Whether we like to admit it or not most of us love buying a new pair of audio gear such as earphones. And sometimes after making the wrong choice we end up having sleepless nights wondering what the other option sounded like, how do i get rid of these, why did I choose this in the first place. However with right mind set and when armed with proper information and knowledge these earphones can turn out to be a long term investment and something you will cherish for a long time.
Understanding the specifications and being able to make sense of all the important aspects is of utmost importance if you want to know what the product is. This post is here to help you buy earphones, earbuds with proper research and understanding of the feature set and specs.
Types of Earphones
We have to know that earphones and earbuds come in varied shapes, sizes, driver sizes, IP ratings, power output, Bluetooth versions, etc. Furthermore they are available in a large price range.
1. In-ear earphones
In-ear earphones/headphones or more commonly known as “earbuds”. These are further sub-divided into two categories, full in-ear and half in-ear.
Both types have their advantages and disadvantages. Primarily half in-ear earphones are more open type and prone to falling and dislodging. However they are airy and do not cause any irritation of heat issues even when worn for long.
The full in -ear earbuds have a silicone tip, sometimes changeable. These have a firm fitting and as a result provide better noise isolation. Comfort level varies on the fitting and can vary from dis comfortable to perfectly okay fit. Since the fitting is usually snug these do not fall out easily making them a good companion for on the go usage.
Most people prefer the second kind because of its inherent noise-reducing feature. But that is not always recommended especially in public places when complete noise isolation is a disaster waiting to happen.
On the half in-ear earphones, since noise is constantly creeping in, getting a good and decent audio experience is tough. It usually requires bumping the volume to higher levels which inturn means unnecessary exposure to higher SPLs and since these have sound leakage too, people next to you might not like it.
2. Wireless earphones
Wireless earphones simply mean the addition of wireless technology. In earphones world this means Bluetooth capable earphones. These come in varies styles, designs and specification apart from price range.
Usually there are 2 types of earphones, neckband style and TWS earbuds style. Neckband style are usually full in-ear type earphones where as TWS earphones further come in 2 styles which are in-ear and half in-ear earphones.
Both neckband and TWS earphones have their own positives and negatives and which one is suitable for you depends entirely on your needs.
Neckband earphones are harder to lose but on the flip side you still have to deal with wires and the chance of snapping them. Similarly TWS earbuds are easier to carry and more portable than neckband counterpart.
Battery life of wireless earphones vary too from product to product. However as a general rule of thumb, single charge battery is more in Neckband earphones. However total battery life is more in TWS earbuds thanks to the battery of charging case. TWS earbuds can also be easily used in mono mode for calls etc.
Wireless earphones and TWS earbuds start at 1000 rupees and go upto 20000 rupees and higher for a pair.
If you want a budget pair we recommend spending atleast 2500 rupees to buy a pair of wireless earphones.
However the sweet spot is the mid range and you get the best earphones in the 10000 rupees range.
Understanding Earphone Specifications
From driver size to Bluetooth version in the earbuds there are lots of tech details to understand before making a decision, lets understand them.
1. Basic sound setup
In earphone specs basic sound setup is defined as “acoustic design”. A closed acoustic system stops noise from passing through the earphones to/from outside, there type are called “closed back headphones”. On the other hand, an open acoustic system doesn’t; other people around you can easily hear what you’re hearing and so can you, as you may have guessed these are called “open back” headphones.
Having said that, closed back does not equate to noise isolation. It simply refers to the design on the earphones or headphones.
This spec is mostly found on headphones and not on earphones.
2. Frequency response
Frequency response as the term says simply refers to the frequency range the drivers in your earphone can cover. The bigger the range, the better. On the lower side it means earphones can go lower in the bass region where as on the higher side it means they cover more treble nuances.
However a larger coverage does not equate to better sound quality or vice versa. It simply denotes the capability of the driver and the headphones or earbuds in question. Furthermore larger drivers usually have less trouble going deeper, that is the lower number is usually lower on them.
Impedance is also known as resistance to the electrical signal. In audio terms it means that higher the impedance is, the less electric signal gets through and the less sound level is produced, however lower impedance means less resistance and more current passes through.
As a general case, it’s preferred to have less impedance in earphones. Preferred to be less than 32 Ohms. This allows your earphones to sound loud enough with small portable devices with limited amplification power.
On the other hand impedance can be overlooked if you intend to run you earphones or headphones with high power amplifier.
4. Magnet type
Unless you are worried about the weight of earphones and why the weigh as much as they do you should not be worried about this.
For example neodymium magnets are light weight and an evenly match ferrite magnet will be larger and heavier.
Sensitivity or lack of thereof is measured in dB/mW. This reading means how much sound (in decibels/dB) the earphone or headphone produce for one milliwatt of the electrical signal. Higher sensitivity means you need less power for more output. For the uninitiated higher sensitivity headphones tend to sound cleaner because incase of lower sensitivity you need more power, more power inherently means more noise.
6. Driver Size
Driver is the transducer inside the earphones that creates sound. A larger driver usually means more bass capability. Although admittedly a small driver headphone can produce better bass if tuning and construction is better. For a general rule 32mm is a minimum size of headphones and 6mm is a minimum size for earphones.
7. Wireless technology
Previously many wireless technologies were used in wireless headphones such as RF, Infrared, Bluetooth. But since tech has advance, Bluetooth has become the sole choice of manufacturers. Bluetooth 4 is the bare minimum you should look for while buying headphones. However higher versions such as 5 and above offer good battery savings, higher bit-rates and better susceptibility to interference.
8. Noise cancellation
Noise cancellation is a tech where in, microphones built in to the earphones or headphones capture the audio around you and emit the same in the opposite phase. So that to the listeners ear the sound is null and zero. As an added advantage some of these earphones offer transparency mode which lets and in fact amplifies the sounds around you, this is specifically useful when walking on footpath etc. The sweet spot for best wireless headphones is 20000 rupees in India. The mid range wireless headphones for 10000 rupees are shown here.
So now that you know all the technical terms you can decode what each earphone manufacturer is trying to tell you and make a very fine and informed decision.
Read this post to know which are the best brands to buy earphones in India.