- How do I choose which headphones to buy?
Headphones for professional use will have a different set of selection criteria than those for home or portable use. There are so many types (home, studio, portable, dynamic, electrostatic, etc.) that many people find the selection process bewildering. More so than with loudspeakers, the sound of headphones is dependent on the listener. Since headphones are worn, other factors such as comfort play an important role in the selection process. A prospective buyer should regard recommendations as no more than suggestions.
- Is there a simple way to improve in-front localization in stereo headphones?
Here is a simple no-cost trick for getting a headphone soundfield to seem more like loudspeakers in front of the listener: with supra-aural headphones, rest the earcups slightly lower and forward on the ears. With circumaural headphones, try positioning them such that the earcups push the back of the ears forward a bit. If the back of the ear lobes are pushed too far forward, you may hear a "cupping" distortion. Experiment to obtain the best localization (don't expect miracles, though).
The goal is to get the sound to enter the ears at an angle and thus engage more of the HRTFs of normal hearing. This technique works even better with a crossfeed processor (for more information about crossfeed processors, see FAQ on acoustic simulators for headphones).
- What’s a headphone amplifier?
Some headphones are designed to run from home hifi systems with a little more power than your average portable cd player or PC soundcard. Unfortunately there are many hifi cd players and amplifiers while being excellent at their primary function have a mere $2 put into the headphone circuit. A headphone amplifier is designed to drive and power headphones and headphones alone. Under driving headphones will leave them sounding flat and lacking dynamics. In many cases an underpowered pair of high end headphones will be outperformed by easier to drive low end headphones.