The Case for Investing in Expensive Headphones

The importance of high quality headphones cannot be overstated. The quandary is that choosing a good pair of headphones is easier said than done. Generally, the higher priced the headphone is the better sound quality it has. Of course, there are certain diminishing returns, but choosing the right higher end headphones can be extremely satisfying. And you don’t have to be an audiophile to figure it out either. The differences are pretty clear.

Keep in mind that price tag doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality. There are certain cheaper headphones that sound much better than other higher priced ones. When it comes down to it, compression algorithms have very little effect on the quality of music. The main factors that affect sound quality include:

  • Compression type (MP3, CD vs AAC, etc)
  • Jacks and cables; 1%
  • Current processing components – amp, EQ; 8%
  • Turntable/Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) – where stored sound information is converted into an electric
  • current; 20%
  • Speakers – they convert a dry electrical current into a sound wave

The conversion of digital binary data into WAV binary data is virtually insignificant by comparison. In a nutshell, your music will sound crisper and clear with highs that are not so harsh, bass that does not sound muddy, and so forth. Higher quality headphones are also likely to give you better soundstage, where you feel like you are listening to a live performance. You will literally hear the distinct, individual instruments blending to form a single piece of music.


A good pair of high end headphones should come with quality features to match its price tag. They should be constructed with solid material, feel sturdy, and be relatively heavy. If you have more cash, you can even include such features as detachable cables, noise cancellation, wireless audio, and so forth. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the device should be made of metal, but expensive headphones should be strong enough to withstand some beating and feel stable from the inside out.

Many high end headphones boast features such as ear pad coverings, a carrying shell, a fold up design, plastic that does not groan or creak whenever you slide them over your head or adjust the headband, and replaceable tips. While it’s nice to have things such as gold plated connectors, leather headbands, and cloth braided cables, they are basically useless as far as sound is concerned. In fact, they are often included to substandard headphones to simply boost the price.


Remember that expensive headphones do not always sound better. Consider the actual sources of your music and from where you listen to them. You can spend more money on a pair of headphones, but it won’t be useful if your music is mostly low bitrate streams while commuting on noisy subways. However, they will be a lot more effective at home when listening to high-quality MP, where it is nice and quiet. If you spend most of your time in noisy environments, you are better off buying an affordable pair of headphones than a pricey one. On the other hand, if you’ll be using the headphones at home most of the time, go for a better quality pair in order to enjoy every detail from your music.

How about noise cancelling headphones?

This category is sometimes referred to as passive noise cancellation, and basically describes a pair of headphones that blocks out noise by creating a strong sound barrier between the headphone and your ear. Noise cancellation ear –buds use a snug fit to block out external noise. Over ear devices that can fit comfortably around the ear come with thickly-padded cups for blocking out maximum noise.

The idea is to build a strong comfortable barrier around the years/ear canal so that you only hear the music from your headphones. As such, these types of headphones are designed to be used in lower-volume environments than others because of muffling external noise. It is advisable to be extremely mindful when wearing the headphones while on the go, as you may not be able to pay attention to your surroundings.

Noise-cancellation headphones block out sound waves using digital signal processing technology. In simple words, the headphones have an integrated audio processor and microphone that actively “listens” to the noise around you and produces an opposite sound that cancels it out. This is referred to as destructive interference. A good model can tolerate constant, ambient noise (such as jet engines air conditioning units, conversation, and so forth), but abrupt changes such as a door being slammed or someone shouting can be hard to adjust for. The most effective noise cancellation headphones block out everything but your music, while others can even give your peace of mind when there’s nothing playing.

Remember that you should be extra careful when wearing these types of headphones, since they are essentially designed to eliminate sound from your environment. If your surroundings require your attention for safety, steer away from them. On the other hand, if you need them to block out your workmates chattering about the previous night’s football game and don’t want them to spoil it for you, then go for it.

Bottom Line

Buying a pair of headphones can be challenging. You can read reviews, take people’s recommendations, do plenty of research, and still end up having a bad listening experience. The most important thing to do is to consider the return policy of your seller, as well as the allowance to try the headphones for some time and then return them if they don’t feel right for you, especially if you are spending a lot of cash for a high end pair. There are several different styles of headphones in the market, all of which fit and sound differently on your ears. The most common ones include earbuds ear pad headphones, and full size headphones. When investing in expensive headphones, it all boils down to the form factor you are looking for. Apart from the nature of your surroundings, you will also want to consider the type of music you are listening to.

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