Deciding on a pair of headphones can be a challenging proposition in today's context. Firstly, one has to decide between smaller in-ears and circumarual headphones. Then there are confounding terms like dynamic drivers and balanced armature drivers to contend with. What do they all mean, and which works best for you? Essentially, IEMs (in-ear monitors) are tiny little buds which fit directly into your ear canal. They are light, highly portable, and they provide passive noise isolation as well. We'd recommend using IEMs if you listen to a whole lot of music whilst you're on the go. Notable brands include Jays and Ultimate Ears. Circumaural or full-sized headphones, on the other hand, are noticeably heavier but they do provide a fuller and more immersive listening experience. Since they cover the entire ear, their noise isolation capabilities are more superior than IEMs too. Although they are getting increasingly popular, as worn by younger commuters and teens, wearers might suffer from 'head fatigue' after extended use due to the pressure from the cups and headband.
There is a fair amount of contention as to whether dynamic or balanced armature drivers offer better audio quality. In our experience, both driver types have their own unique benefits and drawbacks. Dynamic transducers, sometimes known as moving-coil drivers, generates sound based on air vibrations produced by the moving diaphragm when it is actuated by a voice coil and magnet. A single driver in this case is capable of covering a wide sound spectrum. They are also generally warmer and 'bassier' since bass levels are dictated by air reverberations. Some also argue that dynamic drivers sound more natural too. Balanced armature (BA) types, on the other hand, depend less on air vibrations which also makes them more susceptible to less punchy bass response. In most cases, audio fidelity from BA drivers are typically more clinical although other armature types are often needed to cover the entire audible spectrum effectively. That said, never trust the specifications alone when it comes to IEMs or headphones. Always do a sound-check before you plonk your hard-earned cash for a pair. Let your ears decide!
Audio Technica's ATH-PRO500MK2 won't hurt your DJ-cred should you step into the club with one of these manly cans. Available in black or red, this pair of monitoring headsets are packed with large 53mm drivers for that added sonic oomph. Its shock elastomer frame also ensures the PRO500MK2 aren't fazed by knocks and bumps. This robust pair of headsets with rotatable cups are priced at $178 at the IT Show. Comes with straight and extendable cords.
The Focal Spirit One is an around-the-ear, closed-back headphones. The headband has two pivots, one of which is off to the side, so that the pads can hug the ears naturally. Focal also touts an sound insulation of over 20dB. Hardware-wise, the Spirit One utilizes aircraft-grade aluminum and 40mm mylar/titanium diaphragms.