Audio Headphones Information

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Audio headphones are small speakers worn over the ears to isolate sounds for the listener.


Audio Headphone Technology

Audio headphones use three basic technologies: standard, wireless, and infrared.

  • Standard audio headphones, headsets and ear buds use wires to receive an electrical signal from a transmitter. As the current through an electromagnet varies with the signal, the headphone diaphragm vibrates in response.
  • Wireless headphones are cordless, battery-powered audio headphones which receive radio frequency (RF) signals, typically at 900 MHz. Listeners can travel anywhere within a specified range and still receive audio outputs.
  • Infrared headphones use infrared (IR) light to carry data from a transmitter to a receiver. The transmitted signal is converted to an electrical impulse which drives the speakers in the headset. Unlike wireless headphones, however, IR headsets require listeners to remain within a transmitter’s line of site.

Noise Cancelling Headphones

Noise cancelling headphones and noise reduction headphones are specialized audio headphones which use active noise control (ANC) technology to reduce unwanted ambient sounds and other acoustic noise. Noise-cancelling headphones consist of a microphone placed near the ear and electronic circuitry which generates a sound wave with the opposite polarity of the sound wave which arrives at the microphone. Most noise-reducing headphones are battery-powered devices which are bulkier than standard audio headphones. Because of the shorter wavelengths of high-frequency sounds, these audio headphones are less effective at higher frequencies. They vary in terms of cost and quality, and may pick up stray electromagnetic signals from mobile telephones.


Performance Specifications

Selecting audio headphones requires an analysis of performance specifications and product features.


  • As a rule, audio headphones with higher impedances require more electrical energy to drive the headset speakers.
  • Weight and portability are also important considerations.
    • Earbuds, in-ear headphones and headphones with clip-on earpieces are designed for active personnel.
  • Sealed headphones are suitable for listening in noisy environments which require sonic isolation.
  • Open headphones provide superior sound quality because they are less likely to produce unwanted resonance.

  • Audio headphones such as Apple in-ear headphones, iPod headphones, Bluetooth headphones and computer headphones are consumer-oriented products. Apple and iPod are registered trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc. Bluetooth is a registered trademark of Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), a trade association.


Audio headphones must adhere to standards to ensure proper design and functionality. These standards can be found at the IHS standards store.


Related Products & Services

  • Audio Amplifiers and Preamplifiers

    Audio amplifiers and audio preamplifiers are used to increase the amplitude of sound signals.  Preamplifiers or preamps are designed to amplify low-level signal from a high-impedance device such as a microphone or instrument pick-up. After pre-amplification, the signal is sent to a power amplifier or amp, which provides the higher current necessary to drive the speakers.

  • Audio Connectors

    Audio connectors are used to affix cables to other audio equipment, providing electronic signal transference and grounding protection.

  • Audio Microphones

    Audio microphones are designed for sound reception and recording applications (speech and music).

  • Audio Mixers and Consoles

    Audio mixers and audio consoles are units that combine signals from microphones and/or line level sources to produce a combined signal or signals.

  • Audio Switch Matrices

    Audio switch matrices are electronic switching instruments for interfacing audio signals in scanning, recording and analysis systems.

  • Digital Audio Systems

    Digital audio systems electronically record and store audio signals such as voice, music, alarm, and security messaging for broadcast, editing, monitoring, and playback.

  • Headsets

    Headsets are designed to hold earphones to a user’s head for radio or telephone communications.  They include transducers and a transmitter, and are designed to receive audible signals from a source such as a portable media player or audio amplifier. Often, headsets are bundled with microphones for two-way communication.  The main benefit of headsets is that they let users listen privately, and make it easier to hear in noisy environments.

  • Hydrophones

    Hydrophones are underwater acoustic sensors used in marine research, undersea mapping and navigation, and various commercial and military applications.

  • Voice Loggers and Audio Recorders

    Audio recorders / voice loggers are used to locate, retrieve, duplicate and/or distribute audio voice or data information from single system environments to large multi-channel networked systems.

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