How to buy the right headphones

How to buy the right headphones

While smaller and more subtle than some HiFi products, headphones should be treated with the same respect as any other HiFi purchase. Carefully considered, researched and personalised to you.

However, with such a broad range of headphones available, particularly online, this respect isn’t always given to the purchase. It can really affect the product you end up with, and the listening experience it delivers.

Many people turn to the internet for the ease, the reviews and the lower prices. But there are other important factors that shopping online can’t deliver.

Buying doesn’t need to be time-consuming or hard just because it isn’t done online. Taking a step back from click culture can improve your options, your purchase and the outcome of your listening experience.

There’s a wrong way to buy headphones

There could be several reasons you are in the market for high-quality, high fidelity headphones. For work, flying, listening in busy or quiet areas, or simply to enjoy a specific, quality listening experience.

Most people know this reason before they start looking. And it is a great first step. However, it’s often the second step where things start to go wrong.

Making a choice (or just knowing where to begin looking) can be overwhelming. So, many people refer to their old friend, the world wide web, to help, which can lead to a bad headphone experience.

When looking for a quality HiFi headphone, here are the most common mistakes I see customers make:

Not considering comfort

One of the most important factors in headphone choice is comfort. How your headphones feel not only affects your comfort level but can actually change how you hear sound. And you definitely can’t determine the comfort of a product when you find it on the web.

Basing their decision on price

Specific sound technologies are required to achieve specific outcomes, and some of these technologies are more expensive than others. Most people have no idea about the variety of technologies that are being applied or employed by headphone manufacturers, or if they require them for their needs. Going off price means you’ll likely pay either more or less than you need. Not to mention, price doesn’t always reflect value or longevity.

Obsessing over the look

You won’t be listening with your eyes, so the look of your headphones is much less important than the feel and the sound quality. Most people don’t know how their ears work and how they influence sound – which is key to guiding you to which headphone suits you best. Every ear and head shape are different. What suits one person may not suit another.

You wouldn’t buy glasses online not knowing if they look, feel or perform right for you. The same can be said for headphones – a decision shouldn’t be made based purely on what you see online.

Use your personal need to guide your choice

So, where should you start?

The art of headphones is much more nuanced than many believe, so there are many factors that come into play. When chosen correctly, a pair of headphones can deliver the same sound quality as a floor speaker ten times its price. So, it’s worth following the right purchase steps.

Instead of concentrating on review, cost or aesthetics, try starting with these three factors instead:

1. Type: You already know why you’ll be using them. So, what type of headphone suits your use? In-ear, overhead, and outer ear headphones all offer different capabilities and provide benefits for different activities, including noise-cancelling capabilities.
2. Situation: Where will you be using your headphones, and how often? It could simply be at home once in a while. But if you wish to use them in transit every day or while being active, the most suitable options can change.
3. Feel & Fit: We’ve already established that comfort is paramount. Without it, you won’t be wearing your headphones for long. But the fit of your headphones means more than that. Headphones can obstruct your outer ear and earlobe, which in turn affect body temperature, blood circulation and the intricacies of sound. Make sure the pair you’ve been eyeing feel good and fit properly.

When your knowledge runs out, rely on an expert

Clearly, none of these can be completed if you’re relying solely on the internet. And unless you’re a HiFi guru, it’s likely you won’t be able to rely solely on your own knowledge either.

The only way to nail all of the key steps? Try before you buy.

The same as any HiFi speaker or product, you want to try, test and personalise before you commit. Your headphones are part of your HiFi collection, so if you expect the same results as the rest of your collection it is important you carefully consider and customise your headphone choice.

Go into a HiFi store and get expert help. It might seem like the old-fashioned way to do it, but the results can’t be argued with:

  • It is the fastest and most effective way to narrow down the products and brands that are right for you
  • You can experience firsthand the different technologies, shapes, and materials available
  • Most brick and mortar retailers now match the price of online sellers
  • The service and expertise available in-store can’t be matched by an online review or article

Best of all, HiFi sellers respect sound quality and experience as much as you do.

Our top picks

After selling headphones for almost 47 years, the team here at Tivoli HiFi are experts not only on headphone brands and technologies. We also understand what customers want (and beyond that, what they need).

Here are three of our expert picks for HiFi headphones:

For unbeatable, ultra-high-fidelity electrostatic headphones:


Stax headphones

For a high-fidelity listening experience within a budget:

Bowers & Wilkins

Bowers & Wilkins headphones

For amazing sound quality with complete noise cancelling:


Sennheiser headphones

For superb sound, style and comfort

Bang & Olufsen

Bang & Olufsen headphones

Still need help with a headphone choice? Click here to see our range of headphones, or here to contact a Tivoli HiFi expert.

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