If you are using headphones for more than a few minutes a day or in a professional setting you should invest in a good pair of headphones or earphones, you will not understand fully until you’ve experienced the difference that a good quality pair of headphones can make to the audio.
Whilst you should never rate the quality of goods by their price ticket alone, it is often a good indicator of how well the item has been manufactured. There are very key technical reasons why we pay more for some headphones than others, this article seeks to go into some of the reasons why and what to look out for.
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The key giveaway of quality is the frequency response of the speakers in the headphones themselves this is measured in hertz per second (often referred to as Hz), and will typically look something like this 100Hz to 16000Hz for the best frequency response you should get as close to 20Hz to 20,000Hz as possible, this is what we refer to as the 20 to 20K range which is the recognised hearing range of humans. If the speaker does not provide the full hearing range the sound will be missing depth and will become fuzzy similar to a mobile phone or walkie-talkie, whilst this may be fine for some applications it will cause unnecessary hearing fatigue this will without fail affect the quality of sound output from headphones.
A well manufactured pair of headphones will have had a lot of research and development to ensure the right materials are used. The main issue with any speaker is that it’s housing always has a resonance this is a sympathetic frequency that will cause excessive vibration and disturbance in the sound quality.
Every material has its own resonance frequency so therefore a lot of development must be used to ensure that any vibration is kept outside of the operation range of the speaker. Obviously the better the speaker the wider the frequency response therefore the harder it is to eliminate resonant frequencies in the materials used to manufacture the headphones and speakers.
Exterior Sound Blocking and Noise Cancellation
Never mistake exterior sound blocking with noise cancellation, exterior sound blocking is used to eliminate sounds roundabout so we can focus on the audio in question for instance when piloting an aircraft. On the bottom end of the scale the only protection will be a layer of plastic on the top end of the scale the headphones will be fitted with acoustic dampening material usually a form of dense foam.
Noise cancellation is used mainly on telephone headsets to eliminate background noise such as in a busy call centre.
Quality of Manufacture
Last but not least, how well the headphones are manufactured directly impacts on how soon you will need to buy a new pair. A good pair of well manufactured headphones will last indefinitely so it is well worthwhile spending time researching asking questions and getting feedback from other users.
Key things to look out for are hard wearing headband, good quality cable strain reliefs and robust flexible cable.