I love headphones. I use them all day mostly for listening to or writing music. I have gone through a pile of headphones over the years and have some thoughts on what to look for when getting a new pair.

What I look for

1. Comfort

I learned over the years that it doesn’t matter how good headphones sound if they crush your head or make your ears hurt after an hour.

The most comfortable headphones for most folks are over-ear headphones. These are headphones that don’t touch your ear at all. Some of these can slowly crush the sides of your head depending on how heavy they are so take weight/pressure into consideration..

2. Adequate sound

Not good. Not great. Adequate. Every set of headphones I owned with excellent sound couldn’t be worn for more than an hour or two before they hurt. There is little value in great sound if you can’t wear the headphones for very long. That said, if you’re a bit of an audiophile and have cash to burn, you can pick up a set with sound so good they make you drool (even if they are uncomfortable).

3. Optional noise-cancelling

Noise cancelling headphones have a sound of their own. While great for airplanes, I do not care for their “sound.” One pair I have has the option to disable the noise-cancellation, which is quite nice.

Bonus points for:

  • Detachable cable
  • Mechanical controls, not touch
  • Straight cable – curly cables are heavy and can drag your phone/whatever off the desk
  • Style


Over the last few years, I fell in love with AKG open-back over-ear headphones entirely because they are so comfortable and the sound is adequate. The headphones I have of theirs are designed for studio work so they have a fairly flat response (the bass is not boosted). They have a good range from very inexpensive to pretty snazzy headphones, all of which are pretty nice. I would stick to their entry to midrange sets.

If you’re looking for something with a bit higher quality and more bass, check out Sony or Beyerdynamic. I have had good luck with both.

For earbuds, I have used my Bose Sport Earbuds and they work pretty well. I also hear high praise for AirPods so eventually I will have to check them out.

What do y’all look for in a good set of headphone? Are there specific features or sound you are looking for?


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