What type of headphones are the best?

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– The short answer is “the ones that sound best to you”. Headphones are like speakers – they vary tremendously in their overall performance, size, weight, cost, and even appearance. – – There are many, many possibilities in the world of headphones, and sometimes, the choices can seem overwhelming, especially to those buying a new pair for the first time. However, once you think about how you plan on using them, and where, the choices become a bit simpler. To start, let’s review the most common types of headphones that you will find:

  • Ear-bud (i.e. MP3 player style)
  • Circum-aural (literally meaning, ‘around the ear’), closed back (sealed to the external world)
  • Circum-aural,open back (allows sound to pass into the headphones)
  • Supra-aural (literally, ‘on top of the ear’)
  • Canal-type (those that fit snugly into your ear canal)

– Having said that, in general, headphones that go on-ear (supra-aural) and those that go around the ear (circum-aural) usually have better bass extension and better mid and high frequency performance than in-ear types because they have larger diaphragms than do in-ear types; they also tend to have lower distortion than in-ear types. However, supra-aural types generally do not give you as much noise reduction as do in-ear types (because in-ear types tend to form a seal with your ear canal, thus isolating you from outside sounds).

– In some cases, supra-aural types (and some circum-aural ones) are open-back. This means that they tend to be better suited to home use because they will let a fair amount of external sound pass through the headphones, and likewise, others in close proximity to you will be able to hear what you are listening to.