Car headphones have become one of the most common must-have audio accessories for music lovers and gadget owners. Over the years, the clunky styles have been streamlined, slimmed down, and improved with high resolution sound and better volume. Today, the best car headphones are packed with features that offer a combination of comfort, function, and impeccable performance.
Most headphones are marketed based on function (gaming, listening to music, or watching movies, type. They can be either wired or wireless [Bluetooth, Radio Frequency (RF), or Infrared (IR)]. Headphones are also categorized as in-canal, on-ear, or over-ear, circumaural (full size), or supra-aural. Ideally, wired headphones offer the highest quality in sound, but included here are some of the best Bluetooth headphones and wireless units in the market. Wire-free audio technology has improved tremendously over the past years. So much that users almost never experience audio delays when listening.
A headphone’s function is to deliver sound, and the products on our list do just that. Here is a brief rundown of the features that we consider when make buying an incredible set of car headphones:
Weight and Comfort – These two features go hand-in-hand because headphones should rest easily and lightly when in place. If not, it becomes cumbersome to wear and will affect your listening experience. In our opinion, the only way to test for comfort is to wear it for at least 10 minutes. If you feel any abnormal pressure from the headphones within this time, they’ll most definitely be uncomfortable after 30 minutes, or an hour plus.
High Fidelity – Sometimes called “hi-fi,” this refers to the high quality sound reproduction closest to the original sound, and enhanced by low distortion and noise filtering or cancellation.
Sensitivity – Sensitivity, or the Sound Pressure Level (SPL) number, refers to the maximum volume of a headset. It is measured in terms of decibels (dB) of SPL per milliwatt. While there is no dB-SPL/mw standard with headphones, the acceptable range is 85 to 120. Anything over 120 is risky, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, because it can cause damage to the ears due to prolonged use. All the units reviewed here do not go beyond 120 dB-SPL/mw.
Frequency Response – Measures the reproduction of audio frequencies with acceptable range from 20 to 20,000 Hertz (Hz). When selecting a headset based on FR, consider your sound preferences. For instance, if you particularly enjoy bass, then a set that supports lower bass frequency, which typically means a high FR, would probably suit you best.
Impedance – Measured in ohms (unit of electrical resistance), impedance level will tell how much power is needed for the headphones to deliver certain audio levels. The higher the impedance, the more power is needed. Most low impedance headphones have 25 ohms or lower, but the problem with this is the potential for a hissing background sound. However, using headsets with high impedance, but not compatible with your audio/video equipment, may lead to performance issues. It’s always ideal to test headphones before buying them, and it is advisable to test them with your gadget rather than the audio device in the store. This will make sure what you get is compatible with your source.
Total Harmonic Distortion – THD refers to the “cleanliness” of the sound. This is more apparent when using headphones than speakers because you are closer to the source of the sound. The best car headsets have a THD of less than 1 percent, but anything above it should not be a huge difference audibly as your hearing may not be sensitive enough to notice the distortion to begin with.
Other important factors to consider when looking at headphones for your car would be durability, cable length and dressing, portability, price, and warranty.