You don’t have to be an audiophile to know a great pair of headphones can make a huge difference in your listening experience. Those cheap earbuds that came with your device might suffice for a while, but you may soon find yourself yearning for a richer sound quality.
Whether you want to learn how to buy headphones for yourself, or are looking for the perfect gift for an audiophile friend, there are a few things you should take into consideration before making your decision. Here are my top 5 things to think about before buying headphones.
Form Factor: On-Ear vs. Over-Ear vs. In-Ear
On-Ear vs. Over-Ear vs. Earbuds: This will likely be the first decision you weigh when picking your perfect pair of headphones.
- On-Ear headphones feature pads that go over the ears, but don’t cover them entirely. They’re typically more portable than bulky over-ear headphones and cancel some (but not all) noise. Because of their open design, on-ear headphones are not the best choices for very noisy (or very quiet) environments.
- Over-Ear headphones are a bit bulkier but tend to have better sound quality. Some behind-the-neck headphones are still good for moving around, but in general, over-ear headphones are larger and more troublesome to store while on-the-go.
- In-Ear headphones, or earbuds, are generally less expensive, more portable, and take up little space. They’re very convenient for active lifestyles, and can still offer superior sound quality on the higher end (around $50 and up).
Once you’ve decided whether you prefer on-ear vs. over-ear or in-ear headphones, you can start to think about the next decision…
Wireless vs. Wired
The next thing you might consider when thinking about how to buy headphones is whether you want a wireless or wired pair. The wireless variety do offer an obvious advantage: no wires to wrap up or snag on anything. But that convenience can sometimes come at a cost. Like noise-canceling headphones, wireless headphones require their own battery power, which means charging and swapping batteries on a regular basis. Additionally, wireless headphones often use Bluetooth for easy pairing with devices, which is convenient, but can also mean lower sound quality and possible interference from other devices. However if you’re especially active with your headphones, wireless may be the clear way to go! Ultimately the choice is up to you, and should be informed based on how you plan on using your headphones.
Before buying headphones, don’t forget to think about noise cancellation. Earbuds tend to isolate sound well because of the tight fit in the ear, while the noise isolation of over-ear headphones will vary depending on the style.
If you want to buy headphones with true noise-canceling capabilities, be prepared to spend up to $200 or more for the experience. These types of headphones are built specifically to reduce outside noise, and rely on their own battery power to operate. However generally speaking, full-size (over-ear) headphones are usually the best form factor for true noise cancellation.
Chances are, if you’re looking to buy premium headphones, you’re ready to pay for quality equipment. After all, if you wanted cheap earbuds, you could just stick with the pair you have around the house!
If you’re after buying headphones that will last, here’s a good rule of thumb. Expect to spend at least $50 on portable headphones, and $100 or more for real quality. If that’s not in your budget, a trick I like to use is looking for open box or refurbished options. Buying headphones in other conditions is a great way to get the brand and quality you want — for less that what you would spend on a brand-new pair.
When searching for headphones that will best meet your needs, you’ll soon learn that reviews can only take you so far. Some audiophiles swear by thousand-dollar models, and others will tell you headphones at a fraction of the price are every bit as good. Do you prefer on-ear vs. over-ear? Wireless or wired? The best way to tell if a pair of headphones works for you is simply testing them out!
Consult an audiophile who will let you try out their gear, or take a pair for a test drive at an electronics or audio store. If you prefer buying headphones online, consider buying from a store with an easy return policy — like BLINQ. That way if you’re not fully satisfied with the pair you picked, you can easily send them back and continue looking for your perfect headphones.
With these things in mind, are you ready to fall in love with your favorite album all over again? Check out BLINQ’s headphone selection and put your newfound headphone-buying knowledge to work! Do you have any other tips or advice on how to buy headphones? Let me know in the comments below!