Choosing the right headphones — They say that your ears are almost as unique as your fingerprints. Recent studies show that there is even a difference between how your left and right ears function.  Add that to the fact that everyone’s hearing has intrinsic differences in performance and you’ll see why it can be so difficult to purchase a simple set of headphones.  Headphones vary by audio quality, features size, type, and technology.  There’s a lot to think about when making a purchase. Here’re a few of the major considerations.

Types of headphones

  • headphonesFull-sized over the ear

These come in two types — circumaural (around-ear) and supra-aural (on-ear) headphones. These tend to be the most comfortable. Some, like the Logitech H390, come with an attached microphone and are perfect for computer use.


  • In-ear headphones (earbuds)

These offer the smallest package with good sound quality. Although the sound quality is generally below that of full-sized headphones, some offer amazing sound. earbud headphonesEarbuds range in quality and price from the very cheap, ill-fitting type that come with many devices to comfortable custom-made for your ear canal units that can cost hundreds of dollars.

  • Sports headphones

These are specially made, sweat-proof earbuds that stay plugged into your ears. One example is Yurbud’s Inspire Pro.

  • Wireless (cordless) headphones

These headphones come in several varieties including Bluetooth, infrared, and radio-frequency with Bluetooth being the most popular. There is a slight reduction in sound quality because of the file compression process, but not having to deal with cables can be a big plus.


  • Noise cancellation – sealed vs. open

Sealed headphones use noise cancellation technologies to acoustically isolate the headphones from surrounding noise. The amount of noise cancellation varies with each device. Open headphones allow surrounding sounds to be heard in addition to the sounds coming through the headphones. If you are relaxing in a lounge chair and want to thoroughly enjoy listening to music, you will want to opt for sealed headphones. When jogging on a city street, safety will dictate that you use open headphones.

  • Bass and dynamic range

Headphones vary in the amount of bass, the dynamic range, and the instrument separation that they cover. Some headphones like the Beats by Dr. Dre boost lower frequencies to produce richer bass sounds, but this creates a slightly artificial but highly-desired sound.

Listen to the headphones before you purchase. Only your own ears can determine which best suit you.

  • Comfort

Headphones vary in weight and fit. If at all possible, try them on to see how the weight and shape suits you.  If they put any pressure on your ears, keep looking until you find a more comfortable pair.

  • Durability

Look at the build for good materials and strong construction. Check to make sure the cable is long enough for your use. Some newer devices come with tangle-free cables. Most headphone today come with a standard 3.5 mm plug, but some have a USB plug for computer use.  If the headphones are foldable, make sure the hinges are sturdy.

I hope these tips help you choose a good set of ‘phones that work and play as you do.

Sandy Berger
Sandy Burger, based in Pinehurst, N.C., is a veteran tech journalist and regular contributor to Tech Page One. As senior editor at, Sandy covers tech tips and tricks, apps and gadgets in general. Email her at [email protected]
Sandy Berger
Sandy Berger
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