Headphones have become the ultimate accessory. A fashion statement for some, a necessity for others, headphones come in all shapes and sizes and the functionality ranges from the most basic to the truly innovative.
Headphones are a notoriously subjective choice. One person's desire for lightweight, open-backed sound is balanced by another's need for cans heavy on design statement, or just heavy.
Fit/comfort: Unlike most consumer-electronics devices, you actually wear headphones. So how well a set of headphones fits you-your head, your ears, and even your ear canals-plays a significant role in your long-term satisfaction (or lack thereof).
Inexpensive foam earplugs are widely available, but these work by completely obstructing your ear canals, making it difficult to hear what's going on around you. Spend a bit more, and you can get special earplugs designed to reduce external sound to safe levels while still allowing you to hear clearly.
The good doctor recommends a pair of earphones that block out the noise, either by fitting snugly into the ear or by electronically blocking ambient noise. If your shiny new pair of holiday headphones don't have these features, it might be worth taking another trip to the electronics store.
Headset functionality and inline control modules: Many current headphone models include, right on the cable, an inline module with a microphone and one or more remote-control buttons, much like the inline remote on Apple's iPhone earbuds.
At minimum, this remote features a single multifunction button for controlling media playback; making, taking, and ending phone calls; and taking advantage of an iPhone or other smartphone's voice-control features.
Thanks to the ever-growing popularity and ever-shrinking size of portable audio players, as well as the increasing use of phones as workout companions, headphone companies are focusing more and more on creating products specifically designed for athletes.
These sports-oriented headphones tend to focus on comfort, a secure fit, and moisture resistance. Some also offer premium features such as Kevlar-reinforced cables for durability, Bluetooth wireless functionality, and multi-button remotes for convenient music (and voice) control.
A frequent traveller will value noise-cancellation. If you just want better audio from your iPhone, there's plenty of choice. Do you want in-ear, over-ear or that in-between option, on-ear? Corded or wireless? Do you want to spend your money on a celebrity musician's name or an established audio company?
The compact fit on these in-ear headphones is snug to create noise isolation: they keep the music in and the outside world, er, outside. The strong sound matches decent bass with great clarity.