How to Buy Used Musician Headphones

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How to Buy Used Musician Headphones

Selecting musical equipment for performances or studio recording work is a matter of personal preference and technical know-how. Understanding the performance specifications of any device or item can inform the musician of which makes and models will be best suited to a specific task in hand, but selecting a single item from the multitude of similar products on offer will, in the end, always be a matter of personal taste. This guide has been constructed to inform potential customers who are looking for headphones online. The guide focuses primarily on products which will be best suited to musicians - that is, headphones that will be of most use in a live performance or studio setting, as opposed to simply listening to records on a HiFi or portable music device. The sheer number and diversity of products in this field is too great for any single guide to cover individually. Instead, it is more sensible to approach the selection process from the customer's side: define the primary requirements of the customer, identify which components will provide these functions, and then narrow the field to products which contain the desired performance. At that point, the process becomes a matter of personal choice, with both budgetary limitations and aesthetic appeal playing a part in the final decision.

Buying Used Musician Headphones Online

The final part of the guide will address the issue of purchasing headphones over the internet. Online marketplaces are an ideal place to buy electronic goods, which - unlike clothing and other products - are built to a standardised set of specifications. This means that customers will always know what they are purchasing. Online purchases are secure, simple, and provide a much wider range of choices than any shop could hope to provide. Equally, there are substantial savings to be made by purchasing used and pre-owned goods. While there are several additional considerations to make before opting for second hand goods, it is one possible way of finding a bargain which in many cases may be just as suitable as a brand new item. Musician headphones are delicate, precision instruments which may degrade over time from everyday use. This guide provides key advice that will ensure no customer is disappointed by purchasing a pre-owned item.

Choosing Used Headphones for Studio or Live Performance

There are various types of headphones on the market, which are designed to cater for a number of specific, but very different, needs. Choosing the right type of headphone will be a matter of identifying their primary usage and then selecting the most appropriate type. The following charts detail some of the most common types of generic headphone and some of the most popular uses for each. Although not every headphone design will be appropriate for a musician to use while recording or performing, all have been included here for completeness sake. By understanding the limitations of these designs, a customer will be better informed as to the reasons for avoiding them.


Also known as in-ear headphones, earbuds are incredibly small devices which - as their name implies - fit entirely within the ear. These headphones are most commonly seen attached to portable music devices and smart phones. They are lightweight and compact, though their frequency response suffers.

Earbuds are ideal for listening to pre-recorded music. Their compact size and limited frequency range, however, mean that they should not be relied upon for sound recording or performances as they will not recreate accurately the audio signals which they receive.

Noise Cancellation Headphones

Using frequency technology, noise cancellation headphones are able to neutralise ambient noises, such as engines and machinery, by generating a destructive interference signal. They allow the user to listen to audio at a volume lower than they may otherwise be able to. Noise cancellation headphones may be earbuds, closed back, or open back headphones.

There are several reasons why noise cancelling headphones are ideal for personal listening use, but not for recording and performance purposes. First of all, an environment with distracting ambient noise will not be suitable for recording in the first place. Secondly, the noise cancellation actively creates a sound wave which nullifies external sound. This can prove distracting to the performer or sound engineer.

Noise Isolation Headphones

Significantly different to noise cancellation headphones, isolating headphones create a complete seal between the headphone and the ear, preventing competing background noise from entering the ear. They do not generate a noise signal of their own, and operate only by creating a physical barrier between the listener and the external sound source.

Noise isolation headphones can be a crucial choice for loud environments where the destructive interference technology of noise cancellation headphones may not be suitable. This can include live performances and Djing.

Open Back Headphones

Open backed headphones are over-the-ear headphones which place the transducer within a casing surrounded by foam or sponge. The side of the casing which faces away from the ear has slots or openings which allow the sound to disperse in a more natural manner.

Open-backed headphones are more than adequate for recording and performances. They provide a realistic sound quality which makes them the ideal choice for sound engineers and producers who are mixing audio channels in a studio environment.
The open casing allows a two-way bleed of audio. This may mean that they are not as suitable for live performance monitoring where there is a loud environment, not for precision recording in a studio, where vocal microphones can often be sensitive enough to pick up the sound which escapes from the headphones.

Closed Back Headphones

Closed back headphones are completely encased, without any spacing to allow audio to disperse outwards. They are the best headphone type for isolating external noise. Closed back headphones offer the best bass frequency response as the casing allows the lower frequencies to reverberate. However, the small, enclosed area of the headphones may distort sound to some degree.

Closed back headphones are often favoured in recording and performance situations as they isolate internal and external sounds.
Due to the small, reverberating space and the resultant sound distortion, closed back headphones are less often used for mixing work, where precision of sound and spacial factors are most important.


Main Requirements:

Recommended Headphone:

Listening to Music on the Move:

Compact and Lightweight. Noise Cancellation preferable.

Earbuds are light and are not intrusive, making them ideal for listening on the move.

Audio Mixing (Studio):

High performance, and accurate frequency response.

Open backed, over-the-ear headphones with a wide frequency response provide the best listening experience with little sound distortion.

Audio Mixing (Live / DJing):

Durable and adjustable ear pieces, noise isolating headphones.

Closed back, over-the-ear headphones are ideal for live Djing, where headphones are used to monitor and cue the next audio track. Noise isolating, closed casing allows a DJ to hear audio tracks over the live performance.

Musical Performance (Studio):

Precision response and low noise leakage.

Closed back headphones allow the musician to hear their performance, and noise will now leak or get picked up by recording microphones.

Musical Performance (Live Performance):

Noise isolation.

When using headphones to monitor live performances, it is likely a loud environment, which requires noise isolation headphones. Without isolating headphones, the musician will be unlikely to hear their performance above the ambient sound.

Finding Used Headphones on eBay

When purchasing used headphones on eBay, it is crucial to bear in mind that the condition of used items can vary considerably. Some items may be almost new, others may be being sold for spare parts or need repairing. Check with the vendor before completing a purchase. eBay provides full buyer protection on all purchases. Customers are entitled to a full refund on any item which arrives in a condition that does not match the original listing. To locate used headphones on eBay, it is advised to use the website's categories to browse the various options. The generic Headphones category will offer the broadest selection, whereas the Pro Audio Equipment, Sound & Vision, and Performance & DJ Equipment sections will provide listings for higher quality professional and audiophile equipment. More affordable options can be found in the consumer technology categories, where a suitable item may be found for a cheaper price. Both the Home Audio & HiFi Separates and the iPod & MP3 Player Accessories categories list headphones, from cheap earbuds to more advanced options.


When used in a professional situation, headphones will quickly be relied upon to deliver results at a consistently high level of performance. Whether this is in a recording studio, or a live music situation, there are many suitable options available on the market. Locating the perfect make and model is a matter of understanding the demands of the task in hand and identifying the most important functions of each headset. A pre-owned item need not suffer from poor performance or require repairing, and a pair of used headphones can adequately complete any task if they are well looked after. The key is to ensure that any item purchased will arrive in a satisfactory condition before any online transactions are completed as well as knowing the most efficient ways to shop online. With this guide, it should be a simple matter for any customer to identify the ideal headphones for any situation and to find them at a fair price in next to no time.

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