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Chocowii's Headphone Guide


The Fanatic
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Want to buy an headphone for your MP3 player, portable gaming console, or your portable video player? This will guide you on choosing whats best for you depending on usage, lifestyle and your environment.

Let's start with the types of headphones.


1) Earbuds
  • aka: in-ear headphones

  • Earbud Headphone is well known for being the most prevailed type of headphones which is popularly used by music lovers around the world. Although earbud headphone is tiny and light, but this type of earphone is able to provide the top quality of sound similar to its bigger relative, the full size headphones. Generally, earbud headphones are sold in cheap price and come in various colors and designs. The Newest earbud headphone which is recently marketed called “In-Ear Headphone” is currently known as one of the leading portable headphone which is extremely popular among the music lovers, especially for the young people.

    Earbud headphones are commonly used for listening MP3 music from portable MP3 players such as iPod. Because it’s small, light and easy to store, earbud headphone is extremely fit for every music lover who always listen to the music while conducting some activities such as working, traveling and exercising. Regard to its performance, modern earbud headphone such as in-ear headphone is able to deliver the excellent sound directly into the wearer’s ears through its short and tiny sound tubes which are comfortably placed inside the wearer’s ears.

  • Good: Ultracompact and lightweight; can provide moderate to excellent isolation from external noise; little to no interference with earrings, glasses, hats or hairstyles.
    Bad: Sound quality and bass response often not comparable to those of full-size models; can cause discomfort over periods of extended use; some models are difficult to insert and remove; the idea of putting foreign objects in the ear is counterintuitive and uncomfortable for many people; dual-cable design means more possibilities for tangled wires.


2) Sporty Headphones
  • aka: Side-Firing Behind-The-Head, Fashion headphones; vertical headphones; behind-the-neck headphones; clip-on headphones; neckband headphones; Walkman-style headphones; portable headphones.

  • This loosely defined category usually refers to lightweight models with two general headband styles: standard vertical bands that arch over the head or horizontal designs that extend behind the head or neck. Some sport headphones have an ear clip or attachment in the place of a head- or neckband. These headphones are almost always open-backed designs (such as the ear-pad models, below), with good reason: if you're jogging, the last thing you want to do is completely block out the ambient noise of the street around you.

    In addition, Sporty Headphones come is various designs and colors which you can surly find one of them suits your taste. Its thin headband which place behind the wearer’s head is considered as the most distinctive characteristic of this type of earphone, and this thin headband also help to attach two tiny speakers into the wearer’s ears more tightly and comfortably.

  • Good: Behind-the-neck designs won't interfere with your hairstyle or your hat; usually stay put during running or jogging.
    Bad: A lot of stylish, slender headphone designs aren't all that durable; some behind-the-neck designs exert higher-than-average amount of pressure on your ears.


3) Ear pad headphones
  • aka: Supra-aural headphones; open-backed headphones; semi-open headphones; closed-back headphones; on-ear headphones.

  • These headphones rest on your outer ears and run the gamut from inexpensive portables to high-end home models. While ear-pad headphones can have closed designs that cover the ears, they are never fully sealed as are full-size circumaural models.

  • Good: Comfortable; less prone to overheating ears than full-size 'phones; some models fold up for easy transport.
    Bad: Less effective noise isolation than in-ear or full-size models; less powerful bass compared with full-size headphones.


4) Full sized earphones
  • aka: Circumaural headphones; closed-back headphones; ear-cup headphones; over-the-ear headphones.

  • Full-Size Headphones are the largest type of headphone which is generally used in single place such as dwelling, office or sound studio. Because of its big size, this type of headphone is somewhat incompatible for portable purpose. Full-Size Headphones are mainly required to provide excellent sound and also other additional performances because their bodies are large enough to contain many sound-producing components which creating the best quality of sound. Full-Size Headphones are divided into two major categories including closed and open type.

    “Closed full-size headphones” are able to isolate you from surrounding noises which may cause you an immense annoyance. This type of earphone is installed with two enclosed earcup chambers in each side, which prevent undesirable sounds from the outside world. Although closed full-size headphones allow users to listen the top quality of sound without any noises, but some time the two chambers themselves cause bizarre sonic resonances which degrade its sound quality, this defect tends to be found in cheap models. The other type of full-size headphone is “Open full-size headphones” which are made without sealed chambers. Thus, some of the unwanted sounds from nearby environment sometimes reach to users.

    Because full-size headphones are not compatible for using outside resident and most of them are sold at high prices, then this type of headphone is mostly used in sound studios or recording houses where high-quality of sound is highly demanded. However, a common user who needs to enjoy their favorite music with excellent sound is able to use this type of earphone either.

  • Good: Large 'phones offer potential for maximum bass and loudness levels; effectively block outside noise.
    Bad: Large size is cumbersome for portable use; some full-size models can be uncomfortably hot and make your ears sweat; ear cups and headbands often interfere with earrings, glasses, and hairstyles.


5) Streetwise Headphones
  • aka: clip headphones

  • One thing about listening music by using an ordinary headphone is that the earphone doesn’t always stay in place. It tends to slip and drop off from ears when user move or perform some activities such as walking, exercising or traveling. This problem completely solved if you use this modern earphone. Streetwise Headphone is another type of portable headphone which is especially designed for serving music lovers who always conduct some moving activities such as walking, jogging, dancing and playing sports. Just like the other portable earphone, Streetwise Headphones discard the conventional headbands which cover the wearer’s head. This makes the earphone small, light and don’t interfere with your hair or hat

  • Good: These clips allow the user moving to anyplace and performing many activities freely and easily without concerning about his or her headphone.
    Bad: Doesn't go nicely wearing with glasses.


6) Bluetooth Headphones
  • The newest invention of headphone industry, Wireless Headphones offer a new music-listening experience which allow users to move freely without concerning about headphone’s cables. This modern headphone is extremely compatible with the active and bustle life of the 21st century. In order to operate, a Wireless Headphone requires some kind of transmitter which acts as a connector between the headphone and the music player. Wireless operation is commonly achieved by using the Bluetooth protocol and a 900 MHZ signal. Its function begins when a transmitter, which must be connected to the music player, receive signals from music player and transfer them to the wireless headphone through some of the technological platforms such as Bluetooth, Infrared and Radio Frequency.

    Although the cordless headphone is considered as the most reasonable way for music lovers who need to enjoy their favorite music while performing many activities, but due to the fact that its battery must be charged before use, then some time it might causes some uncomfortable feelings to the user.

  • Good: It's wireless. You never worry again from tangles, and worse, when the cord snaps.
    Bad: You need to charge it's batteries periodically. But some uses Lithium ion batteries to keep the headsets' batteries last longer.

Specifications: These might come in the headphones' box or packages. It's good that you know these terms. Some of them are listed here.

Frequency range:
The range of frequencies that the headphones can reproduce effectively. The audible bandwidth is 20 Hz - 20,000 Hz (or 20kHz). Outside that range, sounds are not audible to most human ears (except the occasional sound professional and of course, "golden ear" audiophiles - who can often hear into the Megahertz range). Ultra-low frequencies (less than 20Hz) are more felt than heard. Beware claims of a measured "flat" frequency response (sometimes listed as 20Hz to 20kHz +/- 3dB). A headphone with a true flat response will sound terrible, because what the ears perceive as a "flat" response actually has many peaks and valleys due to interaction of the sound with the listener's head before it reaches the ears. Instead, headphones are often equalized to sound flat.
The truth is there's simply not enough data in these numbers to know anything of value. Taken out of context and without other data, a simple set of numbers don't tell you much about real world sound quality. But people make audio buying decisions based on published specifications, such as the frequency response spec, everyday. I'd like to demystify the process for you; let you in on a little industry secret about "The Frequency Response Spec." more

A measure of headphone efficiency in dBs SPL per milliwatt of input. A low number means that the headphones need more power to sound as loud as those which have a higher sensitivity. Headphones for portables need to be fairly sensitive because of the lower power output of portable stereos. Modern dynamic headphones have sensitivity ratings of 90 dB or more. When shopping for portable headphones, look for a sensitivity rating of 100 dB or greater.

A measure of headphone load on an amplifier and stated in ohms. This factor is less important with solid state amplifiers, which can drive most headphone impedances, but can be significant with tube amplifiers, which are more sensitive to load impedances. Both consumer and professional headphones generally have impedances of less than 100 ohms. There are professional models rated at 200 ohms or more to minimize loading effects on distribution amplifiers which are often drive a whole bank of headphones at one time. Be aware that very high impedance phones may require more power - on the order of Watts instead of milliWatts.

How accurately the headphones reproduce sounds and given in a percentage of signal distorted. Lower is better - 1% distortion or less (at maximum power). Tests have shown that 1% distortion is at the threshold of audibility. Headphones have less distortion at loud levels than speakers.

Diffuse Field Equalization:
There are two types of built-in headphone equalization that attempt to "flatten" the perceived frequency response: free-field and diffuse-field. Free-field EQ assumes that the listener is in front of a sound source in a listening environment without echos, such as the wide outdoors. Diffuse-field EQ substitutes a room with reflecting walls and can be more natural sounding than free-field EQ. The method for measuring DF flatness is defined under the IEC 60268-7:1996 standard. Because diffuse-field EQ is based on an "average" head/ear shape and room model, it may not appeal to all listeners or sound natural with all recordings. A binaural recording may or may not benefit from diffuse-field EQ, depending on how the recording was made (e.g., whether the microphone was inside the dummy ear), so be sure compare models with and without DF EQ. Headphone manufacturers are increasingly standardizing on DF equalization.

The two basic criteria for evaluating headphones are sound quality and comfort.

Sound Quality:
Headphones should be evaluated the same way that speakers are. Listen to them. How headphones sound is MUCH more important than what the technical specifications claim. Unlike loudspeakers, headphones feed sound directly into the ears - without the acoustic shaping of normal hearing that occurs when sound waves interact with the listener's head before reaching the eardrums. Because the shape of the listener's head and ears has an effect on perceived sound, a pair of headphones may sound different to different people. Buyers should take recommedations for specific brands or models only as a starting point. Bring a portable stereo (and maybe a headphone amp for driving inefficient phones) to the store and try a number of brands and models for sound quality. Look for:
  • clear sound, no distortion
  • deep, clear, controlled bass
    -"Mega" bass headphones generally have midbass boost to simulate low bass and can sound "tubby-ish".
    -Headphones with "shaker" vibration transducers mounted on the sides (such as Panasonic's Virtual Motion System) will convey a physical sensation of bass.
  • smooth, even frequency response - no tinny or bright highs
  • if wireless or cordless, there should be little or no hiss.
  • if surround-type, check localization and sharpness of sound image.

Feel and Fit:
Sound is important, but so is fit. The headphones have to be comfortable. They should neither pinch nor be so loose that they slip off easily. Consider the activity you'll be doing while wearing the headphones. Look for:
  • comfort - any discomfort will feel worse the longer the headphones are worn. Disc jockeys will appreciate built-in shoulder rests.
  • ith in-ear types, how snug is the fit? (Earbuds tend to fall out; canal headphones like a good acoustic seal, so consider a custom ear mold for best fit.)
  • adjustability - can the headband and earcups be positioned to suit the wearer. For example, sound professionals sometimes wear headphones with one earcup off during mixing or monitoring sessions. Pivoted earcups are especially easy to position this way.
  • cord style and length - cords that are split wired into each earcup (Y-shaped) are slightly less convenient than cords that enter the headphone from one side. The average length is 6-10 feet. Sound professionals will want long cords for good mobility between instruments and the mixing board.

This factor is most important when the phones are for portable stereos or for professional use. With consumer stereos, the ultra-lightweight phones for portable stereos tend to be fragile, so they often come with a case for protection from crushing and other damage. In the studio or in the field, headphones that are touched by many hands or tossed around in transit are also likely to be damaged. Cords (especially thin cords) that are stepped on or yanked too often become intermittent. Headbands break and earcups come off. Professional equipment must be solidly built to withstand such abuse. Look for headphones with modular construction for easy repair and replacement of parts.

Risks of Using Headphones:
Headphones are considered as one of the most useful devices which almost every music lovers use everyday when they want to enjoy some music privately. Headphones place the sound directly into the wearer’s ears without causing any disturbance to the surrounding people. Listening some of the best music in the most privacy is easily available when using headphone. However, using headphone in some inappropriate ways may cause you some problems to you health. Then it’s wise for every music lovers to learn about the possible risks from misusing headphones, in order to prevent yourself from any risks which may harm your health.

From recent studies, there are some reliable connections between using headphone and hearing loss symptom. One of the most recognized warnings about hearing loss symptom from using headphone was proposed by Dean Garstecki, a professor at Northwestern University. In his study, he claimed that some type of earphones, especially in-ear headphone, can cause some problems to the wearer’s ears if it has been used in too-long period. He argued that because in-ear headphone is placed deeply into the wearer’s ears, then if the ears are opened to loud noise in close-range and too-long period, some damages of the organics inside the wearer’s ears are inevitably happened.
Therefore, the most reasonable ways in using headphone are listed in two major ways. The first one is trying to use low-level of voice while listening to the music through headphone because it will reduce the risk of damaging the interior organics in the ear. The second way is reducing the period of headphone using in order to decrease the exposure level between the organics inside the ear and loud noises. If these two ways are regularly performed, the risks of using headphone will be reduced and listening music through headphone will be an impressive experience for every music lover.

I hope I helped you with this compiled guide. Happy headphone-shopping!

Sources: Cnet, Headwize, Headphone Guide
Next: Sound Test and Headphone Manufacturers

Music Test:
Here are some of the clips that can help you in testing your headphones' power. Some of it are in low bitrate as to it will be for headphone testing only.
THX - Bass Test - I Love Big Speakers.mp3 - 4:24, 128 KB/s, 4122 KB
THX - Bass Test - Ultimate Subwoofer Test.mp3 - 3:42, 128 KB/s, 3464 KB
THX - Bass Test - Very Loud.mp3 - 1:16, 128 KB/s, 1192 KB
Music Sample @ -15 dB and then @ -10 dB (555 KB)
Sweep left, 20 - 20.000 Hz -10 dB (94.8 KB) short
Sweep left, 20 - 20.000 Hz -10 dB (677 KB) long
Sweep right, 20 - 20.000 Hz -10 dB (94.8 KB) short
Sweep right, 20 - 20.000 Hz -10 dB (94.8 KB) long
Sinus Tone 200 Hz out of Phase -10 dB (969 KB)
Drum Solo Stereo (522 KB)
Pink Noise out of Phase -10 dB (969 KB)
Pink Noise in Phase -10 dB (969 KB)

Here is the list of some of the KNOWN headphone brands:
Harman Kardon
Altec Lansing
Zound Industries
Cyber Acoustics
Monster Cable
Imation Enterprises
Nady Audio
Power Acoustik
Cables Unlimited
CTA Digital
Griffin Technology
H20 Audio
Stanton Magnetics
Etymotic Research
Timbre Sound, LLC
SDI Technologies
JLab Audio

How to take care of your Headphones
  • Keep it untangled, theres a chance that the wire inside might break
  • Don't turn the volume to max if possible, if you turn on it to max the speakers might blow up.
  • Keep a case in handy when headphones are not in use.
  • Keep it away from water, moist, or even sweat that might accumulate in the headphones and its base that might end up in corrosion or rust.
  • Don't wrap the cord in your MP3 player or in your phone, EVER! It might break the wires inside.
  • Nozzles can collect cerumen (earwax), which can clog the earphone and lower the sound quality. If you experience sound loss, check the nozzles for clogging.
  • Wipe down the earphone housing and cable with an antiseptic routinely
  • Avoid striking or dropping the unit - extreme shock can damage the earphones.
  • Lastly, don't use the headphones that much. More nicely, you should have a cheap alternate.
Last edited:
thanks.. soundmagic is not listed brand? i'm using it right now to listen those sample clips.. sounds great for me
i find this thread very informative.just bought myself a skullcandy and i should have read this before i boughtahahaha
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