Headphones are made in a range of different audio reproduction quality capabilities. Headsets designed for telephone use typically cannot reproduce sound with the high fidelity of expensive units designed for music listening by audiophiles. Headphones that use cables typically have either a 1/4 inch (6.35mm) or 1/8 inch (3.5mm) phone jack for plugging the headphones into the audio source. Some stereo earbuds are wireless, using Bluetooth connectivity to transmit the audio signal by radio waves from source devices like cellphones and digital players.[4] Due to the spread of wireless devices in recent years headphones are increasingly used by people in public places such as sidewalks, grocery stores, and public transit. Headphones are also used by people in various professional contexts, such as audio engineers mixing sound for live concerts or sound recordings and DJs, who use headphones to cue up the next song without the audience hearing, aircraft pilots and call center employees. The latter two types of employees use headphones with an integrated microphone.
Hearing risk from headphones' use also applies to workers who must wear electronic or communication headsets as part of their daily job (i.e., pilots, call center and dispatch operators, sound engineers, firefighters, etc.) and hearing damage depends on the exposure time. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends sound exposure not exceed 85 dB(A) over 8 hour work day as a time-weighted average.[35] NIOSH uses the 3-dB exchange rate often referred to as "time-intensity tradeoff" which means if sound exposure level is increased by 3 decibels, the duration of exposure should be cut in half. NIOSH published several documents targeted at protecting the hearing of workers who must wear communication headsets such as call center operators,[36] firefighters,[37] and musicians and sound engineers.[38]
With small extrusions emerging from otherwise understated wireless in-ears, Jabra’s Elite Active 65t look like miniature versions of the Bluetooth headsets that helped put the brand on the map. But don’t be fooled by the looks — with sweatproofing, excellent sound quality, and a myriad of useful features, these little guys beat out every other pair of headphones on the market as the best workout headphones.
The company is well known for bringing noise-canceling headphones to the general public — the QuietComfort Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones were released in 2000 — and since then, it’s only continued to churn out industry-leading noise-canceling headphones. Its most recent iteration, the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, might just be the best noise-canceling headphones, ever.
While noise-canceling headphones are what it’s best known for, Bose makes plenty of other high-quality headphones and earbuds for people who don’t want or need noise cancellation, which degrades audio quality and costs a premium. From true wireless AirPod competitors to old-school wired earbuds, to just cheaper wireless over-ear cans, Bose makes a headphone for every style and, more importantly, for every budget.
Active noise-cancelling headphones use a microphone, amplifier, and speaker to pick up, amplify, and play ambient noise in phase-reversed form; this to some extent cancels out unwanted noise from the environment without affecting the desired sound source, which is not picked up and reversed by the microphone. They require a power source, usually a battery, to drive their circuitry. Active noise cancelling headphones can attenuate ambient noise by 20 dB or more, but the active circuitry is mainly effective on constant sounds and at lower frequencies, rather than sharp sounds and voices. Some noise cancelling headphones are designed mainly to reduce low-frequency engine and travel noise in aircraft, trains, and automobiles, and are less effective in environments with other types of noise.
Released in 2015, the SoundLink Around-Ear II are Bose’s wireless over-ear headphones that don’t have active noise cancellation. They’re lighter and slightly more travel-friendly than a lot of the company’s other offerings, and they could sound quality at the forefront. At the time, the big selling point for the SoundLink Around-Ear II was their sound quality — Bose claimed that they sounded as good as wired headphones, which admittedly doesn’t hold up in 2019 (streaming and Bluetooth have gotten too good).
The Samsung Galaxy Buds are one of the best-scoring portable Bluetooth headphones Consumer Reports has ever tested. That’s all the more impressive given their “true wireless” design, meaning the model doesn’t have a cord connecting the left earbud to the right. That’s the same design scheme popularized by Apple’s AirPods, but our testers say the Galaxy Buds sound dramatically better.
The WH-1000xM3’s excellent noise-canceling technology ranks second only to the Bose QC35 II, from the brand that has long dominated the market in terms of sheer noise-blocking abilities. That said, the Sony cans sound much better than the new bass-forward Bose option, and offer numerous features that help to create a much better overall experience.
While iPhone users can expect that their phones are missing essential parts to look good, AAC is one of those codecs that maybe cut a few too many bits out of its data transmission. By using an aggressive psychoacoustic model of compression, AAC seeks to cut data where you wouldn’t normally be able to hear it anyway—but it gets a little too aggressive at times.
The outer shells of in-ear headphones are made up of a variety of materials, such as plastic, aluminum, ceramic and other metal alloys. Because in-ear headphones engage the ear canal, they can be prone to sliding out, and they block out much environmental noise. Lack of sound from the environment can be a problem when sound is a necessary cue for safety or other reasons, as when walking, driving, or riding near or in vehicular traffic.[19]
In terms of juice, the Elite 65t offer 5 hours of battery life — matching the AirPods — and the included charging case adds two refills on the go. Jabra also matches many of the best features we’ve seen elsewhere in the fully wireless space, with the company’s Sound+ app that lets you adjust settings like equalization, or whether you want to use your phone’s built-in smart assistant (Siri on iOS, Google Assistant on Android) or Amazon Alexa. Sensors built into the headphones can be set to play and pause music when you remove the buds, and they can even be set to pipe in different levels of ambient sound, which is great for hearing announcements on the plane or your office mate.
I’ve never enjoyed the audio quality of Bluetooth headphones, but that’s just me. The sound is better than it ever has been, and it’ll get you 90% of the way there—but not everybody is willing to make that tradeoff. Since USB-C headphones have largely ceded their market advantages over Bluetooth, we have to examine the consumer audio technology’s performance in a world where the headphone jack is disappearing.
Open back usually results in more natural sound, but they leak sound in and out. This means you probably can’t use them in a library or a plane flight since the sound of your music will leak out and disturb the people around you. You also can’t use them on loud public places since noise from the outside will disturb your music. Therefore, even though open back would give you more natural reproduction, for these reasons their use is limited to mostly at home or in the office (if you have your own space that is).
A. Near-field communication, better known as NFC, is a wireless connectivity protocol similar to Bluetooth. NFC uses less power than Bluetooth and is faster when pairing devices, but it only has a range of about four inches. Some headphones use NFC technology to drive the process of pairing headphones with smartphones, but because of the range, it’s not used to transmit sound. While both Android phones and iPhones include NFC chips, it’s not accessible in Apple devices, so if you want a pair of headphones with NFC, you’ll need to own an Android phone to take advantage of the faster pairing.

In terms of juice, the Elite 65t offer 5 hours of battery life — matching the AirPods — and the included charging case adds two refills on the go. Jabra also matches many of the best features we’ve seen elsewhere in the fully wireless space, with the company’s Sound+ app that lets you adjust settings like equalization, or whether you want to use your phone’s built-in smart assistant (Siri on iOS, Google Assistant on Android) or Amazon Alexa. Sensors built into the headphones can be set to play and pause music when you remove the buds, and they can even be set to pipe in different levels of ambient sound, which is great for hearing announcements on the plane or your office mate.
These early headphones used moving iron drivers,[7] with either single-ended or balanced armatures. The common single-ended type used voice coils wound around the poles of a permanent magnet, which were positioned close to a flexible steel diaphragm. The audio current through the coils varied the magnetic field of the magnet, exerting a varying force on the diaphragm, causing it to vibrate, creating sound waves. The requirement for high sensitivity meant that no damping was used, so the frequency response of the diaphragm had large peaks due to resonance, resulting in poor sound quality. These early models lacked padding, and were often uncomfortable to wear for long periods. Their impedance varied; headphones used in telegraph and telephone work had an impedance of 75 ohms. Those used with early wireless radio had more turns of finer wire to increase sensitivity. Impedance of 1000 to 2000 ohms was common, which suited both crystal sets and triode receivers. Some very sensitive headphones, such as those manufactured by Brandes around 1919, were commonly used for early radio work.
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