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Headphones buying guide
How to find a pair that fits your head and your lifestyle
With so many different headphones on the market, how do you decide which ones are right for you? Scroll through our shopping guide to discover the different styles of headphones. Click the style to display more photos and information below.
Click for InfoAround-the-ear
Around-the-ear headphones fit completely over your ears for maximum comfort.
Click for InfoOn-ear headphones
On-ear headphones feature earpads that rest against your ears for smaller, lightweight designs.
Click for InfoIn-ear headphones
In-ear headphones are small enough to take anywhere and can deliver big sound.
Click for InfoSports
Sport headphones power your workout without slowing you down.
Click for InfoNoise-canceling headphones
Noise-canceling headphones block out external distractions so you can focus on your music.
Click for InfoAudiophile headphones
Audiophile headphones are designed to deliver uncompromised and accurate sound.
Click for InfoWireless headphones
Wireless headphones let you listen without getting caught up in cables.
Click for InfoGaming headphones
Gaming headsets bring video game sound effects to life and let you chat with online opponents.
Click for InfoDACs and Amplifiers
Digital-to-analog converters and headphone amplifiers help headphones sound their best.
Around-the-ear headphones feature large earcups that fit around your ears and rest against your head. Sometimes called over-ear headphones, they usually feature cushioned headbands and velour- or leather-padded earcups to ensure long-lasting comfort.
Around-the-ear headphones are often designed for home listening with your stereo or home theater.
Smaller form factors and in-line remotes are making around-the-ear headphones more portable than ever.
Closed-back designs, like these noise-canceling headphones, block out noise and keep music from leaking and disturbing others.
With bright colors and fresh designs, many around-the-ear headphones look as good as they sound.
Open-back designs provide a spacious soundstage but are less effective at isolating noise.
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On-ear headphones feature earpads that rest against your ears. While some models are as large as around-the-ear headphones, most are smaller and more portable.
Many on-ear headphones are designed for use with smartphones and portable music players.
On-ear headphones are usually compact and comfortable enough to take anywhere.
Open-back on-ear headphones are at their best in quiet listening environments.
In-line remotes and microphones are increasingly common in on-ear headphones.
A larger set of closed-back on-ear headphones can provide excellent noise isolation.
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In-ear headphones, or earbuds, are inserted directly into your ears. Some models are designed to fit in your ear canal, thus forming a seal that provides excellent noise isolation. Other kinds fit snugly into the opening of your ear. Most come with several pairs of silicon or foam tips so you can find the right fit for optimum comfort and sound quality. Though tiny in size, some in-ear headphones are capable of delivering true audiophile sound.
Most in-ear headphones include different sizes of ear tips so you can find the right fit.
With the right fit, in-ear headphones are capable of delivering deep, powerful bass.
Because of their small size and snug fit, in-ear headphones are ideal for active use.
Many in-ear headphones include an in-line remote and microphone for use with mobile devices.
In-ear headphones are perfect for on-the-go listening.
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Sport headphones are lightweight and durable, so they can keep up with your punishing workout without getting in the way. Many models are water-resistant, so they don't get damaged by sweat or rain. Designed to stay securely in place, sport headphones are usually in-ear designs that rely on flexible ear clips to hold them in place during strenuous exercise.
Many sport headphones feature an in-line remote for easy control of your music.
Some sport headphones hook around your ears to stay in place during your workout.
Most sport headphones are sweat- and weather-resistant.
Reflective neckbands and headbands help keep you visible while running at night.
Though designed for exercise, sport headphones are great for travel, commuting or any kind of on-the-go listening.
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Noise-canceling headphones use active circuitry to counteract external sounds. Small microphones pick up noise so the headphones can emit an out-of-phase tone. This significantly reduces the amount of external sound that reaches your ears, allowing you to hear the details of your music without having to increase the volume to ear-damaging levels.
Powerful noise-canceling technology can drastically reduce airplane engine noise for clear, comfortable music listening.
Let office noise melt away so you can focus on your work.
Many models feature push-to-talk buttons, perfect for muting music and disengaging the noise-canceling circuitry for quick conversations.
Some noise-canceling headphones allow you to listen with or without the noise-canceling circuitry activated.
Ideal for busy travelers, noise-canceling headphones can make long flights relaxing.
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Audiophile headphones are designed for those who who want to hear every detail of their music with as much clarity as possible. These headphones are characterized by a "flat" or "neutral" sound signature, so they reveal the music as the artist intended it to be heard.
Most audiophile headphones are built for home listening with your stereo or home theater.
More audiophile headphones are being designed to be easily driven by portable devices.
In-ear audiophile headphones are capable of producing brilliant full-range sound with incredible clarity and deep bass.
Many audiophile headphones feature open earcups for a wide, spacious soundstage.
Audiophile headphones are usually built for maximum comfort with soft, cushioned earcups and padded headbands.
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Wireless headphones receive signals from your music source via Bluetooth® or separate transmitters, no cables required. These types of headphones let you move around free from the restrictions of dangling wires.
Bluetooth headphones are great for travel with no wires to slow you down.
Wireless headphones are perfect for late-night TV watching that won't disturb others.
Most smartphones feature Bluetooth capability for easy pairing with Bluetooth headphones.
Earpiece controls let you answer calls and play music while your phone is stashed away.
Wireless headphones can provide excellent sound quality as well as freedom of movement.
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Gaming headsets feature built-in microphones. So they not only let you enjoy the explosive sounds of your video games, but also let you chat with online teammates and opponents during play.
Stereo gaming headsets envelop you in the sounds of the game.
Chat online with the built-in microphone or mute it for quick in-room conversations.
Gaming headsets are designed for use with different computer platforms and game consoles.
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Your computer's built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is likely not effective at delivering the best possible sound to your headphones. An outboard DAC can greatly improve the sound of digital music files. Similarly, a dedicated headphone amp will properly drive your headphones to their peak performance.
An outboard digital-to-analog converter is a vast improvement over the DAC in your computer's stock soundcard.
Unlike a mobile device, a separate headphone amplifier provides plenty of power to your headphones so they sound their best.