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Guide to buying headphones in 2021: what to look for and which are the best models?

Thinking of buying new headphones?

In this guide we tell you everything you need to know when choosing the model that best suits you, whether you are looking for wireless headphones or you want to buy wired ones.

Having quality headphones has become almost essential for many users when it comes to playing sports, working or entertaining themselves during daily commutes on public transport or on long trips.

The problem is that there is a huge supply of headphones of different models, shapes and sizes on the market, so it is not easy to choose between over-ear or in-ear, noise-canceling or wireless headphones. To help you choose, we have created this guide to buying the best headphones for you.

Buying headphones is as subjective and personal as buying shoes. No matter how beautiful they are, no matter how good build quality they have or no matter how good the seller who offers them.

Choose the right format:

Headphones have evolved a lot in recent years and this has made possible the emergence of different formats and types of headphones. Each of these headphone formats adapts to a different type of scenario and usage preference.

The choice of one type of headset or another depends mainly on the use that you are going to give them or which one is more comfortable to use, so it is common to choose a certain type of headset for sports and another to listen to music with the maximum quality at home.

Earbuds, in-ear or in-ear:

We start with the type of headset that, in all probability, is the most widespread.
These headphones are inserted directly into the auditory pin, accommodating itself in the entrance of this to reproduce the sound.

These headphones can be more or less anatomical depending on the manufacturer and there are from those who opt for a solid design that fits the morphology of the auditory pin, to those that use different sizes of silicone pads to adapt to the shape of the interior of the ear avoiding that fall out of the ear with movements.

As a general rule, the latter are usually more comfortable as they do not contain hard parts and adapt better to the shape and size of the auditory pinna.

In-Ear or in-ear headphones are usually more affordable, but that also usually affects the quality of the sound they offer. Although they are sufficient for most situations, as soon as you appreciate the sound quality, you will look for other alternatives of higher quality.

The small size of the built-in speakers in this type of headphones forces you to search among high-end in-ear headphones to find better sound quality, which also increases its price.

Since their majority use is with smartphones, most quality in-ear headphones usually have a microphone and playback control integrated into the cable to use it as a hands-free unit from which to take calls or control music playback without having to remove the pocket mobile.

It is a lightweight and compact wireless headset equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, which works at a distance of up to 10 meters from the device. It has technology to reduce noise from the environment and offers a range of up to 12 hours with its charging box.

Here are other recommended in-ear headphones in different price ranges:

  • Apple Air Pods for 131 Dollars.
  • Apple Air Pods Pro for 239 Dollars.
  • Samsung Galaxy Buds for 129 Dollars.
  • Sound MAGIC E50 for 39 Dollars.
  • Sennheiser CX 300-II for 21 Dollars
  • Sony MDR-EX110LP for 13 Dollars.

On-ear or on-ear headphones:

These headphones, also known as headband headphones, are those that are placed over the ears but do not cover them completely. The fact of resting on them can put more pressure on the ear so they can be uncomfortable in the long term, especially if you wear glasses.

Despite being bulkier than earbuds, on-ear headphones are still very portable and lightweight, and can also be folded up to take up less space during transport.

On-ear or over-ear headphones are perfect for those looking for better sound quality than in-ear headphones to listen to music from their mobile.

Many of these headphones include a playback control on the cable and even built into one of the headphones, as well as a microphone for hands-free use.

If you want to buy cheap headphones with good performance, the Sennheiser HD 201 is highly recommended. They are closed supra-aural headphones that stand out for offering good stereo sound, good isolation from surrounding noise and rich bass response. They are very resistant and you can buy them for only 36 Dollars.

Here we leave you other alternatives of different prices:

Sony WH-1000XM3B for 248 Dollars.
Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II for 238 Dollars.
Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless for 330 Dollars.

Over-ear, over-ear or full-size headphones
Without a doubt, circumaural headphones are the bulkiest since their pads completely surround the ear. Since the headset drivers are placed close to the ear, but without actually touching it, a more natural sound experience is created for the brain

This type of headphones is the one that offers the best acoustic performance. The reason is none other than, by completely covering the ear, it provides better sound isolation, allowing you to better enjoy the audio you are listening to.

In this guide we also show you how to differentiate between both types of headphones and which one is better for you.

Closed over-ear headphones create a sound chamber in the area encompassing the ear pads that provides better passive acoustic isolation, enhancing the lower frequencies.

On the other hand, choosing open circumaural headphones does not create an isolated chamber, but rather the back of the transducers lets some of the sound escape, relieving the pressure on the ear.

This may seem like a drawback because it does not isolate as much as the closed ones, in fact it makes them sound more natural and precise.

In this list we leave you other alternatives to consider:

  • Sennheiser HD 660S for 449 Dollars.
  • Meze 99 Classics for 199 Dollars.
  • Audio Tecnica ATH-MSR7 for 189 Dollars.
  • Superlux HD681B for 23 Dollars.
  • Sports and totally wireless headphones


As we said at the beginning, today many users use headphones while exercising, and for this reason there are models that have been specifically designed to withstand splashes of sweat and water.

In fact, the most advanced wireless sports headphones can be used even in the pool since they have a special wireless connection system that allows Bluetooth connection even in the water.

These types of headphones tend to be wireless since only this type of connection guarantees the total freedom of movement required in sports training.

These headphones are anatomically designed to prevent them from falling off while doing sports and, through the use of special silicone pads, they can fit like a glove to the ear to prevent them from falling out and may be lost or interrupt your training.

There are many types, among which those with a collar stand out, which consist of a kind of collar that is placed around the neck from which in-ear headphones come out. This improves the stability of the headphones and prevents them from falling off during sports activity.

Recently a new type of sports headphones has been developed that provide total freedom since they are totally wireless, that is, they do not have a cable that connects one.

In this type of headphones, the box itself is its charging base, so they are extremely comfortable to take to the gym and leave them charging.

Here is a selection of highly recommended sports headphones:

  • Power beats Pro for 204 Dollars.
  • Jabra Elite Sport for 219 Dollars.
  • JBL Reflect Mini 2 Sport for 66 Dollars.
  • Bose Sound Sport for 104 Dollars.
  • Bluetooth or wired headphones, quality versus comfort
  • After choosing the format of headphones that is most appropriate for your use and needs, the next thing to do is to decide what type of connection you prefer to connect the headphones with your playback devices: Bluetooth or wired.

On the one hand, Bluetooth headphones provide a much more comfortable connection since you are not tied by a cable that hinders your movements and you can get out of the chair without fear of pulling the cable, or without the cable getting in the way while you do other things with hands.

Choosing a Bluetooth headset is perfect if what you are looking for is greater comfort of movements, so they are the ideal headphones to use with your mobile or as headphones for sports. If what you are looking for is sound quality, the cable is the best choice to achieve it.

Although compression has improved a lot with the arrival of the aptX HD codecs, they still cannot match the excellence provided by the cable connection that does allow all the audio information provided by the player to be transmitted.

Battery life in Bluetooth headphones should also be taken into account as it is limited and they need to be charged to continue working.

With them you can choose between the comfort of wireless headphones and the option of connecting them via cable to obtain the maximum sound quality.

Active noise canceling headphones:

Active noise cancellation is fast becoming one of the flagship features for headphones. This system uses microphones that pick up the frequencies of external noise and emit a frequency that counteracts it, creating total silence around you.

Active noise canceling headphones are perfect for long trips and isolating yourself in noisy environments like inside an airplane or train. In fact, this technology was developed to reduce the auditory stress of the aviators who had to endure the constant noise of the engines during long hours.

Using noise-canceling headphones allows you to isolate yourself from your surroundings and enjoy only the sound that is played through the headphones.

If you are looking for headphones with noise cancellation, here are some recommended models:

  • Apple AirPods Pro for 239 Dollars.
  • Bose 700 for 319 Dollars.
  • Sony WH-1000XM3B for 248 Dollars.
  • Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless for 330 Dollars.
  • Jabra Elite 85H for 179 Dollars.
  • The mobile phone has become the main source of entertainment, so the type of connector you use will be decisive when choosing headphones to listen to music on your mobile.

Some of the latest mobile phone models have chosen to eliminate the 3.5 mm jack, so the only option is to use headphones with a USB type C or Lightning connector. With this type of connection, the power of the headphones comes from the mobile battery, so it can affect its autonomy.

The choice of headphones with this type of mobile connector is a good idea even if your smartphone has a 3.5 mm jack, but it is not particularly well equipped.

If the headphones are going to be used to listen to music from a source other than the mobile, such as a sound system, the best option will continue to be the traditional audio jack.

What to consider when choosing headphones?:

Before buying headphones, it is not only advisable to take into account the shape or type of connector.
Regardless of the type of headphones you choose, weight will be a fundamental factor when choosing them since not only will it influence when it comes to having to wear them all day, but heavier headphones will be more likely to fall or accuse some fatigue when using them during long sessions.

Whenever you have the chance, try your headphones on before buying. There is no specific song that proves that some headphones sound better than others. It is best to try them with the type of music that you usually listen to and choose the ones that are most natural to you.

Comfort will be a key factor in the user experience. Too hard ear cushions can cause a lot of discomfort around the ear.

If the pads are made of leather or some similar material, they will insulate better, but they will also perspire less. On the other hand, pads covered with fabric or other materials such as alcantara, isolate less noise, but do not give as much heat in summer.

If this part is too rigid, it is likely that, with the weight of the headphones, you will notice discomfort in the upper part of your head and it will make you uncomfortable to use them.

Comfort should also be a decisive aspect when choosing sports headphones or headphones to listen to music from your mobile. In in-ear headphones, it is important to have pads and fittings of different sizes and shapes to ensure that they adapt as much as possible to the interior of the ear.

Technical characteristics to choose the best headphones:

Of course, on a technical level, not all headphones are the same, and with a simple look at their technical specifications you can already get an idea of ​​the benefits they offer you.

Impedance:

One of the technical terms that you will find in the specifications of the headphones is impedance and it is measured in ohms (Ω).

The lower its value, it indicates that the headphones offer less resistance to the passage of current, so they require less energy to vibrate and, therefore, will sound louder.

Of course, a higher volume does not necessarily have to mean better quality. For full-size headphones, values ​​of up to 600 ohms can be achieved, although the recommended average is around 80 ohms.

Sensitivity and frequency range:

The human being can only perceive sounds in a certain frequency range between 20 Hz and 20 KHz (20,000 Hz). The wider this frequency range, the greater the range of sound nuances they will be able to reproduce, offering better quality.

Not all headphones are capable of reproducing the full frequency range, so some headphones cut into the lower frequencies. Other headphones, on the other hand, even reproduce a greater range of frequencies, something that will not be more than technical constancy since you will hardly be able to appreciate frequencies above or below that threshold.

On the other hand, the sensitivity refers to the sound power provided by the headphones and is represented in decibels (dB).

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