Many audio devices come with their own headphones. And, whilst they look good and often match the component in style, colour and design, they are not always the best of quality and are often supplied as an afterthought. Audiophiles that are looking for the very best in sound experiences should look to buy a specialist set of headphones which complement the system they use and the style of music that they enjoy listening to.
The right tool for the job
There is a distinct difference in using headphones for pleasure and work. Those wanting to listen to music on their way into work or school will prioritise different things than those using headphones to edit multimedia presentations or films. In general, headphones fall into two categories; earbud style in-ear headphones and studio style on-ear headphones.
Earbuds are great for people who travel and want to listen to music on the go. They are discrete and do not draw attention to the user and are particularly good for joggers and gym users. However, they can often produce significantly lower quality and frequency ranges than traditional on-ear headphones, which makes them unsuitable for users who rely on accuracy for work or for pleasure.
On-ear models such as these excellent Bose headphones offer high quality sound containment and a much wider frequency response. In addition, they place less pressure on the eardrum and can be used for extended listening sessions without causing discomfort.
Isolation refers to the headphones ability to lock the music inside the ears whilst shutting out unwanted outside noise. This is particularly important for use in noisy environments such as buses or trains. If the headphones do not offer good isolation the user will be forced to turn up the volume which could cause irreparable damage to the eardrums. In addition, other travellers will be able to hear your music which can be annoying. Ear bud headphones tend to do isolation very well due to their proximity to the eardrum as they literally block the ears and shut out the outside world. On-ear studio headphones accomplish this same feat by creating a tight seal around the ear. This can be essential in recording environments as poor isolation can lead to ‘spill’, ruining audio tracks with unwanted noise.
The wider the frequency range the more of the music you will be able to hear. Frequency response can affect the way in which the instruments on a given recording are heard. The ideal listening experience is one in which each instrument can be heard separately in the mix and a wider frequency range will make this more likely. As a rule, on-ear studio style headphones will offer the best frequency response which is why they are often used in recording studios in which the engineer must be able to hear the separation of the instruments in a mix. For those that care about their listening experience there is no comparison to studio style headphones. However, earbud headphones now provide very good frequency response, which should be more than adequate for the casual listener.