Understanding Headphone and Earphone Specifications

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Headphone and Earphone
If you are in the market for new headphones or earphones it is important to understand the various specifications.

Whether you are listening for casual applications (home or on the go) or for professional situations like recording, mastering or monitoring, specifications like frequency range and frequency response can have an impact on your listening experience!

We’ve put together a list of the most commonly used specs to help you make the decision. You can also watch the video on the bottom of this article.

Frequency Range
This refers to the overall range that an earphone/headphone will operate in. It measures from where it starts to produce sound to the frequency at which it stops producing sound. For example: 10Hz (lowest frequency) – 25KHz (highest frequency).

Frequency Response
Indicates the overall sound of the headphone or earphone. Usually a visual demonstration is included of how the headphone or earphone responds at different frequency ranges. Perfect for identifying if a product might have more or less bass, mid or treble.

(dB SPL/mW – Decibels of sound pressure level per milliwatt)
This is a good guide for how loud a product might get when given a certain input power setting. Essentially, each device you plug into will have a different output level, with portable devices typically having the lowest levels acceptable for headphones or earphones. A plugged in device, such as a mixing console, will have ample amounts of power allowing them to drive much louder volumes.

Impedance is an electronics term which measures the amount of opposition a device has to an AC current (such as an audio signal). Impedance is important because you want to ensure that your player or source device has an output impedance that is lower (often by a factor of 8). For example if your music player has an impedance of 8Ω then you want to ensure your device has an impedance of around several times this number. In this case 64Ω would be a good rule of thumb to ensure safe operation. This should not be confused with quality, as a high ohms number does not mean it will sound better; it simply means that each headphone is suitable for a certain device or application.

All Ears are Different
Regardless of what specifications say, hearing is individual and each person will experience earphones or headphones differently based on the unique inner structure of their ear. Other factors which influences the sound are: the style of music, the type of player and the earphone sleeve.

Which Headphone / Earphone is Right for Me?
The best way to determine if a headphone or earphone is right for you is to try them for yourself. Search for an Authorised Shure Dealer with our Dealer locator:


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