How to buy... headphones

You listen to most of your music through headphones, so let us help you choose your next pair wisely

I bet that these days you listen to more music than you ever have before. I also bet that almost all of your music is listened to via headphones. All of which means that choosing your next pair is a pretty big deal.

But while on the face of it headphones are pretty simple things, there's huge variety in designs, sizes and technology, and that can make the decision far trickier than you might imagine.

But fear not - we've got the expertise and experience to help you focus your search on precisely the right headphones for your tastes and needs. Follow this guide and you'll be rocking out like never before in no time.

1) In, on or over?

This is the most fundamental question you’ll need to answer when you begin your quest for a new set of headphones.

In-ears are obviously the most portable and convenient, but some people just don’t like jamming things into their ears. On-ears can blend portability and comfort quite nicely, and can even look quite stylish. Over-ears tend to be more designed for home use - they can sound amazing thanks to bigger drivers, but they’re also less portable and often have an ‘open’ design, which means everyone else on the bus will hear that Little Mix song you’re listening to.

Get these: SoundMagic E10C (₹3,199)

Read the review

2) Noise cancellation vs isolation

Poisoning the air around you with Little Mix is definitely a bad thing, but for some people allowing their music to be tainted by the sounds of the real world is just as bad. If you’re one of those people, you want to be looking at getting a pair of headphones that offer noise isolation or noise cancellation.

The noise isolation is just a physical barrier that blocks sound, so most in-ears do it as well as some on-ears. Noise cancellation requires outside noise to be actively monitored and canceled out with opposite frequencies. It’s more technical and therefore generally more expensive, and it’s better with constant, consistent sounds such as a plane’s engine than with things like voices.

Get these: Sony MDR-1000X (30,990)

Read the review

3) Cutting the cables

Wires are so last decade, aren’t they? Particularly with headphones, where they’re so reviled that the iPhone now doesn’t even have a headphone socket. Luckily, there are loads of good wireless headphones out there now, almost all of which use Bluetooth to stream audio from your phone, tablet or laptop and into your ears.

But while these can feel as liberating as a nudist beach, there are also some downsides. They need to be powered, for a start, so if they’re not charged when you leave the house you might have to go without music for the journey to work. And strictly speaking, wireless headphones don’t sound as good as those with wires, although most listeners are unlikely to notice.

Get these: Apple AirPods (₹15,400)

Read the review

4) Feel the fitness

We've spent ages searching for the perfect sports earphones, but always came up short. Whether it’s ill-fitting earbuds, wireless dropouts or multiple device woes, there’s always some sort of a letdown.

The Beats PowerBeats3 Wireless are the first sports in-ears that worked exactly as you would want - at least they are as long as you’re running with Apple hardware.

Are you an iPhone owner who likes to work out? These are easily your best option, and worth the extra buck over a pair of Bose SoundSport Wireless.

Get these: Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless (₹15,900)

Read the review

5) The game is afoot

Buy a good pair of headphones for music and they’ll do a great job of your portable Netflixing, too, but if you want to level-up your gaming you’re best off with a dedicated headset that at the very least allows you to control the mix of game audio and multiplayer chatter.

Some options, such as the Corsair VOID Wireless RGB Gaming Headset, go much further, adding surround sound and custom sound setups for specific games. Most gaming headsets can also be used with your phone, although many have the sort of garish design that you might want to think twice about wearing outside the house.

Get these: Corsair VOID Wireless RGB Gaming Headset (12,239)

Now add these...

Griffin iTrip Clip

Want to add controls and wirelessness to an otherwise dumb, wired pair of headphones? That’s what the iTrip Clip does - and for only ₹1,410.

Get the Griffin iTrip Clip

7 Digital

If you’ve spent good money on good headphones you should probably pump some seriously good music through them. 7 Digital has a similar catalogue to the likes of Saavn and Apple Music, but it’s less compressed so sounds better.

Listen to 7 Digital (paid downloads)