IT Show 2014 - Speakers, Headphones, Monitors & TVs Buying Guide


Headphones

Headphones Deals at IT Show 2014

Here are some top headphones deals at this year's IT Show:

Bose AE2w Wireless Headphones

If you are looking for a pair of wireless headphones, the Bose AE2w is for you. With a comfortable fit and a compact body that folds up, the headphones are a perfect travelling companion. The AE2w also comes with a a cable for wired playback.

IT Show 2014 Offer

  • Price: S$329 (Usual Price: S$349)
  • Promotion: Buy 2 for S$598
  • Brochure

Location

Level 1, Booth 1329

Klipsch Status On-Ear Headphones

The Klipsch Status is a classy on-ear headphone for those who have a taste for the finer things in life. The Status also has 40mm drivers, detachable cables memory foam ear-cups for comfort. A three button control pod is also present.

IT Show 2014 Offer

  • Price: S$359 (Usual Price: S$399)
  • Brochure

Location

Level 1, Booth 1329

Creative Sound Blaster Evo Zx

The Sound Blaster Evo Zx is a wireless headset with built-in intelligent audio processing enabled by Creative's own SB-Axx1 chip. It also has a dual array beamforming microphone for accurate voice pickup and noise cancellation. Comes with NFC support too for easy pairing.

IT Show 2014 Offer

  • Price: S$249 (Usual Price: S$299)
  • Promotion: Free headset stand
  • Brochure

Location

Basement 2, Booth B788

 

 

IT Show 2014 Headphones Portal

 

Headphones Buying Guide

Music is a universal language. No matter what race, religion, creed, and nationality you belong to, you probably listen to tunes every now and then. Headphones help provide a personal listening experience, and hence have become one of the most common audio products found on the market. There are a variety of designs, wearing styles, and functionality options available, and really, despite what all the audio experts may say, your own personal preference should be paramount when making the final decision.

 

HEADPHONES TODAY

Headphones can be broadly categorized according their designs into three discrete segments, with each having its own pros and cons.

In-ear Earphones

In-ear earphones or in-ear monitors are by far the most popular type of 'headphones'. With portable music players and smartphones leading to most music being listened to on the go, in-ears are the perfect companion. Lightweight and super-compact, in-ears can be wrapped up, and put in your pocket without any problems. Also, most models today sport a microphone and phone/music navigation controls on the wire itself.

In addition, good in-ears offer a great degree of noise isolation by blocking the ear canal, making them even more suited to be used on your daily commute. Price range is very wide too. You can find lots of them for well below $50, but there are also many which require you to shell out in excess of $500. The latter are typically from high-end or boutique brands, and sport fancy driver technology.

On-ear Headphones

Also known as supra-aural headphones, the ear-cups of these headphones rest gently on the outer ears. This particular design is favored by telephone and call-center operators due to the high levels of comfort it provides. The on-ear design allows for the hearing of ambient sounds as it does not envelope the ears fully, and in general do not bleed out a lot of sound either. Of course, that also means that compared to full sized headphones, sound isolation isn't as good.

Nowadays, headphones are going wireless too. And as you might have guessed, the wireless technology of choice is Bluetooth. An example is the recently announced Jabra Revo Wireless. Without say, going wireless provides added portability convenience, and they can now be paired with smart devices, like phones and tablets. The price range for on-ear headphones also stretches a wide spectrum, but you can expect good-sounding, midrange cans to cost between anywhere from $400 and up.

Over-ear Headphones

Also known as around-ears, over-the-ear, circumaural, and full-sized headphones, these headphones' earpads are large and surround the ears. Due to their size, they're ideal for use indoors or at your workstation. Most audio experts have long considered over-ears to be the pinnacle of personal listening, and for good reasons: better soundstage, excellent bass, incredible isolation - just to name a few. This is also why many flagship headphones from high-end headphones makers adopt this design. This choice is also obvious since larger drivers can be fitted with this design.

But over the past years, we have seen the emergence of over-ear cans as a viable option for use on the go, thanks to the urban aesthetics of products under the Beats by Dr. Dre brand. Over-ear headphones can cost you anywhere between $100 to well above $1000 for the premium models.

 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

So, what should you look out for when buying a headphone today?

  • Balanced Armature vs. Dynamic Drivers. When it comes to in-ears, there are two competing technologies. Balanced armature in-ear headphones account for 10% of the market, whereas the 90 percent majority comprises of dynamic drivers models. The former is expected to deliver a more balanced audio profile but struggles when tasked with handling bass. Dynamic drivers on the other hand are known for their impact and good low registers. Earphones using dynamic driver technology also tend to be cheaper than their balanced armature-based counterparts. To get the best of both worlds, some manufacturers have hybird models that combine both dynamic and balanced armature drivers. For a deeper look into the balanced armature versus dynamic driver debate, you can read our comparison of two similarly priced representatives.

  • Control Pods. Seeing that a lot of in-ear headphones are used with smartphones, audio manufacturers have started to fit their products with in-line microphones and control pods featuring three (or more) buttons to control music playback and phone functions. Do take note that these control pods are not universal. When buying a pair of in-ear earphones for your smartphone, please ensure that the product is compatible with your platform (e.g. Android, iOS) to ensure smooth usage.

  • Bluetooth Wireless. The latest breed of wireless headphones use Bluetooth to connect with any A2DP-compatible device. However, do take note that Bluetooth is a lossy transmission format. This means that audio quality might deteriorate when using Bluetooth headphones. If wireless functionality is an absolute necessity, we recommend you find a pair of Bluetooth headphones which have Apt-X support. Apt-X is a real-time digital audio data reduction system which offers linear compression of audio samples by a factor of 4:1, and hence mitigates some of the drop in quality due to Bluetooth transmissions. Many modern smart devices now come with Apt-X support, such as the HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III, Note II, and Note 10.1. Even desktop products from Apple such as the Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. If your playback device doesn't support Apt-X natively, a workaround is to use an Apt-X transmitter.

  • Gaming Headphones. Audio for gaming is a completely different beast. You cannot just slap on a microphone to a regular headphone and tag it a 'gaming headphones'. Gaming headphones must provide exemplary soundstages so as to help improve the user’s in-game performance. Manufacturers go about providing this level of performance in two ways. One method is to include progressive audio technologies, the second involves utilizing multiple drivers along with the aforementioned audio technologies. From our personal experience, we would recommend you choose the latter if you are on the hunt for gaming headphones. Also, due to the audio unpredictability during gaming which makes compensation difficult, most gamers don't favor using Bluetooth headphones. But that may change soon when headphone makers adopt CSR's new Apt-X Low Latency codec.

  • Open-back vs Closed Back. Headphones by design project sound directly into the ear canal, which is nothing like how we hear sounds in real life. To rectify the problem of having a strong central channel, headphones sometimes use an open-back design, which means leaving the back of the earcups 'opened'. While this definitely improves the soundstage, it must be noted that this open-back design also results in a lot of sound bleeding out. If you intend to use your headphones at home, and would like an expansive soundstage, we readily recommend you test out some open-back headphones. However, if you are going to be using your headphones in the office or within audible range of other people, closed back headphones (that is, the back of the earcups are sealed) may be the way to go.

  • Trust Your Senses. If you were to take away only one piece of advice from this guide, it should be to trust your senses. Audio is an extremely subjective matter, and so is headphone comfort. Before deciding to purchase any headphones, you should try them on and listen to them with some of your favorite tracks. Rather than trying to pin down the tonal characteristics, concentrate on whether the overall sound is to your liking.

Check out the latest headphones at our HardwareZone Headphones Product Guide.