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THE best Headphone for YOU!

Updated on October 16, 2015

When you want to buy a headphone, it is very important to know what exactly it is you are looking for.

It's best that you ask yourself this important question:

Where am I going to use them? Only at home? In the train or bus? When working out?

For example. When you're walking in a big city you don't want to use headphones that will isolate you from your environments. You still need to be aware of the dangers of traffic around you. Then again, when you're in a crowded and noisy metro or bus, the last thing you want is to hear all those outside noises interfering with your music.

So with this in mind, let's see what kind of headphones are available.

Circum-Aural Headphones

Recording studios and audio enthusiasts normally make use of circumaural headphones. These have those big round earpads that fit over the ears. Available in two distinct variants.

Closed-back

This means the outside of the earcups are completely closed. Some features of this design are:

  • Passive noise isolation, which means that outside noise cannot enter the headphones from the earcups.
  • Generally more bass
  • A more intimate soundstage

Sound Signature

Because of the closed design it is possible that stereo positioning is not always realistic, compared to the open-back variant I'll talk about a bit later. This is because the sound reflects inside the earcups.

They also have a more 'in your head' sound which may not always be preferable. For example, if you listen to live concerts you most likely want to hear a wider soundstage, so you can clearly separate the different instruments being used. On the other hand, with some recordings an intimate feeling might be more preferable.

Open-back

Then there are the open-back, which means the earcups are open, mostly with a grill on the outside so that the driver is visible. Some features are:

  • No noise isolation. External sounds can freely enter the headphones.
  • More detailed and rich sound signature
  • A more open soundstage

Sound signature

Better stereo imaging and a wider soundstage are thanks to the fact that the sound can escape through the outside of the earcups. This, of course, creates a more realistic sound.

Widely seen as the headphones for serious audio enthusiasts. If you enjoy listening to your favorite music in a way you actually are paying attention to all the different aspects, then you at least need to have one good open circumaural headphone.

My Recommendation

If you're an audio enthusiast, but not someone who wants to spend a lot of money in buying different styles of expensive audiophile headphones. If you just want one awesome headphone which you can rest assured will give you an amazing Hi-Fi quality sound for the rest of your life. If this is you, then I can highly recommend you check out the Sennheiser HD 650.

It may not be as neutral sounding as the Sennheiser HD 600 which is also a fantastic headphone. But completely neutral is not always what you want. Especially if you just want to enjoy your music.

It may not be as high-tech as the Sennheiser HD 800, which is seen as one of the best headphones ever made. But the thing is, it's not always the most enjoyable headphone to listen to. Especially if your music source is not well recorded. Lossy music like mp3's, but also bad recorded CD music.

No, you can't beat the Sennheiser HD 650. Being around since 2003, these headphones give you a fairly neutral but more on the warmer side sound, which is very rich in detail and amazingly balanced. It sounds great with any genre of music and even if you listen to lossy music, this headphone smoothens out some of the compression.

Supra-Aural Headphones

With supra-aural headphones, the earpads do not go completely over the ears, but instead, they rest on the ears. Also known as the so-called Lifestyle headphone, these are the most popular headphones of all. Why is that, you may ask? Well, it's pretty simple. These are a lot smaller than full-size headphones, making them lighter and more portable. Some even have a folding mechanism so they're easy to take into a travel bag or something.

Sound signature

Because of the smaller earcups and mostly a closed design, the soundstage, generally speaking, cannot compete with circum-aural headphones. Furthermore, we notice that the bass on these kinds of headphones is almost always elevated, meaning that low frequencies are presented as exaggerated. However, since most people like their music with a lot of bass, this is not an issue. Remember, supra-aural headphones are targeted at non-audiophiles and, therefore, are fine-tuned for their preferences.

My Recommendation

Although Beats are the most popular lifestyle headphones out there and the Solo HD 2 is actually a surprisingly nice headphone to listen to, it is however not my recommended choice. Both price as performance wise.

My recommendation goes to the Sennheiser Urbanite On-Ear. This is a super comfortable headphone made out of almost unbreakable materials. You can stretch the headband completely flat and twist it all kinds of ways, without breaking it. It also has a clever folding mechanism so it takes minimum space in your travel bag. And more important, it sounds deliciously good. A bit elevated bass, but never boomy. A delight to use and that for under $100.

In-Ear Monitors (IEM)

In-ear monitors often called canalphones. As the name indicates they are put straight into the ear canal. They are super light and very good at keeping out external noises.

These are a great choice when doing active sports. They come in sweat-proof and even in waterproof models, making them ideal for running and swimming!

However, I always advise that you try out a pair, just to see if you feel good about it. Not everyone likes something sticking in their ears.

Sound signature

Being this small you cannot expect to get the widest soundstage, but overal sound quality can be very good. Since prices go from a couple of bucks to hundreds of dollars, some of these earphones are very advanced and therefore extremely capable of providing excellent sound quality.

My Recommendation

Since IEM's are mostly used for running and jogging, I'm going to recommend a pair that does not isolate you completely from your surroundings.

The Philips Fidelio S1 are very well priced at $99 and they deliver excellent sound. A bit elevated in the lows, which is actually quite nice in giving you some punchy bass. Mids sound terrific and highs are realistically presented without being piercing. Considering the price-tag on these little babies, they are pretty much the best and even better than some of the much more expensive models.

Earbuds

Ah... the well known earbuds :) Everyone has used them at some point in their lives and a lot of people still use them, since these are the freebies you get with your mobile phone, tablet or any other mobile device.

Sound signature

The problem with these is that, although you can listen to your music, the quality of the listening experience is very limited. They have absolutely no bass and treble. So that leaves you with mids only.

Do I recommend them? Not really. They are only usable for voice conversations. But if you for a bit care about how your music sounds, then please invest in something better. You can have good quality headphones even under $30. Your ears will thank you ;)

So no personal recommendation for these :)

Conclusion

So depending your situation, you may prefer a certain type of headphone.

Do you prefer a Hi-Fi sound, than you should go for Circum-Aural headphones. Especially the open-back variant.

However, if you are more concerned about fashion statements and portability then the Supra-Aural headphones are your best choice.

If you do active sports, like running, swimming, working out in the gym, then the In-Ear headphones are what's best.

I would always keep away of those horrible Earbuds, so lets just forget about that okay :)

I wish you all the best in your quest for your perfect headphone. If you have any question whatsoever, please leave me a comment. I'll be happy to answer you.

Which is your favorite type of headphones?

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