Headphone Lab Review

Anthony Caruana
28 January, 2011
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Many of us are satisfied with the earbuds that ship with our iPhones and iPods. However, if you want to get the best possible sound from your iDevice, a decent set of headphones will make a world of difference.

You don’t need to be an audiophile to hear the difference between mediocre and great headphones; in our experience the difference can be as substantial as contrast between AM radio and a CD.

This month, we take a look at over-the-ear headphones. Choosing a set of decent headphones isn’t simply a matter of setting a budget and walking into to nearest hi-fi superstore. While budget is important, there are a few other things to think about.

Firstly, where will you be using the headphones? If you like to go for long walks, exercise in the gym or hit the pavement for a brisk jog, then you’ll have different needs. These days, you can shop around for headphones that are waterproof, wireless and lightweight, and that don’t sacrifice audio quality.

Over-the-ear headphones are heavier and bulkier than earbuds so comfort is another important consideration. We’ve all got differently shaped heads and our ears aren’t all placed at exactly the same spot on the sides of our heads. Most of us aren’t even symmetrical so our left and right ears aren’t perfectly lined up. Make sure you try headphones on and that they have an adequate level of adjustment.

If you’re planning to go for a set of wireless headphones make sure you know what sort of wireless you’re buying. Although Bluetooth is ubiquitous to much of Apple’s hardware now, some wireless headsets use radio frequency, or RF, transmitters. That means for some rigs you’ll need to hook some sort of device up to your player. If you’re looking for a pair of cans to use with your home theatre that may not be a big deal. But for a set of headphones to use while you’re walking the dog, it becomes another thing to carry.

Headphones with active noise cancellation require power to work and that means batteries. Look for headphones that remain light when the batteries are in. Cheaper sets may sound OK and feel comfortable out of the box, but they can become uncomfortable once a couple of AAAs are plugged in. Remember, your ears aren’t designed to have heavy objects over them. Even a few grams can become painful after a short while.

Finally, if you’re a frequent traveller you’ll need an adapter so you can use them with in-flight entertainment systems. High-end sets tend to include the connector but you can also find them in electronics stores for just a few dollars.


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