Headphones Buying Guide

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Headphones Buying Guide

In today’s world, headphones are found everywhere. Whether at home, in the office, or on the go, headphones have become the primary way for most listeners to hear their music. Digital, portable technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, producing headphones capable of delivering high quality sound through a very small enclosure, while reducing or eliminating outside noise. With so many different types of headphones available in all different price ranges, choosing the right pair can be overwhelming.

Consumers can pare down their options by determining what they will use their headphones for. Will it be for listening to music, gaming, or watching TV? Also, users should consider where they will use the headphones, whether at home, at the office, in the gym, or on public transit. Once their needs and requirements are determined, choosing the ideal pair of headphones will be an easier task.

Headphones are sold in department stores, music stores, electronics outlets, and other brick and mortar stores. Buyers should also investigate the available headphones listings on eBay, where a multitude of models and brands of all different types and price ranges can be found. When shopping for headphones, it is important to consider the types of headphones available as well as different specialty features that come included, which varies depending on what the consumer is looking for.

Types of Headphones

Headphones are devices that allow people to listen to music without disturbing people nearby. They are worn close to the user’s ears, for an intimate listening experience. Different types of headphones work best for different situations. Several types are discussed in depth, below.

Earbud Headphones

Earbuds are very small headphones that fit in the outer ear, facing (but not inserted directly into) the ear canal. They have no headband, and so are less bulky than other other types of headphones. Their small size makes them very portable and convenient. However, many people find them uncomfortable, and they are prone to falling out. Earbuds are available in many different styles and price ranges. They are inexpensive, and therefore very popular. They are often paired with portable music devices, such as iPods and MP3 players.

When searching for the right earbuds, users should take into account factors like sound quality and comfort. Comfort is especially important if the earbuds will be worn for long stretches. Design aspects like cord length, material, weight, and colour, should all be considered. Earbuds are convenient for hands-free phone use, and care great for those who do not wish their headphones to completely block out ambient noise.

In-Ear Headphones

Like earbuds, in-ear headphones are compact, have no headband, and offer the utmost in portability. However, there are a number of differences, as well. In-ear headphones (or canalphones) are inserted into the ear canal, and are much less prone to falling out than are earbuds. The eartips on canalphones create a seal on the ear canal, providing isolation from external noise. Consequently, they deliver better sound. Prices range from quite inexpensive to very costly.

Higher end devices are called in-ear monitors, and are often used by audio engineers and musicians. At the top of the spectrum are custom in-ear monitors. Moulds of an individual’s ears are made, and the manufacturer uses the moulds to create a set of custom eartips fitted specifically to the individual. Due to the additional labour involved, custom in-ear monitors can be quite expensive and difficult to re-sell, since they are unlikely to fit other people.

Over-Ear Headphones

Also called circumaural or full-size headphones, over-ear headphones are larger than most other types of headphones. They consist of two speakers connected by a headband, and the earcups cover the entire ear. Over-ear headphones usually have a fairly thick padding, which makes them comfortable to wear even for extended periods of time.

Circumaural headphones are designed to create a seal against the head, minimising the amount of sound that escapes, as well as allowing very little external noise to enter. Because of their more generous size, over-ear headphones sport the largest speakers and produce the best sound quality. They are targeted for home use or recording studios, where people want great audio but do not require portability.

On-Ear Headphones

Also known as supra-aural headphones, on-ear headphones consists of a pair of cushioned speakers, connected by a headband, that rest on top of the ear. Offering extreme comfort and portability, on-ear headphones look like full-size headphones, except they are generally smaller and lighter. They do not produce the optimal sound quality of circumaural headphones, but they are less cumbersome. They also do not drown out as much ambient sound, but this can be an advantage. For instance, it lets the user hear approaching motor vehicles while jogging.

Users must also keep in mind that since they can hear outside noises, the outside world can hear sounds emanating from the headphones. It is a good idea to keep the volume low while using these headphones around other people.

Headset Headphones

Headset headphones have built-in microphones, and are designed to let the user listen and talk hands-free. Commonly used with cell phones, they are also used in aviation, theatre or television studio intercom systems, console and PC gaming, and secretarial use.

Headsets are made with either a single (mono) or double (stereo) earpiece. The microphone arm can be an external type, in which the microphone is place in front of the user's mouth, or a voice tube style, in which the microphone is contained in the earpiece and speech reaches it via a hollow tube. Headsets attach to the ear with clips or headbands, which may fit over the head or go behind the neck. Any pair of headphones can be turned into a headset by adding a headset adapter with a microphone.

Specialty Headphone Features

Not only do buyers need to educate themselves about the different types of headphones available, they should also be aware of a few additional features before purchasing headphones. The sections below discuss several of these in detail.

Noise Cancellation

Noise cancelling headphones or earbuds are designed to eliminate ambient noise. This is accomplished by using a small microphone and sound processor. The processor reads incoming sound waves and emits a counter wave that is opposite in polarity to the outside noise. When the outside noise meets the inverted sound from the headphone, the intrusive outside noise is virtually cancelled out.

Noise cancelling headphones are particularly effective at blocking low-frequency sound, such as that of an airplane. Coupled with the fact that they are also comfortable to wear for long periods of time, these headphones are particularly suitable for noisy environments. They are very popular amongst plane and train travellers, as they allow music to be enjoyed despite the noise of jet engines or loud air conditioning systems. User should be aware that noise cancellation headphones require batteries, and can be quite expensive.

Noise Isolating Headphones

Noise isolation headphones are designed to block outside noise by enclosing the ears with sound deadening materials.This is done by creating a physical seal around the ears to keep music in and ambient noise out. They are not as effective as noise cancelling headphones, but they do not require batteries and are much less expensive.

Wireless Headphones

Wireless headphones receive signals without cables or wires, offering greater mobility and freedom of movement. They often include a battery-powered headset and a transmitter that connects to audio or video equipment. Most wireless headphones today use Bluetooth connectivity, which not only allows the user to listen to music wirelessly, but to play, pause, or skip music directly from the headphones. The downside is that sound quality is not on par with that of wired headphones, and the batteries have to be recharged or changed regularly. Also, if other wireless devices are nearby, interference can cause the sound to drop.

How to Buy Headphones on eBay

Now that you are aware of the different headphone types and specialty features available, it is time for the shopping to begin. eBay provides thousands of headphone options, from the most basic pair to a set of high quality noise cancellation headphones.

No matter what type of headphones you are shopping for, eBay has a variety to choose from. One way to find the headphones you want is to perform a keyword search from any eBay page. Simply locate the search box at the top of the page and type in your preferred keywords. For instance, enter "headphones" into the search box and click search. Multiple types of headphones will appear in the search results, allowing you to browse through the different options before settling on a final purchase.

If you already know exactly what you want to purchase, you can enter specific keywords to find only those results relevant to your needs. For example, you could enter "Sony noise cancelling headphones," into the search box and click search. Only this specific product appears in the search results, making it easy to find the exact product you need.


With so many different types of headphones on the market, it is easy for the consumer to become overwhelmed. The easiest way to decide on a set of headphones is to determine what type of environment they will be used in most frequently. Once this is decided, the choice of headphones becomes much easier. Some headphones are more appropriate for travel, some for doing sports, some for recording studios, and some for the home listener.

Headphones range in size from tiny earbuds to large, over-the-ear headphones. They also vary in sound quality, portability, comfort, and price. Buyers must consider the advantages and disadvantages inherent in each type, and then choose the type most suitable for their needs.

Also, users should always be sure to use their headphones wisely. Listening to music at a high volume for extended periods can cause temporary or permanent hearing impairment or deafness. Used responsibly however, the proper set of headphones can provide endless hours of listening enjoyment.

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