Believe it or not, there was a time when wearing headphones outdoors would have been seen as odd behavior. Headphones were pretty much restricted to indoor home listening or by recording engineers and musicians in the recording studio. Then the Sony Walkman burst on the seen in the late 1970s and the portable music player came into fashion. Fast forward to 2001 and the release of the first iPod and it seems that everyone was walking around with white cables dangling from their ears. Today, headphones are not only an essential audio accessory they can be a fashion accessory as well with companies like Beats producing models in all of the colors of the rainbow. Popular headphone manufacturers include AKG, Audio Technica, Beats, Pioneer, Samson, Sennheiser, Shure, and Stanton.
Headphones come in come in a variety of different styles. The model you choose can largely depend on what kind of music you listen to – or where you plan on listening. Are you recording your next hit album? Do you want something that you pack away in your pocket? Do you want to close out the rest of the world and only hear your music? Do you need the freedom of a pair of wireless headphones? Let’s take a look at the various types of headphones and their primary uses.
Made popular by the iPad and iPhone, earbuds – also known as in-ear headphones or earphones – are small, lightweight headphones that are inserted into your ear canals, though some versions have clips that go around the back of your ears, like the Westone Adventure Series Alpha Crossover Earphones or the Beats Powerbeats series. Some earbuds also isolate outside sounds like the Shure SE112 Sound Isolating Earphones. Despite their small size a good pair of earbuds can offer great sound quality. They have some advantages over traditional headphones – they are very compact and lightweight, they can have microphones and/or transport controls built in and they won’t mess up your hair! Since everyone’s ears are shaped differently, certain style earbuds may not fit you as well or may cause fatigue after hours of use.
Traditional or Studio Headphones
Traditional headphones come in two varieties; on-the-ear headphones and full-size headphones. The main benefit of on-ear headphones is that you can still hear what is going on around you, making them a great choice for office environments. However, since they do not totally isolate the sound you may get some looks from your cubicle mate depending on how loud your listen to your tunes. On-ear headphones sit on top of your ear, as opposed to inside of them, like earbuds, or encasing them, like full-size headphones.
Full-size, or over-the-ear headphones offer a isolated listening environment by fully encasing your ears. They are often referred to as circumaural headphones. Favored by recording engineers who rely on accurate reproduction, full-size headphones can be quite large, as the ear cups are meant to cover your entire ear. Some, like the Samson SR850 Professional Studio Reference Headphones, feature a semi-open design for enhanced ambient listening environment. Others like the Sennheiser HD6 MIX Closed Professional Headphones feature a fully closed design that reduces background noise to a minimum in even the loudest of listening environments.
Both on-the-ear and over-the ear can be quite large and some models, like the The Beats Pro Monitoring Headphones, fold for storage. They can offer such comfort solutions as padded ear cups, self adjusting headbands and single side cabling. Professional models, such as the AKG K712 Pros feature mini XLR replaceable cables.
Wireless headphones can offer the freedom of a cable – great when you are more than a few feet away from your audio source. Most wireless headphones use Bluetooth to transmit and you will find that audio quality will suffer a bit. But if you need to be free of wires while you are working out or watching television late at night, you may find the trade off worthwhile. Unlike unwired headphones, wireless headphones require batteries and a transmitter.
DJ headphones most often have a closed-back design to isolate sounds from the club, offer big bass response, and have a swivel cup design such as the Denon DNHP1000 Pro DJ Headphones or split-headband for flexible placement. Some have built in microphones, like the Stanton DJ PRO 500. They are usually quite rugged, to stand up to nightly use.
Noise Canceling Headphones
Noise canceling headphones reduce ambient noise by a combination of noise reduction materials (passive reduction) and by using microphones (active reduction) that capture the external noise, analyze them and then create their own sound waves that are 180 degrees out of phase with the original source, effectively “erasing” them. Most commonly used by travelers on planes, noise-cancelling headphones are finding their way into use by music lovers in all situations where they want an isolated listening experience. Most, but not all, noise canceling headphones are full-size.
If you have any questions about headphones, call 800-472-6274 between 9AM and 12 Midnight EST and speak to a Sam Ash Expert. They will assist you in picking out the right pair of headphones to suit your needs and budget – always at the guaranteed lowest price.