Headphones Buying Guide

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What headphones can do for us ?

Whether you crave high-energy tunes to juice up your workout, private listening at home or work, an adrenaline-pumping gaming experience, or just a great-looking, great-sounding accessory to help you express your personal style, you'll find headphones that fit you at lp_zone. Headphones come in a wide variety of styles, and when you consider all the ways in which music can enhance your life, it makes sense to consider more than one pair for different uses. Here's what you need to know to find yours.
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Headphone Styles

Over-ear

Also known as "around-ear" or "full-size" headphones. Characterized by ear cushions that enclose the ears entirely. Usually considered best for overall fidelity, and most models do a good job of isolating the user from outside sounds (also called "passive noise reduction")

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On-ear

Similar in design to over-ear models, but rather than enclosing the ears, the cushions sit on the outer ear and are held in place by the elasticity of the headband. Generally deliver high fidelity, but with less bass response than over-ear models. Users can hear outside sounds, and others nearby may hear the music.

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In-ear

Properly called in-ear monitors (or IEMs), these headphones fit snugly inside each ear canal. The majority of sports headphones fall into this category. Most models come with foam or rubber nubs in several sizes for a custom fit. Excellent for passive noise isolation, and higher-end models deliver fidelity rivaling that of larger headphones.

Earbuds

Feature small drivers that sit loosely in the ear. Usually deliver lesser fidelity and isolation than other types, but at a highly affordable price. These are the headphones that come with many portable music devices; higher-quality earbuds or in-ear monitors make for an inexpensive upgrade.
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Special Headphone Features

Noise canceling

Also known as "active noise reduction." Noise-canceling headphones use one or more tiny microphones to capture ambient sounds. The sounds are then electronically phase-reversed and reintroduced into the output of the speakers, effectively canceling out the original sounds in the ears of the listener.

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Volume limiting

The ability to keep the volume at safe levels is an excellent feature to have when your child wants to use headphones. Volume-limiting headphones do exactly that: They are typically designed to keep volume at 85dB or less. And not all volume-limiting headphones are designed for children, so they can be a good alternative for adults concerned with protecting their own hearing as well.


Bone conduction

Bone-conducting headphones bypass your eardrum to deliver sound straight to your inner ear via vibrations in the bones in your head. This is particularly useful for people who want to hear their music clearly but don't want to drown out background noise. For example, bone-conducting headphones are a great option for joggers who want to listen to music but still need to be able to hear traffic. Some bone-conducting headphones are specifically designed for underwater use so you can listen to music while swimming. Additionally, many users claim that with bone conduction, there is less temptation to turn the volume up extra loud, resulting in less ear strain.


Biometric

Biometric headphones monitor your heart rate by gathering information directly from your ears while you listen to music. Fitness enthusiasts are able to keep tabs on their heart rate without needing an additional device.


Bluetooth

A patented technology that digitally encodes audio and transmits sound wirelessly over short distances. When used with compatible devices, Bluetooth headphones deliver high-quality audio without the hassle of wires — a great convenience while jogging or working out.

Kleer Audio is an emerging wireless technology similar to Bluetooth, but less prone to interference. It is most commonly found in headphones designed for home use.

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Surround sound

While some high-end headphones for gaming and home theater employ multiple drivers within each speaker enclosure to accurately reproduces multichannel surround formats like Dolby Digital, most so-called "surround" headphones use electronic processing to emulate the directional cues of surround sound from just two speaker drivers.

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Microphones and controls

Headsets designed for gaming often feature a boom-mounted microphone to facilitate voice communications during multiplayer gaming sessions. Portable headphones designed for use with smartphones and MP3 players may include a small cord-mounted (or "in-line") microphone, along with controls for volume, mute and track advance.

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Choosing the Right Headphone for Your Intended Use

For home

For serious music listening, nothing beats a great pair of over-ear headphones. Their oversize drivers reproduce deep, robust bass, and their high-frequency response often extends beyond the range of human hearing for a natural sense of "air" and reduced listening fatigue. Because of the way the earcups encircle the ears, over-ear headphones also deliver an enhanced sense of space (or "soundstage") compared to other styles. Models with surround-sound processing can further enhance the experience for home theater use.

"Closed-back" designs feature solid, acoustically isolating earcups. They excel at blocking out external noise for a private listening experience, but also color the sound (most notably, enhancing bass response).
In "open-back" phones, the rear of the speakers is covered by an acoustically transparent mesh or fabric. This de-emphasizes low-end thump but delivers an overall "flatter," more even response that many audiophiles prefer.

For people who find the weight of over-ear headphones distracting, there are high-end on-ear and in-ear models that approximate the fidelity of over-ear headphones.

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For sports and fitness


Music motivates. A variety of lightweight in-ear and on-ear designs are available to ensure that your headphones stay put while you're active. Some feature various types of ear clips to hold the drivers in place, whereas others use a rigid band that circles the back of the head or neck. Comfort and fit are matters of preference, but with the range of options available, you're sure to find one that suits you.

Some sports headphones are made with water-resistant materials to protect against sweat and the elements. Many feature cord-mounted (or "in-line") microphones and controls that let you take phone calls, adjust volume or change your playlist without slowing down. To eliminate the cord altogether, look for a Bluetooth-enabled model that's compatible with your smartphone or MP3 player.

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For work

Over-ear headphones are a great way to distance yourself from the clamor of the office. Models with active noise cancellation enhance the effect. Alternatively, in-ear headphones, with or without active noise cancellation, can also effectively isolate you from outside noise while keeping your music private — and without messing up your hair.

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For studio

Specialized studio monitor or "reference" headphones are designed for "flat," uncolored frequency response to reveal the subtle nuances of a performance. For casual listening, most people prefer a response with extra low- and high-frequency emphasis, so these phones are recommended primarily for professional applications.

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For DJs/live sound


So-called "DJ headphones" are heavy-duty, over-ear cans with thick, padded ear cushions, designed for accurate reproduction at the high volume levels needed to compete with live sound systems. Most feature earcups that can be rotated to face outward for single-ear monitoring, and some come with microphones as well.

For kids

If you've ever been on a long road trip with kids, you've probably wondered if headphones are made to fit the little ones. Well, they are. Most are designed to be extra-durable. They come in all manner of fun colors and character designs and they're sized just right for kids.

For safety, many auditory health organizations recommend that listening levels for children be limited to 85db or less. The best headphones designed for kids often feature built-in volume-limiting circuitry to cap the headphones' maximum output at a safe level.
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For fashion and lifestyle


In-ear headphones are traditionally the most popular type for on-the-go use, but in recent years it's become chic to sport colorful on-ear or over-ear cans in public. Companies like Beats by Dr. Dre, Skullcandy, Monster and Soul by Ludacris have developed bold, eye-catching designs that turn high fidelity into high fashion.

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For gaming


Serious gamers intent on creating an immersive alternate reality will benefit most from a full enclosure with deep bass response and high volume without distortion, so over-ear phones are the natural choice. True or virtual multichannel surround capability is offered in many models, as are boom-mounted microphones.

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Tech Specs

Great sound is a very personal matter. What sounds amazing to someone else might not be your cup of tea, so the best way to find your ideal set of headphones is to audition as many pairs as you can. lp_zone stores are well-stocked with different brands and models, and our listening stations provide an easy way to compare.

That said, there are a few critical specs you should be aware of when comparing models:

Frequency response: Expressed in hertz (Hz), frequency response represents the range of frequencies a pair of headphones can accurately reproduce. The range of human hearing is generally estimated at 20Hz–20kHz, but claimed frequency response often exceeds that range. Bear in mind that two sets of phones with identical frequency response specs will absolutely not sound the same; each design has its own "signature" sound, influenced by many other factors.
Sensitivity: Expressed in decibels per milliwatt (db/mW), a headphone's sensitivity measures the relative amount of volume it can produce from a given amount of input power. Headphones with higher sensitivity (about 100db or higher) are recommended for use with portable listening devices, which typically have less powerful amplifiers than home audio components.
Impedance: Expressed in ohms, impedance is a measure of electrical resistance, and is related to the sensitivity spec. Some studio reference headphones have as much as 600 ohms of impedance, requiring powerful and clean amplification to reach desirable listening levels. Most consumer-level phones for casual listening fall between 16 and 64 ohms of impedance and are designed to work with low-powered portable audio devices.

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You'll find even more choices online at http://stores.ebay.co.uk/LP-Apple-MFi-Gadgets-Outlets, including additional color options for many models.
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