Buying headphones in Kenya can be crazy confusing especially if you are not familiar with the headphone specs that many manufacturers list on their web pages.
You know the ones I’m talking about?
- Total harmonic distortion
- Frequency response
In today’s article, I’m going to break down the five most common headphone specs you are likely to see and what they mean.
#1 – Driver size
A lot of manufacturers make a big deal about this.
They might go, oh we have massively oversized drivers of over 100 millimeters.
And you might go, well what is that all about?
A driver is the part of the headphone that actually makes the sound.
If they spin disk of material, it creates the waves that allows you to hear things.
Drivers can range in size.
For example in a pair of earbuds, you might find driver sizes of between 6 and 12 millimeters.
In others, they have a hundred and six millimeters in size.
Now you are wondering, what is the advantage of having larger drivers?
The answer is not very much.
There is an accepted bit of wisdom that larger drivers give more bass and they do give slightly more controlled bass, but it’s not louder or more powerful.
If you ask me, driver size isn’t a very useful metric for working out how good a headphone is.
What is more useful is working on what kind of drivers you have.
- Whether it’s dynamic;
- And Whether it’s electrostatic
- Whether it’s playing are magnetic.
We are not going to go into all those terms now but we do
#2 – Impedance
Then there is impedance.
This is the measure of how well something resists electricity.
I know, it sounds complicated but it isn’t because you only need to know a couple of things.
First, impedance is measured in ohms (Ω) and the law is; the higher it is, the more power the headphone will need and vice versa.
If you have a pair of headphones with impedance on between 1 and 32 ohms like, they can be driven by a smartphone.
You can plug them in the smartphone will provide more than enough power and you’ll be able to get a very decent volume out of them.
33 ohms to 100 ohms is a little bit of a gray area.
You might be able to run another smartphone but you’d be a lot better off without it.
If that is the case, consider using a headphone amp.
It will give it a bit of an extra boost.
If it’s over a hundred ohms, like for example this pair of baredynamic DT.
It has over 200 ohms, you are going to need to amplify.
Your basic smartphone will simply not provide enough power to give these the juice they need.
You might be wondering;
Why would I need a pair of headphones with high impedance in Kenya?
I mean, why not just go to the low impedance?
Well, high impedance headphones in Kenya are able to treat electrical current more effectively and they are able to output better sound quality.
#3 – Sensitivity/SPL
Sometimes referred to as sound pressure level.
Essentially it’s a measure of how loud a pair of headphones can get at a given current.
This is expressed in terms of like 120 decibels per one milliwatt or 100 decibels per one milliwatt that kind of thing.
That should give you a rough idea of how loud a pair of headphones get.
But it’s not particularly useful because there are variances between how manufacturers test their headphones.
As such, you’re never quite sure how they’re going to compare.
I would say steer clear of sound pressure level (SPL) or sensitivity because it is not massively useful when choosing the best headphones in Kenya.
What is a good sound pressure level?
The minimum audible level occurs normally between 3000 and 4000 Hz. For a normal human ear pain is experienced at a sound pressure of order 60 Pa or 6 10-4 atmospheres.
#4 – Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
THD is a measure of how much the audio signal changes from the time when it enters the headphones to the time it enters your ears.
Generally, these days most manufacturers have a very very low total harmonic distortion.
By the way, I’m not talking about the kind of distortion you get through an electric guitar or the kind of nice humming distortion you get through tube amps.
We are talking about the bad distortion here.
The less you have, the better.
If you’ve got a THD of less than one percent, say 100 decibels (100 dB), then you’re good.
That is a very solid reading you shouldn’t pay too much attention to this.
#5 – Frequency response/frequency range
This is the single most useless stat around.
Manufacturers trump at this yet it means absolutely nothing.
A frequency range is the range of sounds a pair of headphones can make.
In other words, how low they can go and how high they go.
It is measured in Hertz or occasionally kilohertz, which is a thousand Hertz.
This pair of Bose and Wilkins p7 Wireless is 10 Hertz to 20 kilohertz;
That is 20,000 Hertz.
Simply put, they can make sounds as low as 10 Hertz or as high as 20 kilohertz, which is pretty good.
But you can get a lot of headphones in Kenya that go up to 40,000 Hertz and 60,000 Hz.
And that is where things get screwed.
Human beings can’t really hear above 18,000 Hertz.
We just can’t physically, even at our peak.
Even teenagers, you know you are not going to be able to hear that high.
So for a headphone manufacturer to state that their pair of headphones get up to 40,000 Hertz, well congratulations mate, good for you, it doesn’t mean anything😂.
If a headphone is advertising that it can go that high or go below 20 Hertz in terms of the low end, then generally you can say that that headphone will have no problem reproducing things in the very high frequencies, but that is about as far as you can go.
Disregard frequency response.
Really, the only things you need to know are the;
- Drive size
- Type of driver and the
And maybe the sensitivity, which kind of works a little bit with the impedance.
What is a good frequency response range?
When it comes to frequency response range, so long as a pair of headphones is capable of reproducing sound in the audible range of 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz, it is considered good. Having this range means it will produce all frequencies in the audible range of human hearing.