Everything you want to know about Headphones

What are Headphones?

Basically, a pair of headphones and headsets is made up of two speakers, each attached to either ends of a band that’s built to go over your head. The speakers are designed to position directly over your ears. With sound delivered directly into your ears, headphones offer a personalized, immersive listening experience. 

Unlike traditional speakers designed to vibrate large air segments in a room to recreate loud sounds, headphones and headsets provide a unique listening experience. The air headphones move around your ears during use is significantly small. 

As a result, a more personalized and confined sound stage is developed. Whereas some have noise cancellation abilities, others are designed to block intrusive noises from the surrounding environment and keep those that the headphones generate within their muffs.

What are Headsets?

A headset is a pair of headphones with built-in microphone. Headsets come with a boom microphone or an in-line microphone. A boom microphone features a boom you can easily move and position as you desire. It’s perfect for use as a gaming microphone.

On the other hand, an in-line microphone connects to the headset cord that’s meant to plug it to your computer or any other compatible device. Unlike headphones, headsets are designed for use in varied application areas. They’re ideal for interfacing with phone systems, and Skype for voice over IP communications. 

You can also use them to play online games that support voice communications. They guarantee an immersive listening experience. Headsets are also used in call centres where the users and caller both need to hear each other clearly. 

Since the terms headphones and headsets are often used interchangeably with earphones, it becomes necessary to understand their differences.

What are Earphones?

Earphones are basically padded ear muffs or “cans” in large designs with built-in headphone speakers. Also known as in-ear speakers, earphones are inserted into the ear canal for a more direct connection to the source of sound. 

Unlike headphones, the air they move is even less because that’s what they can vibrate in your auditory canal without causing damages.

Unlike traditional headphones, earphones are less bulky, making them ideal for use on the go. Therefore, they’re ideal for runners, athletes and gym-goers who usually want to listen to their favorite playlists while engaging in physical activity. 

However, earphones have poor noise cancelling abilities and some people find using them uncomfortable because they’re worn directly into the ear canal. Despite the drawbacks, users who prefer earphones love them for their comfortable ergonomic contours and reduced bulkiness.

What works for you might not work for another person. It comes down to your personal preferences and intended use of the earphone or headphone.

Unlike earbuds, headphones are oversized and deliver superior sound quality. They don’t just sit on your outer ear, but cover the whole surface of your ears without sealing them completely. 

As mentioned before, they block out or cancel external noise to deliver superior sound quality and better listening experience. They also capture bass tones, atop being ideal for playing PC games or watching movies. 

Apart from uncompromised sound quality, headphones are cushioned for added comfort on your ears during use. Opt for them if you want good sound quality in a device that’s designed to protect your hearing health. However, headphones are less portable than earphones

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Differences between Headphones and Headsets

Apart from a headset featuring a microphone and a headphone lacking one, the two also differ in other ways. Unlike headsets, headphones have superior sound quality because they’re dedicated to delivering sound as a primary function. 

Although headsets can feature either fixed or adjustable microphones, they offer more convenience than headphones in terms of VoIP. If you have to travel with your headphone and need to use it for communication as well, you’d require a standalone microphone. 

Therefore, headsets are more convenient when traveling because they have built-in or detachable microphones. Therefore, they’re less bulky and more portable. Purchasing a headphone and a microphone independently can work just fine, but offers less convenience.

In terms of price and performance, headphones and headsets can offer the same value. It all comes down to your personal preference. If your priority is sound quality, go for a high-end pair of headphones and a standalone microphone. However, if your priority is communication or being heard, opt for a pair of headsets.

Types of Headphones and Headsets

Headphones and headsets come in various styles and designs. Based on various factors such as connection types and fit, the two are available in different forms as described below.

Types of Headphones

The size of a headphone affects its portability and fidelity balance. The different types of headphones include:

  • Circumaural (over-ear)
  • Supra-aural (on-ear)
  • Earbud
  • In-ear

1. Circumaural Headphones

Also known as over-ear or full size headphones, circumaural headphones feature large ellipsoid or circular earpads that cover your outer ears. The headphones can be designed to completely close against your head to block (attenuate) noise coming from the external environment. This is attributed to the fact that the headphones totally enclose your ears.

However, circumaural headphones are large and thus bulky, with some weighing more than 500 grams or 1 lb. To reduce weight-derived discomfort, the earpad and headband design is ergonomic. Drummers often use it when recording.

2. Supra-aural Headphones

Also known as on-ear headphones, supra-aural headphones feature pads designed to press against your outer ears instead of surrounding them as is the case with over-ear headphones. In the 80s, on-ear headphones were built with personal stereos. Unlike an over-ear headphone, supra-aural headphones are smaller and less bulky.

Therefore, they can easily attenuate or block noise coming from the immediate environment. However, they tend to exert pressure on the ears (unlike over-ear headphones that surround the outer ears) and thus can cause discomfort. The level of comfort varies depending on the material used on the earcup.

3. Earfitting Headphones

Also known as earbuds, earphones are designed to sit inside your outer ear. They’re small and fit directly in your outer ear. Although earphones face your ear canal, they don’t fit inside them like in-ear headphones. Earbuds are convenient and portable, but some people find them uncomfortable. 

They allow ambient noise into the headphone and barely support acoustic noise isolation. As a result, you can be tempted to increase the volume at the risk of losing your hearing ability. 

With earbuds, you become more aware of your surroundings. They can come with foam pads for extra comfort and are usually sold with personal music devices such as Apple’s MP3 player.

Earbuds are affordable and can be reasonably upgraded with in-ear monitors or top quality earbuds. Neck-sitting headphones feature bands that are designed to rest on your neck. 

Unlike standard headphones, neck-sitting models are less likely to mess up your hairstyle atop being more comfortable. Designed to support prolonged use, you can easily move from not using to using your audio device.

4. In-Ear Headphones

Also known as canalphones or in-ear monitors, in-ear headphones are inserted into the ear canal to completely block ambient noise from the surrounding environment. Just like earbuds, they’re portable, but sit into the ear canal. They’re often used by musicians, audio engineers and audiophiles.

Various materials such as aluminum, plastic, metal alloys or ceramic can be used to make the outer shells of in-ear headphones. In-ear headphones also tend to slide out because they insert into the ear canal. They block outside sounds, hence using canalphones while driving, walking or riding in areas with high traffic can be a risk to your safety.

In-ear monitors stay in place while moving or exercising, making them ideal for sports. They deliver exceptional sound quality only close to those of larger headphones, including passive noise isolation capability. 

Elastomer, silicone or foam are used to make custom-fitting or generic ear canal plugs. In such a case, ear canal castings are utilized to develop custom-molded plugs that offer noise isolation and extra comfort to your pair of headphones.

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Closed or Open Back

Supra-aural and circumaural headphones can also be categorized as closed back or open back.

Closed-back headphones are also known as sealed headphones. They feature earcups with closed backs and thus block some ambient sounds from external sources. Unlike open-back headphones, they produce stronger sounds at low frequencies.

On the other hand, open-back headphones feature earcups with open backs. They leak sounds out of the headphone and allow ambient sounds from the environment into the headphone. They deliver speaker-like or natural sounds.

Semi-open headphones are a compromise between closed-back and open-back headphones. They’re designed with earcups that feature partially open and partially closed backs. They block ambient sounds partially, allowing some to get into the headphones through vents or openings.

Mixed Fitting Pivoting Earphones

Depending on your preferences and needs, these earphones combine the best of in-ear and earbuds headphones. They can allow you to completely block sounds from the outside environment or allow partial noise isolation in areas where there’s need to listen to conversations or safely go through busy traffic.

Types of Headsets

The two major types of headsets include:

  • Telephone headsets
  • Communication headsets

1. Telephone Headsets

Built to replace a telephone handset, telephone headsets attach to a telephone system’s fixed line. RJ-9 connectors are standard 4P4C for standard corded telephone headsets. Most DECT phones and other applications support the use of headsets with 2.55 jack sockets.

Mobile telephones use cordless Bluetooth headsets. Call centers are a major area where headsets find intensive use. They also support hands-free conversations over telephones. Telephone headsets, unlike earlier telephone models, feature an amplifier to amplify sound on loudspeakers and microphones.

It also allows for switching between the handset and the headset, and comes with a mute feature. Telephone amplifiers can either be battery-powered or derive its energy from AC adaptors. 

2. Communication Headsets

Designed to support two-way communication, communication headsets comprise of a headphone and a microphone attached to it. The headsets find use in various industries such as the military, aviation, music as mixing headphones, sports and other service professions.

Communication headsets are designed in different sizes and shapes for varied application. They require fidelity and noise attenuation based on intended use. They make ideal radio headphones.

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Specifications of Headphones and Headsets

Headphones and headsets come with different specifications that support varied functionalities. Some common specs worth noting include:

  • A Microphone: Headphones or earbuds with microphones support hands-free calls. Earbuds are designed to ensure that your mouth is near the microphone. Headphones come with separate microphones, hence don’t deliver the highest quality level of communication. They can be repaired or serviced and used for communication purposes.On the other hand, the best gaming headsets come built with a microphone for easy communication. A wireless microphone headset offers unmatched sound quality.
  • High Resolution Audio: This is how professionals in the audio industry such as sound engineers want music to be heard. HD audio results from exceptional dynamic audio range and bandwidth amount. Unlike standard CDs, tech-advanced equipment can deliver HD audio. HD certification on audio gadgets indicate top audio quality.
  • Water Resistance: What do you intend to use your headphones and headsets for? If you’re a traveler, jogger or any other headphone user, you’ll want a waterproof gadget to withstand the volatile weather outdoors. Waterproof and sweatproof certifications indicate that the headphone or headset is resistant to water or moisture.
  • Mono vs. Stereo: Mono headphones are built with a single audio channel while stereo headphones and headsets feature a couple of audio channels. Whereas the audio experience in mono headphones is the same for both ears, stereo headphones deliver unique audio experiences in each ear.Mono headphones usually come with just one earcup and a microphone on the other side. On the other hand, stereo headphones enable precise audio production and thus top quality listening experience. It’s a perfect alternative for surround sound headphones.
  • Voice Assistants: Some headphones and headsets also come with built-in voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Siri. With the AI-based assistants, you get to use voice to make orders. It gives you control over your audio experience for a hands-off approach, especially when on the road.
  • Noise Canceling: Headphones and headsets with noise cancelling capability minimize the amount of ambient sounds or noise from the immediate setting. Padded on the outside, earcups block incoming sounds, but don’t lower loud noises. The design of in-ear headphones support noise isolation. However, other sounds can’t cause interference in audio quality.Noise cancelling capability varies from one earbud to another in terms of effectiveness and noise isolation levels. This spec also reduces the amount or level of sound leaking outside to the environment. It helps overcome annoyances and distractions.
  • Frequency Response: Measured in Hz, frequency response is the frequency range a gadget can accurately reproduce. The limit for your hearing range (and any other human) is 20-20KHz as depicted in many headphones and headsets. However, not all gadgets with this range of frequency deliver a corresponding quality. Execution quality varies from gadget to gadget, and brand to brand. Moreover, every manufacturer has a signature sound.It means that if another brand has the same audio frequency, their audio experience would be tampered with. The best headphones or headsets have a high frequency response.
  • Maximum Volume Limit: Loud audio can impair your hearing. You can easily be tempted to play loud music at the expense of your hearing health. A volume limiting specification in a headphone or headset allows you to play audio at a maximum limit that’s safe for your ears. The spec is often found in headsets and headphones for kids.
  • Sensitivity: Measured in decibels/milliwatt, sensitivity is the amount of decibels generated in a gadget upon the application of a specific amount of power. Rated higher than 100, this spec ensures your headphone is designed to deliver audio at high volume. Even with low amplifiers, high sensitivity ensures you get maximum volume level.
  • Bone conduction: Also known as vibration emitting panels, bone conduction is a new technology in headphones and headsets. It makes no contact with your ears, but fits between your face and ears on the side of your head. The technology uses small vibrations responsible for passing sound to your ears through the jawbone. Only a few brands have already adopted this technology in their products. Although they have a higher capability to capture ambient noise and fit securely, gadgets with this technology deliver poorer audio quality than ordinary headphones.
  • Impedance: Impedance is a device’s electrical resistance. High impedance could translate to poor audio clarity. High impedance exceeding 600 ohms requires good amplification to produce clear audio. This explains why most headphones designed for consumer use are often graded 15-56 ohms impedance. However, headphones and headsets designed for professional studio and audiophile use often tend to have high impedance. They have the capability to overcome the high impedance and deliver great audio clarity.
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Headphone and Headset Accessories

Headphones come with various accessories to support their use. The accessories can easily be replaced if lost or worn out after prolonged use. Some headset accessories include:

  • Detachable Cables: The cables are used to connect headphones to compatible devices such as laptops and music players.
  • Ear Cushion Kit: Available in a pair, they’re worn on the earplugs to cushion your ears from pain and support prolonged use of your headset.
  • Charging Case: The charging case allows you to charge your pair of headsets on the go.
  • Adaptor: It enables you to plug your headset to a power outlet for charging.
  • USB Cable: Instead of connecting your headphone to a device through a cable, some audio gadgets come with USB cables for alternative connection to USB ports.
  • Carry Case: It supports storage and safe transportation of your pair of headsets.
  • Clothing Clip: The clip is used to attach your headphone cables to your clothing to prevent it from moving unnecessarily.
  • Headband Cushion: If you tend to use your headsets for prolonged periods, headband cushion can protect the body areas in contact with the gadget from discomfort.Other accessories include digital to analog converters (DACs) and headphone amplifiers.

Manufacturers

Headphones and headsets are manufactured by various companies worldwide. The top headphone manufacturers include:

1. Bose

A team of passionate and innovative developers, engineers, retailers, researchers, marketers and even dreamers across the world are behind the success of the Bose brand. 

Founded in 1964, the company manufactures audio products that deliver exceptional experiences like no other. It manufacturers speakers, headphones, audio sunglasses, accessories and wellness products for better sleep and hearing.

The goal of the company is to develop better audio solutions and products that ensure consumers enjoy what they love doing. Although the company invests a lot in scientific research, it develops products based on human interests. 

It works on understanding how sound impacts humans to deliver products that can work how consumers expect or want them to. Bose offers exceptional customer service on all its products, a promise it keeps. 

It sources ideas from its various players and constantly innovate to come up with better Bose headphones and headsets, among other audio products. It invites inventors, creators, talented persons and dreamers from across the globe to share their new ideas, enthusiasm and passion with the company. 

The company has a division dedicated to custom building of audio solutions for large-scale applications or projects. The developers work in close liaison with the brand to ensure the sound experience that Bose headphones and headsets deliver reflects the reputation of Bose. 

Military forces have specialized noise reduction audio products used worldwide to minimize noise levels in busy environments.

2. Sennheiser

Founded in 1945, Sennheiser is a top brand working hard to shape the future world of audio. Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser is the founder of the company with a day-to-day focus on delivering exceptional sound products. 

The company works as a team to deliver more than just great sound. It works on innovating gadgets with perfect sounds that come alive whenever customers need to use their headphones.

The company’s rich innovation culture, history and passion for excelling, are the drivers that keep it going. With endless trailblazing ideas, Sennheiser headphones and headsets are continuously innovated for better design and performance.

The success of Sennheiser headphones and headsets, among other audio devices, has been attributed to its curiosity, innovative inspiration for what it does and passion for the same. The brand name is popular among users passionate about transmitting, recording or playing audio.

Sennheiser offers all-round audio solutions, microphones and headphones, reliable services and a team of dedicated workers. It also manufacturers speakerphones. Sennheiser customers can include:

  • Scientists
  • Disc jockeys
  • Artists
  • Demanding music-lovers
  • Sound technicians

The brand is popular for its high quality sound and unmatched listening experience. The company’s determination to excel and improve its passion for audio products is founded in its enthusiasm to offer the best headphones and headsets on the market. 

That’s what drives and motivates Sennheiser to accomplish its mission and goals of converting sounds and tones into exceptional listening experience.

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Maintenance and Cleaning of Headphones and Headsets

Proper maintenance and cleaning of your headphones is key to ensure that they last longer, and improve audio fidelity and your hygiene. Use your audio devices carefully to avoid preventable damages. Yank on the cable to unplug it instead of pulling it to sustain the lifespan of your headphones.

Keep your audio device away from extremely high or low temperatures. Don’t spill liquids on your headphones or headsets to protect sensitive components inside the audio equipment. When buying headphones, pick eartips size suitable for your ears for a snugly fit without squeezing or forcing it into your ears.

The wrong size of eartips won’t just hurt your ears and hearing ability, but can also damage your ear pieces. After extended use, look out for dirt on your headset and wipe them with a clean, soft cloth. Replace worn out or damaged eartips or cushions to keep your ears safe.

Care for your headsets just as you do with your smartphone. Check cleaning instructions on the products user manual or instructions it came with. Generally, use warm water, a soft cloth and some soap for cleaning. Use cotton swabs, a toothpick or a dry toothbrush to dislodge stubborn grime and dirt or reach inside areas with mesh.

Use a clean towel to dab down the headphone and let it air dry. Baby wipes can also easily clean your headsets. Remove your silicon tops to clean the earbuds and don’t forget to wipe the cables. Avoid coiling and wrangling the cables so they last longer. Wrap it around your two fingers in an eight-shaped figure.

Store your headphone in its storage case for organization and keep it away from extreme temperatures. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for folding your headset to minimize wear and tear during storage. Alternatively, wrap your headphone cable around your smartphone to prevent tangling. You can also braid it or use binder clips.

Headphones and headsets care and maintenance, including cleaning isn’t time-consuming yet important to prolonging the lifespan of your audio equipment. 

Conclusion

Whether you intend to use your headphone privately at home or at work, during workouts for more interesting fitness sessions, to pump up your adrenaline while playing your favorite games, or just want a stylish accessory with a great look and sound that showcases your personal style, there’s a headphone or headset for you. 

It’s all about owning a wireless microphone headset that best suits your preferences and style. If you’re not sure how to go about choosing the best headphones and headsets for you, check out the buying guide below.

Contact us for more information today or order one of our top headphones and headsets to jump up your listening experience.

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