THE ULTIMATE 3-PART TEST FOR HEADPHONE QUALITY
Are you planning to get a new pair of headphones? Weighing your options between headphones – Bluetooth operated/wired? In-ear, on-ear, or over-ear noise-canceling headphones? Closed-back or open-back headphones? We know the list goes on, but you get the gist.
If you are someone who appreciates the mix-and-match of unique sounds to create music or have a knack for identifying and distinguishing between objects based on how they sound, if you spend a lot of time listening to podcasts and music on high quality, or if sound therapy is something that you’re inclined towards, you know how necessary the right equipment is.
So, here’s the ultimate checklist and guide to help you test your potential headphones and make an informed decision before investing in them!
Note: while many factors would vary according to personal use and requirements, we’ve put together an essential list that should cover most. From sound quality to fit and portability, this list has it all!
PART 1 | SOUND QUALITY
01 | Frequency Check
Its ability to handle frequencies clearly indicates that your headphone gives quality sound. Test this with pitch variations. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Choose 3-4 soundtracks or audio recordings of different genres. E.g., Classical, Rock/Metal, Pop, and Electronic. You can either download these or save them to your online playlist. Make sure you are familiar with these tracks to spot flaws in the playback.
Connect your headphones and play low-frequency/low-bass soundtracks predominantly. Also known as infrasound, this frequency is generally about 20 Hz or lower. Interestingly, it is also used to monitor earthquakes and volcanoes. Some examples are bass guitars, baritone vocals, the sound of waves, drums, synthesizers, and human heartbeats. Low-frequency sounds correspond to bass.
If your headphone’s response accuracy/clarity is good, tick one of those checkboxes!
Now test the response accuracy with high-frequency sounds: usually about 2,000 Hz or higher. Frequencies higher than 20,000 Hz are known as ultrasound/ultrasonic sound. Whistles, chirping birds, violins, cymbals, and hi-hats are some high-frequency sounds that correspond to treble.
Note the feedback you receive from your headphones to this range.
02 | Dynamic Range
Now that you’ve checked the high and low frequencies separately, it’s time to test the response accuracy to a dynamic range. Dynamic range is the ratio between the highest and lowest frequencies in the sound. Classical music is usually the best example of this.
So, put your headphones to the test by playing your pick between Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, or Tchaikovsky. Note their consistency across the frequencies.
03 | Resemblance to Reality
To analyze how realistic the sound output is, play binaural recordings. This will give you an idea of how a live streaming of a concert or a person talking would sound as opposed to a recording. It will also show the spectrum and surround sound output of your headphones.
04 | Distortions & Leaks
The last leg in checking sound quality is to check for evident red flags. Again, test the range from the lowest to the highest volume. The clarity should be consistent throughout. If you notice any distortions like crackling or buzzing, it’s not a good sign.
Also, check the amount of sound leak by taking off your headphones while the music is still playing. You can also do so with the volume range. The lower the sound leak, the better it is.
Bonus: Mobile Apps to check sound quality:
- Headphone Check (for Apple) / Left Right – Stereo Test (for Android)
- Ultimate Ear – Headphone Test
- Mic Test
- Headphone: Test your Headset or Bluetooth
Bonus: Web Apps to check sound quality:
- The Ultimate Headphone Test
PART 2 | PHYSICAL FEATURES
01 | Fit
No matter how amazing a headphone’s sound quality and features may seem, you need to be comfortable wearing them. So make sure you select headphones that can be adjusted to fit you well. Most in-ear devices come with several ear-plug size options, and you can adjust most over-ear headphones to fit your head and ears perfectly.
02 | Portability
If you’re a person who uses headphones during your daily commute or for a run/outdoor workout, portability is high on the list of physical features. You want to carry them conveniently with a hassle-free experience. The best options for this are wireless over-ear or in-ear headphones.
03 | Durability
Whether you’re using your headphones majorly outdoors or indoors, you want to invest in a pair that lasts long. We recommend headphones featuring resistance to external factors like water and sweat for active listeners. Water-proof/water-resistant options give an added layer of protection.
04 | Microphones
If you’ll be using your headphones to take calls hands-free, go for ones with a built-in microphone. Make sure to try it out!
PART 3 | TECHNOLOGICAL FEATURES
01 | Bluetooth Connectivity
Wireless headphones are all the rage today with their convenience and enhanced quality. Wireless headphones still hold the benchmark for professional and studio use, but you can expect almost the same audio quality as wireless ones for casual use. The popular codec at present is aptX. Some devices also support aptX HD, which gives higher audio quality, while aptX LL (Low Latency) gives a faster response for watching movies/videos and gaming.
02 | Active Noise-cancelation
Earlier, noise-canceling headphones were more expensive, but of late, many affordable options are available. Most of us prefer not to be interrupted by ambient noise when we put on our headphones. The active noise-canceling feature gives you a great immersive experience by cutting it out.
03 | Hi-Fi Audio
For audiophiles, high-fidelity audio and noise-cancelation features are the most sought-after ones. With increasingly affordable options available today, consider investing in them!
04 | Charging & Playback
Last but not least, ensure your wireless headphones have a quick charging time and more playback time, especially if you’re planning to use them for commuting/outdoors.
That’s a wrap for now! We hope this 3-part test gives you a better understanding and clarity on which headphones to use.
Meanwhile, you can also check out these Nuvelon ONE Adjustable Bass Wireless Over Ear Noise Canceling Headphones at: https://nuvelon.com/collections/headphone/products/nuvelon-one-anc-wireless-over-ear-headphone-black