Those benefits and drawbacks offered by open-back headphones are reversed for closed-back. Closed-back enables better noise cancellation – passive or active – and they’re also better at keeping your audio to yourself. They may not offer the clearer audio you can get from open-back but they are usable in more of your average everyday listening scenarios. Audiophiles, though, should consider open-back for private listening.
Headphone impedance explained
Headphones with higher impedance tend to draw more power while headphones with lower impedance drawing lower power. For the average listener, you need not concern yourself much with impedance but it can be important to specialists who use equipment like DJ mixers. Headphones with lower impedance are more likely to blow out when used with amplifiers.
Generally, below 25 ohms is seen as low and is typically the level of phones, speakers and other small devices. Over 25 ohms is acceptable for more specialist listening. Finding headphones over 25 ohms isn’t all that hard, however, with our favourite headphones – the Sony WH-1000XM4 (£243) – coming in at over 40 ohms when plugged in.
Frequency response explained
Put simply, frequency response equates to how well a piece of audio equipment can reproduce sounds that the human ear can hear. We can, generally, hear frequencies as low as 20Hz and as high as 20,000Hz (20kHz). Despite this, headphones often venture outside these boundaries to showcase how well their headphones can work at any frequencies. For example, the Sony XM4 headphones tout a 4Hz-40,000Hz frequency response. This means the headphones are capable of reproducing bass around the 20-300Hz range, mids between 300Hz-4,000Hz and treble above 40,000kHz. If the headphones you are buying have a frequency response not covering each of these ranges then they will fair worse at those frequencies.
Who makes the best headphones?
In our humble opinion, its Sony and their WH-1000XM4 – a cracking follow-up to their already magnificent WH-1000XM3s.
However, all headphones users have different needs and may be willing to give a little ground in different areas to get what they want. Jaybird makes great headphones for runners, AKG makes impressive headphones if you only want to spend under £100 while Bose had nailed wireless earbuds.
Where is the best place to buy headphones?
If you’re looking purely for the lowest prices then we have to recommend Amazon as the best place to buy headphones. Across our top picks, Amazon consistently offers the cheapest prices.
However, John Lewis is often not far behind on prices and offers its 2-year guarantee across all purchases. It’s also worth bearing in mind offers from specific retailers and manufacturers when it comes time to buy your headphones, as you may be able to get a deal or extra bonus that isn’t available on just any given day.
How much should you spend on headphones?
As a lower benchmark, you can now get a cracking pair of in-ears for £40 and decent wireless earbuds for the £50-70 mark. If it’s on-ears, wired or wireless, we’d recommend pushing your budget up to £70-90 as a minimum.
Where noise-cancelling is concerned, this is where you should start to pay £200+ for both on-ears and true wireless earbuds if you want the best in audio quality and NC. Ditto if you don’t care about noise cancelling but top notch, detailed sound is a must. As for the top end, the £2,795 Focal Stellia are the best pair of closed-back headphones we’ve ever tested so it takes all sorts.
Over-ear vs On-ear vs earbuds – which is better?
In the headphone world, there’s a decision for you to make even before you look at specific models – do you want headphones that cover your ears, sit on your ears neatly sit in your ears? The answer will ultimately come down to personal taste but each has its benefits.