Are over-ear headphones safer?

Buying advice: the perfect headphones

Verena Ottmann

A set of earplugs is usually included with every smartphone. But they are mostly of inferior quality and do not do justice to your favorite music. We'll help you find the headphones that are best for you.

EnlargeWe'll give you tips for the perfect headphones and tell you what to look for when buying a Bluetooth speaker.
© Antonioguillem - fotolia.com

Anyone who buys a new smartphone will probably spend hours researching the right device: It should work as quickly as possible, have a lot of memory, and a long battery life would also be an advantage. Because the smartphone is no longer used only for making phone calls, but is now replacing the digital camera, organizer and of course the MP3 player.

And that's exactly where the problem lies: Most users waste weeks, if not months, looking for the optimal smartphone, but then only use the included earplugs to listen to music, which usually produce a miserable sound. Hence our tip: Invest in good headphones! You can find out which one is best for you in our purchase advice.

Samsung Level In-Ear in the test

In-ear, on-ear or over-ear?

The first decision you need to make about your future headphones is the type of earpiece. A distinction is mainly made between three types: The classic earplugs disappear more or less completely in the ear, depending on the design. They can then also be found under the names in-ear headphones (stuck in the ear) or ear-buds (located at the beginning of the ear canal). The ear pieces of the on-ear headphones are a bit larger - they usually have an adjustable headband, the ear pieces lie on the ears. The largest ear pieces are the over-ear headphones. They also have an adjustable headband, with the ear pieces completely enclosing the ears. In the following, we will go into the advantages and disadvantages of the individual types of headphones.

EnlargeBeyerdynamic offers the option of having perfectly fitting ear pieces adjusted by the acoustician.

Earplugs (ear-buds, in-ears): Particularly mobile and compact

If you mainly want to listen to music with your smartphone on the go, earplugs, especially the in-ear version, are certainly the most convenient solution. The headphones offer a decent sound, but their biggest advantage is their compactness: They disappear quickly in the pocket, are ready for use immediately and least of all spoil the outfit of fashionable contemporaries, as they do not affect hairstyles, hats and the like.

However, due to their grabbing table character, earplugs also carry the greatest risk of a bad buy. Because the ear buds that you often find at the checkout of your discounter may be attractive in terms of price, but always disappoint in terms of their sound quality (especially when it comes to bass reproduction) and comfort. The latter is half the battle when it comes to earplugs. So take a close look at the ear pieces and make sure that they disappear as far as possible into the ear (in-ears). Otherwise the earphones may fall out with the slightest movement of your head. To prevent this, most manufacturers include several sizes of rubber or foam tips with their in-ear models, so that you can adjust the ear pieces to a certain extent to suit your ear. Beyerdynamik goes one step further and offers custom-fit ear pieces from the hearing aid acoustician for the models of the DTX and MMX series for 120 euros.

As far as the construction of earplugs is concerned, most in-ear models are made closed. This means that outside noises are perceived only poorly, while self-induced noises such as clearing one's throat, but also footfall noises, are heard to a greater extent. For those who find this annoying, Bowers & Wilkins, for example, offers the C5 Series 2, in-ear headphones with a special microporous filter that is supposed to provide a more open sound. Or you can use ear buds straight away, but then, as I said, you have to cut back on the bass reproduction.

On-ear headphones: compromise between compactness and sound

Those who cannot get used to the feeling of “plug in ear” will find an alternative to the in-ear model with on-ear headphones. Here, too, there are open and closed designs, i.e. headphones with ear cups that let outside noise through - or not.

A problem with on-ears can be comfort. With this type of headphones, the auricles sit directly on the ears. Glasses and earring wearers should therefore wear on-ears well and long enough to try them out in order to avoid pressing the auricles later. Make sure that the headband can be adjusted to the shape of your head and does not press. Recommended models are the AKG Y40, the Audio Technica ATH-T500, the Sennheiser Amperior or the Ultrasone HFI580.

Over-ear headphones: immerse yourself in the music world

If you don't want to do without music on the go, you should buy over-ear headphones. Its auricles completely enclose the ears; and you can influence whether you still participate in the outside world by choosing an open or a closed model (see above). Closed over-ear auricles provide better protection against high external frequencies. More on that later.

EnlargeOver-ear models such as the Harambe from The House of Marley are still mobile, but usually sound better than in-ear headphones. Only the wearing comfort is not always given.
© The House of Marley

Beats Audio is a brand that has become particularly popular with young people in recent years. The manufacturer's over-ear headphones are characterized by a particularly strong bass that takes getting used to. In addition, they are also quite expensive with prices starting at 200 euros MSRP. A similarly bass-heavy, but significantly cheaper model is the Skullcandy Crusher, whose booming bass you activate at the push of a button. It starts at 70 euros.

EnlargeSilencer: Thanks to its closed construction, the over-ear Ultrasone Pro 900 does not let outside noise through. Right in the picture: the open Ultrasone Pro 2900.

If you put less emphasis on a crashing bass, but more on a balanced sound, you are, for example, with the Beyerdynamic Custom One, the Sennheiser Urbanite XL