sound better through headphones, and we can thank our brains and physics for making it happen.
Headphones have become a vital piece of equipment in our daily lives as they have the power of setting the atmosphere we like in everyday chores. As with most people, I find headphones to be most useful while commuting, but the experience applies to almost anything. I’ve seen window washers with headphones, morning joggers keeping the rhythm with the music, even people enjoying a bench in the park while being dazzled by music.
I’ll leave the music choice to you, but when it comes to headphones, there are certain things you should consider to get the best feeling and the best quality to price ratio.
1. Type of Headphones
Type of headphones basically translates to the choice between earbuds and over-the-ear headphones. People that have used both can testify to the fact that even though they serve the same purpose, they are actually entirely different.
Earbuds are, because of their size are easier to store and carry around (i.e. in your pocket). They tend to be less expensive than their counterparts, but their type and size carry along a whole set of problems. Frequently falling out of ears and even ear pain are the reasons I gave up on earbuds. Another reason is that they simply produce lower quality sound even if they are made by well-known companies.
Over-the-ear headphones are the ones that we all imagine a DJ wearing, and there is a reason behind it. They are bulky and a bit awkward to carry around all day but they more than make up for it by giving you the best sensation possible.
They are perceived as being extremely pricey, but the truth is that you can get a decent pair for at a lower price. Check out the best headphones under $100 for example. Except for the superb sound quality, over-the-ear headphones are easier to wear and much less harmful than earbuds.
2. Noise blocking
Noise blocking is crucial for a quality pair of headphones. There is nothing worse than having to turn the volume up to maximum so you can overpower the sound of the annoying music in a bus. Not only will that hurt your ears in the long run, but you also might not even be able to play it as loud to negate outside noises.
Take a look whether the headphones have an open or closed back which will probably tell you the most about the quality of sound isolation. Open-back headphones do have a more appealing sound but are at the same time more liable to unwanted sounds. Closed-back headphones will give the bass a nice boost, negate the outside effects but will suffer in the quality department.
I have found that the special noise-cancelling types aren’t really worth the money. It will take at least $250 for a decent pair, and still you will be left with having to turn up the volume wasting precious battery life .
When it comes to frequency, try to find headphones with the largest range possible. Roughly said, human hearing ranges from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and that is basically your target area if you want to hear the entire spectrum.
However, headphones differ in the sound curve. The sound curve is an indicator of what the manufacturer meant to emphasize in the sound. High-priced headphones are well-rounded and place no distinctions between the lower and higher frequencies. In practice, this is often not a great trait.
Less expensive headphones have a U curve meaning that you will probably hear the low and high frequencies better. As oppose to higher-priced headphones this means that you will really feel that bass in a song. Simply put, higher-priced headphones do give a better sound, but at a price of sounding bland and monotonous – something you don’t want when listening to music.
Impedance is a well-known term from high-school frequently used in electrical circuits and is shown in ohms (Ω). I don’t want to get all boring and technical so let’s just say impedance plays a significant role in playing music through headphones.
Lower impedance (less than 25 Ω) in headphones means that they require fewer amounts of power to transmit sound. 25 Ω is quite enough when playing music from phones, Ipads, and similar devices but what happens when you need a more powerful sound as a DJ might.
DJs use headphones that have 25 to 70 Ω of impedance, so they don’t “blow out” their headphones when using sound amplifiers. If you are not going to use headphones professionally, you should stick to low impedance headphones (far less expensive) but keep in mind the devices you are going to pair them with.
5. Try Them On
This is basically the best advice I can give you about getting yourself a decent pair of headphones. It doesn’t matter if someone gets technical or tries to explain by using their own words; there is no way to present the feeling you get from certain headphones.
Ask a friend to lend you his pair (if they are something you would consider buying) and plug them into your device. Have your device ready with music you are most fond of and simply listen to how they perform.
Another way to test headphones is to try them on at the store. Most audio stores will let you try the headphones without charge so you can decide from your own experience.
6. The Experience is No One’s but Your Own
Whatever headphones you choose just remember to use them responsibly. Be careful while behind the wheel and try not to play the music louder than you need it to be.
The wonderful world of music is for you to discover and I bet a quality pair of headphones can only make it better. Let the music set you free and allow me to quote Neil Young – “Keep rocking in the free world!”
Featured photo credit: C D-X via unsplash.com