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Our Design Score and Tests
Headphones

Score components:

Our design score describes the structure of the headphone, the materials used and how well they fit together to create a sturdy, portable and ergonomically comfortable listening experience.

Design is a little subjective, as comfort and ease-of-use of a pair of headphones will depend on each listener's preferences. There is no ideal design but high-scoring headphones in this category will feel sturdy and use durable materials. They will be comfortable and have an efficient and intuitive control scheme. Furthermore, they wouldn't require constant adjustment to maintain a stable fit or be too bulky and cumbersome. A hard case to transport the headphones is also a plus but not as significant.

Our design test subjectively evaluates the comfort, control scheme, stability, build quality and breathability of headphones and the sturdiness of the provided case or pouch for they come with. We also measure the volume of space they would occupy in a bag.

Test results

Our test

Comfort

What it is: Adjustability and degrees of freedom, pressure, stiffness and weight.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used for long durations.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

Our comfort test evaluates how physically pleasant the listening experience will be with the tested headphones. This means their design should not cause any pain or physical stress to the listener when in use.

Although comfort is subjective, the texture of the padding used, the tension applied by the headband and the weight of the headphones affect their perceived comfort. We assigned significant weight to comfort, as poor comfortability deteriorates the listening experience, especially over long listening sessions.

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Controls

What it is: The control scheme of the headphones, the number of functions provided, button layout and ergonomics as well as the quality of tactile feedback.
When it matters: If you want to control volume, pause your music or make phone calls without directly interacting with your audio device.

Our control scheme test describes the layout and function of the control options offered by the headphones. Music, call, and volume controls are typical control options, but some headphones offer noise canceling modes and touch-sensitive control schemes.

Button layouts that score highly for this test are easy to use and not prone to mistaken inputs, offer a decent amount of functionality and provide good tactile or auditory feedback. However, some listeners prefer the simplicity of fewer controls, which is why the subjective weight attributed to the buttons test is not as significant as that of comfort or build quality.

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Stability

What it is: How the headphones are designed to prevent them from slipping off your ears or falling off your head.
When it matters: If you plan on using the headphones while doing sports or other physical activities that requires a lot of movement.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

Our stability test evaluates how stable a headphone’s design feels while in use. We score the stability under low and high-intensity activities, as well as any extra features in the headphone's design that help with maintaining a stable fit.

Unstable headphones can be frustrating and can even deteriorate the audio you're listening to when the headphones move around on your head. This may require constant adjustments and repositioning, which is why we attribute a decent weight to a headphones' stability score. However, it's more of a concern if you plan to use your headphones while doing sports or other high-intensity activities and may not be as significant of an issue for most casual listeners.

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Portability

What it is: The volume of space occupied by the headphones when folded into their most compact format.
When it matters: If you're often on the move and need to carry your headphones in a bag, purse , or pocket.
Score components:

Our portability test evaluates the ease of transport a headphones’ design. We measure the headphones volume, to determine how much space it would fill in a bag, purse or pocket.

Portable headphones typically have joints that allow them to fold into smaller formats or have swiveling ear cups that lay flat to take less space. This may be essential if you're frequently on the move and carry your headphones in your bag or on your person. Bigger headphones can be frustratingly cumbersome if you can't easily transport them. However, depending on your listening habits, and choice of headphone, portability may not be as important for you.

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Case

What it is: The provided carrying options to protect your headphones when transporting them.
When it matters: To prevent damaging your headphones, if you often carry them in your bag or pocket.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

A case or pouch refers to the carrying option(s) provided, to securely transport your headphones. We measure the volume of space a case or pouch takes, once in your bag or pocket. We also subjectively evaluate how well the case will shield your headphones from damage, depending on the materials used.

A good case is typically made with a hard shell or sturdy fabric that's robust enough to keep the headphones safe in everyday conditions. Without one, your headphones may get scratched or damaged by whatever else is already in your bag or pocket. However, depending on your listening habits and headphone choice, a case or pouch may not be necessary for you, especially if you don't often carry your headphones around, or you don't put them in your bag. 

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Build quality

What it is: Durability, material quality, cheap/expensive feel.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used by multiple users (classes/studios), by children, in tough conditions, on a daily basis, or for exercise.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

Build quality is the sturdiness and perceived durability of the headphones’ design. The materials used and how well the components are assembled affect build quality and therefore denser, longer-lasting materials are more desirable. Metal or dense plastic, for example, make for a sturdier frame.

A pair of headphones with better build quality will last you longer. Poorly built headphones do not withstand regular wear and tear as a well as pairs with a sturdier build quality and therefore are more susceptible to breaking under physical stress.  Build quality is very important to design, and this is reflected in the weight we assigned for its score.

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Breathability 

What it is: How hot the headphones get when you wear them for an extended period of time.
When it matters: If you often have long listening sessions or use your headphones while doing physical activities like running or working out.
Score components:

Breathability describes how hot your ears will get after wearing headphones for a while. It's a more significant issue, if you usually have long listening sessions, or wear your headphones while working out.

We, measure the temperature difference caused by wearing headphones for a set time. This is done with a controlled heat source in a moderately windy environment, to stimulate the initial conditions for a regular human ear and air flow. However, depending on your listening habits and headphone preference, breathability may not be a high priority for you.

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What is not included

A few elements that you could care about are not included in the score:

  • Ear Pad Pressure (Coming soon)

If you feel there is an item missing that should be included, please let us know in the Q&A section.

Conclusion

Our design score describes the structure of a headphones design and how well its components are assembled together. Although, design is subjective, the importance of comfort, button layout, stability, portability, build quality and breathability will define how durable and how ergonomic your listening experience will be. A great design is sturdy, compact and lightweight, made of durable materials and is simple and efficient use.

 

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