How many headphone types do you know? You’re about to see 14 different headphone categories in this specs guide!
Just to make it clear, “specs” means “specifications”. They differ from one another. Knowing a lot about specs can help you in determining a headphone quality as well as help you decide if a headphone fits your needs.
In case you’re a gamer and are looking for specific gaming features, click on the numbers to jump to the specs of gamer headphones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9.
Let’s get headphone specs explained.
This spec is simple but powerful. Wireless headphones connect to multiple devices without needing a cable (but some of them have a cable if you want to use it anytime). That’s great for connection with devices such as smartphones, stereo speakers, computers, gaming consoles and TV.
Don’t confuse Wireless headphones with headphones that support Bluetooth connectivity because Bluetooth tech mostly pairs headphones up with smartphones and computers, but no other device.
Also, using Wireless headphones requires you to follow some distance limits between the headphone and the connected device to avoid losing connection signal. It’s very similar to how WiFi works.
2. Volume control
The first spec a headphone can have is volume control. This feature is very simple, and most headphones have it.
It’s very important that you make sure a headphone has volume control when you’re choosing it, and that goes for every headphone type, even earbuds (those very small headphones worn inside the ears).
That’s because when you’re video conferencing, listening to music or gaming, you need to be capable of muting or reducing the sound your ears are getting. That can be helpful during any ear-overwhelming high pitch or deep bass you weren’t expecting during the sound reproduction.
Volume control secures your health while you’re using your headphones.
3. Microphone integration
A headphone with microphone integration is a must have for video conferencing and gaming. Not every headphone type has this spec. Some earbuds, for example, don’t have microphones.
“Headset” is another way of naming headphones with microphone integration. This means that every headset is a headphone (both reproduce sound), but not every headphone is a headset (only one has an integrated microphone).
Also, remember that the microphone quality varies a lot from one headphone to another, so it’s better for you to take a closer look at the headphone’s reputation before choosing it.
If microphone integration is a need for you, check the headphone specs first before choosing it.
4. On-ear and over-ear
When a headphone is not an earbud (in-ear), it can be on-ear and over-ear. This spec is very easy to understand. Just imagine those big ear pads that cover the full ear and more, they’re the over-ear headphones. On-ear headphones have ear pads that are a little smaller than over-ear headphones.
Also, on-ear headphones have ear pads with just about the size of most people’s ears, but sometimes they don’t cover the full ear.
“Full size” and “circumaural (meaning ‘around the ear’)” are other names for over-ear headphones. They’re better for noise isolating and noise canceling (you’ll see those specs ahead).
Both on-ear and over-ear headphones offer great sound quality, it’s up to you to choose your favorite. Just remember that over-ear headphones are better if you need to spend a long time video conferencing or gaming.
5. Stereo sound and mono sound
A headphone can have either stereo sound channels or mono sound channels. Mono sound uses one channel to reproduce sound. Stereo sound uses multiple channels to reproduce multiple sound signals.
In short, stereo sound headphones have cool effects by dividing sounds between the two ear pads. So for example if you’re playing a game and there’s a character shouting at your right (inside the game), your stereo sound headphones will only reproduce the character shouts on the right ear pad only. That increases the user experience a lot.
Don’t confuse mono sound channels with mono headphones, which are those that have only one ear pad, wearable on one side of your head. The same goes with stereo sound channels that are different from stereo headphones (with two ear pads).
Most people who need headphones for video conferences or gaming prefer the ones with stereo sound channels.
In case you don’t know which one to choose, test them both then you decide what’s your favorite.
6. For DJs
This spec is for great DJs (beginners and professionals). DJ style headphones can be on-ear or over-ear, their design allows you to put one ear pads on one of your ears and the other ear pad can be put on your neck or on the back of your head to give you that cool DJ look! They also implement deeper sound quality to make it easier for DJs to follow their mixes in real time.
If you want to learn more about DJ headphones see our post Beginner DJ Equipment Guide.
Most DJ style headphones have no microphone, but there are some of them with built in microphones, although you may need to check their reputation on the Internet before choosing one because they may have a little lower quality.
A lightweight headphone is made to be very comfortable to wear for hours on end. They have a thin material composition that weighs less than average.
But that doesn’t mean lightweight headphones have less quality! They keep up with sound performance while having featherweight. Headphones with lightweight features can be small earbuds, normal headphones and also headsets (headphones + microphones).
Lightweight headphones can also be noise-canceling, noise-isolating and, of course, have volume control, you just need to check the features list for every headphone before choosing it.
This spec is great if you need to wear headphones for long during long video conferences, hours of gaming, or simply for listening to a lot of music!
8. Noise canceling
This is a very useful spec if you’re video conferencing or gaming with your headphones. Noise canceling is a.k.a. active noise control (ANC), active noise reduction (ANR) or simply noise cancelation.
It’s a feature a headphone has of constantly playing a secondary sound as background to reduce disturbing exterior sounds/noises.
This means noise canceling headphones will always play a background sound to reduce exterior noise unless you turn this feature off (yep, that’s possible, it’s only a matter of software control).
Noise canceling is a very cool technique! The headphones with this feature have speakers that emit an inverted phase sound wave with the same amplitude of the whatever-you-listen-to sound wave. The noise canceling sound wave is an antiphase wave that reduces exterior noise a lot.
If you got curious, give noise canceling headphones a try! And don’t forget to check if they have microphone integration.
9. Noise isolating
Not the same as noise canceling, the noise isolation feature actually implements physical barriers to remove exterior sound. Some noise isolating techniques are tight fitted seals for in-ear headphones or padding ear cushions. So, headphones with this spec isolate your ears from exterior sound and noises.
This feature along with microphone integration is also very useful for video conferencing and gaming. However, not every headphone has noise isolation so you better check its specs if you need.
In case you don’t know what noise reduction technique to choose, try both noise isolating and noise canceling headphones and decide what’s your favorite, then from there on you always pick up the headphone that implements it (your favorite noise reduction technique).
10. Tangle free cable
A tangle free cable allows you to wear in-ear phones without having to worry about wire tangling while you use it or when you transport it somewhere inside backpacks, a bag or a purse, for example.
“Tangle free cables” are also known as “flat tangle free cable”, “tangle free cord” and “flat tangle free cord”.
This spec is mostly for earbuds. But don’t underestimate them, there are top quality earbuds! You can even get lightweight earbuds with microphone integration, noise isolating, noise canceling, stereo sound channels, deep bass and more cool features!
It’s up to you to decide if you like earbuds, then you test the ones with tangle free cables to see what you get.
11. Underwater use
Having waterproof headphones is great if you usually swim. You can take your headphones underwater and listen to music while you’re swimming! Imagine playing a nice workout music playlist while you’re underwater. Cool, right?
Waterproof headphones are earbuds, they don’t come as on-ear or over-ear. Waterproof earbuds can be great to wear in normal daily activities that aren’t underwater. They have a charging case that allows you to use them for hours on end.
Some of them are noise canceling, they also have cases to store them outside the water, they’re dust-proof and they have Bluetooth connectivity.
“Water-resistant” is another way of naming waterproof headphones.
There are better waterproof earbuds for better for specific water depths, so you should do a little research about that before choosing one.
12. For sound studios
Sound studio headphones a.k.a. “Audio Monitor Headphones” are for professional use, most of them are on-ear or over-ear headphones that balance across all audio frequencies, lows, mids and highs, to provide an accurate listening during sound studio activities, such as recording music, podcasts. They’re also useful for radio stations.
This type of headphone implements tech that increases the analysis ability of sounds, such as noise canceling, noise isolating and reproducing deep bass frequencies.
Sound studio headphones are very specific for studio use, but if you’re doing something like music recording at home and want to try them out in your home studio, go for it!
13. Foldable (great for traveling)
Yep! There are headphones that can actually be folded! This spec is great for traveling: you may want foldable headphones when you need to carry them around inside backpacks, a bag or a purse. That’s possible by folding the headphones ear pads in.
This feature is for on-ear or over-ear headphones, earbud are already pretty small so they can’t be folded this way.
If you like to keep your headphone stored somewhere when you’re no using it, being able to fold it is a great option because it saves space.
Also, foldable headphones usually have portable cases, which means you can fold them and put them safely inside the case whenever you want. Again, that’s great for traveling.
14. Fitness focused
A fitness focused headphone implements a few features such as being wireless, sweat proof and having Bluetooth connectivity. They’re a.k.a. “Sport Headphones”, “exercise headphones” and “workout headphones”
Most of them are earbuds, but there are on-ear or over-ear headphones for fitness activities as well. Just remember that earbuds may be more comfortable for practicing sports and doing exercises.
Some earbud headphones for sports and exercise have a Wireless case for charging just so they keep working for around 30 hours. Cool, right?!
Headphones for fitness are great for workout, gym, sports and even yoga. They work well with normal device-connection use too, just remember they may not don’t have microphone integration because its purpose is outside use, so you should check its specs if you need a headphone + microphone.
You’re the headphone expert now!
Cool! Now you can name 14 different headphone specifications!
If you had any doubts of what headphone is best for you in specific situations such as video conferencing, gaming, exercising and even swimming, now you know what to look for.
So, be confident to say you’re a headphone type expert!
You can also share your thoughts in the comments below!