You may not want to purchase a headphone solely because it is endorsed by your favorite celebrity. However, going through the innumerable styles, brands, and prices to find a pair that suits you seems like a difficult endeavor. Headphone specifications are complicated, technical, and at times hardly have any meaningful impact on the sound quality. In the following write-up, we have transcended the jargon, and described the major headphone specs – why they exactly matter.
- Sensitivity and Level of Sound Pressure
The experts selling headphones with mic said sensitivity and sound pressure are interrelated terms. They indicate how loud your headphones can go.
Sensitivity depicts how efficiently electric signals are converted into acoustic signals. Sound pressure is something you measure the sensitivity with. It is generally exhibited as decibels of sound pressure level (SPL) per milliwatt. Almost all headphones are within 85 to 120 dB of SPL per milliwatt.
Impedance is utilized to measure electric resistance and exhibited in Ohms. In simple terms, high impedance means high resistance, which in turn means a large amount of power is required for driving the headphone.
Headphones manufactured for mobiles have low impedance (below 30 ohms). They rely on less power. High-end and professional quality headphones have an extremely high impedance (above 125 ohms). They need an amplifier for powering them.
The disadvantage of low impedance headphones is that though they use low voltage, they need high current. So, the sound emitted has a background hiss.
- Frequency Response
Frequency response stands for the variety of audio frequencies a headphone can generate. It is measured in Hertz. Lowest number represents the bass and the highest number represents the treble. All headphones have a frequency response of approximately 20 to 20,000 Hz. This matches human hearing.
The numbers do not indicate anything about sound quality though they can allow you to select a headphone for a specific kind of music. For example, if you want substantial bass, please purchase headphones with negligible bass frequency.
- Total Harmonic Distortion
Total harmonic distortion depicts the distortion level your headphones may encounter at a higher volume.
Headphones generate sound through a pulsating diaphragm in the driver. At a higher volume, the diaphragm does not vibrate fast, which results in distortion. Total harmonic distortion is expressed in percentage, and the lower the better. Modern-day headphones have THD of 1% or less.
- Noise Isolation
Noise isolation headphones have acquired widespread popularity all across the globe. They can successfully block outside noise. This is either with over-ear headphones encompassing the whole ear or more effectively in-ear headphones that only seal the ear canal.
In-ear headphones function like earplugs, and it is necessary that you receive the tightest seal.
Noise isolation is a passive thing. It does not need an exterior power supply, and is not limited to particular frequencies. It also generally appears in more reasonably priced headphones.
- Noise Cancellation
Noise-cancellation headphones have in-built electronic chips and microphones. They record the ambient noise, and then produce an opposing sound wave. The sound wave is fed back to the headphone to cancel out the noise.
Noise-cancellation headphones are perhaps the best gadget to improve creativity. They are best for low and constant frequencies. They are not too effective for mid and high frequencies. So, if you are on an airplane, you may notice that the engine noise is decreased but not the sound of the baby crying beside you.
Noise-cancellation needs battery power. The effectiveness varies from one model to another.
Have you been planning on purchasing headphones with a mic? If yes, you must thoroughly acquaint yourself with the aforementioned specifications. They are quite complex, and you must have a great grasp of electronics, math, and physics to understand what they mean. Even then, you may not be able to determine the sound quality of the pair you got. Try opting for a headphone that seems compatible with your preferred music, the environment you are using it in, and the audio gear you are equipping them with.
Please do not be disappointed when you come across new specs and terms that are not stated in this write-up. The biggest decision you must make when purchasing is whether to go for a wired headphone or a Bluetooth one. But in actuality, that will be determined by the device you listen to music on and if it has a headphone jack.