Headphones come in many shapes and sizes, from small and portable, to huge and clunky. But most people nowadays will probably only own the set of earbuds that came with their cell phones. They may be fine for a while, but they're usually only good for making hands-free calls on your phone. Sound quality is often not their strong point. They will probably not be great for using in the office or while gaming either, so you should probably consider buying something better.
So many choices
For a first-time headphone buyer, the choices can be daunting. If you only need headphones for one specific purpose, the choice is fairly simple. With an unlimited budget, you can even buy a specialist set for each different purpose. But seeing as most people don't have that luxury, it makes more sense to buy something fairly versatile, that works best for the purpose you use it for most.
It can take many pages of writing to explain all the different specifications that headphones may have. To keep this guide simple, we will focus instead on the best types of headphones for some popular uses.
Many people like to listen to music on the bus or train to work, usually on their phones. You have two upgrade options here, a better set of in-ear headphones, or a set of closed-back over-the-ear headphones. The in-ear models have the added advantage of being very portable, and often come with a carry case.
Public transport can be a noisy environment, so you will probably want to crank up the volume to drown out other noises. Whatever option you choose, it's very important that no sound spills out. If other people can hear your music, you are sure to get death stares, or even death threats. Noise-canceling headphones can be a great option here. Another useful feature is a built-in microphone, so that you can still use it for hands-free phone calls.
Listening to music at home
If you only want to use your headphones for listening to music at home in a quiet environment, open-back headphones are for you. They have a very transparent, airy, natural sound. The top audiophile models are also very expensive, and will require a headphone amplifier.
Gaming headphones are a different breed entirely. They don't always sound great for music, but they can add some jaw-rattling bass to explosions. They also help you pinpoint the exact location of your enemies. They will almost always have a boom microphone for voice communication. Some of them feature surround sound that works through a USB interface, which means that they will only work on your computer.
The ideal work headphones will have many things in common with commuting headphones. The only thing you may not need is a microphone. You will probably plug these into your work computer. Closed-back headphones are a must, so that you don't disturb your colleagues with your music. If your office is very noisy, or you're a freelancer working in a coffee shop, you will be very happy with a noise-canceling model.