Digital technology is revolutionizing home entertainment, including headphones and earbuds. Listen up, audiophiles.
Bluetooth technology has matured, making wires and plugs obsolete. Listeners can roam the house with the audio source several feet away. A processing method called apx HD is the technology standard for delivering sound wirelessly from the player to earpieces.
Headphones versus buds. The padded covers of a seat of headphones encase your ears and shut out the rest of the world. Ear buds slip into the opening of the ear canal delivering sound straight to the ear drums.
Quality of sound depends on the range of sound frequencies. Look for a frequency range of 15,000 to 28,000 hertz, the full range of human hearing, which will provide deep lows and the highest highs. Bothered by the hiss from the electricity powering the earpiece? Look for a model that measures high in ohms.
Another important feature is noise cancellation. This blocks distracting ambient noise. Most headphones are made to sit on the ear, but more expensive models cover the ear with greater noise-canceling capability.
Many headphones today come with a base station to connect to a television, allowing for private TV viewing while others in the room to go about their activities without being disturbed — or disturbing you.
When shopping headphones, consider how you will use them. Gripping strength is important if you will be wearing the headphones while running or doing other strenuous exercise. The most important quality is simple comfort. Leading manufacturers include Beats by Dre, Bose, Sennheiser and Plantronics. Prices start at under $100 but can cost as much as several thousand.
Earbuds. Runners look for earbuds that stay in place during activity. Look for models that clip over the ear or have a tensioner brace that holds onto the outer ear at the start of the ear canal. Because buds are smaller than headphones, it’s more difficult and more expensive to produce models with top-quality sound.
Some of the same brands produce earbuds and headphones. Notable standouts include the Jabra Sports Pulse that measures heartbeat through the ear canal and the totally wireless Erato Apollo 7. The carrying case serves as the charger when the buds are inside. Prices start as low as $19 for JVC or Skull Candy and go as high as $250 or more.