Buying The Right Headphones As A Gift

Buying The Right Headphones As A Gift

November 17th, 2016
By, Ryan F. J. Davison

With the holiday season upon us, we are often faced with the daunting challenge of buying gifts for others. When ever buying the right headphones as a gift there are several factors that you should first take into account.

Here is a list of basic questions that you should know the answers to when you are looking to purchase headphones for another person.

  • What headphone style dose the person like?

There are 3 primary types of headphone styles. In-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.  Additionally, there are two subcategories to these types open-back and closed-back. There are a few other types of headphones including headsets and bone conduction, but generally people asking for a more specific thing like these headphones, will be more specific with what they are looking for. It may be best to give someone like this a gift card so that they can purchase their gift themselves.

  • What is the General purpose of the headphones?

Will these headphones be used for professional purposes, consumer or both? There is a difference in tonal quality between consumer and studio headphones. Generally, studio headphones will have an even sound signature. Consumer headphones will also have features like in-line microphones, noise cancellation, and Bluetooth capability.

  • Where will these headphones be used the most?

Knowing where someone will use their headphones can help guide you into the right direction. If someone wanted headphones to use during a commute or for a workout, they would be best serviced with two completely different headphones. Commuters will tend to look for an over-ear closed-back headphone, possibly with noise cancellation. People utilizing their headphones for a workout will tend to look for an in-ear model, and may look for features like Bluetooth capability and water resistance.

  • What type of music will be listened to the most?

This is a question more specific to consumer headphones. Some people like sound signatures that compliment their music. For instance, someone who listens to EDM(Electronic Dance Music), Rap, or hip-hop may want headphones that boost bass frequencies. These styles of music tend to be bass heavy so a bass boosting headphone will generally make the bass come through clearer than it would on other flatter headphones.

  • What is your price range ?

Price can have a contributing factor to what is available for you.  Some features like Noise Cancellation, Bluetooth capabilities, removable cables, and in-line microphones will add additional costs to your headphones. If these features are not needed, you may want to forget about them if you are attempting to buy a price conscious model.

  • Is there any specific features that are needed?

Generally, if someone has specific features that they are looking for in a pair of headphones, you should include as many of them as possible. Eliminating extra features can be a great way to save on your purchase price.

  • What type of audio device are they primarily listening from?

The average consumer listens to their music through their cell phones. Mobil devices generally work with low impedance headphones. If you purchase a pair of headphones with high impedance, you will need a portable amplifier to fully utilize the capabilities of the headphones.

For consumers who are looking to avoid buying headphones that need an amp, you should look for headphones with a low voltage to impedance ratio.

Another good way to tell if your headphone gift should use an amp is by the style and price.  Most open-back headphones and headphones over $500 will better be serviced with an amp.  There are exceptions to these rules, but following this rule will give you a good inclination as to whether or not you may need an amp. You should also ask someone at the store that you are buying the headphones from if they need an amp. Even if you purchase headphones online most online companies will have a contact section of their website.

A lot of companies will make the same style of headphones in 2-3 different impedances Beyerdynamic has designed their DT990, DT880, and DT770 to all come in 3 different impedances. One for professional use, one for consumer use, and one for a hifi consumer. Knowing the primary listening device and impedance to voltage ratio will help assist you in your search for the perfect gift.

  • Does the person wearing the headphones use glasses, have big earnings, or gauged ears?

The average consumer will be drawn to over-ear or in-ear headphones. A lot of consumers who are drawn to over-ear headphones that wears glasses or have big earings, will often complain about excessive pressure on their head and ears. On-ear headphones are perfect for these people. On-ear headphones tend to have smaller ear cups than over-ear.  Most of theses models will  provide similar sound isolation without covering the complete ear which alleviates pressure.

  • Has someone requested a specific brand and or model?

If someone asks for a specific brand or model, they probably have done their research.  Unless they want beats by dre. It is best to get the specific model that you are asked for, the average person in this case will just return the headphones and get the model that they asked for. You may also want to ask the person who is receiving the gift, if they have a few options for you to choose from so that there is some kind of mystery when they unwrap their present.


Additional Notes

When ever buying a gift for anyone else, it is best to investigate the return policy. Save and take a picture of the receipt. If you save a picture of your receipt to your phone and cloud, you will have it even if you loose, damage, or misplace the original copy.

A lot of stores will also provide free gifts with purchases, and bundle sales. Most stores will require you to return any free gift with purchase, so do not try to use the free gift as a gift for someone else. It could be problematic in the future.

Always research the store that you are buying from. If a store is not an authorized dealer for the products that you are buying from them, you may be receiving counterfeit goods or not have a valid warranty. Avoid buying from online foreign markertplaces like Aliexpress. Amazon, Ebay, or Walmart marketplace can be problematic too because they allow other dealers to sell on their sites and often don’t thoroughly vet their sellers.