October 19, 2016 • Osnat Amzaleg
A Quick Guide to The Parts of a Headphone
In order for headphones to be high quality all of the parts of a headphone have to be made with quality materials and manufactured to be durable, strong, and effective. High end headphones are made with the best headphone parts.
Luckily, nearly all of the headset parts can be replaced. That means that instead of throwing away your headphones when they start to have problems, you can simply shop for replacement earphone parts.
In this article we’ll give you headphone parts names, talk about what they do, and tell you some of the key signs that they have gone bad and need to be replaced.
THE HEADPHONE JACK
The jack is the small hard piece at the end of the cable. It plugs into your device to complete a circuit that electrical signals can travel through. It is usually pretty sturdy or at least not subject to harsh treatment that could bend it out of shape or break it.
However, the part where the jack meets the cable is especially prone to twisting and bending which can cause the wires at this point to fray or break entirely. If this occurs, you will usually lose sound in one speaker. If you gently twist the cable near the jack, you’ll notice that in certain positions the sound comes back.
- Shape & design - the shape and design of your ear pads will determine how much sound from outside leaks in. A well designed ear pad can provide a surprising amount of noise isolation so that you only hear the music that you want to hear.
- Material - the actual material used can also affect how much outside noise your headphones can effectively block out.
The cable is the long piece that runs from the jack to your speakers. It is a set of wires coated in rubber or other nonconductive material. Its job is to act as a sort of bridge along which the electrical signal from your device can travel up to your speakers.
Because it is so long and flexible, it is prone to bending and twisting that can cause the wires inside to weaken and fray. Frayed wires are like broken bridges. It becomes difficult for the electrical signal to travel across the frayed sections.
So the signs of a worn cable include only hearing sound on one side (although this could also be a worn jack), no sound at all, or choppy sound that is constantly coming in and out.
The speakers are the parts that receive the electrical signal and turn it into clear, quality sound for your enjoyment. High end headphones will have advanced speaker technology that allows for the crispest, clearest sound.
In noise cancelling headphones, the speakers will “listen” to the noises that surround you and play back an inverted version of those noises to effectively cancel them out.
When speakers begin to wear out either through extended use or listening to music at excessive volumes, you will notice a buzzing sound while listening to music.
THE HEADPHONE CUSHIONS
Headphone cushions are extremely important. They are the soft cushions, usually made of some kind of foam, that cover the speaker boxes on either side of your headphones. They serve multiple purposes including:
- Providing comfort to the wearer. Quality cushions make wearing headphones more comfortable than simply having hard speakers pressed directly against your ear.
- Contributing to a solid grip so that headphones don’t slide around or fall off. The cushion is usually firm enough to gently grip your ears while still being soft enough to be comfortable.
- Isolating noise to block out interfering outside noises. The shape and design contribute to your headphone’s ability to block out outside noises. The better the design, the more noise it can block out. This is different from noise cancellation (which is something that speakers can be designed to do).
They are made from memory foam and have a soft protein leather coating. When you invest in quality, it’s a good idea to take extra care to preserve that quality. This includes moderate steps for cleaning, proper storage, and proper usage.
You recognize that they are beginning to wear down and need to be replaced when they become flat, cracked, smelly, or uncomfortable. Proper care can extend the normal lifespan of headphone cushions but eventually even the best cushions need to be replaced
The headband is the hard piece that runs from one speaker to the other, holding them together so that you can comfortably and securely wear the headphones on your head. If your cable does not split off into two to connect to each speaker separately, then there will also be wiring running through your headband.
Otherwise, it is just a hard piece holding the headset together but serving no role in terms of sound quality (except in the sense that it contributes to the grip and comfort of the headphones).
Recognizing a bad headband is pretty easy. You will be able to visibly see that it is either broken or bent out of shape. If there is a wire running through it, that breakage may interfere with the sound in the speaker that is not directly connected to the cable.
The different parts of a headphone all come together to create a quality listening experience. Finding quality headphones starts with knowing about the different parts and what they do. Extending the life of your headphones starts with knowing how to recognize which part needs to be replaced in order to solve the particular problem you are experiencing.
With this article, you have a solid introduction into the topic so that you can start making smart shopping choices and start taking proper care of your headphones so that they can last you for many years to come.