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The Best Headphones for Music - How to Find Them

How to Find the Best Headphones for Music

Are you looking for the best headphones for music? Have you been eyeing the Nuraphone, but you’re still not sure you want to add it to your cart just yet?

We understand how difficult this decision can be. First, you have to determine what you’re looking for in the first place, as headphones come in all shapes and sizes. Then you have to navigate the sheer amount of headphones that are on the market at all kinds of prices. At the end of the day, how do you know you’re selecting the right pair? 

Even if you’re buying in-store and can try the headphones before you finalise your purchase, what if they only sound good for certain types of music? The chances are, if you’re looking for the best headphones for music, you have some pretty eclectic playlists.

Don’t worry. We have the definitive guide to finding the best headphones for music below.

Are headphones the best way to listen to music?

Before deciding on the best headphones for music, it is important to figure out why headphones are the best choice for listening to music in the first place. After all, who wants to spend all of that time and money on a brand new pair of headphones, only to realise too late that they needed earbuds instead?

While the best headphones for music can be difficult to pin down, as everybody’s music-listening experience is largely subjective, there are many arguments for why headphones are the definitive way of listening to music. These arguments play into several key factors such as audio quality, convenience, size, comfortability, etc.

Earbuds

Both headphones and earbuds are sophisticated pieces of audio playback hardware that offer a rich music experience. However, the edge that earbuds have over headphones is that they are smaller; which some music listeners may prefer, as their earbuds can fit into their pocket when not in use.

That said, when it comes to sound quality, there’s no competition. For starters, headphones are larger, and can therefore carry more sophisticated hardware. Drivers in headphones tend to range from 40-50mm in comparison to earbuds and their 7-15mm drivers, resulting in better performance overall. The active noise cancelling technology in headphones is also more elaborate and therefore more effective. 

Speakers

The comparison between speakers and headphones is actually the opposite of headphones compared to earbuds. Speakers come in all kinds of different sizes that can fit all kinds of audio hardware that are incomparable to headphones.

However, speakers are not portable at all. So, if you want to listen to your playlist, you’d better cancel your plans. You’re committed now. Speakers also lack noise cancellation, so if you’re living next to a construction site or near a busy road or even with a roommate who has yet to grasp the concept of inside voices, you’d better be prepared to soak in all of that ambient sound with your music.

Finally, speakers are a lot more expensive than headphones. If you are trying to fit your musical experience to a budget, headphones are the much cheaper option.

What To Look For When Buying Headphones For Music?

So, now that we’ve determined that headphones are the best option for you, the next step is to figure out what are the best headphones for music. Like with anything else, there are multiple factors to consider as you make your selection. We have identified some of those factors and listed them below. 

Build Quality

Build quality is a strange one to start off with, as it doesn’t directly relate to the actual production of sound. However, you could have headphones that offer the best sound quality ever conceived and it would mean absolutely nothing if they fell apart the second you put them on.

As important as the durability of your headphones is the comfortability as well. Imagine buying headphones with perfect technical specs, only to put them on and immediately want to take them off. If you want to listen to an album in its entirety, that means at least 30 minutes of constant usage, and you don’t want it to feel like a musically scored endurance test.

Drivers

The driver is what makes the headphones, in that it’s what converts electrical signals into sound.  The electrical current passes through what are called the voice coils, which convert the electrical current into sound waves by vibrating a transducer known as the diaphragm. As this happens, a magnet generates a magnetic field that enhances those soundwaves.

There are several factors that contribute to good drivers. The most well-known of these factors is size, however the more important factor is the quality of the build. The better the materials, the more likely the driver will withstand higher power without distorting or breaking.

Drivers come in different types as well, such as:

- Dynamic Drivers
- Planar Magnetic Drivers
- Electrostatic Drivers
- Balanced Armature Drivers
- Magnetostriction or Bone Conduction Drivers
- Hybrid Drivers

All of them have their own pros and cons based on quality, price and accessibility, and all of them are worth looking into before you make your final decision. 

Sensitivity

How loud do you want your headphones to be able to go? Sensitivity is measured in decibels of sound pressure level per milliwatt (mW). On average, headphone sensitivity ratings fall between 90 dB SPL and 105 dB SPL/mW, but there are many that exceed these ratings.

This factor is particularly important, as not only do certain levels of sensitivity require more power than others, but excessive volume can significantly damage your hearing. Keep this in mind when selecting your headphones.

Noise Cancelling vs. Isolation

There is a difference.

Noise cancelling is an active process in which miniature microphones built into your headphones analyse ambient sound waves from the outside world and generate their inverse, thus cancelling them out.

Noise isolating is a passive process in which the build of the headphone itself just physically blocks out external sounds. It is relatively low-tech compared to noise cancelling.

Ultimately, there is no definitive answer as to which is the better option. In terms of effectiveness, neither process is perfect. Cancelling is better suited for low-frequency droning whereas isolating is better for mid and higher pitched sounds. However, noise cancelling relies on more power to function, while isolation requires the headphones to fit a certain way.

Impedance

Impedance measures the power requirements of the headphones in ohms. Typically, impedance is rated between 8-600 ohms. The higher the impedance, the higher the quality of sound but also the higher the power requirements, to the point where you might need to purchase an amplifier for optimal performance.

The trick is to find a pair of headphones with an impedance that is similar to your device, but not exactly the same. An impedance of up to 32 ohms will make your headphones compatible with pretty much any mobile device with no problems.

Battery Life: How long are you going to be unplugged?

It is extremely rare that a song will be improved by the phrase “BATTERY LOW” being blurted into your ears because you didn’t charge your headphones before heading out. Headphones come with different battery capacities, from 10, 20, 30 to even 60 hours, so it’s up to you to decide which one you’re willing to spend money on. It is also worth noting that battery life is drained quicker when active noise cancelling is used, so keep that in mind.

Frequency

The wider the frequency range, the more you’ll hear from the music. The lower end of the frequency represents the bass, whereas the higher end represents the treble. Most cheap headphones cut out the mid-range, so avoid them if you want to experience all your music has to offer.

Typically, headphones support a frequency response of 10 Hz and 25,000 Hz. Certain headphones will offer a boosted bass as a selling point, but this can be detrimental to the music itself, so make sure you get some testimonials before you make your final decision.

What is good sound quality in headphones?

Subjectively, the best headphones for music have a sound quality that is clear, crisp and detailed. However, there are measurements that can be used to objectively determine the quality of sound.

We’ve already discussed frequency range, but there’s also:

Signal to Noise ratio (SNR) 

Like the name suggests, this is a ratio that compares the level of signal power to the level of background noise, all measured in decibels. A ratio higher than 0dB (i.e. a 1:1 ratio) indicates more signal than noise. Good headphones tend to have an SNR higher than 60db, while great headphones have one of 100dB.

Spurious free Dynamic Range (SFDR)

The ratio that indicates the strength of the fundamental electronic signal to the strongest spurious signal in the output. It sounds complicated, but it measures the distortion that occurs as an electronic signal is converted into sound.

Distortion Ratio (SINAD)

SINAD is a combination of the signal to noise ratio that then incorporates distortion, being summarised as the ratio of the total signal power level (Signal + Noise + Distortion) to unwanted signal power (Noise + Distortion). Much like the signal to noise ratio; the higher the SINAD, the better, as it essentially means that the signal is strong in spite of noise and distortion.

Percentage of Total Harmonic Distortion (%THD)

The total harmonic distortion measures 5-6 harmonic components of the original electronic signal is retained over the course of its conversion into sound, versus how much of it is subject to distortion. Typically, a good pair of headphones will have a THD of less than 1%, while a great pair of headphones will have less than 0.1%.

Which headset is best for listening to music?

Remember, at the start of this article, when we said that choosing the best headphones for music was difficult?

Well, the truth is that it’s actually not difficult at all. Your instincts were right from the start.

The best headphones for music are the Nuraphone. It actively monitors how you listen to music by using an extremely small microphone to measure the otoacoustic emission (OAE), a tiny sound that reverberates from the ear when the eardrum vibrates in response to external tones.  It then produces a personalised sound profile based on the information encoded in the OAE that measures your ears’ sensitivity to certain sound frequencies, perfectly catering that profile to you. 

Do you really want to spend time mathematically calculating the signal to noise and distortion ratio alongside the percentage of total harmonic distortion for the top ten headphones you might consider buying? 

Why do that when you could instead spend that time having a listening experience that no other headphones can match? The Nuraphone uses over-ear drivers to create the feeling of a live performance, while giving you control over the sound so you can stand at the back of the room, or in the front row.

On top of that, the Nuraphone has a long battery life, active noise cancelling and a whole host of other features. Used by audiophiles, musicians and gamers alike, it’ll give you an immersive music experience you’ll never forget.

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