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What are the Right Headphones for You?

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What kind of sound do your ears crave?

Back in the days of Walkmans, when headphones were first becoming a common sight, they were almost all flimsy, skinny things with thin, foamy pads. Then iPods started coming with earbuds, upending the entire portable music market, and Beats turned chunky headphones into a luxury item. It’s all so much different from how it used to be that it can be a little disorienting. Whether you’re a trend chaser or an audiophile, there are speakers out there for you that can fit your needs (and price range).

Let’s clarify the three kinds of speakers first. First, you have on-ear headphones, the most common kind of external speaker. They rest on top of your ears, cushioned with large foam pads. These are usually the most middling in terms of price and quality; you can get a decent pair for a reasonable price, and the quality of sound will be perfectly serviceable.

Secondly, in-ear headphones, also known as earbuds, are the small plugs that are inserted directly into your ear canal, with the pressure difference holding them in place. Buds tend to be even cheaper than on-ears, though some people (like me) may not have “compatible” ears. Pushing your buds too far into your ears, or at a weird angle, can cause injury and irritation.

Finally, you have over-ear headphones. Over-ears are super-sized on-ears designed to cover your ears completely. Over-ears are usually the most comfortable and provide the best sound quality, but they also tend to be the most expensive. Over-ears are for folks who really, really don’t want to be bothered while listening to stuff.

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Whatever type you pick, you also need to consider additional factors, such as whether to go wired or wireless, and if you need noise-cancelling functionality. If you’re looking for something simple and portable, not to mention trendy, you’ll probably want a pair of wireless earbuds. If you want to get better fidelity from your music at the cost of portability, a wired over-ear pair would be better. If you wanna stay in the middle of the road, you can get a pretty decent pair of wireless on-ears off of Amazon for around $40. It’s all a matter of how much listening you do, and how good you want the quality to be.