Every music lover knows how crucial it is to find the right pair of headphones. It’s not only about quality, which is the key attribute we all can agree upon. The size and form factors are what matters too. You will not enjoy your favorite tracks if you have headphones that are difficult – and sometimes painful – to wear. In this article we will try and establish what would be the best for you.
Let’s first address the elephant in the room. These are usually quite bulky, and might look somewhat strange on a person. But bigger size means bigger speakers, more power and more sound. Over the ear headphones are typically great for listening to all kinds of music. If you want pure quality, you better invest in a pair of high-end product. They are second to none, if you want your low-end tones to mix with mids and trebles, creating a perfect sound. Good over the ear headphones are a necessary attribute in any professional studio, because they are best at isolating different instruments to let artists see what needs to be fixed.
Over the ear form factor is great if you are looking for wireless headphones, and often include a standard 3.5 cable. Bose, Sennheiser and other prominent makers do it, so you have a choice to have both. They are also usually quite comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
But quality and usability do not come without a price. Over the year models happen to be the most expensive out of all form factors on the market. Be ready to pay several hundred dollars for a high end pair – price range typically varies from $300 to $500. And while you can usually fold some of them to fit into a carrying case they often come with, they are big. I accidently hit a guy on a packed bus once, because I miscalculated the size of my Audio Technica headphones. If you like to hit the gym every once in awhile, watch out, as they can be easily kicked off from your head. They also completely block the sounds of the world around, but that can be seen as pro or dangerous-for-life con.
Don’t be intimidated by the pricing, though, because you can find cheaper ones. Check them out at Amazon.
The complete opposite of the over the ear models. Also known as earbuds, these come with practically every smartphone out there. They are small and cheap to buy – although higher end products can also cost hundreds. The best thing about them is the size. You will not have to look ridiculous, as barely anybody will even notice them on you.
By the way, if cable bothers you, because it’s not that durable, more and more earbuds come wireless without sacrificing much quality. Apple’s AirPods are much-hyped, but also costly, sitting at $159. LG Tone Infinim HBS-910 or Samsung Level U can be bought for around 50 bucks, depending on your luck. You can also find a really cheap $10 pair, but they are hardly suitable for anything else, than just answering phone calls, or maybe listening to audiobooks. On the other hand, these can be easily replaced if lost or damaged.
Unlike the over the ear ones, small earbuds are what people wear while lifting weights. While they can fall out of your ears, they don’t feel cumbersome to wear. Just find a good fitting pair, like Jaybird X3 or TaoTronics.
The compromise here is the sound quality. In the end, it’s rather difficult to fit big speakers into them. Even the top tier buds like Beats X are no match for their over the ear opponents. If you want to enjoy complex music with different tones and instruments, that’s not the best choice. They are also can be uncomfortable to wear for long.
They sit between the two previous form factors in terms of size and audio quality. On-ear models can be your daily driver, and are suitable for all kinds of activities. The form factor prevents them from falling off your head and won’t bump other people and objects around you. They also let you hear other sounds, which can save your life when crossing a busy road, you know.. It’s is possible, however, to find a noise-cancelling pair, like Bang & Olufsen Play H8’s, but they won’t be as great as over the ear headphones. The leakage works both ways, and an old lady once demanded that I turned down the volume on my Koss PortaPro – one of the best budget on-ear headphones, by the way.
They provide excellent sound quality at a wide range of price tags. Be aware, that some of them can also be a bit less comfortable to wear, due to their padding. More likely than not, you will want to take a break from wearing them every couple of hours.