6 Things to Consider When Buying a Reference Headphones

If you are looking for a pair of headphones, there are a lot of choices available for you in the market. Headphones come in various external design, colors, build quality, audio output, and other technical features.

More often than not, if you are not familiar with all the technical details that make or break a headphone, choosing the best one from the long list of choices can be a tough job especially when looking for the best reference headphones.


What Is a Reference Headphone?

Woman listening to music with headphonesReference headphones look like a typical headphone, but it has a certain function and usage. While it is not mostly created as such, a reference headphone is defined as a function or how it is being used and would depend on how high-quality a certain headphone is in terms of several factors.

A reference headphone is extremely useful; it serves as a reference transducer that can be used for evaluating speakers. It can be used in assessing the tonal quality of a particular audio recording. This type of headphone has a high degree of in-head localization and spatial distortion, which sometimes make them a little undesirable when using for enjoyment.

This type of headphones, simply put, is the kind that can give you a more accurate and very detailed audio listening without needing to fill an entire room with the sound. It is also equipped with a particular quality level that can be utilized in studying a tack mix or even separate instrument arrangements in a room recording.

These reference headphones represent the top list of audiophile-grade audio listening. Reference headphones are designed as such, being able to provide the most accurate and most flat sound. It keeps the cans from discoloring the audio and changing the way a track was originally intended to sound.

While some people enjoy using a type of headphone that seems fun to be used with its signal processing effect and bass bump, these headphones are designed for those who want a dedicated listening session.


Types of Headphones

When searching for the best reference headphone, you have to start with the basic, and that is choosing what the ideal type of headphone is for you. Each type of reference headphone has its advantages and drawbacks.

  • In-ear Headphones

It is the smallest kind of headphones and is usually referred to as earbuds or in-ears. The headphones that are usually included in your smartphone fall in this type of category.

One of the advantages of buying in-ear headphones is that it is the most portable type of headphone, something you can carry and transport easily. Because of its weight and size, you can easily stash it inside your jeans and back pocket.

In-ear headphones are also excellent for noise isolation as they are placed directly in the ear. Because of its portability, this kind of headphone is the best choice for working out.

The common downside of this headphone, however, is the sound quality. They usually have tiny drivers and as such, don’t produce high-quality sound.

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  • On-ear Headphones

Instead of going directly into the ear canals, on-ear headphones sit on the outer ears with the band going over the head. The drivers for this kind of headphones are always located on the ear cups. While they are not the smallest kind of headphones and convenient for stuffing inside your pocket, they can often be portable enough.

Man listening to music on headphonesOn-ear headphones are the go-to option for those who don’t want the bulky and big headphones but likes to step up in terms of sound quality. They also tend to have a bigger battery which means they can have more listening time compared to small headphones.


  • Over-ear Headphones

Of the three types of headphones, the over-ear headphones are the biggest in size. They tend to produce the best of sounds since they usually have huge drivers placed in the ear cups. Its design is mostly for sound quality more than portability.

With its big size, they also have the biggest battery which means that they can last for a long time. This kind of headphones also has larger ear cups, which means they can provide an even weight distribution, ensuring better comfort when used.

Manufacturers also tend to make use of the big design of over-ear headphones to add materials for user comfortability such as velour, leatherette, and memory foam.

The downside of this type of headphones is that they can be the hardest to carry and can be rather bulky. They can also be a little expensive compared to smaller headphone types.


Things in a reference headphones and how can you find the best one?

Aside from the type of reference headphones, you might also want to consider some additional factors that define a headphone’s high-quality.

  • Noise Isolation

This feature is what makes a headphone able to block out external sounds. It is achieved simply by being snug inside or around the ear, depending on what type of headphone it is.

  • Bluetooth Connectivity

If you want a wireless connectivity for your headphones, then choosing one with Bluetooth connectivity should be a top priority. There are even headphones that don’t lose its audio quality when removing wired connections.

  • Sound Amplification

Asian young man listen to music via headphoneThis feature is also worth considering when buying a reference headphone. Sound amplification technology allows you to boost or reduce a particular frequency.

  • High-Resolution Audio

HRA headphones have the capability of reproducing various frequencies as much as 40 kHz. Some headphones will have a Hi-Res logo on the packaging or the website, which means it is certified to play high-resolution audio.

  • Digital to Analog Converter

DAC technology allows conversion of digital signals to audio playback, which can provide clear-sounding audio than headphones that don’t have built-in DACs.

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  • Mic or Controller

Especially for in-ear type of headphones, an inline microphone or controller can be an added function. It can let you answer phone calls without needing to remove your headphones.

It can either be a single-button remote, which will require multiple presses for various functions or a three-button remote which has a particular button for every function.

A reference headphone has to be of high-quality to be efficient and effective in its function as a reference transducer. When choosing reference headphones, it is essential that you consider the best features and functions that come with it.



Hello, there! My name is Alexander and I started Ironhorsetrading with my wife with the sole purpose of putting all our passion and knowledge about headphones, headsets, and earbuds to good use. We are both deeply passionate about music and any gadgets that produce quality sound, so we decided to share that passion with the world! Luckily, our little website project got a life of its own fairly quickly because what we have to say on the topic is trustworthy. Our love for music is what brought us together in the first place, so we are delighted to be able to connect with so many more like-minded people through our website. We want to encourage you to join our little community of sound aficionados and tell us what you think!

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