Buying guide: How to choose your headphones?

Bluetooth headsets, best earbuds under 100, closed, open, headphones, ear cups, how to determine which one is best suited to your needs? This article aims to enlighten you.

The number of brands and references of helmets has literally exploded in recent years, and what was only a tool to listen to its music has become a true fashion accessory, a means of affirming its membership of a “tribe” , And above all an object of desire in its own right which deserves to be invested sometimes up to several hundred euros. We will try to guide you in choosing your next helmet.

There are 2 large families of helmets on the market, sedentary helmets and nomad helmets. They do not respond to the same needs at all. The former prefer the comfort of listening and the sound quality, to the detriment of the “look” and compactness. The latter must be light, comfortable, well insulated, compact and, for some years now, have a strong visual identity.
How to choose your headphones ?

Sedentary helmets
They address, as their name indicates, listeners in search of a listening solution of living room – mostly filming – favoring sound quality. There are two types of helmets in this category: closed helmets and open helmets. Remember that a closed helmet is hermetic and isolates the sound, preventing it from spreading outside while the open helmet lets pass a part of the sound message, often by a grid visible on the shell of the earphone

– Closed helmets have the advantage of offering an extended bass and optimal insulation. You are in a bubble, cut off from the outside world, for a better immersion in music. Some models, called Noise Reduction Headphones (also called “active noise reduction”), are particularly suited to a noisy environment (aircraft, train, etc.). We will come back to this later on the occasion of a dedicated post

– Open helmets, which are less insulating, allow an opening of the restitution, with the result of a less severe but often more tense and more varied, and especially a “release” of the interpretation, which seems more airy and more neutral . Disadvantage, the sound is perceptible from the outside, which can create embarrassment for the entourage.

The nomadic helmets
Taken by the triumph of smartphones and dematerialized music, they clearly have the wind at the moment. There are three main families in this category: in-ear, headphones and headphones.

– Let’s start with the headphones, the principle of which is to enter the ear canal and create a maximum sound insulation. Their big advantages are their discretion and lightness, they can be used everywhere. It remains that a large number of listeners are refractory to the introduction of a foreign body into their auditory pavilion. Another disadvantage is that the isolation they create can be dangerous because we have less awareness of the world around us and our attention is reduced. With the recent progress in this family of helmets, to day we find on the market number of quality products, and this in all price ranges.

– The headphones (or earbuds), very in vogue at the begin ning of the adventure of the nomadic sound, are losing momentum. Often provided with original music players, they are clearly set back in sound quality and listening comfort. The insulation is very relative, the sound scene is often narrow, the port is often unpleasant over time, so we reserve the use of it to take telephone calls.

– Finally headphones with head arch, the most sold currently. They are more or less comfortable depending on the quality of the workmanship and the clamping system chosen. They have better bass management and insulation (especially for closed models), often wider bandwidth and greater versatility ( Many of them can be used on a hi-fi system thanks to the jack adapter often provided). Besides the vast majority of them are foldable for a largely reduced congestion. These headphones often offer an enlarged sound stage compared to other technologies.
Let’s stop for a moment on the particular case of wireless headsets. Practical, lightweight and with clear sound quality, Bluetooth headsets are an interesting alternative to wired headsets. It should be borne in mind that this increased comfort is paid for by a slight loss of definition and reduced bandwidth at the ends. To be preferred, A-PTX compatible Bluetooth headsets, supposed to approach, if the source is also compatible, the audio quality of the CD.
The UHF headphones, however, remain mostly dedicated to the intimate listening of your television and move away from a quality of high-fidelity reproduction. Some manufacturers, like Sennheiser, however offer UHF headphones very compatible with a musical listening.

Everything for style!
Before, the headphones had to be discreet. Today, on the contrary, these are fashion accessories in their own right, made to be seen. This is called trendy helmets. Manufacturers compete with ingenuity in shapes and colors, for a sometimes hazardous result (see photo below), but also with very beautiful esthetic successes, such as the Parrot ZIK 3.0. This is unfortunately sometimes at the expense of sound quality, which is a headroom for a headphone … audio!

To synthesize, if you are looking for a nomadic helmet, a helmet with head arch and closed seems to me the most suitable and the most qualitative solution musically speaking. Bluetooth will be an alternative for its practicality, but often making concessions on sound quality. The in-ear, if you support them, will also be an interesting solution but a hair less qualitative in my opinion. It should be noted that nomadic products are for the most part also equipped with a remote control and a microphone for communication.
For use at home, I recommend a closed headphone to listen to dynamic music, and an open headphone if you are an audiophile and / or if you listen especially to jazz, classical music or acoustic music. Manufacturers such as SENNHEISER or AKG have made it a specialty. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we must not forget to check the coherence between the impedance of the helmet chosen and the use for which it is intended.
One last piece of advice, take the time to make several listening, a very demonstrative helmet during the first listening can become wearisome over time, when a helmet with a more neutral and balanced and therefore more discreet restitution will bring you long hours of pleasure And will be more versatile over time.
Good listening.

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