Headphones FAQ – your questions answered

In this article, we’ll answer some of the most asked questions about headphones. When you’re in the market for a new headphone, the following information can come in handy for making the right choice.

What are the different types of headphones?

Generally speaking, you can choose between in-ears, on-ears, and over-ears headphones. In-ears are also known as earbuds. In this case, the speakers are placed inside your ears. On-ear models have the speakers rest on your ears, and over-ears surround our auricles.

Are cheaper models of less quality?

Yes and no. Regardless of which headphone you choose, the off-brand models that you can buy in a local supermarket are often easy to break. If you want durable in-ear models, you should look at prices of 15 dollars or more. For on- and over-ear models, prices of 25 to 30 dollars and more should be the minimum. When looking for a wireless model, expect to pay at least 40 to 50 dollars. If you also want active noise canceling (ANC), don’t expect to pay less than 130 to 150 dollars for durable models.

What are the advantages of the different connections?

A cable with a 3.5mm audio jack often has the best sound quality, but for a lot of people, the freedom that comes with a wireless headphone is preferred. Some gaming headsets offer a USB-connection to enable virtual 7.1-surround sound.

Are there any disadvantages to a wireless headphone?

The most obvious disadvantage of a wireless headphone is the internal battery: you have to charge the headphone every now and then. Audiophiles will also tell you that the audio quality of music through Bluetooth will take a hit compared to audio through a cable. While this advantage is theoretically correct, it takes a trained ear to hear the difference.

The difference in sound quality is mostly dependent on the different price ranges and the addition of certain codecs. You can read more about that in the following answer. It is also important to keep in mind the slight delay in sound that comes with a Bluetooth connection. In the most extreme cases, you notice a delay between the sound of the voices and the movement of the mouths on screen.

What’s SBC, aptX, AAC, and LDAC?

SBC, aptX, AAC, and LDAC are different codecs that are used to send sound through Bluetooth. SBC is the standard and will suffice for most users, but for better sound quality, aptX HD and LDAC are great options to have. If you have a great connection between your smartphone and headphone, LDAC sometimes eclipses the sound quality of cabled headphones. If you want a great connection with as little delay as possible, aptX LL is a good solution. AAC is the Apple version of aptX.

What is active noise reduction or Active Noise Canceling (ANC)?

Active noise reduction, also known as Active Noise Canceling (ANC), is when the headphone produces a white sound to cancel out the surround sounds, giving the wearer some peace and quiet even in noisy locations. This option is ideal when you want to take a nap in the airplane or train, or if you need to concentrate at the office. This technique can be found in all different sorts of headphones covering a wide price range, with big differences in quality.

What is the difference between an open or closed headphone?

The difference often is difficult to notice on the package of a headphone, but it can have big effects on both your experience and the people surrounding you. With an open headphone, there are openings on the outside of the headphone, so that the membrane of the speaker can more easily be moved. This ensures a better sound quality. On the other hand, it means people around you can hear the sounds better. The openings also mean you can hear more of the surrounding sounds. A closed headphone has no openings on the outside, and as a result, leaks less sounds to your surroundings.

Which headphone has the best sound?

Open over-ear headphones usually sound the best, but that doesn’t mean your experience matches the general rule. When you’re often listening to music in loud surroundings or in public, a closed headphone might be the better choice. This ensures less sound ‘leaks’ in and out of the headphone.

Are gaming headsets a valid option?

Part of the headphone industry is focused on gaming. These headsets often have a very noticeable design, sometimes with colored LEDs. Gaming headsets usually work well when listening to music, although the sound isn’t as in tune as with regular models. Gaming headsets almost always come with a microphone to communicate with during online gaming. It’s also important to check if the headset supports surround sound, 5.1 or even 7.1. This can have extra value in games, especially shooters, as you can precisely hear the location of an enemy or even flying bullets. This only works when the games themselves support it.

Need more info? Check out our headphones buying guide. When you’re ready to pick one, here’s our Top 10 Best Headphones.

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