Headphones come in many different shapes and sizes and in this case, we’re looking for the ideal earpieces best suited for an audiophile like you, whether you have a lot of experience with headphones or not. But the question is, are you really an audiophile? Let’s find out.
People misconceive an audiophile as someone who loves listening to music so much. This is wrong. An audiophile loves more than just music; an audiophile has a meticulous taste when it comes to one important factor: audio. And by audio, I mean every bit of sound. Whatever sound emits from the headphones matter. Every boom it makes, every treble it brings, even the distant background sound should make a difference. If you look at it from a casual standpoint, you’d say this is ridiculous. For audiophiles, this is everything.
And it doesn’t go for headphones too; it goes with a specific room at home too. An audiophile makes sure that a room has good acoustics and wants nothing but the best replication of a live performance – almost as if you’re listening to the artist themselves inside a recording room. This makes it great for listening using headphones or loudspeakers. And speaking of such, audiophiles will never settle for the cheap kind.
As for going outside, audiophiles prefer secluded areas with minimal people. In public transportation, an audiophile likes to stay in the corner of the vehicle like the very edge of bus seats or in an area inside the train where people don’t talk much. This gives an audiophile more focus on the sounds inside the headphones.
When it comes to equipment, the audiophile doesn’t want anything cheap or whatever earpiece that comes along with the phone they bought. No ear pods, no standard stereo headphones, not even the expensive Beats by Dr. Dre. An audiophile doesn’t settle for headphones lower than $200. If anything, the headphones they buy cost as much as $1000 or more. Why? Because they want nothing but the best audio output, carefully crafted with unpretentious materials to deliver god-tier quality in both sound and design. The wires, the slew rate, the earcups, the bass, treble, they all account into great headphones. This goes the same with speakers too.
Did you think an audiophile stops there? Nope. In fact, audiophiles carefully choose their music and audio sources too. For example, choosing lossless music over mp3 files. To keep it brief, lossless music is almost ten times larger than an mp3 file. It’s a raw audio file that includes all the tiny details from the song and has a significantly better sound quality than any other music formats. You can find lots of lossless music on Tidal.
Speaking of quality music, an audiophile prefers vinyl over CD and digital simply because the sound quality is significantly better. The bitrates are higher and it produces lossless music since these come directly from the recording studio.
If you carry all or at least most of these traits, congratulations; you’re a fully-fledged audiophile.
For the masses, the finer details of sound don’t matter. As long as they hear good music or satisfying ASMR sounds, that’s satisfying enough. Audio casuals aren’t bad though but if you’re the type that claims you’re an audiophile and you have no idea what I discussed in the above topic, then sorry to say you’re not one. Maybe an audio semi-enthusiast but nothing near an audiophile.
But if you want to delve deep into the world of audiophiles, you’re for a world where one of the greatest joys in life are sounds and their fine details.
And if you’re looking to start on this hobby, you should check out HeadphonesLab’s review on the best audiophile headphones.
Speaking of which, let’s discuss what you need to take note of when finding for one. We’ll keep things simple so beginners can also understand what’s going on.
A frequency response simply refers to… well, the response of a headphone or earpiece to frequencies. The better the frequency response, the lower the distortion. This results in a term called “sound signature.”
As said in the Headphoneslab review, “The term sound signature is derived from this particular specification, as each headphone tends to provide a unique frequency response, where sometimes the mid-tones are brightened and sometimes the lows or highs. If you want the best headphone suited for you, you will have to see which particular frequency range you would like to see brightened or recessed or rather a flat frequency response.”
There are two known operating principles for headphones: open-back and closed-back. Open-back operating principle gives a very natural feel to the sound with a wide soundstage, making this feel really good to listen to especially when you’re outside your home. It’s also great for when you’re listening to a recorded live concert too. On the other hand, closed-back delivers a more, let’s say, artificial experience. But does that mean it’s bad? No. In fact, it’s very good. Since it simulates an enclosed room with good acoustics, you get to listen to high strengths in sound accompanied by better pressure levels of sound, which results in a more “boombastic” bass and more refined treble. But because of this, prices are higher than your usual audiophile headphones – almost double depending on the brand and quality. Also, it’s quite heavier compared to open-back headphones.
Hardcore audiophiles have always had debates regarding these three types of headphones. But if you just want the simple details, we’ll discuss it here.
Dynamic headphones are the most common types available in the market. While they do deliver a great audio quality, it tends to be distorted at high volumes. The biggest perk here is that it has a wide soundstage, making it highly suitable for recording.
Planar Magnetic types, contrastingly, has way lower audio distortion even at high volumes. Even at full blast, you don’t even feel that earrape feel like a low-quality meme. They’re more complex than a dynamic headphone but such complexity comes with its weight. Since it maintains a level of audio quality, noise control, and distortion, it’s pretty heavy. This makes it only recommended when you’re at home or in a recording studio. Besides, it’s quite large too. Another drawback here is the narrow soundstage. Arguably, while it may outdo dynamic headphones in terms of sound quality, using this for recording isn’t exactly ideal.
And then there’s the Electrostatic headphones. Above everything else, electrostatic headphones is the cream of the crop – godlike treble, bass, soundstage, low distortion and superior sound quality. But such qualities come at a cost – too costly if I do say so myself. No really, electrostatic headphones are the most expensive kinds of headphones in the market. And it doesn’t bid too compatible even for the biggest audiophiles. You will need an amplifier to use it properly, but even the amplifier itself costs the same as electrostatic headphones. Not to mention, it’s also the heaviest among the three. This is really heavy-duty stuff.
So if you want that audiophile experience without blowing a lot of budget, we recommend the dynamic headphones – it’s price is reasonable, its overall sound quality is solid and recording using these are highly recommended. Just watch for the distortion when you’re planning to play sounds at max volume.
What’s good about headphones when it’s not comfortable, right? As much as design and quality goes, comfort levels should always be at an all-time high to bring the perfect audio-listening experience. Weight depends on the type of headphones whether dynamic, planar magnetic or electrostatic. Dynamic is the lightest of the three and is also the most common and cheapest. Due to its portability, you can easily bring it around with you whether at home or outside. As for the feel on your ears, we recommend getting headphones that offer soft pads. Leather is the best but the most costly, however, the texture and feel still retain even after years of usage It’s just worth the money plus it’s very comfortable on the ears no matter how many hours you’re using it. It doesn’t have that painful feeling when you slowly take off the headphones.
According to Headphoneslab, “the impedance of a headphone governs the amplification required for it to function at the full potential. The headphones having an impedance rating below 35Ω does not require amplification, although it is inevitable that an amplifier is likely to enhance your audio experience tenfold. Meanwhile, headphones with an impedance around 300Ω or higher must be used with a high-end amplifier, as using that headphone without an amplifier would be purely a waste. Moreover, some of the headphones, i.e. electrostatic headphones, require a special amplifier to power them, which is often called energizer.”
Dynamic headphones usually have low impedance but that doesn’t mean it’s the worst among the three types. If you do have the chance to buy an amplifier, do so. It will greatly enhance your audio experience.
In the end, it all boils down to preference. If you’re just a beginner, do go for dynamic headphones. But if your soul can’t take it, planar magnetic or electrostatic headphones will soothe your audio cravings.
Hope this article helps you find your ideal headphones.