10 Tips for Buying the Best Headphone for You

Even today, in Brazil, many think that acquiring a good headset can be expensive. However, the global and national market has changed a lot in recent years, mainly due to the wide offer of, for example, headphones, in-ears, earbuds and TWS headphones. With that in mind, tips will be given for you to reach a good purchase choice that meets your current needs, whether for music, stage return, games, movies or even work, using the headset in video calls and/or audio (videoconferencing).

There are many myths that have been spread in the media due to ignorance on the subject on the part of technology sites, which produce from news to reviews (reviews) with poor quality, as there is no study, much less experience to deliver something really good. The goal here is to clarify what really makes sense and what doesn’t. Check it out below!

1 – Define your needs to buy something that really suits you

Before analyzing the price or beauty of a headset, the ideal is to first specify what you will use it for. Depending on the activities, a certain type of headset will bring more benefits to the user. For example, if you are in a place with a lot of noise, it is recommended that you use a solution that brings noise isolation, either passive (natural, through the structure itself) as is the case with in-ears or active (learn how Active ANC/Noise Canceling works here), usually present in Bluetooth TWS headphones, over-ears (headphones) and on-ears (supra-aurals).

There are cases in which there is no need for aggressive noise attenuation (noise) in environments where the user usually frequents. With this, it is possible to evaluate other aspects with more freedom, such as greater comfort for hours through a less invasive fit (earbuds) or soft touch (headphones).

Depending on the ambient temperature, the choice may be different. For example, a headphone with ear pads (cushions) made of leather or synthetic material that imitates leather tends to warm the ears more, making it more interesting to choose models that have the option of using pads made of fabric (smooth sports or velvet).

note: The fabric ear pads do not peel off like synthetic material that imitates leather and can be washed, thus removing dust and sweat.

The very structure of the headphones can also disturb, which may be due to the way in which the fixation occurs or because of the temperature. There are people who can’t stand something inserted into the ear canal, so they end up rejecting in-ears, but there is an alternative for them, earbud-type headphones. [1]. We have cases where headphones can be bothersome due to the temperature rise at some times of the year, so using an in-ear or earbud may be more suitable to use for a long period of time.

The secure fit can be an important factor for the user who practices sports, exercises or even return from the stage, where the latter still requires a good level of isolation from ambient noise. In this scenario, in-ears with ear fins (also called ear hooks) are usually used, which are a kind of silicone hooks that are attached to the house (body) of the headphones and accompany the grooves of the ear to better fix the structure of the ear. earphone. For stage return, the solution goes a little further, being recommended to go to CIEMs (custom in-ear monitors) [2]where the headset is shaped like the person’s ear canal, as it is molded exactly to the wearer’s ear.

[1] Article “Earbuds, alternatives for those who have not adapted to in-ears”

[2] Article “What are custom (ICES)/custom in-ear headphones? What are they for?”

2 – The cost-benefit is in wired headphones, but there are good options for wireless (Bluetooth)

A TWS wireless (Bluetooth) headset or headphone (over-ear or on-ear) has a higher production cost compared to wired solutions. The reason for this is that in addition to the speaker (driver) [3]present in wired headphones, we have internally a Bluetooth receiver/transmitter, a DAC, responsible for converting the digital signal (Bluetooth) into analog, an amplifier, to amplify the signal converted by the DAC, a pair of batteries, microphones, a processing chip, among other components.

Taking into account only the number of components, it is impossible for a wireless headset (Bluetooth) to match the quality offered by a wired headset in terms of construction and sound quality. The reason for this is that when comparing both in the same price range, the entire cost of the wired headset was invested in its sound quality and construction, while Bluetooth had to share with several components.

Although there is this disparity in quality when comparing models of wired and wireless headphones of the same value, we have to take into account that depending on the user’s needs, Bluetooth can be more advantageous for the person’s routine. However, to get something with good quality in wireless headphones, it is necessary to spend a certain amount more. To kick-start the idea, here we indicate the best TWS (True Wireless Stereo) models of 2022.

[3] Article “What types of technologies exist in headphones”

3 – Don’t give up on buying a wired option because your cell phone or notebook doesn’t have a headphone output

Many people end up giving up on buying a wired headset, even though they will have higher quality compared to Bluetooth, because there is no headphone output on their cell phone, tablet or notebook (usually an ultrabook). An excellent solution to this is to use an “ultra-compact” portable USB DAC/amp, better known as a “USB headphone adapter”. This type of device is often referred to as a dongle, a term used for devices that plug into a device’s port to provide additional functionality or allow a “pass through” to another device’s connection.

There are two types of portable DAC/amps, those that are connected via a cable (typically USB-C or lightning) and those that have a Bluetooth capability. The latter allows you to connect the headset to it and synchronize with the device responsible for playing the songs (example: cell phone, notebook, tablet) through Bluetooth. Check out our nominations list of the best “USB Headphone Adapters” (USB DAC/amps) of 2022 below.

4 – There are alternatives for those who have not adapted to in-ears (in-ears)

As stated in the first tip of this article, for those who haven’t adapted to in-ear headphones (in-ear or IEMs) and want a portable alternative, there are alternatives. The best ways to get around this problem is to use earbuds or on-ear (supra-aural) headphones.

5 – Choose those that have removable parts

Always look for headphones that have removable parts. By having this possibility, especially for cables and ear pads (“cushions”), you will increase the chance of having your headphones for many years, as these are usually just some components that fail naturally due to use. Also, find out if buying parts is easy, as there are companies that offer replacement cables and pads in their online store (e-commerce).

6 – Avoid headphones with synthetic leather ear pads (cushions)

In the first item we address the subject, but reinforcing, always avoid buying headphones with synthetic leather ear pads (“cushions”). In addition to heating the ear more (compared to fabric), they tend to peel off over time due to sweat and use, no matter how much care is tried.

7 – Do not buy a headphone with 5.1 or 7.1 channels

Many believe that to achieve better spatiality and sound separation in competitive games or movies, it is interesting that the headphone (over-ear) or headset has 5.1/7.1 channel multichannel surround sound. However, to be able to accurately “see” the sounds in the game environment, it is not necessary to use multichannel surround technologies.

In a good stereo headphone (2.0), the greater its spatiality, the easier it will be to have the notion of distance between you and the enemies in the game, as it will be possible to delimit how far the sound is propagating. With that in mind, you’ll probably get a better separation of sounds (in music called instrument separation) making it easier to perceive the direction a particular sound is coming from. The better this item is, the greater the perception of the positioning and, consequently, there will be a better accuracy.

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8 – Buy headphones with analog plugs (P2, P10) instead of USB

A headset needs the signal to be analog for it to play, therefore it is necessary that at some point the digital music file transmitted by your cell phone, notebook or other device for playing digital files has a DAC, a chip responsible for converting the digital signal to analog, in addition to an amplifier, to amplify the signal and get the speaker (driver) to generate sound. On a headphone with a USB-C or lightning cable, there is a DAC and amplifier inside the jack that will allow the headphones to play. When using a solution like this, you will be limiting the possibilities of obtaining a better sound quality, as there is no way to use a better-designed USB DAC/amp to achieve a more refined sound.

9 – Don’t buy a TWS Bluetooth in-ear headset with ANC

Unfortunately, there’s no way to get the same performance as a Bluetooth headphone with ANC on a True Wireless (TWS) in-ear headphone with active noise cancellation. The reason is simply physical, as there is no way to have the same number of microphones as an over-ear (or circumaural) headset, nor the same level of sound processing that also depends on a good power supply. In a TWS headset we have limited space for microphones, having an average of 3 microphones per side, while a headphone can have five or more.

In addition to the points mentioned above, the space for the battery is considerably smaller in a TWS, being necessary to control the energy consumption very efficiently, which is not beneficial for a good noise canceling system through the audio processing of multiple microphones with a great speed.

10 – Do not buy headphones under 20 dollars (R$ 100) with detachable cable

Considering that the detachable cable system has a greater impact on the total cost of the headset and you want to buy cheaper models, it is often more advantageous to choose fixed cable headsets. The reason for this is simple, as less money is spent on the connection between the cable and the headphone driver (speaker), it is possible to use a better quality cable in headphones with a fixed cable.

This article is made in partnership with the High-End Headphones Group:

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