Hi-Fi Headphones Buying Guide

Not only do Hi-Fi headphones provide an excellent sound experience, they also keep your neighbours and family members happy.


Surround sound

If you're planning to use your headphones with a home theatre system or a gaming rig, you might want to consider headphones that support surround sound. These days there are several brands with models that support 5.1 playback as well as the older 4 channel gaming configuration. Because 5.1 incorporates multiple channels, it can be a good idea to look for a model that lets you adjust the mix between the front, centre and rear channels.

If you're not concerned about surround sound, but still want a pair of headphones that are good for lounge-room movies, TV and music, look for something with large cups that completely cover the ears. These will block out sounds from outside as well as minimise the noise they create in the room around you. You may need a long cable to reach the headphones output of your amplifier, however, and coiled cables are the best way to minimise knots and mess, but make sure they are long enough. Most cables are 2-3 metres in length, but measure up the room beforehand.

Cables

Headphone cables can either be connected to one side or the cable can be "Y split" with a wire going into each cup. Avoid the split cable type as you will inevitably become entangled in it on a regular basis. While a long cable will give you the flexibility to move away from the source of the audio, it's worth bearing in mind that cable length can impact the sound quality, both by lowering the overall volume level and introducing noise. Quality headphones will come with shielded cable to prevent handling noise and, if you need more than 3 metres of cable, you will probably need to buy an extension. If you are buying a quality pair of headphones, be sure to get a quality extension cable as well. Some models let you replace the cable with a longer one instead. This is a feature lacking even in some top quality pro headphones, but it's worth paying a little extra for. If your cable gets sliced or the plug gets bent, it's cheaper to buy an expensive cable than an ordinary pair of replacement headphones. The same goes for cups as well, if you're spending several hundred dollars, find out if the parts are replaceable.

Volume levels

Some headphones are louder than others. This is often because the speaker drivers have higher sensitivity, meaning they require less amplification power. Many DJ headphones are designed with high sensitivity and incorporate bass and treble boosts as well. This can make it easier to mix music in a loud environment, but it doesn't necessarily lend itself well to listening enjoyment. Portable headphones will require a sensitivity rating of at least 100dB, while most others can get away with 90dB or less. The other specification that's worth comparing is the impedance of the speaker drivers. The lower the impedance, the less power that is required to drive the speaker and, as a result, the more volume you will get out of it. Portable headphones should have less than 64ohms whereas anything up to 100ohms is fine for most other uses. Occasionally you will find models which have volume controls mounted on the cups or along the cable. While the added convenience may be appealing, it is better to avoid inline volume controls as these can be a source of noise and, as they involve moving parts, they have a tendency to be the first things to break.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags headphonesdigital musicmp3 playershi-fi headphones

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

GoodGearGuide Staff

Good Gear Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?