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by Rishikesh Kisla August 01, 2017

Is there anything in the world that isn't categorized? Categories exist everywhere and that’s indeed a good thing. An object has many aspects of about it and all these aspects can be looked at, one at a time and further defined. This helps immensely when trying to determine the quality or efficiency of an object and understanding it on the whole. Headphones are no exceptions. Understanding their features and how it affects you will enable you to understand the type and even style of a headphone.

Besides its physical form factors, headphones are also classified with respect to how they sound i.e. their Sound Signature. Every headphone has its own unique output that appeals to a particular kind of a listener. There are Six basic Signatures that headphones can be categorized into. Let’s take a short and sweet look at what they are and what the mean. Understanding this will help you figure out what sound signature you prefer. It’s all a process to get closer to that audio high we are all chasing.

 

Extra Bass

The name says it all. This signature is headphones that provide that extra punch in the low end, that loud thump in your music that makes you jump to every beat. These headphones focus more on the lower frequencies being more audible. In short, boosting of Bass frequencies. It will make your music sound louder and warmer than it is. Such a tuning in lower frequency may make the bass sound loud but overwhelm other frequencies. A.K.A. loss in detail. But that is not the case always. If you love EDM and music that’s defined by the bass element of it, this is your type. Your best choices would be with brands like V-Moda, Sony, Sennheiser and Beats.

 

V-shaped

Add a little V in life. With emphasized bass and treble, your music might sound a little unnatural but keeps the major frequencies in your music audible. For example if you're listening to Adele, a V-shaped sound would take the reverb off the piano and make the high and low frequencies of her vocals louder than the mids. When you reduce the midrange in the audio, the ambient noise reduces to an extent. This unique result is what makes this sound signature ‘sound’ unnatural. There’s gain in power with this signature but it makes the audio a little crisp and loud. Rock and Soft rock sound stronger in a V-shaped equalization in most cases. Brands to with such a signatures are V-Moda and Monster.

 

Flat

Unlike flat beer, a flat sound signature can be quite a desired output.. This is the Sound signature most professional audio artists and studio engineers use. Flat in this sense actually means no emphasis is given to any frequency in particular. It stands flat so that the audio can be heard as naturally as possible. Want to hear your music as naturally as it was recorded, go for a flat sounding headphone. Ideally no headphone driver can be exactly flat. But most professional brands try hard and yield a natural sound. Brands such as Audeze, AKG, Shure, Audio-Technica and Beyerdynamic make some of the best flat reference cans out there.

 

Bright

Wondering how can audio be bright?  Bright audio has a boosted high and higher mid range. Your treble will be sharp but not enough to cause you to cringe. When you boost the higher frequencies, the audio tends to be clearer and less warm i.e. Bright and thus relatively less warm. Listening to such audio for long durations can be taxing  and lead to listener fatigue. The ear is naturally more sensitive to higher frequencies, thus not a lot of people use such headphones. Grado and Beyerdynamic are known for making some bright sounding headphones.

 

Warm & Smooth

This is pretty much the opposite of bright. When you boost the low and lower mid range of your audio, warm and smooth is the output. The audio cocoon you’re enveloped in has a seemingly comforting feel of being covered in a blanket of velvet, so to speak. There is some treble present to but nothing compared to the lows. Such headphones don't actually cause a loss in detail as they tend to neutralize all frequencies but emphasize the musical bass and lower ambiance, like listening to a saxophone and cello in a Jazz club. To get a warm and smooth experience, the best options would be headphones from Ultrasone, Beyerdynamic, AKG and Jabra.

 

Balanced

It's the kind of signature where your complete audio experience is slightly enhanced and yet not too flat. Balance is what most headphones are tuned to. It's the perfect bridge between bass heavy and bright headphones. From the vocals to the bass line to the guitar riffs, everything sounds balanced and lively. It may be difficult to balance sauces in your sub sandwich, but these headphones balance your music perfectly and with aplomb. Listen to everything a song throws at you. The best balanced headphones are branded by Audio-Technica, Klipsch, RHA, Sennheiser, Meze and Beyerdynamic.

 

Interesting, ain’t it? How modulating some frequencies can change your music experience in such tremendous ways. For a better understanding, conduct an experiment with your headphones. Try out these equaliser apps on your phone and recreate every sound signature on the EQ. For android and for iOS.

Happy experimenting with your headphones.

 

Done with your research?

Rishikesh Kisla
Rishikesh Kisla



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