Wednesday, 9 April 2014

How to choose a Good Headphone and what do the Specifications mean?

I recently purchased a Headphone and spent some time researching and understanding what the specifications meant; so that I could get the one that best fit my needs.  I hope the below mentioned details helps you in buying the right headphone and saves you time by not having to look elsewhere.   
Before we get into specifications that would usually be mentioned on the packaging or on the manufactures web page, let’s talk about the different types of headphones and choose the one that best suits your requirements.

Open Headphones – On-the-ear Headset also called as Supra-aural Headset.
These types of headphones are designed to allow some ambient noise to mix with the headphones output creating a much better Bass and slightly better sound quality overall.
They are lighter and sound natural, however people around you may be able to hear what you are listening to. You might also need to increase the volume if you are outdoors or in an area with substantial ambient noise.

Closed Headphones – Also called as Circum-aural Headphones.  
These types of headphones are excellent with blocking ambient noise either through sound isolation or active noise cancellation; they are a good choice for monitoring your live recordings and for gaming too so that the sound coming from the cups (headphones) does not interfere with your microphone.

Specifications:  Based on the manufacture the mentioned specification would vary, listed are some of the common ones.

Headset Driver Units (Denoted by mm) - The size of the driver does not matter it’s the construction of the cup and how it’s tuned that matters.  Usually 40 mm to 50 mm drivers should be sufficient to provide a good dynamic range.

Headset Impedance (Denoted by Ohms - Ω) - The higher the impedance the harder the computer sound card, phone, mp3 player etc has to work to attain any particular volume. 
Most high quality headphones that have low electronic interference levels (that’s the hissing sound) usually have high impedance levels as a by-product.
Impedance up to 32 Ω is considered as a safe limit for most portable players. Anything higher would require a portable amplifier in order to properly power them.
To get the best out of your headset, you should match the impedance of the headphones to the audio equipment you are using.

Headset Sensitivity (Denoted by dB/mW) - In plain terms it simply means how loud the headset would sound. For example if two headsets with the same impedance are alternately used with the same headphone amplifier, the headphone that is the loudest has a higher Sensitivity.      

Headset Frequency Response (Denoted by Hz ) – This is the range of bass, mids and treble, for example Human hearing is usually between 20 - 20000 Hz, where 20 Hz is the bass end and 20000 Hz is the treble.  
The Headset frequency response could vary from the actual range due to factors like dynamic range and harmonic distortion, the lower the distortion the better the sound quality.
It is good to have headphones that covers as much of the frequency range as possible however it shouldn’t be a major concern as long has it’s in the human hearing spectrum J

Total Harmonic Distortion (Denoted by THD - 1 kHz/100 dB SPL) - This is that crackling or hissing sound. When using headphones at higher volumes, the speaker inside the headphone needs to move fast enough to produce sound, failing to do so leads to distortion.
It’s best to get headphones with as low total harmonic distortion (THD) level as possible.

Misc: Based upon preference or requirement one might also want to consider;
Weight, size, cable length, wired or wireless headphones, connectivity – either 3.5 mm or USB 


Finally, this basic knowledge should help you get the headset with the performance and aesthetics that suits you.  All the Best!!!

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