It is safe to assume that headphones in all shapes and sizes are already part of our daily lives. Whether you’re going to the gym, heading to the office, or simply playing a game on your computer, headphones play an important role in your listening necessities.
Headphones come in different designs, and one of the most popular among them is the over-ear headphones. These headphones are usually chunky with thick headbands and ear cups big enough to hide your ears.
Those who commonly use over-ear headphones are usually musicians, gamers, and audio technicians. It is also the most comfortable design out there among other types of headphones.
But that is not the main reason why audiophiles prefer to use them over other types of headphones. It is because of the sound quality. It’s more crisp, clear, and deep, even on entry-level over-ear headphones.
High-end headphones like the Focal Utopia, meanwhile, offer more than sound quality. It usually has more specifications and features not familiar to an average consumer.
So, let’s discuss these unfamiliar terms so we can fully-understand each of its functions.
It is the most important component of your headphones. It’s responsible for producing sound pressure by converting electrical signals from the audio source. In layman’s term, drivers create the sound. There are many types of driver, but all have the same parts; the diaphragm, voice coils, and the magnet. The diaphragm causes a vibration that produces sound waves. In the manual, you’ll see how the driver indicates the size or diameter of the diaphragm. In general, the bigger the driver, the better the sound quality, particularly bass sound. Entry-level over-ear headphones have a 40-millimetre driver. Good-quality headphones often have larger diaphragms for better performance.
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
THD measures the level of distortion that is caused by turning the volume up on your headphones. The higher the volume, the more the diaphragm vibrates which causes distortion. Good-quality headphones can only produce up to 1% distortion.
Impedance measures the electrical resistance in Ohms. The higher the impedance, the greater the resistance which requires the headphones to consume more power. Thus, headphones are designed to only have 32-ohms and thus lower impedance, to avoid draining the battery in your laptop or smartphone. High-end headphones usually have a high impedance that can reach 300-Ohms or more. Thus, amplifiers are needed to boost its power.
You probably might have heard this and maybe are already interested in getting headphones with this feature. Noise cancellation disables ambient noise to give you a more immersive listening experience on your headphones. Noise-cancelling headphones like Focal Utopia are very popular among gamers, musicians and sound engineers.
It indicates how your headphones can reproduce the range of audio frequencies while on use. It uses Hertz (Hz) to measure; bass at the lowest number while treble for the highest number. Common headphones have around 20,000Hz of frequency response to match our sense of hearing. Frequency response helps you choose the right headphones for different kinds of music. If you want to listen to hip-hop which often uses bass sound, you need low-frequency headphones.
Sound Pressure Level (SPL) & Sensitivity
SPL indicates the level of noise your headphones can reach. On the other hand, sensitivity indicates your headphones’ ability to convert the electrical signal into the acoustic signal. Common over-ear headphones have 85-120 Decibel (dB) SPL/mW (milliwatt) range. So, over-ear headphones’ level of noise is at par with a jet taking off on a runway which is 130dB. But, the pain threshold for noise is 120bB. With that in mind, health experts warn that long exposure to high dB of noise can result in hearing loss. There are several ways to know if your over-ear headphones are way too loud.
You need to understand the specifications and the role of your headphone. As a responsible consumer, you need to know these specifications to buy the most suitable over-ear headphones for you. Some headphones have more specs, but the ones listed above are certainly good points to start learning.