Tech Talk: Finding the right headphones

Published: February 16, 2013


Having been in the radio industry and working as a DJ for the past decade, I’ve been through my fair share of headphones and all kinds of them, too.  I actually love headphones – from the first pair I ever used on air to the M&M’s limited edition earbuds, I have a little collection that would look nice in my personal museum one day.

Over the years of buying the right pairs, wrong pairs and returning pairs, here are a few things to have your on your checklist next time you go shopping for this accessory:

  1. What will you be using them for? Listening to music, playing games, watching movies in bed or all?  Think about how many hours per day or week first.  This should determine your price price.  I use my for work and home and usually try to spend $60 to 100.  However if you are a professional music maker of course, you can have an unlimited budget.  I just never understood why kids spend upwards of $300 for a name brand that will get minimal use.
  2. Wireless or not?  Personally, I have never had a wireless pair but if I was to try one out – I would test them out for a week or so. Buying a pair and bringing them home and trying them out for a day or two is ok.  You can return most headphones but just be careful not to rip open the packaging to a point you can re-pack it to return.  Make sure you are not buying a final sale item and unsure of the headphones or you will have a large collection – trust me.
  3. Extra bass – are you sure?  This is not only dangerous and damaging over time, but in some cases distorts some music and movies.  Try to find a pair that gives you an option or make sure you can set the bass and other levels on the equipment side of things.

Just a good time to show you this chart too:

Sound dBSPL
Library 30 dB
Normal   conversation at 1 meter 40 – 60   dB
Car   driving by at 10 meters 60 – 80   dB
Busy   city traffic 90 dB
Jackhammer   at 1 meter 100 dB
Typical   club concert 110 dB
Threshold   of pain 130 dB
Jet   engine at 30 meters 150dB


4. Comfort – Pinching the ears has been a problem for me but I also wear headphones 4 to 8 hours in a day. I have one pair I use for limited time and the main pair for DJ gigs and long periods of time.  Something a lot of people don’t even think about but did you know your can seriously damage your outer ears if they are pinched and that can also cause inner ear problems. Again, determine how many hours per day or week you wear them – not just for price but also for comfort.  My choice is the Sony Dynamic Stereo headphones MDR-V500 – soft, smooth and bendable.  Less than $100 and they do the job every time.

5. Colour is important – Yes there are neons, funky prints and all that jazz but think about this:  is pink vs. black for  fun or professional use.  I thought it would be nice to have a pink pair but it matched nothing and I actually had a couple of clients – venues where I DJ- say they looked unprofessional.  I went back to black and comfort.  The pink ones I still rock out to – at home, in my robe.

Tech Talk is brought to you Cambie Village Dental – Vancouver’s newest, state of the art dental clinic. 

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