Your Guide to Shopping for New Headphones
Shopping for headphones can be confusing. Prices can range anywhere from $10-$500 on items that look fairly similar. I’m often left wondering how many options we ought to even have on things like this! If you walk into an electronics store feeling completely lost and bewildered, you might need to read this handy guide first:
Are Expensive Ones Really Worth It?
Here’s your quick answer: as with everything, price is often an indicator of value. Cheap headphones might seem good for a while, but break and get quirky at the first drop of a bass beat. On the other hand, they might last for ages and serve you perfectly. If you feel like you’re getting quality sound and durability, go for the cheaper option!
After all, sometimes you’re merely paying for the brand. In that case, you should be able to find similar quality for less. Unless, of course, the brand is important to you!
Comfort and Functionality is the Most Important Factor
When you’re choosing headphones, the first thing that you have to think about is this: where and when are you going to be using them? Is it for DJing? Are they for use at your desk job? Do you use them while you’re working out? Are they for gaming?
The situation will determine what kind of fit, comfort, and noise cancellation you’ll need. If there will be lots of other distractions, you’ll want the best noise cancellation you can get. If you’re DJing, you want to make sure that your sound quality is on par. If you’re running with these headphones, you need comfort that will stay put.
Testing Out Comfort
Most headphones are made with a nod toward comfort. However, if you’re going to be wearing them for hours at a time, as you might at work or while gaming, then you need to make sure that they’ll keep being comfortable as time goes by. Honestly, that’s why I often choose cheap options: I don’t want to drop a ton of money on something that will start to drive me crazy later, and there are no guarantees on the expensive ones…
Oh wait, yes there are. Most expensive headphone options will come with warranties, and if you buy them at certain stores, they’ll also come with a good return policy. Before you buy, check to see what the customer service will be like. For example, Costco offers a pretty much no-questions-asked return policy on most of their products, which is handy when you’re trying out some new headphones. Most stores will offer returns within a certain amount of time, so make sure that you thoroughly test the product right after you get it. If you’re not completely certain about the brand and model, it might be wise to stay away from online discount dealers that won’t accept returns.
Is the sound quality really different? The balance, the bass, the definition… all of them can be influenced by the quality of the materials and construction of the “driver”. The driver is the part of your headphones that converts the electric signals into sounds that you can hear.
The truth is that you can get drastically different quality sound with different headphones. Whether or not you’re a music snob, you’ll be able to hear the difference. It’s just a matter of how much that difference is worth to you. Better quality means clearer, crisper sound to your music. It means that the bass doesn’t throw off the higher tones. It means that you’ll have a more immersive music experience.
Something that’s important to remember about sound quality of headphones is that different people will have different preferences. I might like my music to be weighted more on the treble side, but you might like a heavier bass. The type of music that you like to listen to will also influence what kind of headphones are best.
Most importantly, test out different kinds. Most stores will have showcase areas where you can hear the difference for yourself. Test it out with your favorite kinds of music and see if they reflect the sound that you want to be able to hear.
Here are some options that you’ll see available as you’re shopping for headphones:
- Water resistance
- Bluetooth enabled
- AM/FM receptivity
- Built-in microphone
Lastly, you’ll want to consider the additional options available, such as Wifi. Don’t be blinded by options that sound cool, but are ultimately useless to you. For example, water resistant headphones might be nice if there’s any risk of spillage nearby. But if you’re paying extra for something that has about a 0.0000001 chance of happening, it might not be worth it.