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Top 4 Specs or Features You Should Check Before Buying Headphones

If you enjoy jamming to your favorite tunes at home or during long commutes, you may be looking to buy headphones online to elevate your music experience. After all, a great pair of headphones can bring out the best qualities of music. Fortunately, many well-established brands have produced a variety of headphones, so you’ll never run out of options. 

When selecting your headphones, be sure to carefully look at their specs or features. This will ensure that your listening device delivers stunning and immersive audio each time you use it. However, like any piece of engineering, the jargon that comes with headphone specs can be difficult to parse through. These include things like headphone types, drivers, total harmonic distortion, and impedance.

You may be wondering what these words mean and how they affect a headphone’s performance. Don’t fret, because these concepts are easy to understand once they’re broken down to the basics. If you want to learn more about them before purchasing a new pair of headphones, you can refer to the guide below:

Headphone Type

Since headphones are wearable gadgets, they come in all shapes and sizes. While the type of headphones you get may seem inconsequential, it can actually affect the way sounds are delivered to your ears. Below are the three most common types of headphones you’ll find while shopping: 

In-Ear Headphones

These are the smallest size of headphones and are thus the most portable. As the name suggests, these headphones are meant to be placed in your ear canals. Similar to ear plugs, they’re designed to seal the entrance of your ears. This allows them to block out external noise and deliver powerful audio.

On-Ear Headphones

On-ear headphones are bigger than in-ear ones and have large ear cups connected by a headband. The cups of these headphones are meant to sit on your ears but not cover them completely. Though they don’t block out noise as effectively as in-ear or over-ear headphones, they’re a perfect middle-ground option that can still deliver great sound quality.

Over-Ear Headphones

Over-ear headphones are usually the biggest among the three. Their ear cups are larger than those of on-ear headphones since they’re meant to completely envelop your ears. This makes them very comfortable to wear and effective at blocking out external noise. Due to the immersive listening experience that they offer, over-ear headphones are a popular choice among many audiophiles.


The driver is the part of the headphone that transforms electrical signals into sound waves that you can actually hear. Generally, bigger drivers will produce better audio quality. Larger headphones—i.e., on-ear and over-ear—usually have big drivers that measure up to 45 mm. This means they produce louder and more detailed sounds, as well as better bass.

Still, there are cases when driver size doesn’t completely determine audio quality. For example, due to their small size, most in-ear headphones can’t fit large drivers. Instead, they compensate by using two different drivers that are much smaller. This delivers excellent sound quality that can compete with a lot of larger headphones. That being said, it’s still worth taking note of driver size, as it plays a big part in overall performance.

Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)

There may be instances when you want to listen to your music at high volumes, especially if you’re in a noisy place. However, not all headphones will respond well to this. High volumes may distort audio or make it sound more garbled. With that in mind, you should check the total harmonic distortion or THD in a pair of headphones. The lower the percentage of THD, the clearer your audio will be at high volumes. Thankfully, most headphone models have a THD that’s less than 1%, which should be more than enough for most listeners. If you want to take it a step further, purchasing headphones with less than 0.1% distortion will definitely give you clear sounds even at the highest volumes.


Impedance determines how much power is needed to drive your headphones. The lower the impedance of a pair of headphones, the less energy is required to power it. Low impedance headphones can be used by most devices and don’t require extra amplifiers. Headphones with an impedance of 15 Ohms and below fall under this category.

On the other hand, headphones with higher impedance require an additional amplifier—or a more powerful one—to function. Because of this, they usually deliver better sound quality. Headphones with an impedance of 50 Ohms or higher fall under this category. Keep in mind that the type of headphones you choose will depend on the devices you plan on using them with. For example, if you intend to listen to music through a smartphone, then it may be best to use headphones with low impedance.


While headphone terminology can be confusing at first, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the terms mentioned above. Remember, the more you know about these specific features, the better equipped you will be in choosing the right pair of headphones for all your audio needs.