Headphones: this category has a lot of potential in terms of bang for the buck. Good headphones don’t have to cost an arm and a leg! As with every product, the goal here is to understand the purpose of the headphones we’re developing. After all, we can’t have everything, but if we pick our compromises correctly we’ll end up with an amazing product!
What matters most?
With headphones, it’s useful to imagine three priorities competing in the corners of a triangle. On the corners of this triangle are portability, sound quality and affordability. Moving closer to any of those three corners, move you farther away from the other two. Each use case has its own spot on the surface of that triangle that represents the compromise that product makes!
If you prioritize sound quality you end up in the audiophile world with large headphones at a very premium price point. On the other hand, if cost is the number one priority you have to make sacrifices like a wired connection and lower sound quality or ergonomics.
Types of headphones
Let’s cover some of the types of headphones and features out there so that we’ve got our terminology straight!
Over-ear headphones go around your ears and typically offer the most comfort and best sound quality. The trade-off here is their portability: better acoustics require larger components. This category makes sense if you are shopping for sound quality.
Open back or closed back
Over-ear headphones can be further divided into open and closed back models. Open back headphones are mainly used at home or an environment in which you don’t need to worry about disturbing others with your music, or being disturbed. In open back models, music can be heard by you as well as others, and you can hear things happening around you. Close back headphones on the other hand isolate you and your music from the external world.
On-ear headphones rest on top of the ear, and are a compromise of the three priorities. Sound quality, portability, noise isolation and price are all just about average. Though they don’t shine in any particular area, their jack-of-all-trades nature has made them a popular choice.
In-ear headphones can sound as well as over-ear but while being substantially more portable. The key trade-off here is the comfort for some people. As some of the best sounding headphones go pretty deep into the ear-canal and products like AirPods that rely on being shaped to the ear are not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Bone-conducting headphones are a new breed that conduct sound through bone. The big advantage is the possibility to be fully aware of your surroundings when for example biking or doing outdoor sport, as they do not cover or plug the ears. The main drawback is sound quality, and of course the lack of noise isolation can be both a blessing and a curse.
Wired or wireless
There is a big debate about the sound quality that can be attained with wireless solutions, and many audiophiles want nothing to do with any headphones that don’t have a wire coming out of them. That said, we believe that with current technology, wireless headphones can provide as good a sound quality as all but the most high-end wired ones. Wireless headphones bring a freedom of mobility as your ears are not tied to a device, but bring other downsides such as relying on a battery to power them. Many wireless headphones can also be plugged in directly and used as wired ones.
Active noise cancellation
Active noise canceling (ANC) headphones are ideal for people who use their headphones in a crowded office, on a commute, or on a plane. They help to isolate sounds around you, not just by blocking it out but by actively sensing what’s out there and generating counter-noise. This allows you to focus, relax or enjoy your favorite music without blasting your sound at full to drown out your noisy surroundings.
Gaming is a use case that brings up another challenge. The focus here shifts to being able to clearly distinguish the source of a sound. Hearing from what angle you’re being shot at, or from which direction your opponent is trying to sneak up on you can give you the edge that you need to win the game.
Sports isn’t so much a headphone term, as it is a use case offering unique challenges in headphone design: even if you’re not out jogging in the rain, liquid resistance is a requirement to keep sweat from ruining your precious headphones. And with all the movement, the chance of your headphones falling or bumping into something increase the need for drop protection. At the same time, they can’t get in the way as you get your workout, so they can’t be heavy or bulky, either. It’s not hard to see why you’re paying a premium for headphones that do all that and still provide great sound on top!
In audiophile terms, sound quality is the ability to reproduce music as close to the original as possible. For many people however, sound quality is the ability to produce a full and rich sound. This is a lot like monitors: someone editing a photo may desire each color to be accurately depicted on the screen, whereas someone watching a movie may just want the explosions to pop for maximum immersion. Neither side of the debate is right or wrong, but somewhere along the way we’ll have to decide which definition of audio quality we’ll be aiming for.
Let’s start developing!
That’s quite a lot of background information, but we think it’s important that we all know what we’re talking about when we’re trying to create something together. Now, let’s vote and discuss!
What type of headphones best fits your needs?
- Over-ear, closed back
- Over-ear, open back
- In-ear (that go into your ear canal like an ear plug)
- In-ear (that do not go into your ear canal, like AirPods)
- Other, I will comment below
Where do you most often use your headphones?
You can pick up to three options.
- At the office
- During my commute / on a plane
- At home
- Whilst gaming
- During my workout / practicing sports
- On stage, performing
(Had to add this option–curious how many of you are artists )
- Other, I will comment below
Do you prefer wired or wireless headphones?
Please complete the following sentences regarding your dream Eve headphones!
My dream headphones are of the __________ type. They are very __________ and __________. I mostly use them for __________ but also to __________. The thing I love about them most is that __________. I paid a fair price for these headphones: only __________!.
That’s all our questions for now. We’re looking forward to seeing all your feedback!