How to Buy the Right Headphones

Headphones are a product that is quite oversaturated the more you think about it. Even when you go into a small convenience store, you're greeted with headphones of all shapes and sizes. Some are only a few bucks, while others require you to take out another mortgage.

Whether you're buying headphones for the first time, or you're looking for another pair, you've come to the right place. This will be a small guide to help you find the pair of headphones that are best for you.

First, we should stress that there is no universal “right” pair of headphones. We are all different people with different needs. Your headphones should be suited to your needs. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

How Active Will I Be?

There are some people who will use their headphones when they’re in a position that requires little energy. Unwinding after a long day by listening to your favorite song. Drowning out the noise during your plane flight. Your headphones, while they should last a long time, don’t need to be super durable.

However, if you're an athlete who needs a banger of a song to sprint, lifts weights, and be active, then you may need a more durable pair of headphones. You need a pair that will survive your sweat and rain. You need a pair that won’t break if dropped a few times. Looking for durability is quite important in that regard, and a cheap pair won’t last you even a week.

What’s My Budget?

Your budget is important as well. You don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on headphones if you don’t need that much, or don’t have the money. You don’t want to underspend, either. Sometimes, it’s better to spend more on headphones that will last you a long while rather than spend ten bucks on headphones that break after a week. It adds up after a while, you know?

Often, when shopping around for headphones, don’t just stop at a store. Look online. Online outlets tend to have models you can’t find in stores, and they often strike the balance between affordability and quality. However, traditional outlets may have sales and clearances, so don’t be afraid to look at both.

How Much of an Audiophile am I?

An audiophile is a stickler about their audio, and why shouldn’t they be? You want to hear every single nuance of the song you're listening to. If you use your headphones for a job such as transcribing, you’ll want to hear every detail. Of course, just wanting to listen to music without being too anal about the music is not a bad thing, either.

There are headphones designed for audiophiles and there are headphones designed for those who want to have other features, such as durability.

Are There Specific Needs?

Let’s say you travel a lot. If you do so, you want to isolate or cancel the sounds of the plane. The loud plane, the screaming kids, the sounds of the staff giving people their drinks… you just want to get some sleep! In that case, you may want to look for a pair of noise-canceling headphones.

The Styles of Headphones

Styles of Headphones

There are many types of headphone styles you can pick from. These involve how they fit your ears, and they are over, on, and in-ear.


These are the original type of headphones. They go over your head and stay there thanks to some pressure. You’ve used them before. Over-ear headphones come in closed-back, which is when the headphones keep your ears separated from the world, and open-back, which lets more noise in.

Over-ear headphones are good because they give you that natural sound, and they give a little space between the speakers and you, giving you an authentic experience.

However, there are disadvantages to over-ear headphones. They tend to be bulky and uncomfortable after a while. With that said, there are many types of over-ear headphones and some are obviously going to be more comfortable than others. A cheaper type may feel like an elephant is crushing your head, while a more expensive brand may feel like you're resting your head on a soft, fluffy dog.

One great over-ear pair of headphones you can buy is the V-MODA Crossfade 2. They are an expensive pair of more than $200, but you do get your money’s worth. Besides the sound quality sounding phenomenal, it’s military-grade durable.

V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Over-Ear Headphone

You don’t have to worry about the headphones breaking if you drop them, or have to worry about your kid or someone irresponsible trying to ruin them. If you're wanting quality, and the most durable headphones over ear, this is a good pair to check out.


These are a smaller pair of headphones, and they act sort of like ear muffs. These are more portable and are good for spaces where there is little noise, such as the office. They are less uncomfortable and you could wear them for much longer than you could an over-ear pair of headphones.

But like over-ear, they hurt after a while, and they are easy to fall off. They also allow for more ambient noise, so they’re not recommended for a long flight or when you're in a noisy area. However, more expensive, noise-canceling on-ear headphones may do the job just find.


These are better known as earbuds. They are small and you can stick them in your ears. They’ve become quite popular after the introduction of the iPhone, which always includes a pair of earbuds. While those earbuds are mediocre, it didn’t stop the popularity.

These earbuds are great for working out because they are designed to resist sweat and stick in your ear. They are much more portable and you don’t have them clinging around your head. They’re small, but the higher-end models sound great.

However, they can tangle easily if they're not wireless, and they can become easily damaged. Often, they may not be as good as normal headphones, but again, that depends on the brand you choose. Regardless, they're great for the active person. Headphones are rather difficult to work out in due to their bulky size.

Some earphones have an uncomfortable fit, but there are others with attachments to give it a better fit. It all depends on what you buy.

Closed-Back Vs. Open-Back

Now, let’s talk about these two types of headphones. With closed-back, the outside casing has no ventilation, and it fits around your ear snugly and without movement. The closed-back style is the most common, and it keeps the audio in and the outside audio out. Closed-back is great if you want to escape from the world around you and venture into your own little world. Just make sure you don’t have any commitments to make.

Open-back. Now, let’s mention the open-back headphones. You’ve probably seen a few of these, where you can move the cups around and there is air that can come out. These can feel like a natural way to listen to music, as if you're at an orchestra. They’re also good if you need to listen to the outside world.

However, they aren’t good for the plane ride or for other public places. People can hear your music and you won’t be able to get that much rest due to the fact that these headphones are more open. However, if you are fine with that, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Wired Vs. Wireless

When choosing headphones, you also need to decide whether or not you want them to be wired or wireless. Wireless headphone technology has improved quite a bit. Nowadays, you can get an affordable pair with good audio quality, decent battery life, and it stays in sync with your music. However, what you should get can depend on what you need.

If you use your headphones mostly when you're lounging around, you probably don’t need wireless headphones all that much. They’d be an added expense. However, if you're active, you could probably benefit from wireless headphones. When dealing with wired headphones, you have little freedom. It’s easy to get the wires tangled up, increasing your chances of breaking them, and it doesn’t allow for much freedom. If you're at the gym, you always have to have your phone in your area or have a long carded headphone. With wireless headphones, it’s more versatile.

Here are some more comparisons between wired and wireless headphones:

  • Wireless headphones that have the same price as a wired pair may have poorer audio quality. However, this all depends. There are wireless headphones for cheap that sound great. Often, better budget pairs tend to be found online instead of the store.
  • One advantage to wired headphones is that unless you're getting a pair of noise-canceling headphones, there is no worry about charging them. With that said, many wireless headphones have a good battery life, and you can last an entire day without charging them. Of course, if you forget to charge them, it can be an inconvenience. Also, some wireless headphones may have a charging port that is poorly made and susceptible to breaking. Always read the reviews.
  • Wireless headphones are easier to carry around due to their portability. You don’t have to worry about wrapping up cords carefully, after all.
  • There are some phones, such as the newer iPhone, that don’t have a headphone jack, or require a special adapter. You don’t need to worry about that with wireless headphones.
  • In my experience, wireless headphones tend to last longer. Maybe it’s because I’m a klutz who messes up the wires. If you're like that, maybe try wireless.
  • Wireless headphones connect via Bluetooth. Most devices today have Bluetooth, and once it’s connected, you're golden. However, sometimes there can be problems. There may be some slight lag or connection troubles, and you have to reset your connection. It’s a bit irritating. Meanwhile, a wired pair requires a simple connection.

As we said, it all depends. We recommend giving both a try and see what your favorite is. If you have money to splurge, you can get a wireless pair of headphones that is the best money can buy. This pair is the Bose QuietComfort 35.

bose quietcomfort noise cancelling headphones

This wireless pair of headphones is not only noise-canceling, making it ideal for long plane rides, but also runs on over 20 hours of charge. You don’t need to charge it too often.

Plus, it’s the best of both worlds, as there is a wired attachment. When attaching the wire, you can have much more battery life for its noise-canceling features. Forty hours, as a matter of fact.

Regular Vs. Noise-Canceling

Finally, we have regular headphones and noise-canceling headphones. Noise-canceling can come in the form of traditional headphones or earbuds, and they’re good if you really want to escape the world around you.

Say you're on a noisy train, or a loud plane ride. You just want to drown out everything with music, or play some white noise and fall asleep. However, no matter how much you crank up your volume, you can still hear those chatty friends next to you, or hear that baby screaming on the plane.

Noise-canceling headphones have a little mic inside of them that creates a negative of the noise outside the headphones, silencing them. A good pair is expensive, and it consumes battery life, but if you need your headphones for a long trip, you can’t go wrong. Otherwise, a normal pair should work just fine.

In Conclusion

There are many types of headphones for you to choose from. When choosing your next pair, think of it as a commitment rather than something temporary. You want a pair that lasts you a long, long time. Do your research and see which pair is good for your budget and your needs. Don’t fall victim to cheap headphones that break and short out faster than you can snap your fingers.

What about you? What headphones do you recommend?

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