How to Pick Audio Headphones

Written by edie grace
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How to Pick Audio Headphones
Headphones should not be a frivolous purchase--research first. (headphones image by ann triling from

Many consumers will spend a lot of time researching expensive electronic equipment. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for cheaper purchases such as headphones. While headphones may seem like a quick and easy purchase, many considerations should be taken into account first. Primary among these is safety--poor quality headphones can permanently damage the hearing. Price range, comfort and the purpose of the headphones are other factors which should be taken into consideration when buying headphones.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Choose the style of headphones you would like to buy. Headphones come in two main types--enclosed or open-air. Enclosed headphones fit over the ear and usually have cushioning for comfort and to reduce outside noise. Open-air headphones fit into the ear and are lighter and more portable than enclosed headphones.

    How to Pick Audio Headphones
    Enclosed headphones (headphones image by Charles Taylor from
  2. 2

    Decide on what level of comfort you require from your headphone. In-ear headphone buds can be uncomfortable, especially if the cord is suddenly caught on something. If you have small ears, the buds may be prone to falling out so you may require buds that hook onto the ear.

  3. 3

    Think about where you will use the headphones most. If you are likely to use the headphones in a noisy environment, consider purchasing noise-reducing headphones. Ordinary headphones should not be used to drown out background noise as this is likely to damage your hearing.

    Make a note of how many people are likely to be using the headphones or how gently you will treat them. If you intend to use the headphones frequently with a portable music player or if you will be using them for professional use, aim to buy a durable set. Telltale signs that the headphones may be fragile are if they are wrapped in plastic or foam in the box and if they are made entirely from plastic.

  4. 4

    Look at the port that the headphones will be plugged into before you buy. Make sure that the headphones you intend to buy have the same size plug. It is possible to buy jacks which can be attached to unsuitable plugs but you may not always have one on hand when you want to use the headphones.

  5. 5

    Ask the salesperson relevant questions. Ask about the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). A good SNR will reduce the amount of hiss or static you hear when using the headphones. The higher the decibel number of the SNR the better. Ask about impedance levels--the higher the number of ohms on the packaging, the more power the headphones will use.

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