Buying Guides

Helping you find the best headphones for you is our primary goal. Step 1 in that process is helping you decide which headphone type you’re looking for. There are thousands of different headphones out there today but, we can quickly narrow down the options by choosing one of these three headphone types:

  • In-Ear
  • On-Ear
  • Over-Ear

Step 2. Technology – Everybody has a different set of needs and desires when it comes to something as personal as headphones. Here you will find some links to our headphone buying guides by category, price, and application.

  • Noise Cancelling Headphones – Overview, Pros & Cons
  • Noise Isolating Headphones
  • Wireless Headphones for Home
  • Wireless Headphones for Portable
  • Headsets for Communication
  • Surround Sound Headphones
  • Headphones for DJ’s
  • Headphones for Producers/Engineers
  • Headphones for Running
  • The 5 Best Headphones
  • The best deal in Headphones – A top 10 list
  • 10 Best iPhone Headsets

Step 3. Features (Ratings)- We feel the number one feature of any headphone should be its sound quality. Not everybody agrees with us but that’s our philosophy and we’re sticking to it. Of course there is more to the picture. Listed in order below are the criteria with which we rate our headphones and how we recommend you choose a pair. Obviously many people choose Style as their first criteria as evidenced by the millions of Dr. Dre headphones out there. Don’t get us wrong, we love Dr. Dre but Style is very personal so we don’t place much emphasis on it here unless we’re really compelled to say so. We also try our best to make your style choices as easy to make as possible.

  1. Sound Quality – One of the biggest influencing factors in the quality of sound from a headphone is whether it is of open or closed design. Closed, often called sealed headphones help block out the surrounding noise. Open headphones do not block as much unless they’re noise cancelling headphones. In general it is easier to get great sound from an open headphone so there are more of them to choose from. Neutral and great sounding closed were hard to find until just a few years ago. Headphone lovers are lucky to have a few great options today.
  2. Comfort – What good is a pair of headphones if you can’t listen to them for a whole album. Yes, we still listen to albums here.
  3. Build Quality – Durability, quality of craftsmanship, portability, included accessories, availability of replacement parts and reputation of the vendor all play a key role in our assessments of build quality. Build Quality can often be directly related to price but not always. It’s our job to suss this out.
  4. Style – As we said above, style isn’t our first priority but these days a product has to look great too. Extra points for those that stand out.

Step 4. Specification – What you see on the box is often not what you hear. We’ll help you demystify headphone specs by showing you a few good resources but better yet, we’ll be doing some real world comparisons for you in our headphone reviews. We believe the following specs are what most determines the sound quality you’re going to actually hear.

  1. Frequency Response – Usually a manufacturer will post something like 20-20,000 Hz in their specs. This tells you little about the balance of sound we might describe as having boomy bass or clear highs.  We try to clear that up in our listening sessions and by reviewing measurements. After our evaluation we try our best to assign each headphone a rating for its tone or frequency response.  The “Tone” category is intentionally kept simple and headphone aficionados will likely find headphones in the same category to have “drastic” differences.  We agree but our goal here is to group headphones so that when people know they like a certain sound they have similar options to choose from. Some of these groups include terms based on the sound quality as well as the type of music they may be particular suited for. Here are a few: Heavy Bass, Natural, Bright, Rap, Techno, Jazz, Rock, Classical,
  2. Impedance – While not obvious to everybody, headphone impedance can have a big effect on the sound quality. For use with a portable player or smartphone we recommend low impedance headphones. High impedance headphones usually sound better with a headphone amp but can sometimes work fine without one. Headphones which are best used with a headphone amp are noted here.
  3. Harmonic Distortion – This is usually not as big of a factor unless the headphone is not very good. If that’s the case you can usually see some bad harmonic distortion in measurements. These headphones usually don’t make it on our recommended lists but we sometimes review them here for your benefit. When we think a headphone is a dud, we let you know.

Step 5. Hooking Up – Headphones come with a variety of connections. Sometimes your headphone will have the connection you need or come with an adapter. Other times you may need to purchase an adapter, extension cable, or maybe a headphone amp. We’re here to help you make those choices.

Full headphone reviews can be found on our blog and you can read manufacturer specs and customer reviews in our headphone store. As you read our headphone buying guides and visit our headphone shop you’ll notice that sometimes you will be taken to another website where you can buy the product. These are usually awesome places on the internet where you can get hooked up. We look for affiliate partners we can trust and who we’ve done business with before. Read more about our affiliate partnerships and disclosure. Below you’ll find links to some of our more popular headphone buying guides and headphone reviews.

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