Daily activities such as quietly working at your desk, doing your exercise routine, or even the time lazying around your house can be a whole lot more enjoyable with the help of music, podcasts, and audiobooks...and also a good pair of headphones. That being the case, finding and wearing the right pair of headphones just for you is essential to making your listening experience optimal for your needs. Here's how to pick one for your lifestyle/needs...
The main factors when in the search for that legendary right pair comes down to style, comfort, price, and performance. But before we can get into that, first let's get one crucial decision and preference out of the way; headphones or earphones?
Style (or headphone build types)
Wearable, personal audio sets usually come in three types: over-the-ear headphones, on-the-ear headphones, and earphones. The first two are pretty straight forward, with the first covering your ears entirely, as if you were cupping your ears with your hands, and the second simply resting their earpads onto your ears. The last one listed are like the white stock Apple earbuds that come with your iPod or iPhone purchase; they fit snuggly into your ear canal.
For some, it's not a big deal deciding between the three, but for a number of folks I know, myself included, comfortability may come into play after using some of these types for extended periods of times, as well as whether your ears are the right size to properly fit earbuds without them causing you some discomfort or pain. However, on the other hand, some complain of pain from headphones bearing down on their head or against their temples. So when it comes to this there might be a little trial and error that will come into deciding which to choose.
But once you've made your decision based off prior experience or solely off preference in style, let's move onto the next biggest factor that will come into play: price.
What's your price range?
Price point will definitely make a large portion of the choice for you. Unless you're an audiophile (fancy word for audio performance fanatics), then you may not be able to discern the difference between a pair of $30 Apple earbuds and a pair of high quality, $499 Sennheisers.
However, while you may not be an audio genius or know what an MP3 or FLAC audio file is, your headphones will definitely need to be fitted with all the proper features specific for your needs. Are you a heavy talker, music enthusiast, or just looking for something to listen to while jogging? Well, here are just a couple of features that you may be interested in:
1.) Noise-cancelation or noise isolation: These are two techniques that headphones and earphones implement to keep external sound from leaking into your personal listening experience. This feature is pretty handy on a baby infested plane ride or when simply taking precaution to stay distraction-free while hard at work. It's a convenience that shouldn't be overlooked. However, it's not for everyone since you could literally have someone screaming into your ear next to you and you would be none the wiser. And for that reason we wouldn't recommend these for parents who take care of small children.
2.) Microphone and play controls: Talking and driving is no longer something that a lot of us can do... legally, that is. So if you've decided to go the earphone route then you may want to think about getting a mic-enabled headset so you can answer calls while staying hands-free for the drive home or office. Oh, and don't forget about play controls; usually these come designed as a single button on the headphone wire that lets you answer calls, but as on Apple's earbuds, some let you adjust the volume and navigate through your song collection.
3.) Wireless: Wires and cords are so last century. With the invention of bluetooth technology and other means of transmitting data without the need of a physical connection, the world of audio has entered a new era. While you don't see too many of these kinds of headsets in use, they can be optimal for those who simply cannot stand wires bouncing up and down during their exercise routine. These also can come in handy when you're in the comfort of your own home, enjoying a relaxing movie and don't want to disturb any of your fellow home dwellers.
The ancient saying of 'you get what you pay for' holds very true when buying the right headphones. Depending on the amount of cash you end up spending will transfer over to ultimately what gets pushed out to your ears. $10 throw-away, pharmacy headphones will not last long, that's a fact. But a pair of $30 or more headphones will likely last you the long haul. Paying more than $20 bucks for headphones may seem like a crazy thing for some people, but if you think of them more as an investment then you won't need to buy another pair for a long while. Now we're not saying that the more you pay the better your headphones will sound, since like all things there will be exceptions. But you have to imagine that a cheap set will easily give out, either due to easily frayed wires or blown out speakers caused by high volumes, while higher priced sets are given more attention to durability and wear-and-tear.
Tips & Recommendations
Once you've sought and discovered your own personal headphones give them a nice long listen. Break them in with continued use for long spurts of time. While this won't truly get them to sound better or anything like that, it will alert you if you feel any discomfort after prolonged use. And if in the end your selection isn't all it's cracked up to be then return the item, there's no point in keeping a pair that you aren't completely 100% satisfied with.
And to help you start you out on your audio quest here is a list I've compiled of low, medium, and high grade headphones that vary in both price and in the types of features discussed above: