In the professional audio sector, headphones are used in live situations by disc jockeys with a DJ mixer, and sound engineers for monitoring signal sources. In radio studios, DJs use a pair of headphones when talking to the microphone while the speakers are turned off to eliminate acoustic feedback while monitoring their own voice. In studio recordings, musicians and singers use headphones to play or sing along to a backing track or band. In military applications, audio signals of many varieties are monitored using headphones.
Our favorite workout headphones got better with the 2018 update to the Plantronics BackBeat Fit. You can now connect the headphones to the PLT BackBeat app and choose each function for the sleek, stylish metallic earpieces. A full seven hours of battery life means that you won't be tapping out midway through a long run. Plantronics' "Always Aware" feature lets you hear ambient noise so you don't get run over, and a bigger driver means bigger sound. They're also extremely durable and waterproof. I also tested the Backbeat FIT 3100, but I prefer the ease (and price) of the connected headphones.
At first glance, the Elite 75t, which was originally supposed to cost $200 but now sells for $180 (£170 and AU$299), seems more like an evolutionary upgrade from the highly rated Elite 65t. But the updates turn out to be a little more substantial than I first thought. The Elite 75t's smaller size (the buds and case are 20% smaller than the Elite 65t's), its boosted battery life and USB-C charging are significant upgrades. And then there are the smaller changes, like the new charging case design with magnets inside it that make it easier to open and close and to keep the buds inside. While the Elite 75t isn't quite as comfortable to wear as the AirPods Pro and doesn't have active noise canceling, it does sound better, with clearer overall sound and better bass definition, so long as you get a tight seal.

For those who really need wireless earbuds for sleeping, the Bose Sleepbuds offer a welcome solution. The Sleepbuds wirelessly connect to a sleep app that can play all kinds of relaxing audio. The earbuds also use noise masking to help reduce environmental sounds. With the app, you can set alarms and experiment with settings to find out what works for you. A full battery charge lasts around 16 hours.

Telephone headsets connect to a fixed-line telephone system. A telephone headset functions by replacing the handset of a telephone. Headsets for standard corded telephones are fitted with a standard 4P4C commonly called an RJ-9 connector. Headsets are also available with 2.5 mm jack sockets for many DECT phones and other applications. Cordless bluetooth headsets are available, and often used with mobile telephones. Headsets are widely used for telephone-intensive jobs, in particular by call centre workers. They are also used by anyone wishing to hold telephone conversations with both hands free.

These on-ear home/studio-style headphones are built for the audio-focused listener. Their open-back ear cups, which are meant to add audio clarity, won't block sound from bleeding in or out, and their large profile and long, sturdy cable limit their portability. All that means they’re best used in a quiet environment where you can really focus on the music.

If the damage is done there’s nothing that can currently undo it. On the bright side, you can learn more about how hearing loss occurs by reading our explainer piece. You can still take care of your remaining hearing by limiting volume levels to 85dB. That’s the recommended limit for safe-listening, and because earbuds are much closer to your ears than the speakers at a concert it’s even more important to keep that limit in mind.
That said, the term earbuds has become synonymous with earphones and in-ear headphones, so the difference is ultimately academic. Whatever you call them and whatever they say on the box, you should look for earphones that form a good seal inside your ear with silicone or foam eartips. They'll sound much better than plastic-covered drivers cupped against your ear canal.
Headphones are available with high or low impedance (typically measured at 1 kHz). Low-impedance headphones are in the range 16 to 32 ohms and high-impedance headphones are about 100-600 ohms. As the impedance of a pair of headphones increases, more voltage (at a given current) is required to drive it, and the loudness of the headphones for a given voltage decreases. In recent years, impedance of newer headphones has generally decreased to accommodate lower voltages available on battery powered CMOS-based portable electronics. This has resulted in headphones that can be more efficiently driven by battery-powered electronics. Consequently, newer amplifiers are based on designs with relatively low output impedance.
The 65t also match many of the best features we’ve seen from other fully wireless models. Jabra’s Sound+ app lets you adjust settings like equalization, as well as use either your phone’s built-in smart assistant (Siri on iOS, Google Assistant on Android) or Amazon Alexa to respond to queries. Sensors built into the headphones can be set to play and pause music when you remove the buds, and the Elite 65t can even pipe in different levels of ambient sound, which isgreat for hearing cars on the road when you’re out on your job, or announcements on the train or at the airport while you travel.
We're starting to see some very compelling wire-free earphones now, with companies like Bose and JLab offering sets with the power, longevity, and intuitive controls necessary for us to recommend them. Typically wire-free earphones were more expensive than conventional wireless earphones, but there are now several compelling sets available for under $150 or even under $100.
The Galaxy Buds are Samsung’s bid for simplicity, and at that, they excel. Soft silicone eartips offer a great seal, keeping them snug in your ears and helping improve the bass response. The sound signature presnts warm bass and a detailed upper register that’s never sharp or sibilant. Their 6-hour battery life isn’t the best in the business, but it bests the AirPods, and that can be stretched out with additional charges stored in their wireless charging case.
Those who buy either of these headphones are in for a treat. Our reviewer didn’t hold back in their assessment of these cans’ ability to fully realize every detail of a recording, noting their “warm and rigid bass, a midrange that dips close to the ruddy colors of analog tape saturation (without sacrificing an ounce of detail), and a laser tight response up top that helps illuminate vivid clarity and granular instrumental texture across the board.”

Sony’s Waterproof Walkman is an all-in-one device that doesn’t need to be connected to a phone or other playback source; instead, it has 4GB of storage to hold your music, and you can load up songs and playlists on your PC via the included USB cable just like in ages past. Sure, 4GB might not sound like much space, but that adds up to about 1,000 to 2,000 tracks, depending on their file size. All playback is controlled with tiny buttons on the sides of each earbud. Speaking of charge, the W-Series Walkman will last up to 12 hours per charge, and Sony claims you’ll be able to charge them in no time via their quick-charge feature.
Headphones connect to a signal source such as an audio amplifier, radio, CD player, portable media player, mobile phone, video game console, or electronic musical instrument, either directly using a cord, or using wireless technology such as Bluetooth, DECT or FM radio. The first headphones were developed in the late 19th century for use by telephone operators, to keep their hands free. Initially the audio quality was mediocre and a step forward was the invention of high fidelity headphones.[3]
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