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Guide to Finding the Perfect Pair of Headphones

Guide to Finding the Perfect Pair of Headphones

Updated September 2023

The ears have it

Feeling snowed under by all the varieties and jargon, when all you want is a good pair of headphones?

Regardless of whether you prefer your personal listening untethered, or the hardwired option is your favourite, the many varieties of headphones and earphones available can make your head spin.

Lightweight wired headphones normally use a 3.5mm audio plug, available in three-pole or four-pole version. Three-pole stereo comprises left, right and common ground, while four-pole has microphone support for hands-free phone calls. This variety often has inline controls for answering calls and adjusting volume.

Not all wired wearables use a 3.5mm audio connector. Some plug into the USB-A port of a computer, while others can be connected directly to USB-C on newer laptops and tablets, as well as many Android smartphones. Earphones with a Lightning™ connector are compatible with the latest Apple devices.

Bluetooth® headphones come in various styles and configurations, ranging from sports earbuds to over-ear headsets. If you've never tried this variety of personal listening gear, you're in for a pleasant surprise: most Bluetooth® units are intended for use with smartphones, and feature a built-in microphone that lets you make and answer calls.

Some also include a built-in FM radio and onboard microSD support, while others have a noise-cancelling feature, great for public transport or other loud environments. An optional 3.5mm cable is included with most models, allowing you to use them with any device you can only plug wired headphones into.

As with some Bluetooth® speakers, wireless earbuds support TWS (true wireless stereo). This means that the left and right channels are sent independently to their respective earbuds.

Enjoy the freedom of listening unwired in the living room, using infra-red headphones with a transmitter that plugs into your TV or other audio source. Their chief limitation is that unlike their 2.4GHz wireless counterparts, infra-red headphones must have line-of-sight to the transmitter station. However they tend to be less expensive than 2.4GHz wireless models.

Click here for the full range of headphones and earphones.