Choose the Best Headphones for YOU
Choosing the best headphones for you is a tricky business as there are so many varieties of headphone on the market today. From cheap $1 headphones to bose noise canceling headphones which cost in the $100's to stax headphones which cost $1000's. What are your favourite headphones?
The first question you must ask yourself is what do I need the headphones for?
1. Listening to music at home?
2. Listening to music on the way to work?
3. Cutting out background noise, on a plane or train?
4. Listening to music while jogging or at the gym?
5. Listening at home but as a replacement for a good set of speakers?
There are two main technologies used in manufacturing headphones. One is very similar to how loudspeakers are made and is called a dynamic headphone as it uses a magnet and a cone to move the air and so produce the sound. Here is a picture of a Zalman ZM-DS4F dynamic headphone:
The other technology is called the electrostatic headphone. These are the best headphones EVER! they works like a professional condenser microphone in that it has a very thin sheet of gold stretched between a ring and when music is sent down the wires the gold vibrates. Now because the gold is extremely thin the sound is much more accurate than with a dynamic headphone. People often talk about the amount of detail you can hear on these headphones and also how recordings you thought you knew take on a whole new light!
The only diagram I could find is an exploded view, with the blue diaphragm being the gold sheet in this case.
Sealed, Open, Earbuds or Canal phones?
Your next decision concerns the comfort you are looking for and where you will be using the headphones.
Sealed headphones represent the heavier and more robust type of headphones. These are necessary if you don't want to let other people hear what you are listening too, or you wish to cut-out some background noise.
These are the most popular headset for the above reasons but can get uncomfortable after a while, as they clamp to your head to keep the noise isolation to the maximum.
If you don't need the isolation of a sealed design to block out outside noise, then open-air headphones are the best for overall sound quality. A major advantage of the Open-air headset over the sealed type is their lightness, which makes them feel quite comfortable even following an extended period of use. These units are normally reasonably priced but tend to be quite fragile and may break easily. All electrostatic headphones are of this type, so if you don't want your wife/husband to hear what you're listening to, then open headphones are really not for you.
Earbuds and Canal Headphones
If you want to go for the smallest headphones, than Earbuds and Canal headsets are the way to go.
Earbuds are samll headphones that fit into your outer ear. They are very light so are great for carrying around in your pocket or used with your i-phone or i-pod.
Canal headphones are so small that they fit right into your ear canals. These sets provide an airtight seal in your canals, greatly reducing outside noise (and are therefore a good alternative to noise-cancelling headphones). Their main disadvantage is that no two people have the same size and shape of ear canal and even with the various fittings that some ear canal headphones come with the headphones don't form a tight seal and so drop out constantly or let in outside noise.
I actually had some custom ear moulds made that fit my headphones and they give a fantastic sound. But it's not a cheap option.
Comfort and cost are the two main criteria when shopping for headphones. It's a good idea to try before you buy and take some of your favourite music with you so you have an idea what kind of sound suits you best.
Remember that anything to do with listening to music is a very personal, subjective thing. Make your own choices and go with what you like and not just what the sales person tells you!
For a good all round headphone I would strongly recommend the Sony-MDR-V6. A fantastic pair of headphones that have a sound well above their price range.