December 4, 2021

How To Purchase Headphones For Somebody Else


As we get nearer to Black Friday and the 2021 vacation season, there’s in all probability no less than one particular person in your gift-giving listing who would really like a brand new set of headphones. And until this particular person has actually despatched you a hyperlink to the particular headphones they need, it’s now choice time and also you’ve acquired to determine which one of many hundreds of choices to purchase. You possibly can begin by trying out our roundup of one of the best headphones and one of the best wi-fi earbuds — you received’t go unsuitable with any of the merchandise on these lists. However for a extra guided strategy to creating your choice, listed here are some useful solutions.

It’s greater than music

Man wearing Microsoft Surface Headphones.
Dan Baker/Digital Developments

When shopping for headphones for another person, remember that these units have turn into greater than only a technique to hearken to music. With accessible options like energetic noise cancellation (ANC), transparency mode, entry to voice assistants, customized sound, improved name high quality, water and mud resistance, wi-fi charging, and far more, at this time’s headphones and earbuds have turn into multifunctional equipment for each work and play (and all the pieces in-between).

In case your meant recipient has informed you which ones options matter to them, congrats, your job simply acquired quite a bit simpler. However when you’ve got no thought, you’ll have to make some educated guesses primarily based on who they’re, what they spend their time doing, and even the sorts of areas or situations they’ll discover themselves in.

Wired or wi-fi?

Man wearing Focal Celestee Headphones.
Dan Baker/Digital Developments

When smartphones all had headphone jacks, this alternative got here down to private desire, with hardcore audio fanatics typically preferring wired headphones or earbuds for his or her superior sound. However at this time’s telephones have all however eradicated the headphone jack, making wi-fi not solely extra handy, however much more suitable with most units.

Although uncommon on true wi-fi earbuds, many over-ear and on-ear wi-fi headphones include a built-in analog enter and a headphone cable, providing you with one of the best of each worlds.

Android or iPhone?

Pixel 6 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro in hand.
Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Can somebody’s alternative of smartphone have an effect on the type of headphones they need to use? The reply, surprisingly, is sure — nevertheless it’s a nuanced sure.

Many iPhone homeowners are keen on utilizing the gadget’s built-in Siri voice assistant for all the pieces from making telephone calls to setting reminders. And whereas most headphones supply a technique to set off Siri utilizing a button or contact management, just a few fashions allow you to do that hands-free by saying, “Hey, Siri.” Proper now, solely two manufacturers of headphones have this function: Apple’s personal AirPods household, and choose fashions from Apple-owned Beats by Dre.

On the flip aspect, Android telephone homeowners might want headphones that permit them do the identical with Google Assistant. This time, there are extra choices, together with Google’s personal Pixel Buds and Pixel Buds A-Collection, in addition to fashions from JBL and Sony.

Lastly — and that is actually just for of us who’re obsessive about top-quality audio — Apple’s telephones solely help the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. If you recognize nothing about codecs, suffice it to say that AAC can ship superb audio high quality and the overwhelming majority of wi-fi headphones help it. However there are different Bluetooth codecs — like aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC — that may ship even greater high quality underneath the appropriate situations. For the time being, solely Android telephones help these codecs. When you purchase somebody a set of headphones that help LDAC, like Sony’s wonderful WH-1000XM4, they’ll nonetheless work with an iPhone, however you received’t get that additional stage of element that LDAC affords.

Water resistance: Somewhat or quite a bit?

Jaybird Vista 2 earbuds in palm with water pouring.
Jaybird

Lately, most true wi-fi earbuds and a few wi-fi headphones supply safety from water. However the quantity of safety can fluctuate wildly, from somewhat (it might probably cope with a couple of drops of water right here and there, however nothing substantial) to quite a bit (it may be submerged in shallow water for as much as half-hour with none hurt).

These ranges of safety are categorized utilizing the IPX score system, from IPX2 to IPX8. For much more safety, some merchandise can cope with mud and particles, too, with the “X” in IPX changed with one other quantity. As an illustration, Jabra’s excellent Elite 7 Professional are rated IP57.

How a lot (and how much) safety is required will rely on how you intend to make use of the headphones. Triathletes who don’t wish to take away their earbuds whereas swimming ought to in all probability get one thing that’s IPX7 or higher, whereas of us who simply need one thing for his or her each day run can get away with IPX2 or IPX4.

Specialty headphones

Man wearing bone-conducting headphones.
Riley Younger/Digital Developments

Whereas we’re on the subject of water resistance, we should always notice that some headphones have been particularly designed to work within the water and even underwater — one thing that even waterproof true wi-fi earbuds can’t at all times do. These embrace a household of units often called bone-conduction headphones. These use audio system which are designed to ship sound waves by the bones of your cranium, the place they make their technique to your internal ear with out passing by your eardrum.

It sounds freaky, however they actually work. There are two massive advantages to those designs: They are often made totally waterproof, and since they don’t block your ears in any respect, you possibly can nonetheless hear the remainder of the world completely clearly whilst you use them. This makes them nice for actions like street biking or snowboarding, the place with the ability to hear your environment is necessary.

One other specialty class is children’ headphones. These are usually inexpensive and designed for smaller heads, however you may also get premium options like noise-canceling. A giant factor to search for on children’ headphones is volume-limiting, which might help to stop noise-induced listening to loss (NIHL).

Battery life: How a lot is sufficient?

App screenshot showing remaining battery life.

This generally is a powerful query to reply, as a result of all of us use our headphones for various quantities of time on completely different days and in numerous conditions. It’s additionally a unique query when coping with over-ear or on-ear headphones versus true wi-fi earbuds.

One technique to strategy it’s to ask what’s the longest period of time you suppose your recipient will probably be unable to plug in to a wall or energy financial institution to recharge? In the event that they fly ceaselessly, they might discover themselves with out wall energy for as much as 24 hours or extra. In that case, a set of headphones with solely 15 hours of battery life won’t lower it.

For true wi-fi earbuds, the query must be divided into two elements: What’s the longest time frame they might want to put on them constantly (with out the power to place them again of their charging case) after which what’s the full time they’ll want earlier than plugging into energy? All true wi-fi earbuds have a “per cost” time (the longest you possibly can go earlier than placing them again within the case) and whole playtime (the longest you possibly can go once you issue within the capability of the charging case’s built-in battery).

Value isn’t at all times a great way to evaluate this. Apple’s second-gen AirPods, for example, price $129 and get 5 hours per cost, whereas Sony’s WF-C500 price $100 and get 10 hours per cost. Positively control the specs for those who’re on the lookout for good battery life.

Consolation and match

Man wearing Beats Fit Pro.
Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Greater than sound high quality, options, or value, this side of headphones (and particularly earbuds) is essentially the most private and, thus, the toughest to evaluate for those who’re shopping for for another person. However listed here are some suggestions that may assist.

On the whole, over-ear headphones (the place the earcups cowl the ear fully) are essentially the most common relating to consolation and match, however in addition they are typically the heaviest. Generally weight received’t matter. In the event that they’re well-designed, even comparatively heavy fashions, just like the $549 Apple AirPods Max, may be cozy for extended intervals. A much bigger concern is the minimal headband dimension. Some are just too massive for folk with small heads (or for youngsters). Since these measurements are seldom mentioned within the producer’s specs, you’ll have to search for opinions that provide some type of evaluation of match.

  • On-ear headphones, which because the title suggests, sit on the ear as a substitute of overlaying the ear, are typically lighter weight and thus extra snug for some of us. You surrender a little bit of sound high quality and, if the headphones supply noise cancellation, they received’t be capable of cancel fairly as a lot exterior sound as over-ear fashions. In case your recipient wears glasses, they might discover on-ear headphones preferable because the ear cushions received’t press the limbs of their glasses into the edges of their head.
  • True wi-fi earbuds are available two important types: People who use a delicate silicone tip to create a seal towards the ear canal, e.g. the AirPods Professional (the most typical design), and people who sit simply contained in the ear and don’t seal the ear canal, e.g. the AirPods. The canal-sealing design affords a safer match, higher sound high quality, and permits the earbuds to supply energetic noise cancellation (ANC) ought to the producer embrace it. Nonetheless, they have an inclination to create the sense that your ear is “full,” and never everyone seems to be snug with that sensation, particularly if the earbuds don’t supply a superb transparency mode (extra on that later). The fashions that sit contained in the ear are extra snug (requiring nearly no changes or twisting) and allow you to hear extra of the skin world. However they’re straightforward to dislodge, particularly throughout intense bodily exercise, they usually can’t compete on sound high quality. Hardly any of those fashions supply ANC.
  • Some true wi-fi earbud fashions include built-in earhooks for an much more safe match. That is best for athletes, however these hooks would possibly intrude with eyeglasses as a result of they use the identical area.
  • An alternative choice to earhooks are wing suggestions — small, versatile items of rubber which are designed to anchor themselves inside the folds of the outer ear. For most individuals, they supply loads of safety, however in a a lot smaller dimension and form.
  • Sadly, true wi-fi earbuds — whether or not they seal the ear canal or not — merely might not work for all folks. The form, depth, variety of eartip sizes, and weight can all play a task in how nicely they match. In case your recipient has by no means worn this type of headphone or hasn’t particularly requested for a sure mannequin, ensure that the retailer affords a superb return coverage.

Sound high quality

Nuraphone review lifestyle look down

On the finish of the day, we’re speaking about units which are used for listening to music, so that you clearly need good sound high quality. However that time period — good sound high quality — will imply various things to completely different folks. An audiophile who spends hundreds of {dollars} on their gear may have a lot greater requirements than somebody who has been completely blissful utilizing the cheap wired earbuds that got here free with their smartphone.

And whereas audio high quality often will get higher as you spend more cash, preserve your recipient’s earlier experiences in thoughts. In the event that they received’t be capable of inform the distinction between a $100 set of headphones and a $300 set, why spend that more money? Fortunately, really horrible sound is a rarity — even in comparatively reasonably priced headphones and earbuds — and when it occurs, it’s often the results of a poor match, not one thing technically unsuitable with the headphones.

Nonetheless, it’s nonetheless value studying opinions to learn the way the producer has tuned the audio system. Some put an enormous emphasis on bass, which generally is a good factor for those who worth massive, boomy beats on your hip-hop-fueled exercises. However that may also be one thing to keep away from in case your recipient’s style in music veers towards classical, jazz, acoustic, or singer-songwriter genres, as an excessively outstanding bass response can muddy the opposite parts.

Energetic noise cancellation and transparency

Apple AirPods Max
Riley Younger/Digital Developments

Of all of the options which have been added to headphones through the years, ANC is arguably essentially the most in-demand. It is sensible: Good ANC can considerably scale back exterior noise with out affecting the sound high quality of your music. The market has responded by including ANC to tons of fashions, throughout a wide range of costs. However make sure you learn opinions earlier than shopping for both headphones or true wi-fi earbuds that promise noise cancellation.

ANC is a function that may work brilliantly, or it might probably barely supply any noise discount in any respect. Within the worst-case state of affairs, turning it on can truly introduce sound within the type of hiss — a aspect impact of poorly designed ANC. The one technique to know the place a sure mannequin sits on this spectrum is to hearken to those that have tried them.

The identical factor is true of transparency mode — a function that does the alternative of ANC by letting a number of exterior sound into your ears, for conversations or simply basic consciousness of your environment. Transparency nearly at all times accompanies ANC, however there are additionally fashions that provide transparency by itself, just like the Jabra Elite 3. It’s a really fascinating function on ear canal-sealing earbuds due to how a lot exterior sound they will block “passively.” In actual fact, a few of these earbuds are so good at blocking sounds, you won’t even really feel the necessity for ANC. Once more, opinions are your finest information to how nicely the transparency function works.

Additional, additional!

Jabra Elite 85t on a wireless charging mat.
Jabra

We’ve coated crucial features of shopping for headphones for another person, however this is able to hardly be an entire information if we didn’t point out the various additional options you’ll find. We think about these nice-to-haves, not need-to-haves, however relying in your recipient’s life-style, they might take a set of excellent headphones and make them far more fulfilling.

Wi-fi charging (true wi-fi earbuds solely): It is a comfort function that permits you to recharge the case utilizing a Qi-compatible wi-fi charging mat. All earbuds that provide wi-fi charging may also be charged utilizing a normal MicroUSB, Lightning, or USB-C cable.
Adjustable EQ: Often supplied inside a companion app, these settings allow you to alter the sound signature for a extra personalized stability of frequencies.
Discover my: Popularized by Apple, this function is displaying up on a number of headphones and earbuds from different firms. It most frequently depends on a companion app that makes use of your telephone’s location providers to maintain observe of the final identified location of your headphones. Some apps go the additional step of letting you sound an audible chime out of your earbuds that will help you discover them after they find yourself buried and aren’t seen. Nonetheless others use object discovering networks like Tile to present you a significantly better likelihood of discovering your lacking gadget.
Adjustable controls: That is one other app-based function that permits you to select which capabilities must be related to button-presses or contact gestures, as a substitute of working with the manufacturing facility settings
Put on sensors: This comfort function can routinely pause or resume your music once you take away or reinsert an earbud, or take away/change your headphones.
Quick charging: Some merchandise are designed to present you a technique to shortly cost an almost-depleted battery. The occasions can fluctuate vastly, from a 15-minute cost that provides you an additional hour of play time to a 10-minute cost that can provide you three or extra hours.
Bluetooth multipoint: A rarity on true wi-fi earbuds, however fairly widespread on full-size headphones, this allows you to join to 2 Bluetooth units concurrently, like a telephone and a pc. It’s very helpful for individuals who routinely want to modify between Zoom calls, telephone calls, and music listening.
Hello-res audio: We touched on this above after we talked about Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec. Some wi-fi earbuds and headphones provide the choice of a a lot greater high quality of audio sign from an Android telephone. However bear in mind, having LDAC (or aptX HD) is one factor, nevertheless it doesn’t essentially imply the headphones themselves are able to delivering a top-quality hi-res audio expertise. You’ll additionally want entry to hi-res audio content material in an effort to hear any considerable distinction.

How a lot do it is advisable to spend?

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
Simon Cohen / Digital Developments

Right here’s some excellent news: Whereas it’s true that the easiest headphones and earbuds can price nicely in extra of $200, there are tons of merchandise that price far much less, but supply superb efficiency. You might have to decide on some options over others, however you’ll don’t have any hassle discovering worthwhile picks for as little as $50.

Most of those will probably be from manufacturers that don’t take pleasure in the identical type of family recognition as Sony, Bose, Apple, and others. In case your recipient is very brand-conscious, that could possibly be a consideration, however we’ve no qualms over recommending firms like Anker Soundcore, 1More, Wyze, Tronsmart, Skullcandy, Marshall, EarFun, Edifier, and Again Bay, all of which have produced nice merchandise at extremely reasonably priced costs.

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