Buying headphones is like buying a car: an economical choice will get you from A to B, but there are always more enjoyable ways to travel.
Owner of specialty headphone store Addicted to Audio George Poutakidis says young and old alike are dropping serious cash on upgrading to a better music experience. "They're using portable devices such as phones or computers to stream music on programs such as Spotify or Tidal, which streams in higher resolution," he explains.
Enter the high-end headphone. "You can get a pair for $200, or even $50, and it's going to be better than your standard Apple earbud."
Wired for sound
Audiophiles, as they are known, have seriously high standards when it comes to headphones. Popular wireless versions are known as 'feature rich' products, due to the convenience interfering with sound quality. The same goes for the noise-cancelling versions.
"As soon as you add noise cancelling, you're adding electronics to the mix which doesn't improve the sound," Poutakidis says. "But it does make it a better experience on an aircraft."
Chunky, over-ear headphones are as popular as ever, and custom moulded buds are hot right now.
"In-ear headphones are moulded to the ear, very flush, and they're very big at the moment," notes Poutakidis.
"People are getting moulds done at the audiologist, like a hearing aid, and getting custom-moulded in-ear headphones made from anywhere from $600 to $5000."
If you buy a quality headphone, you might want to think about adding a headphone amplifier, similar to a regular speaker amp, but designed to run headphones. Another must-have gadget is a Digital Analogue Converter (DAC).
"The analogy I use for a DAC is that it's like a translator," Poutakidis says. "Think of two people who study French, and one goes to university, the other stops in year nine. [The uni student] is going to be a much better translator."
The better the DAC, the better the translation, and the better the music.This kind of technology takes audio to the next level.
"Now if you listen to Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, you can hear [Roger Waters] breathing, or the slightest cough, the strumming of the guitar," says Poutakidis. "It's pure emotion and that's what music is all about. It can make you laugh, cry, dance, or just relax. And great headphones can take you there."
Peruse the gallery to see a selection of the best headphones in the market right now.