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Headphones: specifications, types
This parameter is indicated only for specialized models that are not related to the "ears" of general use. Nowadays, you can find such specialization options in headphones: gaming(including a special variety — solutions for consoles), office, monitor(they are also studio) and for DJs. Here is a more detailed description of these varieties:
— Gaming. Headphones designed primarily for use in games — primarily with PCs and laptops (a separate version is available for consoles, see below for details). Outwardly, they are distinguished primarily by their design — usually quite bright and aggressive. Most of these models have an overhead design, most often in a full-size "Over Ear" format (see "Design") — this provides the maximum effect of immersion in the game. There are other design options, but much less frequently. An almost obligatory detail is a microphone — for voice communication in online games. In addition, most multi-channel models fall into this category (see "Sound") — such sound is most important for games.
— Office. Office headphones are designed for consultants, support operators and other employees who constantly have to deal with voice communications over the phone or over the Internet. Accordingly, one of the main features in such models is the presence of a microphone. Also,...among office headphones, one-ear models are very popular (see "Sound — mono"), which allow you to hear both the interlocutor on the line and the environment at the same time. Many "ears" for this purpose use a USB connection (see "Connection") — in the expectation that inexpensive office computers may not have specialized audio outputs at all. At the same time, a small control panel for working with IP telephony can be provided directly on the USB plug, it allows, in particular, to receive and reject calls. There are also wireless models (usually with a radio connection, less often via Bluetooth), as well as specialized solutions that connect to telephones using specific connectors.
— For consoles. In fact, one of the varieties of gaming headphones described above, specially designed for use with consoles like the PlayStation or Xbox. They are also required to be equipped with microphones, can be made in the original design and in most cases have an overhead closed design — although there are other options. Many of these models are one-ear headsets, designed mainly for communication in multiplayer games. But support for multi-channel sound is relatively rare, in models with two cups, classic stereo sound is more popular. Wired headphones for this purpose are usually connected to gamepads — this is easier than providing a long wire to the console itself.
— Monitor (studio). Headphones designed for use in professional recording and when setting up audio equipment. Made only wired. However, the key feature of such models is different: they have the most even frequency response, which gives almost the same sound volume of all frequency bands, and an extensive operating range, often exceeding the limits of human audible frequencies. Thanks to this, the headphones of this purpose are able to clearly identify all the flaws in the sound signal — including nuances that are not noticeable on traditional "ears"; such capabilities are indispensable in professional work with sound. On the other hand, for the same reason, it makes no sense to use monitor models for everyday listening to music: they not only reveal various shortcomings of the recording, but also give the sound a specific coloration, unusual and even unpleasant for the average user.
— For the DJ. Headphones originally designed for use by professional DJs when mixing tracks. In many ways, they are similar to the monitor ones described above — in particular, they have a very flat frequency response, which provides the most reliable sound, and an extensive frequency range. In addition, DJ headphones are usually made in a closed acoustic design and, in general, are of high quality sound isolation, which allows you to maintain good audibility even in a rather noisy environment.
License binding of headphones to a specific model of the game console means full compatibility between devices and gives a 100% guarantee that all claimed functions will work. Note that in addition to the stated set-top box, such headphones can be safely used in conjunction with a computer, smartphone and other models of game consoles through suitable connection interfaces. However, the full potential of the headphones is revealed only in conjunction with a certain game console.
Headphones that work on the principle of bone conduction.
In such models, the emitters are not mounted on (or in) the ear, but on the head not far from the ear (usually in front), and the sound is transmitted to the eardrum not through the ear canal, but through the bones of the skull. The main advantage of this principle of operation is that the ears remain open. Thus, the user can hear well both the music in the headphones and the sounds of the surrounding world. In many situations, this is very convenient (for example, in the office or on the beach), and in some situations it is also critical for safety (for example, when riding a bicycle). At the same time, the headphones are compact, quite comfortable, and the sound is quite high-quality and loud (and almost inaudible to others). The main disadvantage of such solutions is the rather high cost.
Another specific type of headphones that use this feature are in-ear models and earbuds (see "Design"), in which the emitters work in a traditional format, and bone conduction is used to transmit the user's voice to the built-in microphone. A similar feature is found in some true wireless devices (see "Type of cable"): the microphone in such models is located far from the mouth, and it is more convenient to transmit voice to it through the bones of the skull, and not in the usual way, through the air.
In this paragraph, first of all, the method of fastening on the ears is specified; according to this parameter, modern headphones are divided into overhead, in- ear and earbuds. For on-ear models, the acoustic design (closed, semi-open, open) can also be specified here, as well as the presence of features such as a full-size (over-ear) design (in the absence of this feature, such headphones are called “on-ear”, or simply on-ears), swivel ear cups, auto-adjust headband, or even the mid-2021 trend, Cat Ears. And details such as a rigid headband, behind-the- ear fastening, fastening on the neck and the ability to fold can be combined with almost any method of placement on the ears (with some exceptions — for example, overhead models are not attached to the neck).
Here is a more detailed description of the different ear placement options:
— Overhead. Overhead headphones are called headphones that are located outside the auricles, covering the ear from the side (“regular” overhead models) or completely (full-sized Over-Ear — see below about them). Anyway, such models are quite large in size. This, on the one hand, simplifies the...creation of headphones with advanced sound characteristics, and also allows you to apply some specific tricks without much difficulty — for example, several emitters or support for multi-channel surround sound. On the other hand, the dimensions of the "ears" complicate the transportation and use on the go. In addition, it is worth considering that most overhead models have a headband, which is why they are poorly compatible with complex hairstyles and some headdresses. Models with rigid temples and behind-the-ear fastenings are deprived of this shortcoming, however, they also have their own specifics (see below).
On-ear headphones can have different acoustic design:
— Intracanal with a rigid shackle. In-ear headphones are laid inside the auditory canals, which allows them to be fixed as securely as possible in the ear and not fall off. The presence of a rigid bow further increases the reliability of fixing the headphones. This type of headphone is well suited for sports. The rigid headband and in-ear design of the sound emitters keep the earbuds securely in place even during intense running.
— Inserts. Also known colloquially as "coins". Similar to in-ear headphones, these headphones are small and are placed in the auricle — however, not in the depth of the auditory canal, but at its very beginning, almost outside. This makes the earbuds somewhat simpler in design and cheaper, but it is more difficult to achieve rich sound and advanced acoustic characteristics in them. Such models give a rather low sound insulation, but this can be both a disadvantage and an advantage, depending on the situation. And some headphones of this type have an elongated shape, due to which they sit deeper in the ears and, in terms of their capabilities, can approach in-ear models.
Separately, it is worth noting that in-ear models and earbuds do not use headbands — the headphones are made either completely separate or connected by a device such as a rigid headband or neck mount. So these headphones can be worn with almost any hairstyle or headdress without any problems.
— Inserts with a rigid headband. The earbuds are simply inserted into the passage of the auditory canal without penetrating deeply into it. This is not the most reliable way to fix the headphones, but due to the presence of a rigid headband, the earbuds acquire a strong fit and a secure fit. The headphones themselves have an open sound path design, and therefore reproduce audio with a noticeable distortion of the original sound signal. But at the same time, the open acoustics scheme allows you to clearly hear what is happening in the surrounding space.
As for additional design features, they can be as follows:
— Full-size Over-Ear. On-ear headphones (see above) in which each cup completely covers the ear and fits snugly to the head. The cups themselves in such models are made quite large and are equipped with characteristic soft “borders” around the perimeter of the inner side — these borders are adjacent to the head, so that the auricle is actually inside the cup. The main advantage of this design is that the headphones (with the right size) practically do not touch the user's ears and do not put pressure on them — this is especially comfortable during prolonged use. In addition, it is easier to achieve high-quality sound insulation in Over-Ear models (although among them it is quite possible to find models with semi-open and even completely open acoustic design). The main disadvantage of such devices is bulkiness and inconvenience in transportation and use on the go. In addition, when wearing glasses, the Over-Ear cups usually press on the temples from the sides, which can cause discomfort.
— Auto headband adjustment. A headband that can automatically adjust to the size of the user's head. Such a headband usually consists of two parts — a rigid, usually metal, base, and a soft inner part, which is adjacent directly to the head. It is the inner part that is able to stretch, and the user only needs to place the cups on the ears so that it is comfortable — and the headband itself will increase to the desired size.
— Rigid bow. A shackle made of rigid material that connects both headphones and is located on the back of the head when worn; in some models it can also serve as a neck mount (see below). The advantage of such a device over the classic headband is that the bow can be used with almost any hairstyle and headgear. On the other hand, in in-ear models and earbuds (see above), this feature makes the headphones more bulky, and in over-ear models it makes sense to use it only with conventional models that are not related to full-size Over Ear. Therefore, as well as for a number of other reasons, nowadays the bow is not particularly popular.
— Ear mount. Attachment that allows you to fix each earpiece directly on the ear; usually, it has the appearance of a characteristic bow. This feature is found in all types of modern "ears", except for Over Ear (see above), and its specific meaning depends primarily on the main way the earpiece is placed on the ear. So, for in-ear models and earbuds, the behind-the-ear fastening provides additional reliability of retention: the likelihood that the earpiece will fall out of the ear is reduced to almost zero due to such a retainer. In overhead "ears" this feature is much less common, and its main idea is to do without a headband or a rigid headband — in some cases, these structural elements are redundant.
— Attachment to the neck. A feature that is found exclusively in wireless and combined models (see "Connection type") — and only in-ear and earbuds (see above). Both headphones in such models are connected to each other either with a regular wire with a thickened part, or with a special horseshoe-shaped hoop (a separate “ear” is connected to each end of such a hoop with a wire). Anyway, when worn, such a wire or hoop is located at the back of the user's neck, which provides additional convenience: headphones removed from the ears (or dropped out) do not fall to the ground, but remain hanging on the mount. And in some models, special magnets are also provided, with which you can “stick” the headphones taken out of your ears to each other, turning the entire structure into a ring — this further reduces the risk of dropping the device.
— Possibility of folding. The earphones can be folded compactly for storage and transport. Note that this feature is indicated only for overhead models (see above) — in-ear headphones and earbuds are quite portable in themselves, there is no need to provide a special folding design for them.
— Swivel bowls. A design feature found in on-ear headphones (see above). Rotary in this case means bowls that, in the working position, can be rotated at a certain angle around the vertical axis. This allows the headphones to further adapt to the size and shape of the user's head — which, in turn, increases comfort, especially when worn for a long time. On the other hand, the swivel mount somewhat complicates the design of the headphones, increases its cost and somewhat reduces reliability.
The headphones have special protection against moisture and dust; also, this clause may specify the level of such protection according to the IP standard.
Not all waterproof headphones allow complete immersion in water, but in this case this is usually not required — water protection is mainly intended for safe operation in the rain (or during sports activities when the user sweats a lot). But the specific degree of such protection in different models can vary markedly, and here it is most convenient to evaluate it by IP marking. This marking consists of the letters IP and two numbers; moisture resistance is described by the second, last digit, and in modern headphones you can find the following options:
— 2. Protection against vertical drops of water in the working position and when the device deviates up to 15 ° from this position. The minimum indicator that allows us to talk about resistance to rain (however, without strong winds).
— 3. Protection against splashes falling vertically or at an angle up to 60° from the vertical. Provides resistance to moderate rain and strong winds.
— 4. Splash proof from any direction. With such headphones, rain of medium intensity is not terrible, regardless of the strength of the wind.
— 5. Protected against water jets from any direction. Allows you to transfer already a combination of strong wind with a d...ownpour.
— 6. Protection against strong water jets. It is considered the minimum level that allows you to swim safely (with your head above the surface of the water) wearing headphones.
— 7. Possibility of short-term (less than half an hour) immersion under water to a shallow depth (less than 1 m); continuous operation in immersed mode is not expected. In such headphones, you can no longer only swim, but also dive under water to a shallow depth (plunge with your head), but they are not suitable for full-fledged diving.
— 8. The highest level of moisture protection actually found in modern headphones (although in theory there is a higher level, level 9). Allows long-term (more than 30 minutes) immersion under water to a depth of 1 m or more, and even permanent work in a submerged position. And although the latter is not particularly relevant for headphones, however, this degree of protection makes it possible to swim and even dive safely. However, note that specific restrictions on use in such headphones may be different, they must be clarified according to the instructions.
As for protection against dust (it is indicated by the first digit in the IP marking), its level in modern “ears” is indicated mainly in cases where it corresponds to level 4 (protection against objects 1 mm thick or more), 5 (allowed a small amount of dust that does not affect the operation of the device) or 6 (complete protection against dust). Also note that this number can be replaced by the letter "X" — for example, IPX7; this means that no official dust certification has been carried out for this model. However, this resistance in many cases can be assessed by the degree of protection against moisture: for example, devices with a moisture resistance of 7 or 8, by definition, do not let water through — which means that they are also not afraid of dust.
The location of the microphone, which the headphones are equipped with (if available, of course).
— On the cable. A microphone installed on the headphone connection wire (or on the connection cable in non-TWS wireless headphones). Can be combined with volume control. This option allows you to separate the microphone and headphones, reducing the weight and dimensions of the "ears" themselves; on the other hand, the microphone when worn is often quite far from the face, which can be inconvenient. Therefore, this design is mainly used among earbuds and in-ear headphones, where the size of the "ears" is critical.
— Built into the body. A microphone located in the housing of one of the headphones. This arrangement is convenient because there are no extra protruding parts outside (as in headphones without a microphone), while the microphone is close to the face, and in some models it is also able to perceive sound according to the principle of bone conduction. However installation in close proximity to the speaker gives additional interference and may degrade the quality of voice transmission. However, these shortcomings are not critical: interference can be compensated, and the built-in headphone microphones, in fact, do not need perfect sound transmission accuracy. Therefore, this option is quite popular nowadays, and it is found...not only in miniature models, for which the absence of unnecessary details on the outside is important, but also in rather large overhead "ears".
— On the bow. A microphone mounted on a small boom that is attached to one of the headphones. The microphone on the bow is the most popular among overhead headphones: a large cup can be supplemented with a boom without sacrificing convenience, and the microphone itself is located far from the headphones, which has a positive effect on the purity of the sound. The boom often has a swivel or detachable mount, which allows you to remove the microphone from the face until it is needed (by lifting the boom vertically along the headband).
— Retractable on the bow. Headband microphone (see above) with a retractable design: the headband can be pulled out of the cup when needed and can be tucked back inside when not in use. These headphones are more compact and have a neater appearance than models with a headband on a swivel mount: in a hidden position, the microphone takes up almost no space outside. The retractable microphone design is especially popular in gaming models (see “Intended Use”): in single-player games where you do not need to communicate with comrades, the microphone can be folded compactly.
— Removable on the shackle. Headband microphone (see above), which can be completely detached from the headphones if desired. Such a design can be useful, for example, if the “ears” are used both as gaming and as “marching and musical”: in a multiplayer game, the microphone is indispensable, and for listening to music outside the home, it can be removed so as not to carry extra equipment (which besides, you can lose).
— At the receiver. A variant used in wireless headphones with a separate receiver. In terms of design and use, it is similar to the microphone on the cable described above: on the one hand, the headphones themselves can be very light and tiny, on the other hand, the microphone may not be located close enough to the face, and when talking it will have to be brought closer.
— In the mount. In this case, most often means a microphone mounted on a neck mount (see below). This option is found mainly among wireless headphones, which have a signal receiver in the same mount. Such a microphone is located close to the neck, which allows you to achieve good speech intelligibility and at the same time cut off extraneous sounds even without any special additional tricks.
— On the cable and in the case. Headphones equipped with two microphones — one in the case, the other on the cable. The features of these variants are described in detail above. Here we note that their combination is extremely rare, mainly among high-quality "ears" with a combined connection (see "Type of connection"). In such models, when working via a wireless channel, a microphone in the case is used, and when connecting a wire, a microphone on a cable is used, which is less susceptible to interference.
— On cable and removable. Another kind of headphones with two microphones, also quite rare. One microphone in such models is mounted on a cable, the second — on a detachable bow. See above for more on each of these options, and combining them allows you to tailor the headphones to the specific situation. For example, the bow is very convenient for voice communication at home or office computers, but on the street and in transport it is better to remove it and use the microphone on the cable.
— In the case and removable. A rather rare and non-standard option is the combination of a microphone in the case and a microphone on a detachable bow. See above for more details on each of these varieties, and their combination is used quite rarely — in separate premium gaming models with a combined connection. The main point in this case is that it is more convenient to use a removable microphone in one place, with a wired connection, and in the “mobile” wireless mode it is better to remove it and get by with the built-in microphone. However, such features are fundamental mainly for the most demanding users, so this option has not gained distribution.
— Wired. Headphones connected to the signal source with a cable. Such a connection is highly reliable and noise immunity, gives a minimum of distortion; the headphones themselves turn out to be simple, relatively inexpensive, light, moreover, they do not require their own power supply and have an unlimited operating time. The main disadvantage of this option is the presence of a wire, which limits the range and can create various inconveniences.
— Wireless. Headphones using a Bluetooth, radio, or infrared connection. The most obvious advantage of such models is the absence of a wire, which makes them very convenient to use; and the range is usually at least a few metres. On the other hand, wireless models are noticeably more expensive than wired counterparts, they have a limited operating time and require periodic recharging, and it is more difficult to achieve high sound quality in such devices (there are special technologies like aptX, but they increase the cost even more). In addition, traditional wireless headphones are also heavier and bulkier than wired ones; these shortcomings are devoid of true wireless models, but they have their own nuances.
— Combined. Headphones that allow both of the above connection options. T...he most popular type of such "ears" are wireless models with a detachable cable(see the relevant paragraph); another option is wired headphones with a standard plug, equipped with an adapter for wireless connection. Anyway, having such a model, the user can choose the connection method at his discretion: for example, you can listen to music from a computer via a wire, and when you leave the house, connect your “ears” to your smartphone via Bluetooth. At the same time, the combined devices are not afraid of a dead battery: you can simply switch the “ears” to the cable and continue to use them. The main disadvantage of this type of headphones is the rather high cost.
The specific connection interface provided in the headphones. At the same time, some models may provide several options at once - these are either combined devices (see "Type of connection"), or wired headphones equipped with additional adapters or replaceable cables, or wireless devices connected via a radio channel or infrared port (in the latter case the characteristics additionally specify the method of connecting the complete adapter).
- micro-Jack (2.5 mm). A wired connector similar to the popular 3.5mm mini-Jack (see below), but smaller. Equipment with such a connection is rare - mostly these are miniature devices, where there is simply no room for a 3.5 mm jack. Accordingly, this interface has not received distribution among headphones either: it is almost never found in its pure form, models with such a plug are usually supplemented with an adapter or cable for mini-Jack.
- mini-Jack(3.5 mm). Perhaps the most popular modern type of audio connector; if a device has a headphone output, it is most likely a 3.5 mm jack. Accordingly, most headphones with a wired connection use this type of connector. It is worth noting that headphones with a microphone designed for such a connection are equipped with a special plug for a combined headphone + microphone audio jack (such connectors are popular in portable gadgets and laptops). But with a socket designed only for “ears” without a microphone, such a plug may not work cor...rectly. An alternative would be headphones equipped with two separate mini-jack plugs; see below for more details on this option.
- mini-Jack (2 x 3.5 mm). Models with two 3.5 mm mini-jack plugs. This option is guaranteed to mean that we are not talking about classic headphones, but about a headset with a microphone: one plug is used for headphones, the second for a microphone. Such models are convenient when used with equipment that has separate 3.5 mm jacks for “ears” and a microphone - for example, for a PC.
- Pentaconn (4.4 mm). It is a 5-pin balanced output. Pentaconn uses a larger than the mini-Jack plug, its size is 4.4 mm, it is stronger and more reliable than the 3.5 mm connection. The Pentaconn's balanced connection makes it possible to handle higher power audio signals. Thanks to this connection, it is possible to transmit a signal over a fairly long distance. Accordingly, such a connector is relevant for headphones of the highest category.
- Jack (6.35 mm). The largest type of Jack type audio connector found in modern technology. Outputs of this type are found mainly in stationary audio equipment - they are too bulky for portable devices, it is easier to use a 3.5 mm mini-jack there. At the same time, a 6.35 mm jack is considered to be a more suitable interface for professional and audiophile-class equipment: it provides a more reliable connection, greater contact density and, accordingly, less likelihood of interference. Therefore, although relatively few headphones are equipped with their own Jack type connector (mostly premium solutions), many models with a 3.5 mm mini-Jack plug are equipped with a 6.35 mm adapter.
— XLR. A characteristic round connector with a lock-lock and 3 contacts (there are other options in quantity). As a rule, it is used to transmit an analog signal through a balanced connection. This connection provides high resistance to interference, typical for professional applications; at the same time, the plug itself has rather large dimensions. In view of all this, the presence of XLR is relevant mainly for headphones designed for use with advanced stationary equipment.
— Bluetooth. The most popular wireless connection option in today's headphones. This is due to the fact that built-in Bluetooth modules are available in almost any modern smartphone, tablet or laptop, and appropriate adapters can be produced for devices without this module (for example, a PC). True, the sound quality with a traditional Bluetooth connection is relatively low, but special technologies such as aptX and aptxHD are increasingly being used to remedy the situation (see "Codec Support").
It is also worth noting that Bluetooth modules can correspond to different versions (the latest for 2022 is Bluetooth 5.0, Bluetooth 5.1, Bluetooth 5.2 and Bluetooth 5.3) this moment does not affect the sound quality, however, it determines a number of additional nuances - the range and reliability of communication, the ability to work through walls and other obstacles, resistance to interference, etc. In modern "ears" you can find the following versions of Bluetooth:
- IR channel. Another method of wireless connection, a feature of which is that it does not use radio waves, but infrared radiation. Theoretically, the advantage of such a connection is resistance to electromagnetic interference, the disadvantage is that it only works in the line of sight. In practice, the situation is such that in most cases it is easier to use Bluetooth or a radio channel for a wireless connection. So this option is found only in specialized devices for equipment equipped with its own IR outputs - in particular, among headphones for car monitors.
— USB A. Wired connection to a standard (full dimensions) USB connector. This option is found exclusively among headphones designed for computers / laptops or gaming consoles. One of its advantages is that sound via USB is transmitted digitally and is processed not by the computer's audio card, but by the built-in headphone converter; such a converter often provides better sound quality than the said audio card. In addition, multi-channel audio can be transmitted via a USB connection - this point will be especially appreciated by gamers. Another advantage is that when using USB-headphones, specialized audio outputs remain free, and you can connect other equipment to them - for example, computer speakers or a vibrocap.
— USB C. A relatively new type of USB connector, used in both desktop computers and portable devices - as the heir to microUSB. It does not differ much in dimensions, but it has a more advanced design - in particular, it is made double-sided, which makes it easier to connect. Most often complemented by other connection options (they can be both wired and wireless).
— Lightning. A universal connector used in Apple portable equipment - iPhone smartphones and iPad tablets - since 2012. Not used by other manufacturers. Accordingly, models with such an interface are designed specifically for "apple" technology (primarily iPhone and iPod touch players). This type of connection is especially relevant given the fact that in the latest iPhones, the manufacturer has completely abandoned a separate audio output, and the only way to connect headphones is the Lightning port.
- Corporate outlet. A connection connector that is not related to generally accepted standards and is used to a limited extent in the equipment of one or more manufacturers. Such connectors are found mainly among headphones for mobile phones. However, in connection with the general standardization, this option has practically disappeared from the scene. Theoretically, the proprietary connector is also the Lightning described above, but it is separated into a separate category due to the popularity of Apple technology.
The design of the plug provided in the headphones. This parameter is relevant primarily for models with a mini-Jack interface (see "Connection") — the rest of the plugs are made straight in most cases, exceptions are extremely rare.
— Direct. The traditional, most simple and unpretentious option is plugs that do not have any bends. Usually, they are compatible without restrictions with stationary audio equipment, PCs, laptops, etc. But for smartphones and other portable gadgets, this option is not always optimal — it all depends on how the gadget is located in your pocket or case. In some cases — for example, when carrying a smartphone in a regular pants pocket — such a wire can be strongly bent around the plug, which quickly becomes unusable; in such cases it is worth paying attention to L-shaped or curved plugs (see below).
— L-shaped. Plugs angled at 90° in the shape of the letter L. Designed primarily for use with smartphones and other handheld devices: such devices, when worn, can be positioned in such a way that a bent plug is more convenient than a straight one. However, the L-shaped design may also be the best choice for stationary equipment, where the headphone wire approaches the connector at a right angle — for example, this situation is often found in computers and laptops.
— At an angle of 45°. A variation of the L-shaped plug descri...bed above, bent not at a straight line, but at a smaller angle (not necessarily exactly 45 °). It is also designed primarily for pocket equipment, and with such an application, such plugs are considered even more convenient and reliable than traditional L-shaped ones. But for stationary devices, it hardly makes sense to specifically look for a model with a similar connector (although such an application is technically quite possible).
How to connect the cable to the headphones.
— One- sided. In such models, the wire is connected to only one earphone. This option is more comfortable and less prone to tangling, but the headphones must have a headband or neck mount so that there is somewhere to hide the wire that goes to the second ear.
— Bilateral. In such models, a wire is connected to each “ear” separately (the cable for this is usually “forked” closer to the headphones, and sometimes at the plug itself). This is the only option technically available for headphones without a headband or neckband. At the same time, overhead "ears" with a headband can also be made bilateral — in particular, high-end hi-fi and hi-end models, where such a design is provided in order to reduce the influence of wires on each other.
The length of the cable supplied with the headphones with the appropriate connectivity.
The optimal cable length depends on the planned format of the "ears". So, for pocket gadgets, 1 metre or less is often enough, for a computer it is already desirable to have a wire for 1 – 2 m, and preferably 2 – 3 m. And models with a longer cable length — 3 – 5 m or even more — are mainly designed for specific tasks, such as connecting to a TV or using in recording studios.
Recall that in some models the cable is removable (see below) and can be replaced if necessary with a longer or shorter one. Also note that there are extension cables that allow you to increase the length of the main wire; such a cable may even be included in the delivery, this point (and the length of the additional cable) is usually specified in the notes.
Radius of action
Range of wireless-capable headphones (see "Connection type").
When evaluating the range, it should be taken into account that this parameter is rather conditional and the actual range may differ slightly from the claimed one (usually in a smaller direction). So, when connecting via a radio channel, the range is indicated for perfect conditions — without interference and obstacles in the signal path. For Bluetooth models, the range also depends on the power of the Bluetooth module in the device to which the “ears” are connected. And the effectiveness of the IR channel may be reduced in hot weather or in bright sunlight. So when choosing according to this indicator, it's ok to take a certain margin.
On the other hand, there are two points worth noting. Firstly, in general, the specified range accurately describes the capabilities of the headphones, and it is quite possible to evaluate and compare different models with each other. Secondly, even in the most modest wireless “ears”, the communication range is about 8–10 m, 11–20 m is considered an average, and a fairly large number of devices can operate at distances of tens and even hundreds of metres. So paying attention to the range makes sense mainly in cases where you plan to move away from the signal source at a considerable distance — from 5 m or more — or listen to sound through walls.
The type of cable provided in the design or package of the headphones. Note that this parameter is relevant both for wired or combined models (see "Type of connection"), and for some wireless models — in particular, earbuds and in-ear headphones without fastening, where the wire connects one earphone to another.
— Round. The classic round wire is straight (not twisted), without braid and other additional devices. It is inexpensive and in most cases quite practical, which is why it is found in most modern headphones. The disadvantage is that with a small thickness, the round wire tends to tangle; therefore, this option is considered not very convenient for compact headphones, such as in-ear or in-ear headphones (see "Design"), which often have to be carried in a pocket or bag.
— Flat. The main advantage of a flat cable is that it is not as tangled as a round one, and in which case it is much easier to unravel. This is especially important for earbuds and in-ear headphones, which are often rolled up for storage or transport. However, larger overhead models can also be equipped with a flat wire.
— Drawstring around the neck. A wire adapted in one way or another to be worn around the neck — for example, having the form of a loop from which two separate headphones depart. The main advantage of this design is the convenience for constant wear: if neces...sary, you can remove the headphones and leave them hanging on a cord, and then quickly put them back on. It is worth noting here that this option is found mainly among liners and in-ear models, for which the mentioned advantage is especially relevant.
— Round, braided. Round wire, supplemented with an outer braid — usually fabric. See above for more details on round wire. And the presence of a braid gives such a cable a number of advantages over the classic, in "bare" insulation. So, the wire turns out to be more durable, reliable and resistant to bending and pressures, less confused, has a solid appearance, and in some models the braid also provides shielding from external interference. The reverse side of these advantages is the increased price.
— Round, twisted. Round cable coiled like a spring. The main advantages of such a wire are that, firstly, it practically does not tangle, and secondly, it can noticeably stretch relative to its original length. The latter is very convenient if, in the course of using the "ears", you have to change the distance to the signal source. The disadvantages of twisted cable are bulkiness and relatively high cost. Therefore, it is mainly used in headphones of the middle and top levels, including in professional models.
— Round, braided. Cable in the form of two wires twisted into a spiral. Do not confuse this option with a twisted wire — in this case we are not talking about a spring. Such a cable is notable primarily for its unusual appearance; for greater originality, the wiring can be made multi-colored. It is also somewhat more tangle-resistant than the classic round, although much depends on the thickness here. At the same time, individual wires can be noticeably thinner than a solid round wire, which somewhat reduces reliability.
— Zipper. Reversible wire (see "Cable entry"), in which the individual wires are hidden inside the halves of the zipper. The fastener does not cover the entire length of the cable, but usually takes up half, or even more. The headphones themselves with a similar wire most often belong to miniature varieties — in-ear or in-ear. Such models are very convenient in “packing” and “unpacking” for storage and carrying: by zipping up, you can connect two wires into one, and when you need the headphones again, unzip them by separating them. At the same time, the fastened zipper is very resistant to tangling. Yes, and this accessory looks quite unusual.
— In the form of a lace. A wire that looks like a lace — like those used in shoes or clothing. Do not confuse such a cable with a cord around your neck (see above) — in this case, we mean not the way the wire is worn, but a specific type of braid. Such a wire is comparable in width to a flat wire, due to which it resists tangling well. However, the main advantage of this option is still the original appearance: “laces” are often made in bright colours, can be painted in several colours, complemented by a pattern, etc.
Headphones in which the cable is mounted on a detachable mount and can be detached. A standard 3.5 mm mini-Jack usually acts as a mount, sometimes a USB connector, and the wire itself may not even be included in the package.
This feature is popular primarily among combined models, see "Type of connection": when working in wireless mode, the cable can be disconnected so that it does not hang out in vain. But for purely wired headphones, the main convenience is that, if desired, the “native” wire can be replaced with another one that differs in length, type (see above), connection connector, etc. If desired, you can even keep several detachable cables with different characteristics and change them as needed. In addition, if the detachable wire is damaged, you do not need to buy new headphones or go to the workshop — just buy a new cable.
Among the disadvantages of this option, one can note the risk of losing the wire, as well as a slightly increased likelihood of distortion due to the presence of additional connectors.
The audio format supported by the headphones.
— Stereo. Two-channel sound that allows you to create a surround sound effect to a certain extent (due to the difference in the right and left channels). The design of the headphones (two speakers, one for each ear) was originally “sharpened” specifically for stereo, so the vast majority of models support this particular sound format.
— Mono. Single-channel sound that does not create a surround effect. This marking means that this model is equipped with one earpiece ; At the same time, there are two types of such devices on the market. The first is headphones that initially have only one cup and are designed for situations where the second ear needs to be left open (for example, to work on the phone in the office). The second is true wireless devices (see Cable Type), sold singly to replace a lost earphone from the original pair.
— 5.1. Originally, 5.1 was designed to create surround sound that can come from any direction ("surround"). It assumes the presence of 5 main channels (centre, front left / right, rear left / right) and one bass. In headphones, the effect of this sound is achieved through the use of several speakers in each cup. Such models are very convenient when watching movies with multi-channel sound, as well as in games — they provide a powerful immersive effect. On the other hand, such headphones are not cheap, and besides, they require a specific conn...ection method (for example, via USB).
— 5.1 (virtual). Models with support for 5.1 surround sound (see above), in which the surround effect is achieved not due to the number of speakers, but due to special sound processing technologies. This somewhat reduces the accuracy compared to the "non-virtual" multi-channel, but it can significantly reduce the cost and weight of the headphones. However, there can also be several speakers in such models — for example, for separation by frequency.
— 7.1. The 7.1 format is the multi-channel 5.1 described above, supplemented by two more main channels. The localization of these channels depends on the specific variety of 7.1, but anyway they enhance the effect of volume. On the other hand, full support for this format significantly affects the dimensions, weight and price of the headphones, and content with 7.1 sound is produced much less than 5.1.
— 7.1 (virtual). A “virtual” version of the 7.1 format described above, in which the effect of surround sound is provided primarily through special signal processing, and not due to the presence of separate emitters for each channel. Similar to virtual 5.1, this format of operation somewhat reduces the reliability of the sound, but this difference is often imperceptible, and the headphones themselves turn out to be simpler and more inexpensive. Therefore, most modern 7.1 models support the virtual format of this sound.
— 9.1 (virtual). Further development of the idea of multi-channel sound: 5 channels, as in 5.1 (see above), supplemented by 4 more channels for more accurate localization of audible sound. As in other virtual formats, volume in this case is provided by special processing algorithms.
It is worth remembering that the actual sound will depend not only on the headphones, but also on the signal source: for example, a mono recording even in 9.1 “ears” will not become voluminous.
Impedance refers to the headphone's nominal resistance to AC current, such as an audio signal.
Other things being equal, a higher impedance reduces distortion, but requires a more powerful amplifier — otherwise the headphones simply will not be able to produce sufficient volume. Thus, the choice of resistance depends primarily on which signal source you plan to connect the "ears". So, for a portable gadget (smartphone, pocket player), an indicator of 16 ohms or less is considered optimal, 17 – 32 ohms is not bad. Higher values — 33 – 64 ohms and 65 – 96 ohms — will require quite powerful amplifiers, like those used in computers and televisions. And models with a resistance of 96 – 250 ohms and above are designed mainly for Hi-End audio equipment and professional use; for such cases, detailed recommendations for selection can be found in special sources.
The range of audio frequencies that headphones can reproduce.
The wider this range — the more fully the headphones reproduce the spectrum of sound frequencies, the lower the likelihood that too low or too high frequencies will be inaccessible. However, some nuances should be taken into account here. First of all, we recall that the range of perception of the human ear is on average from 16 Hz to 22 kHz, and for the full picture it is enough that the headphones cover this range. However, modern models can noticeably go beyond these limits: in many devices, the lower threshold does not exceed 15 Hz, or even 10 Hz, and the upper limit can reach 25 kHz, 30 kHz, and even more. Such extensive ranges in themselves do not provide practical advantages, but they usually indicate a high class of headphones, and sometimes they are only given for promotional purposes.
The second important point is that an extensive frequency range in itself is not a guarantee of good sound: the sound quality also depends on a number of parameters, primarily the frequency response of the headphones.
Rated headphone sensitivity. Technically, this is the volume at which they sound when a certain standard signal from the amplifier is connected to them. Thus, sensitivity is one of the parameters that determine the overall volume of the headphones: the higher it is, the louder the sound will be with the same input signal level and other things being equal. However, we must not forget that the volume level also depends on the resistance (impedance, see above); moreover, it is worth choosing “ears” for a specific device first by impedance, and only then by sensitivity. In this case, one parameter can be compensated for by another: for example, a model with high resistance and high sensitivity can work even on a relatively weak amplifier.
As for specific figures, headphones with indicators of 100 dB or less are designed mainly for use in a quiet environment (in some similar models, the sensitivity does not exceed 90 dB). For use on the street, in transport and other similar conditions, it is desirable to have more sensitive headphones — about 101 – 105 dB, or even 110 dB. And in some models, this figure can reach 116 – 120 dB. and even more.
It is also worth noting that this parameter is relevant only for a wired connection according to the analogue standard — for example, via a 3.5 mm mini-jack.... When using digital interfaces like USB and wireless channels like Bluetooth, the sound is processed in the built-in headphone converter, and if you plan to mainly use this kind of application, you can not pay much attention to sensitivity.
The diameter of the speaker installed in the headphones; models with multiple drivers (see "Number of drivers"), usually, the size of the largest speaker is taken into account, other dimensions can be specified in the notes.
In general, this parameter is relevant primarily for over-ear headphones (see "Design"). In them, emitters can have different sizes; the larger it is, the more saturated the sound is and the better the speaker reproduces the bass, however, large emitters have a corresponding effect on the dimensions, weight and price of the headphones. But in-ear "ears" and earbuds, by definition, have very small speakers, and rich bass in them is achieved due to other design features.
The type of sound emitters installed in the headphones. The type determines the principle of operation of emitters and some features of their design.
— Dynamic. The simplest type of emitters operating on the principle of an electromagnet. Due to the combination of low cost with quite decent performance, it is also the most common, especially among entry-level and mid-range headphones. Such an emitter consists of a magnet, a coil placed in its field, and a membrane attached to the coil. When an alternating current (signal) enters the coil, it begins to vibrate, transmitting vibrations to the membrane and creating sound. From an acoustic point of view, the main advantages of dynamic radiators are a wide frequency range and good volume, the disadvantage is a relatively high probability of distortion, especially with a worn membrane.
— Reinforcing. A peculiar modification of dynamic emitters (see the relevant paragraph), used mainly in high-end in-ear headphones. The basis of the design of such a radiator is a U-shaped metal plate. One of its ends is fixed motionless, the second, movable, is located between the poles of a permanent magnet, and a coil is wound around it (closer to the crossbar), through which the signal current passes. Vibrating under the action of this current, the movable part of the plate transmits vibrations to a rigid membrane, with which it is connected by a thin needle....This technology allows you to achieve good volume and low distortion with a very small size of the earpiece itself. The disadvantages of reinforcing radiators, in addition to high cost, are uneven frequency response and a relatively narrow frequency range. However, in expensive headphones of this type, several emitters can be provided at once, including on a hybrid basis (see relevant paragraph).
— Hybrid. Hybrid devices are usually called devices that combine dynamic and reinforcing emitters. See above for more details on these varieties; and their combination is used to combine advantages and compensate for disadvantages. Usually, in such headphones there is only one dynamic emitter, it is responsible for low frequencies, and there can be several reinforcing ones, they share the midrange and high frequencies. This allows you to achieve a more uniform frequency response than in purely armature models, but it significantly affects the price.
— Planar. The design of emitters of this type includes two powerful permanent magnets, between which there is a thin film membrane. The shape of the headphones themselves can be either round (orthodynamic emitters) or rectangular (isodynamic). According to the principle of operation, such systems are similar to dynamic ones, with the adjustment for the fact that there is no coil in the design — its role is played by the membrane itself with applied conductive tracks, to which the audio signal is fed. Due to this, distortions associated with the uneven oscillations of the membrane are practically absent; in addition, the sound as a whole is clear and reliable, and the frequency response is uniform. The main disadvantages of planar magnetic headphones are high cost, increased requirements for signal quality, and rather large dimensions. In addition, they are somewhat inferior to dynamic ones in terms of volume and overall frequency range.
— Electrostatic. Like planar-magnetic (see the relevant paragraph), such emitters are designed according to the "sandwich" principle. However, the membrane in them is located not between the magnets, but between the metal grids, and is made of a very thin metallized film. An audio signal is connected to such a system in a special way, and the membrane begins to oscillate due to attraction and repulsion from the grids, creating sound. Electrostatic drivers achieve very high sound quality, low distortion, and high fidelity, but they are bulky, complex, and expensive to use. And it's not just the high cost of the headphones themselves — their operation requires additional matching amplifiers with a voltage range of hundreds or even thousands of volts, and such devices cost a lot, and have the appropriate dimensions.
Number of emitters
The number of emitters installed in each individual earphone. Specified only for models with more than one emitter.
The meaning of this feature depends on the type of emitters (see above). So, in hybrid models, by definition, there are several — the frequency range is distributed between them, which has a positive effect on the frequency response. For the same purpose, several reinforcing radiators can be used. And with the traditional dynamic principle of operation, due to several emitters, the effect of surround sound can also be provided (see "Sound").
Anyway, "ears" with numerous emitters, other things being equal, will be more advanced, but also more expensive.
Coef. harmonic distortion
The coefficient of harmonic distortion produced by this model of headphones.
This parameter determines the amount of non-linear distortion introduced by the headphones into the reproduced sound. The lower it is, the less such distortions, the cleaner and closer to the original sound is. So, an indicator of 1% or more can be considered tolerable at best, from 0.5% to 1% — good, less than 0.5% — excellent (such indicators are acceptable even for monitor headphones), and less than 0.1% — almost perfect.
Note that a low harmonic coefficient in itself does not guarantee high-quality sound — a lot depends on other features of the headphones, primarily the frequency response.
The range of audio frequencies that the headphone's own microphone can normally "hear".
Theoretically, the wider this range, the more advanced and high-quality the microphone is, the closer the sound transmitted by it is to the real one. In fact, extensive frequency coverage is not always required. So, the working range of the human ear is about 16 – 22,000 Hz, and even then not everyone hears its upper part. And human speech usually covers frequencies from 500 Hz to 2 kHz, at least this range is considered quite sufficient for its transmission. So if you need a microphone for simple tasks like voice communication on the Internet or game chat, you can not pay much attention to the frequency range: even in the most modest models, it is more than sufficient for normal speech transmission.
The sensitivity of the headphone's own microphone.
The more sensitive the microphone, the higher the signal level from it, at the same sound volume, and the better this model is suitable for capturing quiet sounds. Conversely, low sensitivity filters out background noise. At the same time, we note that these nuances are important mainly in professional work with sound. And for simple tasks like voice communication over the phone or via the Internet, sensitivity does not really matter: in headphones of this specialization, it is selected in such a way as to ensure that the microphone is guaranteed to work.
Noise canceling microphone
The presence of a noise reduction system in its own headphone microphone.
In accordance with the name, such a system is designed to eliminate extraneous noise - primarily during conversations. It is usually based on an electronic filter that allows the sound of a human voice to pass through, but cuts off background sounds such as city noise, the rumble of wind in the microphone grille, etc. As a result, even in noisy environments, thanks to the noise reduction of the microphone, speech is clear and intelligible; True, the system inevitably introduces distortions into the final sound, but they are not critical in this case.
Mute the microphone
The ability to turn off your own headphone microphone using a special button or switch.
This feature is relevant mainly for phone calls, Skype, etc. It is useful in situations where you need to distract from the main conversation and say something that the interlocutor does not need to hear. Disconnecting the microphone is easier and more reliable than covering it with your hand or disconnecting the headphones entirely.
Note that the ability to turn off the microphone may be provided in the communication program itself (the same Skype, for example). However, again, using the switch on the headphones is more convenient.
This feature usually means that the microphone is attached to the headphones using a special flexible arm. The flexible design gives additional possibilities for moving the microphone relative to the user's mouth and makes it easier to choose the optimal position that provides the best sound quality.
Bone Conduction Sensor
A sensor in the design of in-ear headphones that allows you to naturally distinguish your own voice from the background sound. The sensor picks up the vibration of the user's voice and does not respond to external sounds, providing a clear voice transmission during voice calls.
The headphones have their own volume control. Such a regulator can be placed both on the wire and on one of the cups (the latter is typical for wireless models). Anyway, this function allows you to easily adjust the volume: for this you do not need to go into the computer settings, press the buttons on the player or smartphone, etc., just use the control at hand. On the other hand, additional equipment complicates and increases the cost of the design, and also increases the likelihood of distortion. In light of the latter, volume control is almost never found in professional headphones.
Bass boost function for powerful and rich bass. Often implemented as a single button, with which you can actually "turn the bass on and off." This is more convenient than adjusting the low frequencies using the equalizer; in addition, various special technologies can be used to enhance the bass.
A function that allows you to automatically pause the playback track when you remove the headphones (or one headphone).
Autopause is found mainly in wireless models (see "Connection Type") true wireless format (see "Cable Type"); however, there are other types of headphones with this function — for example, with a combined connection and an overhead design. Anyway, the proximity sensor is usually responsible for the auto-pause operation, which is triggered when the earpiece moves away from the ear. This feature is especially useful in situations where, after removing the headphones, there is no time to manually pause playback — for example, you need to urgently respond to what is happening nearby. At the same time, some models are able to automatically resume playback when the earpiece is returned to its place, however, this function is not strictly required — it will not hurt to clarify its presence separately.
The presence of a built-in power amplifier in the headphones.
The main idea of this function is to remove some of the load from the amplifier used in the signal source. This helps to reduce distortion and improve sound quality. In addition, the headphone amplifier may provide additional tools for adjusting the sound — for example, an equalizer with a set of presets. On the other hand, these headphones are expensive, and the amplifier requires a power source (although many models can work without power — in the format of ordinary headphones). In addition, the described advantages are relevant mainly for high-end equipment, and even there they are not required so often. Therefore, there are relatively few headphones with a built-in amplifier, and almost all of them belong to the premium class.
The presence of a vibration system in the design of the headphones.
The meaning and purpose of this function depends on the design and specialization of the "ears". One of the most common types of vibration headphones are gaming models (see "Intended use"), made in a full-size Over Ear format (see "Design"). Vibration motors installed in each cup of these headphones are triggered by certain game events (explosions, shots, etc.) — due to this, sound fidelity is improved and an enhanced immersion effect is provided. Another type of vibration headphones are wireless neck-mounted models (see "Design"), usually in-ear (see ibid.). In them, the vibration motor is installed in the mount and is used for additional notifications — for example, alerts about an incoming call or SMS.
External Sound Card
An external sound card is included with the headphones.
An external sound card is usually a kind of adapter connected to the USB port of a computer or laptop and equipped with standard audio outputs (usually of the 3.5 mm mini-Jack type). In fact, this is an external digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), created specifically for a specific model of headphones. This feature is found mainly in two types of headphones — gaming and office (see "Purpose"). In the first case, the purpose of an external DAC is, first of all, to provide high-quality sound with the maximum immersive effect (a PC / laptop's own audio card is far from always able to cope with this task). In addition, a separate sound card can come in handy if your computer's own audio outputs are busy or not available at all. As for office models, they use external converters mainly to simplify work with special software or equipment for telephony. Note that in both cases, external sound cards often also perform the functions of remote controls — for this they are equipped with keys or other controls (sensors, wheels, etc.).
A system that reduces the influence of ambient noise on the audibility of sound through headphones. "Noise reduction" with the help of a separate microphone (or several micro) "listens" to external sounds and sends the same sounds to the headphones, but in antiphase. Due to this, the noise heard by the ears is attenuated almost to zero and the user can enjoy the sound of the headphones without interference even in a rather “loud” environment. For filtering in headphones, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Environment Noise Cancellation (ENC) systems are used. The first suppresses all the noise around the listener, the second - reduces the noise level of the environment. Active noise cancellation affects the purity of the sound, but the noise from the outside spoils the picture when listening to audio tracks even more.
A feature that allows the user to hear the sounds of the surrounding world without removing the headphones.
This possibility is relevant mainly for models with a high degree of sound insulation; so the transparent mode can be found mainly among in-ear models, as well as overhead "ears" of the Over Ear format in a closed acoustic design. A special microphone is responsible for the operation of the function, which “listens” to the surrounding sounds and broadcasts them to the headphones. In Talk Through mode, you can, for example, listen to the interlocutor or control the environment on a busy street. And some headphones with this feature also have more advanced functions, including automatic adjustment to the situation: such models turn on on their own to transmit speech, “hearing” the loud voice of a person nearby. Individual headphones react to loud street noises in the transparent Ambient Aware mode — it means broadcasting noises through the speaker that can be potential danger signals (screams, car signals, etc.).
Note that most models with Talk through also have an active noise reduction function (see above), and the “transparent mode” in them is one of the noise reduction modes. However, exceptions to this rule are possible — technically transparent mode does not have to be combined with noise reduction.
A technology used in Bluetooth models (see "Connection") that allows the headphones to connect to multiple devices at the same time. Thanks to this, you can, for example, listen to music from a laptop, and when a call comes in on a mobile phone, switch the headphones to a conversation. This technology has its own characteristics for different manufacturers, and therefore, if the multipoint function is critical for you, you should separately clarify the details of its operation in the selected model.
NFC is a short-range wireless communication technology (up to 10 cm). One of the most popular ways to use this feature on your headphones is to automatically connect via Bluetooth (see "Connecting"). When these Bluetooth “ears” are brought near an NFC-compatible signal source (for example, a smartphone), the devices automatically recognize each other, configure the connection settings, and the user only has to confirm the connection. In addition, other options for using this technology may be provided — for example, automatic playback start when you bring headphones to the player.
Codecs and additional audio processing technologies supported by Bluetooth connected headphones (see "Connection"). Initially, Bluetooth audio transmission involves a fairly strong signal compression; this is not critical when transmitting speech, but it can greatly spoil the impression when listening to music. To eliminate this shortcoming, various technologies are used, in particular aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, aptX Adaptive, AAC and LDAC. Of course, in order to use any of the technologies, it must be supported not only by the “ears”, but also by the Bluetooth device with which they are used. Here are the main features of each option:
— aptX. A Bluetooth codec designed to greatly improve the quality of Bluetooth audio. According to the creators, it allows you to achieve quality comparable to Audio CD (16-bit/44.1kHz). The benefits of aptX are most noticeable when listening to high-quality content (such as lossless formats), but even on regular MP3 it can provide a noticeable improvement in sound.
aptX HD. Development and improvement of the original aptX, allowing to achieve sound purity comparable to Hi-Res (24-bit/48kHz) audio. As with the original, aptX HD's advantages are seen mainly in high-quality audio, although this codec will be useful for M...P3s as well.
aptX Low Latency. A specific variation of the aptX described above, designed not so much to improve sound quality, but to reduce delays in signal transmission. Such delays inevitably occur when working via Bluetooth; they are not critical for listening to music, however, when watching videos or playing games, there may be a noticeable out of sync between the image and sound. The aptX LL codec eliminates this phenomenon by reducing latency to 32ms, a difference that is imperceptible to human perception (although it is still too high for serious tasks like studio work with sound). aptX LL support is found mainly in gaming headphones.
aptX Adaptive. Further development of aptX; actually combines the capabilities of aptX HD and aptX Low Latency, but is not limited to this. One of the main features of this standard is the so-called adaptive bitrate: the codec automatically adjusts the actual data transfer rate based on the characteristics of the broadcast content (music, game audio, voice communication, etc.) and the load on the frequencies used. This, in particular, helps to reduce power consumption and improve communication reliability; and special algorithms allow you to broadcast sound comparable in quality to aptX HD (24 bit / 48 kHz), using many times less amount of transmitted data. And the minimum data transfer delay (at the level of aptX LL) makes this codec perfect, including for games and movies.
— AAC. Bluetooth codec, used primarily in Apple portable gadgets. In terms of capabilities, it is noticeably inferior to more advanced standards like aptX or LDAC: the sound quality when using AAC is comparable to an average MP3 file. However, this is quite enough for listening to the same MP3s, the difference becomes noticeable only on more advanced formats. And AAC hardware requirements are low, and its support in headphones is inexpensive.
— LDAC. Sony proprietary Bluetooth codec. In terms of bandwidth and potential sound quality, it surpasses even aptX HD, providing performance at the Hi-Res level of 24-bit / 96kHz sound; there is even an opinion that this is the maximum quality that it makes sense to provide in wireless headphones — further improvement will simply be imperceptible to the human ear. On the other hand, support for this standard is not cheap, and there are still quite a few gadgets with such support — these are, in particular, Sony smartphones, as well as devices of the middle and top class running Android 8.0 Oreo and later.
Having your own player allows you to listen to music on headphones without any additional equipment. To store audio files in such models, a built-in drive and/or card reader is usually used (see below for both); Also, the design necessarily provides for a remote control for playback control.
The general convenience of this function is obvious. Of the specific points, we note that such headphones work from their own battery, and when used “on the go”, they do not waste the charge from a smartphone or other portable gadget. On the other hand, due to the same battery and additional electronics, the “ears” turn out quite expensive, and the functionality of the player is usually limited to the most basic functions and suits far from everyone. So this option is relatively rare.
The amount of built-in memory installed in the headphones.
This feature is found only in models equipped with a built-in player (see above) and capable of playing music completely independently, without connecting to external devices. However, the matter may not be limited to this, there are "ears" with more extensive functions — for example, with the ability to record data from fitness sensors. Anyway, the larger the amount of memory, the more data can be stored in it (for comparison: MP3 compositions rarely “weigh” more than 15 MB, but lossless files have a volume 4-5 times larger). At the same time, this parameter significantly affects the cost, and the built-in drives themselves are more expensive than memory cards in terms of a gigabyte of volume. Therefore, such drives are less common than the alternative — card readers (see below).
The presence of a card reader in the headphones — a device for reading removable memory cards, usually microSD format.
Like built-in memory (see above), such cards are used to store various information — most often music files (accordingly, most models with card readers also have a built-in player and can play music without connecting to external devices at all). In this case, a memory card can be either an addition to the built-in drive, or the only supported media type. The second option is much more common: "removable" memory in terms of gigabytes of volume is much cheaper than the built-in one. In addition, if one card is not enough, the music can be kept on several, "recharging" the card reader as needed.
Note that even cards of the same type are usually produced in different standards — for example, in addition to the "regular" microSD, more capacious and advanced microSDHC, and more recently microSDXC have gained popularity. These formats are not 100% compatible, so before using a card reader, be sure to check which card types it supports.
A built-in tuner that allows you to receive FM radio broadcasts using headphones — it is in this range that most modern music stations broadcast (because it allows you to broadcast sound in stereo). In other words, "ears" with this function allow you to listen to the radio without the use of additional equipment — except that you may need to connect a wire, which in this case plays the role of an antenna.
Headphones with voice assistant support the user interaction with the device to a new level. The call of the assistant. is carried out by pressing one of the control buttons on the headphones or by a specific voice command (for example, «Ok, Google» for the Google Assistant virtual apprentice). The assistant pauses playback, instantly changes the volume of the music, can notify the user of new alerts, helps to answer messages without the help of hands, and commands are given to the paired smartphone via voice control from the headphones.
This feature means that the controls in the headphones are not traditional buttons that you need to press, but sensors that are triggered by touch.
Touch control is somewhat more expensive than push-button control, but it has a number of advantages over it. Firstly, it gives the headphones a neat and technological appearance, with a minimum of protruding parts. Secondly, due to the absence of moving parts, the sensors are more reliable and compact. Thirdly, it is purely physically more convenient to use them, especially with the small size of the headphones. These moments are especially relevant for the "ears" of the true wireless format (see "Type of cable"), so it is in them that touch control is most often found. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Also note that the difference in price between buttons and sensors is often almost imperceptible compared to the cost of headphones in general.
The presence of an information display in the case for charging TWS headphones. This solution allows you to visually determine the level of charge of the gadget — the headphones themselves or the case (depending on the capabilities of each model). However, in many cases, the additional screen increases the size of the case.
The main material used for the headphone housing.
Most modern headphones are made of plastic: it is inexpensive and at the same time practical, easy to process and well suited even for complex shapes. For such models, the case material is not indicated at all. However, there are more specific options, they can be as follows:
— Metal. The main advantages of metal cases are high reliability and a solid appearance — which also lasts quite a long time due to the resistance of this material to scratches. In addition, metal may also be the best option in terms of acoustics. At the same time, it costs much more than plastic, and therefore it is found mainly among fairly advanced models, including Hi-Fi class.
— Tree. Due to the characteristic colour and texture, the wood gives the headphones a pleasant and stylish appearance. In addition, it is also pleasant to the touch, and for many users, the wooden surface is associated with a “warm” and “soft” sound, which can significantly affect the subjective perception of the sound of headphones. At the same time, in reality, such a case has little effect on the sound quality, and the actual acoustic characteristics of such models may be different. Moreover, wood is rarely used in its pure form, it is usually combined with other materials — in this case, we are talking about plastic, the combination of wood and metal is placed in a separate par...agraph (see below).
— Wood / metal. Usually, in this case, metal cases with wooden inserts are meant. See above for details on the features of these materials. Here we note that this option is considered more advanced than the “ordinary” tree (wood with plastic), however, it costs accordingly.
— Ceramics. Headphones typically use high-quality ceramics that are durable, reliable, and with advanced acoustic characteristics. At the same time, this material is very expensive. Therefore, it is found in single models, mainly in-ear "ears" of the top class — ceramics are not suitable for large cases, because such devices would be too fragile.
Headphones originally designed for children. They differ from the “adult” models primarily in appearance — both in smaller sizes and (in most models) in their characteristic bright design. In addition, children's hearing is more sensitive to loud sound, and too high a volume is highly undesirable for a child (including for psychological reasons). Thus, children's headphones may have the appropriate features — for example, a slightly reduced sensitivity that does not allow the sound to be "rocked" to a high level, or a volume limiter that can only be controlled by an adult.
The presence of its own illumination in the design of the headphones.
This function does not affect the main functionality, but gives the “ears” an unusual appearance. It will come in handy for those who buy headphones not only as an audio device, but also as a stylish accessory — in particular, gamers-enthusiasts, or music lovers who want to emphasize their hobby.
The self-contained power source used by the headphones. In wireless headphones, such power is necessary by definition, in wired headphones it may be needed for certain functions — for example, active noise cancellation or a built-in amplifier.
— Accumulator. Own built-in battery, usually, non-removable. Such power supplies can be made very compact and retain a good capacity, which makes them perfect for miniature headphones (and for overhead headphones, these advantages will be useful). In addition, the battery is initially included in the package. However it cannot be quickly replaced, unlike batteries — you have to charge the "ears", which takes some time; but this disadvantage cannot be called critical, and the above advantages clearly outweigh it. Therefore, this option is the most popular nowadays.
— AAA. Replaceable standard size batteries, known as "pinky" or "mini finger" batteries. They have relatively compact dimensions, but by the standards of headphones they are still quite bulky, which is why they are used mainly in overhead "ears" (see "Design") — one or two of these batteries can be installed directly in the cup. However, there are also more miniature models, for example, in-ear ones — in them additional electronics and batteries are placed in a separate case. The main advantage of such a power supply over rechargeable batteries is the ability to quickly replace dead batteries with fresh ones and continue to use the headphones. At the same t...ime, batteries are usually not included in the kit, and they have to be purchased separately (and either regularly buy disposable batteries, or spend money on rather expensive batteries with a “charger”).
— AA. A popular variety of replaceable batteries, colloquially known as "finger-type" batteries. They differ from the AAA described above in a larger size, which is why they are rarely used in headphones; the rest are completely similar.
Connector for charging
The type of connector used to charge the built-in battery of the headphones, more precisely, to connect an external charger. The role of such a device can be played by a network or car adapter, a power bank, or even a USB port on a PC or laptop (if you have the appropriate cable). At the same time, in true wireless models (they are found with a long leg, a short leg, without a leg and with a behind-the-ear mount), the “charger” wire is connected to a special docking station, where the “ears” are placed during charging (the station itself usually has its own battery and can also work as a standalone power bank). And in wireless and combined solutions of a more traditional design, the charging input is often located on the headphone body itself. As for the connectors, the most common options are:
— microUSB. A smaller version of the USB connector designed for portable devices. It appeared quite a long time ago, but it does not lose popularity nowadays, it is used by the absolute majority of manufacturers.
— USB C. A miniature USB connector, positioned, among other things, as a potential successor to microUSB. Unlike its predecessor, it has a double-sided design, thanks to which the plug can be inserted into the socket in either direction. It is still relativ...ely rare, but the situation is likely to change in the coming years.
— Lightning. Apple proprietary connector. Like USB C, it has a two-way design, while being somewhat more convenient and reliable, but the use of Lightning is limited to products from Apple itself and its Beats brand.
Feature in headphones wireless models of true wireless type (see "Connectivity"). In this case we are talking about charging not the headphones themselves, but a cover (case). Such a cover is equipped with its own battery, from which the "ears" inside are charged — in the usual, contact way; but the case itself can support wireless charging.
The convenience of this feature is obvious: it allows you to do without regularly connecting and disconnecting the cable. Actually, to start charging, it is enough to place the case on a special wireless charger platform. The main disadvantage is that the chargers themselves are not cheap and in the vast majority of cases are not included in the set.
Headphone battery capacity
The capacity of the battery installed in the headphones of the corresponding design (see "Power").
Theoretically, a higher capacity allows to achieve greater battery life, but in fact, the operating time also depends on the power consumption of the headphones — and it can be very different, depending on the characteristics and design features. So this parameter is secondary, and when choosing it is worth paying attention not so much to the battery capacity, but to the directly claimed operating time (see below).
The time of operation of self-powered headphones (see above) on a single battery charge or a set of batteries.
Usually, the characteristics indicate a certain average operating time, for standard conditions; in fact, it will depend on the intensity of use, volume level and other operating parameters, and in models with replaceable batteries, it will also depend on the quality of specific batteries. Nevertheless, according to the claimed time, it is possible to fairly reliably assess the battery life of the selected headphones and compare them with other models. As for specific values, relatively “short-lived” devices have battery life up to 8 hours, an indicator of 8-12 hours can be called quite good, 12-20 hours is very good, and in the most “long-playing” headphones, the operating time can exceed 20 hours.
For TWS models with a charging case, it is precisely the operating time of the headphones from the battery built into them that is indicated — the capacity of the case and its additional charging prolong the possibility of working with the headphones, but only after "refueling". Also note that for models with active noise cancellation (see above), this paragraph usually indicates battery life with noise suppression turned on; the operating time without using this function can be specified separately.
Operating time (without noise reduction)
How long does the active noise canceling headphones (see above) last on a single battery charge (or a set of batteries) when noise canceling is not used.
This function is quite “gluttonous” in terms of battery consumption, up to half of the total energy consumed by the headphones can go to its work. Thus, models with noise reduction can indicate both overall battery life (see "Operating time"), and battery life with the noise reduction turned off.
Working time (with case)
The maximum operating time of TWS headphones, taking into account recharging with a native case. But this time is not continuous use, it takes into account breaks for "refueling". Anyway, this parameter allows you to understand for how long you can leave the network (for example, how many nights to spend in a tent to the accompaniment of your favorite artist).
The time required to fully charge the battery in properly powered headphones (see above).
In this case, we mean the battery charging time from 0 to 100% when using a standard charger (or a third-party charger with identical characteristics). Accordingly, in fact, this indicator may differ from the claimed one, depending on the specifics of the situation. However, in general, it is quite possible to evaluate different models and compare them with each other: headphones with a shorter claimed charging time will in fact charge faster (ceteris paribus).
Also note that an increase in battery capacity (and headphone battery life) inevitably implies an increase in charging time. To compensate for this moment, special fast charging technologies can be used — however, they affect the cost and require the use of specialized charger.
The function reduces the charging time of the headphones compared to the duration of the standard procedure. For this, increased voltage and / or current strength is used, as well as a special "smart" process control. The capabilities and features of fast charging may vary depending on the specific implementation of the technology. Most often, accelerated charging implies the possibility of literally 5-10 minutes. extend the battery life of the headphones in the accompanying charging case by at least one hour of additional playback.
Case battery capacity
The capacity of the battery installed in the case (case) for headphones.
This parameter is relevant only for true wireless models (see "Cable type"). Recall that these headphones are charged from a case, which is usually equipped with its own battery and actually works in standalone power bank mode. Knowing the capacity of the battery in the case and in the headphones, you can estimate how many charges of the “ears” will last for one charge of the case. However, it should be taken into account that in the process of charging the headphones, part of the energy is inevitably spent on third-party losses, and the effective capacity of the case turns out to be somewhere 1.6 times less than the claimed one. This is the starting point for calculations: for example, a 300 mAh case will actually be able to transfer 300 / 1.6 = 187 mAh of energy to the headphones, and 30 mAh “ears” from such a battery can be fully charged about 6 times (187 / 30 ≈ 6).
Power bank function
The Power Bank function allows the charging case to recharge not only the complete headphones, but also gadgets additionally connected via the USB port, acting as a full-fledged Power bank battery.
The total weight of the headphones; for true wireless models (see "Cable Type"), the weight of each individual earbud is listed.
This parameter is directly related to the design (see above) and some features of the functionality. Thus, the mentioned true wireless devices are very light, their weight does not exceed 25 g. More traditional in-ears and in-ears can be noticeably heavier, up to 50g for in-ears and up to 100g for most in-ears. Overhead models, for the most part, are quite massive: among them there are many models weighing 200 – 250 g, 250 – 300 g and even more than 300 g. It should be noted that a significant weight for false ears is often not a disadvantage, but an advantage: it allows them to stay on the head more securely, creates an impression of solidity and reliability, and most often does not create significant inconvenience.
Among the equipment, it is worth highlighting silicone and polyurethane tips, relevant for in-ear headphones, additional fixation nozzles and behind-the- ear arms for better attachment in the ear, interchangeable ear pads, additional cable, dongle, aircraft adapter, case / case and docking station. There are also other accessories. More details about them:
- Silicone tips. Replaceable silicone tips used in in-ear headphones. Usually, several nozzles of different sizes are supplied in the kit, which allows you to adjust the headphones to a specific user. The practical advantages of silicone are softness, durability, general convenience and at the same time low cost.
- Polyurethane nozzles. Replacement tips for in-ear headphones made of foamed polyurethane. This material is somewhat more expensive than silicone, it requires regular cleaning and has a shorter service life - including due to deformation as it wears. On the other hand, polyurethane is ideal in terms of acoustics; it is these tips that are considered the best choice for lovers of in-ear “ears” with high-quality sound.
- Ear hooks. Removable devic...es designed to additionally secure each earpiece to the ear. Note that such devices should not be confused with behind-the-ear mounts (see above). The main difference is that the arms are used exclusively in some models of in-ear headphones and earbuds as an additional option. In other words, you can wear such headphones without a bow, while the behind-the-ear mount is usually made non-removable and, in principle, you can’t do without it.
— Case (case) / cover. Covers are usually called soft rag bags, they protect the "ears" mainly from pollution and take up a minimum of space. Cases are made of hard materials, they are a little more bulky, but they protect well from shock, pressure and contact with sharp objects. In any case, the complete case or case is optimally suited for the headphones and is more convenient than an impromptu protective casing.
- Charging case. Case - a case made of hard material - simultaneously playing the role of a charger. This feature is very popular on true wireless models (see "Cable Type"). The charging case usually has its own battery and the headphones are already charged from this battery; this design provides additional convenience in several moments at once. Firstly, the case, in fact, also performs the function of a power bank - an autonomous power source; the capacity of such a “power bank” may be different, but it is usually enough for several full charges of the “ears” (for more details, see “Capacity of the case”). Secondly, the ability to charge the headphones directly in the case reduces the risk of losing them. Thirdly, the charging procedure itself is quite convenient - just connect the cable to the case.
— Clip for carrying. A clip designed to fasten the wire to a pocket, collar, lapel of clothing, etc. It provides additional convenience: thanks to the clip, the wire does not hang out, the likelihood of touching it with careless movement or catching on the surrounding object is reduced.
- Additional cable. An additional cable provided in addition to the main one may have different features and specializations. So, complete cables can vary in length, connector type, wire type, additional equipment (microphone, volume control), etc. These details should be specified separately in each case. Here, we note that almost all headphones with this configuration have a detachable cable (it makes sense to supplement a non-detachable wire with an extension cable, and it is considered a separate accessory - see below).
- Extension. A type of additional cable designed solely to increase the overall length of the wire. Due to the extension cord, you can adjust the headphones to the specifics of the situation: for example, “build up” the cable if you need to switch from a laptop to a TV or a stationary audio system.
— Airplane adapter. Dedicated headphone adapter for use with modern airliner entertainment systems. In such systems, a special way of connecting headphones is used - through two 3.5 mm jacks (and we are talking about classic "ears", without a microphone). Models with a traditional single 3.5 mm plug can only be connected to this output through an adapter; such adapters may initially be included in the delivery.
This list is not exhaustive and may include other optional items.
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