Connectivity is another aspect where headphones vary. Most wired headphones still use the 3.5mm jack that has been around since the late 1800s. We have also seen the introduction of USB type-C wired headphones that leverage the newest USB standard. Headphones that use the 3.5mm jack require the device to convert the digital signal to an analog signal in order for the headphones to process it. USB type-C headphones can process a digital signal, which allows headphone manufacturers to place an amplifier into the headset instead of using the onboard amplifier in the phone, which may be subpar.
If your phone doesn’t have a USB type-C port, it will almost definitely have a 3.5mm jack on it somewhere. 3.5mm jack headphones have the advantage of being almost universally supported except in some of 2016’s smartphones like the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid and the Apple iPhone 7. While it’s possible to get better sound out of USB type-C headphones, it isn’t always the case. Headphone manufacturers have had over a hundred years of R&D to figure out how to squeeze ever ounce out of sound quality out of that jack.
Bluetooth headphones, on the other hand, are almost always about convenience. Doing away with wires means your phone can rest in your pocket or on the table without wires pulling or getting caught. Bluetooth headphones do, however, sacrifice audio quality for that convenience. You also need to take into consideration that most headsets that rely on Bluetooth will need to have an internal battery charged up to function, although there are headsets that are versatile enough to work in both Bluetooth and wired modes, like the Bluetooth headphones like the Plantronics BackBeat PRO.
Bluetooth headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 35 have active noise cancellation which leverages microphones in the headset to cancel out the noise around you for an excellent listening experience. You can find this feature on cheaper headphones like the BÖHM Bluetooth Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones and Sony MDR-ZX770DC with varying degrees of effectiveness.
Build quality is an essential factor in your headphone buying journey. While you can find cheaper, well-made headphones, you will generally have to pay for well put together headphones. Here are a few factors to consider when you’re checking out how headphones are constructed.
First off, take a look at the headband. Look at if it’s constructed with any kind of metals or if it’s an entirely plastic design. Also be sure to take a look at if the padding that will rest on your head. You want to make sure that the material appears soft and comfortable in case of any long listening sessions.
Another area that you’ll need to make sure appears soft and comfortable are the earcups that will be resting on your head, whether that be on your ears or around them. Generally the bigger the better in this case, but be sure to pay attention to the materials that cover the earcups. Higher quality materials like leather or velour are can be very comfortable but have drawbacks like breathability and how much dirt they pick up.