10 Best Headphones | March 2017
- amazing 40mm drivers
- clean styles in 3 colors
- solid metal and quality plastic
- parts are easy to replace
- quarter-inch adapter
- somewhat difficult to store
- rugged and robust construction
- headband has thick padding
- 90-degree range of motion
- 18-hour battery life
- easy to access and use controls
- base can pair with multiple units
- ideal for any audiophile
- factory optimized equalizing
- convenient carrying case is included
- 90-degree swiveling earcups
- cables are detachable
- 45-millimeter large aperture drivers
- takes just one tap to take calls
- best noise cancelling available
- ambient sound mode for safety
How Do Headphones Work?
Headphones operate by either connecting to an audio source (e.g., a CD player, an iPod, or a laptop, etc.), or converting sound that has been delivered through the air waves. In every case, some type of signal is received. That signal is, in turn, converted through an ear piece with varying levels of fidelity. Each headphone’s precision is based upon a number of factors, all of which are ultimately connected to what is known as a frequency response (for more on this, please see “Headphone Terminology 101” above).
One of the key aspects that affects a headphone’s performance is known as “impedance” (see above). Impedance refers to resistance, or how much voltage a pair of headphones requires in order to convert a piece of audio that’s being fed to it from an outside source. If the source requires an extreme amount of voltage, then the converted audio will probably sound extremely poor.
One other key factor is "sensitivity," which refers to how loudly an earphone can reproduce an incoming signal. Sensitivity is complicated (it is actually measured by a unit which is known as "decibels of sound pressure level per milliwatt"), but the bottom line is that it determines incoming volume based on the quality and compatibility of a source (e.g., a turntable, or a stereo, etc.). If you've got low impedance, high sensitivity, and a pair of headphones with top-notch frequency response, chances are you're dealing with some pretty gnarly noise.
What Do I Need To Know About Headphones Before I Buy?
Buying a pair of headphones generally comes down to a tug-of-war between quality and price. You want the best value, but you don't want to go broke. The problem becomes that of differentiating one pair of headphones from another. Assuming you have access to an electronics store, maybe you can stop by and test a few models out. Otherwise, you need to rely a few major selling points. These points can help you navigate which set of phones will fit you best.
If you're looking for something that you can plug into your computer, perhaps use in the office, the first thing you'll want to research is whether the phones are CPU compatible. The same applies to any headphones that you plan on hooking up to mobile devices, gaming consoles, or tablets. The majority of online product descriptions will make it clear whether a set of headphones can be used in conjunction with Apple products, or even, say, Bluetooth devices. These descriptions should also make it clear whether a set of headphones comes with a speaker (for communicating via a cell phone). If anything in the description remains unclear, it’s best to call the manufacturer. A live operator can help you make sense of what all that marketing gibberish means.
The most important function of any set of headphones is to deliver good sound. Sound is a relative term when it comes to headphones, as there is a world of difference between the trained and untrained ear. Studio professionals can tell you how a stereo driver operates, and how to measure good acoustics. And the coolest part about that is, there's a very vocal community of these professionals online.
A Brief History of the Headphone in America
Do you know what a pair of electroacoustic transducers are? I'll give you a hint: these are the reason that you visited this page. Electro-acoustic transducing is an antiquated way of describing the early science behind headphones. What it refers to is the conversion of incoming waves into a corresponding sound. Headphones operate by either connecting to an audio source (e.g., a record player or an amplifier), or "transducing" radio waves that have been transmitted through the air.
Early headphones were an extension of the ear piece. Headphones were largely preferable because of their ability to isolate sound while cancelling outside noise. The first pair of headphones were developed in 1910 by a Mormon named Nathaniel Baldwin. Baldwin designed his earphones in the kitchen. He never patented them, which was unfortunate, given he sold his innovation to the U.S. Navy for a song.
In the 1920s headphones were used by the U.S. military and AM radio operators. They expanded to the consumer market in the 1940s, when a Jazz musician named John C. Koss invented the first pair that could be plugged into a stereo. From there the headphone market shifted, surging upward until it reached a point where at least one pair of headphones could be found in almost every American home.
Today's headphones are somewhat similar in appearance to what the originals looked like during the early 1900s. The primary difference being that technology has allowed for stronger acoustic conversion, along with wireless compatibility, and an entire range of innovations that weren't even possible before.