Headphones & Earphones
In today's marketplace, listening devices abound. As the consumer, you have options ranging from how the device interacts with your ear to how the device communicates with the audio source. Headphones need not weigh you down but before you run off to purchase the smallest earpiece out there, consider your options.
Audio Connection Type
Headphones can connect to audio using a wire, bluetooth, infrared (IR) or radio frequency (RF). Each is unique with positives and negatives for each. Headphones with wired connections are great when traveling long distances while listening to headphones. A wired headset does not need an additional power supply and therefore can last as long (or longer) than your audio source. Wired connections have superior audio quality since there is little in the way to hinder performance.
Bluetooth headphones are a great way to sync your smartphone to your headphones. Bluetooth allows you to be free from wires and therefore can move about independently from your audio source. This is a great option for active lifestyles or when your audio source is very large. Radio frequency headphones, most commonly called "wireless", are great for short distances and for intermittent use. Audio sources that are ideal for RF headphones include TV, gaming (consoles or computers) and computers. Infrared technology (IR) is limited because the system requires "line of sight" which means the base and the headset must be free of any obstacles. There are many uses for - for example, if there are no walls or cabinets hindering the line of sight of your system, then IR is a good option. With all wireless connections (bluetooth, IR and RF) sound quality can vary.
Ear Interaction Types
These days, the options for headphones are abundant! Choices include in earphones, ear (commonly called ear buds), around ear, on ear, ear hook and more. Generally, earphones are equipped with a wired connection and include several sizes of adapters for a comfortable fit. Ear buds are very popular with athletic crowds because of the small overall footprint and the ease of portability. If not fitted properly, ear buds will hurt with extended use. Around ear headphones are a great option for home movies and gaming. The headphones cover the entire ear and usually include cushioning for a comfortable fit. Around ear headphones are intended for extended use and often come with noise cancelling technology. Around ear headphones come in nearly any audio connection type.
On ear headphones are very common and often less expensive. These headphones are great for young children because the sound doesn't go directly into the ear, creating a passive volume control. Additionally, many on ear headphones have volume limits as well as comfort ear pads. On ear headphones range in quality, and with that range comes variety in audio connection type. Finally, ear hooks are very similar to ear buds, but actually "hook" over your ear. Ear hooks most often come with a wired connection and are a great alternative to ear buds if fit is an issue.
Headphones have several other options. Most common is the option of noise cancelling. Noise cancelling reduces the surrounding noises while amplifying the audio source sound. The result is a great sound and minimal distractions. Noise cancelling headphones are a great option for travel. In some markets, noise cancelling headphones are combined with decibel reducing protection, like an ear plug. This technology is great for someone who works around loud machines. Noise cancelling itself will not protect an individual's exposure to decibels, but a headset that has noise cancelling with decibel protection provides a great opportunity to work and listen. Other options include microphones for voice communication via phone, computer or radio.
Headphones are wonderful to have in your audio tool box and having more than one is almost a must! Think about how you want to use headphones and what kind of audio source you have. Taking the time to know your audio system and your desired use will ensure that you experience the most from your headset.