Upgrading your headphones Many pieces of portable equipment on offer today come with their own headphones as standard. But that is exactly what they are-standard! For a little extra spending the sound quality can be improved tremendously. Many ipods and mp3 players come with the ‘ear-bud’ type headphones but for as little as $20 dollars you can get a ‘clip-on’ style that fits over the ear much like a pair of spectacles. Design has improved of late and the earpiece does tend to stay where it was supposed to stay. For something that looks a little more ‘cool’ the style on the street is the ‘behind the head’ style headphones. These became popular some time back and the improvement in sound justifies the price tag of about $50 for the better quality sets. Beware though, not all of us have the same size head and trying it on for size is a must! Also, some of these are ‘open’ style which means sounds can leak out and in. Be careful if you want to use them in quiet areas e. g. libraries etc. Then come the ‘fold down’ portables. Less portable than the others mentioned here but still good quality sound. Some fold down flat and are great for packing but others fold into a ball like shape. These can prove difficult to carry around. So for less than $50 - in some cases $20 - the sound from your equipment can be improved tremendously. If you really like music perhaps you should give this a try!
Wireless headphones If you don’t want dangling wires and wires stretched from your music system to wherever you are sitting then you should try out the new wireless, or cordless, headsets. Bluetooth technology - so named after the King of Denmark in the 10th Century when he united Denmark and Norway - has made this a very simple choice. All it takes is to place a ‘dongle’ - a small box with a small jack plug - into your music system. The headphones and dongle are then ‘paired’ electronically and you are set to go! Apart from the usual requirements of headphones - good sound quality, comfort, hands free design etc. - some people just want to look ‘cool’ when it comes to wearing headsets. The Bluetooth technology allows the user to wear headphones without the trailing wires and styles have certainly improved of late. I - Phone have come up with a design which looks a little odd. The behind the neck bar attaches to large, egg-shaped ear pieces and are not for everyone. They look a little theatrical in style and basically are just too big to look ‘cool’. A pointer to watch out for when purchasing new headphones is to try them on for size. This headset’s bar stood out from the back of the neck way too far. Whether you want the smaller, more fashionable, or more portable headphones always make sure you get what is right for you in terms of comfort, style and price. Buy the best you can afford for longevity.
Which headphones are right for you? There are many headphone sets on offer but they basically fall into four different categories - in-ear, earbuds, supra-aural or circumaural. All have their different uses and are usually used in specific instances. Recording studios and the like usually use the circumaural headphones. These have those large round earpads that fit over the ears completely and cut out peripheral sounds. Real sound enthusiasts sometimes use these too. Supra-aural headphones are the foam rubber covered headsets that sit on the outside of the ear and used to given free with personal stereos or on airlines. They were the cheap and cheerful alternative in those days. Earbuds are the headphones that are the bane of commuter’s life! They sit on the outer part of the ear but does not cut out peripheral noise. Users usually pump up the volume to compensate for this and leave fellow travelers with the incredibly irritating overflow of tinny sound. These headphones can cause damage to hearing and also cause distraction when crossing roads or similar. The volume is set so high that normal everyday sounds are drowned out. Very dangerous! Last - but not least - are the in-ear headphones sometimes known as canalphones. As the name implies they are placed directly into the ear canal giving good quality sound and banning peripheral noise. It may be that you will want a different set of headphones for different circumstances. Be aware though that some are dangerous in both hearing loss and where accidents can occur. Choose wisely.
Headphones around or on the ear? Headphones come in four styles but for the avid music listener the choice really comes down to two styles. Circum-aural - pads that sit around the ear, or supra-aural - pads that sit directly on the ear. Both have good and bad points and choice can also depend on how much you want to pay. With the supra-aural headphones the user can feel that the instrument is playing next to the ear giving good and sharp clarity However, this may sound strange to some people since we are used to a more muffled sound. With the circum-aural headphones the sound is just that - a little muffled - but it is a more natural sound. Imagine sitting in a concert hall. You are not right next to the instruments so you don’t get that sharp clarity that the ‘supra’ headphones give. Of course, the choice is up to the user and what they want out of their headset. Then there is the headphone that is used primarily in the recording studio. These are usually full sized ‘circum’ style headphones that have soft material on the ear pads to block out sound. Some have a built-in switch to automatically cut the sound when the headphone is taken off. A much needed feature if recording is going on. No matter which is your preference on headphones, perhaps the one thing that people do not consider is comfort. If you live in hot climes be sure to get the sets with velvet type pads. Plastic can get very sticky.
Comfort and Headphones Perhaps the last thing that anyone would think of when it comes to buying headphones is comfort. With all the information out there on the net and in shops no one tells you the most obvious fact and that is ‘try it on before your buy it’. It is all very well spending upwards of $1,000 dollars - for you super rich out there! - on a new set of headphones only to find them so uncomfortable that you avoid putting them on! So what do you look for in comfort? Well, first decide if you like the sound right inside your ears or outside. If outside, do you want the ‘circum’ style which sits around the ear or the ‘supra’ style which sits right on the ear? All have good points and bad points and it is up to the user which style to buy. The circum style sits around the ear and gives a slightly muffled sound as if the user is sitting in an auditorium whilst the supra style feels like the instruments are right there next to the ear. Whichever one is preferred make sure that the material on the ear pads is comfortable. Many have leatherette style coverings which can get a little sweaty in hot conditions. Velvet style pads do not have this problem. For portable headsets personally I don’t like ear bud styles because they make my ears hurt!! Having tried them out on several occasions I have to vote for the other styles mentioned here.
Headphones and sports Headphones have been around for many years but in these days of health and fitness regimes it has become apparent that specialized headsets are necessary. Normal portable headsets virtually bounce off the head when the user is jogging or such like and can distract from the aim of the exercise. Others are far too big or cut out all of the peripheral sound potentially placing the user in a dangerous position. Imagine being deep into the exercise with the music adding to the intensity. The user could easily run into a busy road or into another dangerous position without being fully aware. Apart from fitting securely the headphone set must be easy to clean and also be able to be used in low temperatures. Added ability to resist sweat and humidity is also a requisite for this type of headset. Some headphones come with a lanyard, ideal for joggers, with removable straps to attach the player to a neckband if necessary. Others come with extension cords so that the player can be carried in the pocket. Perhaps the most unusual headphone set yet is the one replacing the headband model. The LX 70 sports model consists of a thin flexible plastic tube with a metal inner core. It is impossibly light and yet extremely tough and is possibly one of the best sets for sports available. The price is around $55. Whichever sport you play it is imperative that you find exactly the right model that fits the sport you play.
Noise reducing headphones Have you ever been the victim of suffering unwanted noise whether it be in the home or your work environment? The answer is in a set of headphones that are specifically made to cancel out the offending sound. They work by producing an ‘anti-noise’ device in the headset. Simply speaking, if a noise is made with the opposite polarity of the offending noise then it cancels it out! This means that music can be listened to at a lower volume or indeed the intrepid air traveler can sleep on a noisy aircraft. The anti-noise system was created, not for the home user, but for the workers who are around aircraft or heavy machinery. It was applied to headsets for long haul pilots and eventually for home users. Some airlines offer the sound canceling headphones in their first-class sections. The ‘anti-noise’ can even be played back through the headrests making a far more peaceful environment for traveling long distances. The continuous hum of aircraft engines can be rather disconcerting on long flights. However, if you really want to cut out background noise while you concentrate on the music or perhaps that seminar recording, this type of headphone will be beneficial. It appears that you only get what you pay for. Some of these headsets can be bought for under $100 but the sound canceling qualities are not as good as the high end headphones. Here you can pay upwards of $300 - $400. A high price to pay for a little peace and quiet!
Can Headphones Damage Your Health? Of all the headphones that are on offer, which of them physically damages hearing? Or is it down to the individual to monitor their own safety? Well, some companies have offered a safe alternative - but some have been discontinued due to poor sales. Some companies produced equipment which limited volume automatically or warned the user when the sound was set too high. The public rejected the idea with the response that it was up to the user how loud their music should be. That line of equipment was quickly discontinued. Today, some companies have introduced systems whereby volumes on different tracks are corrected to the same level. Others provide a system for the user to manipulate their own preferred settings and gives better control than the auto-corrected version. Some governments have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years and have imposed limits on the levels of sound personal equipment can emit. Of course, many have said that this is infringing on the freedom of users and use other software to remove the limits. These governments have used the arguments that not only does the hearing damage caused bring a financial burden on the economy - future hearing loss medical interventions - but also the burden of accident victims who have caused, or been involved in accidents, due to the inability to hear the surroundings when immersed in their personal music players. Of course it will always be up to the individual on how loud he/she wants their music to be. Perhaps the answer lies in education.
Headphones Headphones have come a long way in the past one hundred years. Back then they consisted of a single earpiece held tightly against one ear and was the only way anyone could listen to transmitted sound. This was before the days of amplifiers. Headphones were usually use in radio stations and not the home market. Today, however, there is virtually no one who has not heard of, or used, a set of headphones. They have literally exploded in popularity since the onset of mobile phones, mp3 players, ipods and the like. The most common used wires to connect the headpiece to the equipment and this restricted the movements of the user to within range - in other words, as far as the wire would stretch! The advent of the wireless headphones set the user free to move about whilst listening to the preferred channel. The introduction of Bluetooth technology has given the user freedom unparalleled in history. The headset ‘hooks’ on to the sound being transmitted from as far as ten meters away. Since most people carry the transmitter - be it mobile phone with radio or mp3 players - with them distance is not a problem. However, imagine being able to move around your house while listening to your favorite music without blasting the neighbors! Perhaps the best thing about today’s headsets is the quality of sound. The music is beamed directly to your ears without the distraction of peripheral noise. You truly are in a world of your own whether you are running or lying in your bed!
Headphones that cut out external noise Canalphones - those that fit directly into the ear channel - are probably the best choice if you want to cut out peripheral noise. When these headphones are used in a very noisy environment they are much safer for the user since the volume does not have to set very high. The canalphones cut out much of the background noise thereby alleviating the need for volume which potentially could damage the listener’s hearing. Imagine having to communicate with colleagues in an airport. The background noise of airplanes landing and taking off is incredible and the volume would have to be set at excruciatingly painful levels. Then imagine this going on 10 hours per day every day. The hearing of the listener would surely be damaged very soon. Or what about that busy sales office with phones, people and copy machines clattering away all day. The canalphone allows the listener to set the sound at a comfortable level without damage to the eardrum. The canalphone is also good for home use. If the kids are noisy, the TV on, the vacuuming being done, you can shut yourself off from all of this noise and listen to that seminar that you have to write a report on! Young people are the inadvertent victims of hearing loss through inappropriate sound levels. What better way to help them than replacing their headsets with the canalphones. Not only do they look ‘cool’ but they ensure the noise does not have to be too loud.