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April 11, 2021
Headphones Buying Guide

Find the Perfect Pair of Headphones

Everyone could use a good pair of headphones -- whether you're a DJ, audiophile, or simply a music lover. In this guide, we've picked our favorite DJ headphones, studio monitor headphones, audiophile headphones, noise-cancelling headphones, sound-isolating headphones, earphones and earbuds, and accessories like extender cables, adapter plugs and headphone amps. Find all our picks below!

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DJ Headphones
What makes DJ headphones different from other headphones? For starters, DJ headphones generally have swiveling earcups and boosted bass frequencies. Rotatable earcups let you keep one ear on the mix and the other on what's going on environmentally. Headphones with extended bass definition help DJs to hear and feel the bass as the audience hears it out on the dance floor and throughout the venue.
Studio Monitor Headphones
When you're looking for a good pair of monitoring headphones, you want clear, accurate sound reproduction instead of "hyped" highs and lows. Choose a pair that are sturdy enough to work as long and as hard as you do -- replaceable earcups and cables are always a plus.

When you're doing critical listening, closed-back cans help keep unwanted background noise out. If you find that using closed-back headphones feels a bit claustrophobic, try open-back or semi-open-back 'phones like the AKG K240s for a more natural feel -- particularly if you're tracking your own vocals or brass/wind instruments.

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Audiophile Headphones
If you're an audiophile, you live for high-fidelity sound reproduction -- and you're often willing to spring for higher-end headphones that deliver pristine sound. Audiophile headphones are designed to deliver very low distortion across a very wide frequency range, and are often built with comfort in mind. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of audio, audiophile headphones are perfect for you.

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Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Whether you're listening to music at home, on your commute, or on an airplane, noise-reduction headphones can filter environmental noise out of your listening experience. Active noise-cancelling headphones, like those in Audio-Technica's QuietPoint series and Bose's QuietComfort series, use small built-in microphones to pick up surrounding environmental noise. Once the sound is "sensed," the noise-reducing circuitry creates a phase-reversed "anti-sound" wave, which is fed through the headphones' speakers along with your music. This cancels out the outside noise, so all you hear is music. Since they're so popular with frequent flyers, noise-cancelling headphones often feature folding designs that are built to travel.
Sound Isolating Headphones
Sound-isolating headphones form a tight seal around your ears -- allowing you to hear the mix over whatever you're playing during live shows or studio sessions. Unlike active noise-cancelling headphones, sound-isolating headphones are entirely passive, so they don't require batteries to work. And they can help save your eardrums from damage, especially if you're a drummer.
Earphones and Earbuds
Everyone can use a pair of earphones or earbuds. Casual listeners use them with their iPods or MP3 players during workouts, commutes, or to pass the time while at work -- and pro musicians often use them on stage as part of wireless in-ear monitoring systems. While entry-level earbuds have one speaker driver on each side, high-end earphones can fit in up to four distinct drivers -- each transmitting part of the frequency spectrum to deliver more detailed sound than you'd expect from such a small piece of gear.

Earphones are more travel-friendly than headphones, and are often better at keeping outside noise out, since they fit snugly in the ear canal. This means you don't have to turn your music up as loudly. Always consider comfort when searching for the perfect earphones -- look for a pair that has multiple tip sizes for a custom fit.
Headphone Accessories
Your headphones won't do you much good without the right cord or adapter. Get an extension cable to extend the reach of your headphones -- a must for the studio. Use a headphone adapter like the KRK KNS to convert your 1/8-inch headphone plug to a 1/4-inch plug. Feeding up to four pairs of headphones with individual volume levels, the PreSonus HP4 headphone amplifier is a great way for you and your band to listen to playbacks.
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