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  • Selecting the Right Headphones
Technology Articles > Photo, Video & Audio > Headphones > Selecting the Right Headphones

Buying headphones used to be a simple ordeal. Today, buying headphones is overwhelming. Selecting the right kind of headphones depends on your needs, and on the type of sounds that you want to hear. Some headphones are great for cancelling out any external noises while others were designed for ease of use.

Headphones cannot be purchased by reading specs listed on a package. Instead, various headphones must be tried before finding the right ones. Pay attention to the shape and size of each pair that you intend to try. Quality headphones can be purchased for $30 to more than $100.


Earbuds sit directly inside of your ears. These headphones tend to come with many devices. While inexpensive, earbuds are not always the best headphone option. Sound-wise, most earbuds do not generate great sound. However, these headphones are extremely practical. Earbuds can be easily transported, they are ideal when exercising or moving profusely, and they do not become tangled in long hair. As an all-around portable headphone option, earbuds are at the top of the list.

Circumaural Headphones

Large headphones that cover your whole ear are called “circumaural” headphones. For optimal sound quality, these headphones are hard to beat. Typically, circumaural headphones are covered with a plastic shell that effectively eliminates any outside noise interference. Circumaural headphones tend to be more expensive than most other types, though they do serve a great music-centered purpose. The main drawback to these headphones is that they are not easily transportable, and they can become caught inside of hair. Circumaural headphones are not recommended while exercising due to excessive bulk.

Canal Headphones

Tiny earbuds that sit directly inside of the ear canal are referred to as “canal” headphones. These headphones are both portable and efficient. Since canal headphones sit inside of your ear canal, outside noise is effectively blocked. While canal phones are great when exercising or listening to music casually, these headphones can slip during extreme movement. Since all ears are shaped differently, canal phones may not fit snugly into all ear types.

Supra-Aural Headphones

Headphones that wrap around the ear via a plastic attachment are called “supra-aural” headphones. These headphones are light and simple to transport, but they are not optimal when it comes to sound. Since supra-aural headphones do not sit inside of the ear (and are not protected by an outer shell), outside noises can be heard. Likewise, the music that you are listening to can be heard by those around you when using supra-aural headphones.

Headphone Specs

Manufacturers like to list numerous headphone specs on headphone packages. These specifications can seem confusing. While impressive to look at, the truth is that these details don’t matter if the quality of the headphones you are purchasing is not up to par. Noise isolation is one spec that may be important to you.

The term “noise isolation” refers to how much outside noise can be blocked out with a pair of headphones. Another important thing to consider is the length of the cable that comes with a set of headphones. If you require a longer cable than the one that comes with a set, purchasing a longer cord is possible. Keep in mind that the only real way to determine the effectiveness of a pair of headphones is to try each pair prior to purchase.