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How To Choose the Best Headphones and Earphones

What's more important: Sound accuracy, bass, comfort or maneuverability? Let's review features and learn how to choose the best headphones.

When it comes to headsets, price is usually a good indicator of quality. You can expect higher-quality sound from more high-end headset designs that offer ergonomic shapes and impressive audio quality. Most audio headsets in a set price range sound similar to most users, except for audio technicians and professional music artists. How to choose the best headphones boils down to figuring out how you're going to use them, and which features help meet those goals.


What Do You Need the Headphones For?

Understanding how you intend to use your new headset or earphones makes it possible to prioritize the features you need.

Audiophiles love the high-fidelity sound and usually want the best sound accuracy possible. DJ's need to cancel out the sounds of loud parties, so they can hear cues in the music they play. Professional-level headsets that prevent sound leaks are the best choice for recording artists. Students can use headphones with laptops for gaming, online chats or enjoying music. Workshop owners and hobbyists who spend long hours at work often choose comfort over sound quality. They also need noise cancellation options so they can hear audio while drowning out noisy equipment. A librarian can choose a set of sealed earphones to prevent noise from escaping and bothering individuals while reading. Headsets are suitable for use with phones and video conferencing at work, school or home. 

Each of these people listens to music and other forms of audio for different reasons and need varying solutions to accommodate their goals. How to choose the best earphones relies heavily on what you intend to do with them.


How Much Do You Move Around While Listening to Audio?

If you use your headset on the go to talk to clients, handsfree Bluetooth® earbuds are the way to go. Pay close attention to your device's instructions. You'll need to stay within a certain distance of a phone or other device in most cases for them to work. Choose a lightweight model that's easy to maneuver while staying connected.

With a corded headset, your initial instinct may be to get the longest cord possible. While this will give you more room to move, it also comes with its own set of problems.

For one, long cords can turn into a safety hazard. They can wrap around or get stuck in equipment or cause people to trip. A less obvious issue is that when audio travels across over-long cables, sound quality starts to break down. This results in reduced sound and unnecessary noises. Fortunately, cords up to two to three meters long can play audio with little to no interference. 


How Long Do You Plan to Wear the Headset in One Sitting?

Individuals who wear earphones frequently may prefer a small set of headphones that rests on the ear. Look for headsets with a bit of fabric or leather to pad ears to stay comfortable during extended listening sessions. A set of earbuds that fit inside the ear is also an acceptable alternative. Pro-quality earbuds produce better sound than the typical buds that come with devices. 

A lightweight set of circumaural headphones are an ideal choice for listening to audio in loud environments like a factory or in places where silence is a must. Circumaural headphones feature large padded cups that surround the ear to minimize external noises. It's an ideal choice for students who can listen to studies while not bothering others at night. They create a seal that prevents sound from getting in or out. The listener and only the listener hears the sound coming from the speaker cups and can't hear any noises made outside them.

Where the headband sits also affects comfort, but depends on preference more than anything. The most common headband options are over-the-head and behind-the-neck. If you don’t want to worry about a headband at all, your best choice is earbuds.


What Kind of Devices Do You Need to Plug Into? 

Low-resistance headphones rated for a low impedance of 32 ohms or less work best with portable devices like phones and MP3 players. Look for cords labeled as 2.3 mm in size. 3.5 mm cords are better suited to small radios, computers and other similar devices. 

Large stationary audio equipment like home stereo systems and recording equipment need headsets with higher impedance levels. High impedance is also important for DJ's using turntable equipment. 

All iPhone models after iPhone 7 no longer have a phone jack to connect audio equipment. Instead, select smartphones need Bluetooth connectivity, special adapters or Apple-specific headsets to work. The Google Pixel also needs specialty connectors for their headsets for the same reason. Pay careful attention to the types of devices you'll use with your headphones to ensure you get a compatible set. 


Do You Prefer Lower Bass or Better Audio Accuracy?

A typical frequency range is 15 to 18,000 Hertz (Hz). The first number represents the lowest note a speaker can reproduce. The second number represents the highest note. The wider the frequency range is, the more accurate the headsets tend to be. 

A range with a minimum of 3 Hz or lower and a maximum of at least 23,000 Hz will satisfy most audiophiles and professional listeners. These ranges are misleading, however, without a reference to tolerance. Look for -3 or -10 dB of frequency tolerance to ensure crisp sound levels, minimizing distortion in the process.

People who love bass should choose headsets with sealing earpieces to achieve the lowest frequencies. These types of headphones are an excellent choice for audiophiles, DJs and people who work in noisy environments.

Tighter seals mean less noise leakage from the headset and decreased interference from external sources. A 42mm driver size is ideal for those who enjoy low frequencies. Larger drives produce even deeper tones but distort higher notes. 

For people with glasses and other features that prevent a solid sound, open-back headphones are a suitable solution for enjoying heavy bass sounds. Open-back headsets, don't require a tight seal to produce consistent tones.



Having a firm understanding of how and where you plan to use headphones makes it easy to determine the right model. CDW features a wide range of headsets with varying features. Now that you know how to choose the best headphones for you, why not take a look?

Ready to find the perfect headphones for you?