How to choose the perfect headphones in 7 easy steps?

Last year, I told my dad that I needed a new pair of headphones and asked him to recommend me one. He immediately asked me a bunch of questions.

Wired or wireless? Do you want Bluetooth? 

On-the-ear or over-the-ear? 

Do you want noise cancellation? It will be costly.

What is your budget? Any particular brand? 

And a bunch more that I forgot.

But my answer was the same for all of them – I don’t know. Why? Because I hadn’t thought about all of these.

I’m sure you must have faced similar confusion before buying headphones or any gadget for that matter. As humans, we tend to get influenced by flashy ads and buy gadgets only to regret it later. Because no matter how good a gadget is, it might not serve your purpose.

So, to help you make the right decision with choosing the right headphones, I will tell you how to choose the perfect headphones in 7 easy steps.

But which one did I buy? I will tell you later.

Different types of Headphones

Let’s first understand the major types of headphones available in the market today.

Over-ear

Over-ear headphones are the ones with big cushions that cover and surround your ears. These are usually a bit heavy but stay on by applying light pressure on your head. You have two types: Closed-back headphone that doesn’t let others hear what you are listening to and the open-back that lets you hear your surroundings and others hear what you are listening to.

Boat Nirvana 717 ANC Over Ear
Boat Nirvana 717 ANC Over-Ear headphones

On-ear

On-ear or supra-aural headphones are similar to over-ears but the cushions don’t cover your ears. They are smaller, lighter and rest on your ears by applying light pressure on them. Even they have closed and open types but usually you can hear more of your surroundings while wearing them.

Boat Rockerz 600 On Ear
Boat Rockerz 600 On-Ear headphones

In-ear

In-ear headphones are nothing but your earphones. There are different types within it like earbuds, Bluetooth, wired, wireless, true wireless and so on. But in this article, we will be focusing more on the headphones (over-ear and on-ear) and not the earphones.

Having said that, you can still use this guide to choose earphones too.

Why you should have a pair of headphones?

You might be wondering why do you need headphones if you already have earphones. Earphones are great because of their portability but having an extra pair of headphones has its advantages.

No matter how good your earphones are, using them for a longer duration causes you discomfort as they are inserted inside your ear canal. But headphones are more comfortable as they sit outside your ear.

If you are a working professional who works from home and attends many meetings, it is better to use headphones instead of earphones. The same goes for students who attend online classes.

It’s quite known that using headphones and earphones for a longer duration causes damage to your hearing. But there is a misconception that headphones will cause less damage as they rest on your ears and not inside. It’s actually not true. But headphones are more comfortable and you will feel less fatigue while wearing them.

Also, listening to music, watching movies and playing video games gives you a better experience with headphones than earphones. Not to mention headphones have better noise cancellation and noise isolation.

How to choose the perfect headphones? A step-by-step guide

Now, as promised I will give you the steps to follow while choosing a headphone. 

Step 1: Usage

The very first thing you need to think about is the usage. If you will be using it to listen to music while you work, watch movies and play games then you can go with over-ear as they give you an amazing experience. 

But if you want it to be lightweight and portable to use while you go for a walk, jog or do your daily chores then on-ear would be a better option. These are a better choice for outdoors as you can hear surrounding sounds like approaching vehicles and their sounds. 

If you want to use them while you go for a run, earphones are a better option as headphones might easily fall off. But for workouts and gym sessions, true wireless earbuds are better like Jabra Elite 65t.

Step 2: Wired or wireless

The next thing you need to consider is connectivity. Do you want one that can be connected via Bluetooth or the good old-fashioned wired headphone? If you want the flexibility to switch, get a Bluetooth headphone that comes with an AUX cable. 

Wired headphones usually have a better audio quality than wireless ones but they keep you tethered to your device like computer, phone, tablet, TV etc. 

Wireless or Bluetooth headphones give you the freedom to move around your room by maintaining a distance. You can perform activities, do chores or even dance to your favourite song. But sometimes the signal strength might be lower. They need to be charged from time to time so check out the battery backup and its playback time before buying.

JBL Live with AUX cable
Bluetooth headphones with detachable AUX cable

Step 3: With or without microphone 

For normal online meetings and classes, you can use headphones without microphones too. Because your laptop and mobile phones have built-in microphones that will be used during the calls. 

If you attend a lot of online meetings, conduct webinars, play online games or any other interactive sessions, you might want to choose one with a good quality built-in microphone. Some even have an extra control module with options like intercom, tap control, auto on-off etc. But these are usually higher priced. 

Headphones with an extra mic like the one below are called headsets.

Headphones with microphone
Headphones with microphone. Image source: Digit.in

Step 4: Noise cancellation

When it comes to noise cancellation, there are two types. Active noise cancellation (ANC) eliminates unwanted sounds by creating equal and opposite sounds. Passive noise cancellation just blocks the outer ambient sounds with the help of the headphones’ special or custom designs that fit your unique ears. 

Active noise cancellation consumes extra power as it needs to produce extra sounds thus consuming your battery. It might even cause ear fatigue if you listen for a longer duration. It is a better option if you constantly travel in aeroplanes or are around noisy environments like AC hum, drones etc.

For noise cancellation, Bose headphones and earphones are the best. But there are other brands too. Either way, the quality of noise cancellation and price varies from brand to brand. 

Step 5: Budget or high-end

By now, you probably know what type of headphones you want. You can even choose an earphone with this guide. What you need to know is that even if a headphone boasts of all the features, the quality might not be that good.

Because not all Bluetooth headphones have a strong signal strength, not all noise cancellation headphones actually eliminates all noises and not all headphones with a mic lets the other person hear you clearly. 

What you need to decide is how much are you willing to pay. You can enjoy most of the features at affordable prices. You can get a good pair of headphones starting from ₹1,800 itself. But if you are looking for high-end headphones with high quality, you need to spend at least 10K.

Either way, I would recommend waiting for festive seasons for heavy discounts and offers if you are not in any hurry.

Step 6: Comfort

Headphones might get very irritative if you are not comfortable wearing them. The first thing you need to make sure of before buying is that it has adjustable straps to fit according to the size of your head.

Another thing is that if you wear glasses, on-ear headphones tend to press your ears against the frame’s temples causing you discomfort. But it depends on your usage. For example, if you use headphones while going for a walk and wear glasses only while working on the computer, you can still choose on-ear.

Step 7: Brand, colour and aesthetics

While buying gadgets, some are very particular about a brand and stick to it no matter what. You can go with your favourite brand but I wouldn’t recommend it. Choose the brand after you make your other decisions on the features, type and price. Else you end up compromising on important features just because your favourite brand didn’t have them at affordable prices.

The colour and how the headphones looks must be the last step. Before buying you might see some options with the colour. If it is available only in one colour, don’t worry much about it and just buy. Because it’s the feel that is more important than the look.

Conclusion

And that’s it. I hope this article helped you to choose the right headphones. Of course, there are still more parameters than you might want to consider especially if you are tech-savvy. But these are the basic ones and are quite sufficient to buy a good pair of headphones.

To recap, you need to think about these things and choose one that best suits your purpose and is within your budget.

  1. Usage
  2. Wired or wireless
  3. With or without a microphone
  4. Noise cancellation
  5. Budget or high-end
  6. Comfort
  7. Brand, colour and aesthetics

And don’t forget to do your research and read the reviews before buying. If possible, try it if a nearby shop or any friend has it. Because no matter how much the brand boasts about the features, you will get an idea about its quality only after you use it.

Oh, if you are curious about which one I got, it’s boAt Rockerz 600 (You can read the review here). 

So, which one are you going to buy? 

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