Following an audio engineer by training and The Wirecutter’s resident headphone tester, I heard this question over and over again, like “What’s difference between over-ear and in-ear headphones?” and “ How much should I spend headphones?” Now, let me answer these questions for you.
Why should I buy in-ear headphones?
This type of headphones is portable and helps seal out the noises around you. Also, they are lightweight for wearing during a workout, a commute or any activity that involves moving around. On the other hand, over-ear headphones are much heavier and bulkier and take up more space in your bag. If you like music and do not mind having things inside your ear canal for more than a few minutes, buy in-ear headphones. Besides, in-ear items have sound quality in any price range. For over-ear headphones, it is harder to make things both smaller and just as good- sounding.
What does $40 (or less) get me?
- The cheap headphones may be entry- level items. They might sound good but will not have the best build quality. Actually, good-sounding headphones in this price range are not common. However, the ones which exist can represent all frequencies with clean (not muddy or sloppy) sound.
- No single instrument will overpower another and lyrics in songs will be easy to understand. In the same vein, you should not have to crank up the volume to hear one range of frequencies, especially to the point where hearing another range is painful. For example, if you want to hear the bassline better, the hi-hats should not make you wince. Headphones in the price range are usually plastic, rubber, and silicone. For the most part with the build quality emphasizing cost-effectiveness over longevity, they are built to last a year or two. If you tend to lose things easily, do not worry when you will be jamming your headphones into a gym bag or do not get what all the hype over more expensive headphones is about, this may be the range for you.
What does $100 get me?
- For this price range, headphones up the sonic ente with sturdier build quality, better drivers and a more comfortable fit. The items around $100 sound crisper, clearer and warmer than their cheap counterparts. Also, they mellow and smooth with no shrill highs. Voices come across more lifelike and music sounds richer. When listening to less- expensive models, you may miss small details such as the sparkling of electronic music, bass that has pitch without thrumming, and the gentle consonants in vocals. You notice that the sound have a “space” or “depth” to them so you get a feel of room size or where the instrument is placed around you.
- In other words, the experience is as you had been looking at a photograph printed by a cheap $100 printer and then saw the same photo developed on high-quality paper at a good photo print shop. It much clearer, right? Moreover, headphones in this range tend to be comfortable when you wear them for extended periods and are made to last longer. With careful use, you may get several years out of them. Their materials are usually of a higher quality, including rubber, strong plastic, and some metal accents.
- For inexpensive counterparts, the headphones in the package give you tips in several sizes, often made in more flexible and softer substances. Their cords have features to prevent tangling and feet sturdier. If you listen to music a lot, especially on the go, buy in-ear in this range. Maybe you like to have something to carry along on your trip and travel a lot. Or maybe you ride the subway to work and then tune out the office noise by listening at your desk. Whatever the reason, if you are a music fan, portability is key to you. Headphones sounding good is essential and you should notice the difference when you put on a good pair.
What does $200 (or under) get me?
- If you want to spend money for investment-quality, headphones that cost $200 is a good choice. These models are built to last for many years and designed to reproduce accurate sound. Rubber and plastic are replaced by fabric, memory foam, and metal. Music approach the high level of quality. Vocal consonants are clear without being sharp, an immersive depth of sonic field and individual instruments are discernible in the mix. Nothing should squawk, hiss, or boom.
- Being a music lover, I realize that when I listen to good-quality headphones in this price range, I forget that I am judging the headphones and get caught up my listening material. For the photo analogy, the image if a part of a video, being displayed by a high- resolution digital projector in the theater. It is clear, it has motion, and it is all around you. The headphones are designed for people for whom music is integral to life. You devour every nuance of it, you study it and cherish it. If you want to sound like something you are willing to pay extra for, these headphones may be for you.
What about the gym?
If you need a set of headphones to work out, you should look for our wireless exercise headphones review and wired exercise headphones review. All of our given headphones are resistant to rain, sweat and other stressors that come from your being on the move. But, they do not sacrifice too much in sound quality.
For wired exercise items review, we suggest for unsealed, sealed, waterproof swim headphones and for over- and on-ear headphones. If you tend to pay a little extra to avoid dealing with a cord, the prices of these headphones often start around $100. You should remember to keep the headphones charged and check out our wireless exercise headphone reviews.