Every time I’ve lost or broken a set of headphones, I find myself standing in front of a store rack for at least an hour. It’s almost like being at a buffet with a variety of cuisines where you want to try everything; but then again, there’s only so much your plate can carry and your stomach will agree to. So how do you know which is the right one for you? This guide aims at making choices such as this one a lot easier.
Types of Headphones
You can easily tell these apart from the rest because of their sheer size. Circum-aural headphones have huge cups that cover the entire ear and the rims are almost always padded with soft foam for comfort. The drivers of these headphones are usually large and high in impedance, thus allowing higher volume levels. Due to these characteristics, most circum-aural headphones are at the top of the food chain.
Circum-aural headphones can be further classified into open-back and closed-back types, and like their title suggests, the former have a grille at the back of the headphone enclosure for sound to escape, while the latter ones have solid backs. If you visit a good professional audio-recording studio, you’ll find that they usually have closed-back headphones for recording so as to prevent leakage into ultra-sensitive microphones.
Circum-aural headphones almost always have an adjustable headband, so that one size can fit all. But do remember that this type of headphones can get a little heavy, especially with higher end, closed back models. Check out the Sony-MDR-XD200 which offer excellent value for money at Rs. 1,200.
These are commonly known as 'over-the-ear' headphones, and are like shrunken versions of circum-aural headphones. They are a lot lighter, smaller, and perch themselves on top of the ear. The drivers of these headphones are usually covered with light foam and the adjustable headband is similar to the ones on circum-aural headphones, except that they are thinner and lighter. While traditional headbands went over the head, newer versions have clips that can be attached to the ear or the headbands are bent around the back of the head. All in all, the sound quality of supra-aural headphones is good, but you might get less low–end response and slightly less clarity than you do with circum-aural ones. The Sennheiser-PMX 40 headphones are a great pick, and they cost Rs. 1,390.
Noise -Cancelling Headphones
There are some super-special circum-aural/supra-aural headphones with features like noise-cancellation. With the help of special circuitry, all you have to do is enable the noise cancellation function, and most incoming noise will be blocked, letting you enjoy your music in peace. The Bose QuietComfort is a good example for noise-cancelling headphones, although they could end up being quite expensive, say approximately Rs. 15,000.
A headset is the combination of supra-aural headphones and a microphone protruding from the left ear piece. Their prices vary depending on the manufacturer, build quality and on the components. You can buy something like the iBall i333 for as cheap as Rs. 150, or the Sennheiser-HMD 280 PRO which costs about Rs. 21,000. Cheaper variants are quite common in call centers and are basically used for Internet communication, while gamers usually prefer the slightly more high-end ones.
Earphones are probably the most common, and have almost always come bundled with portable music players from the time of the Walkman to the current day iPods. They are really tiny, with low power-consumption and impedance, so most of them don’t offer the best sound. They can also be uncomfortable to wear, as you have to lodge them in the outer canal of your ear. Also, depending on how your ears are shaped, the wrong ones can be uncomfortable to the extent of being completely un-wearable. The Sony-MDR-E818LP earphones are a good example of earphones and cost Rs. 300