Headphone buying guide

Find the perfect headphones for you, within your budget.

Headphone buying guide

Ryan’s headphone buying guide will help you to find the perfect headphones, within your budget. Don’t let misleading advertising or shoddy manufacturers rip you off.

There are several different types of headphones available on the market. The main ones are earbuds, on-ear, over-ear and noise cancelling. Read on below for the pros and cons of each variety. We’ve also got our top picks for a big or small budget.


Also known as in-ear headphones, these come in two varieties – they either sit in the outer ear or are inserted into the ear canal. You can usually tell which type they are by checking for removable rubber tips. If they have these, they will typically be inserted into the ear canal.


  • very portable
  • typically quite affordable
  • will not cause discomfort for glasses wearers
  • noise isolation, meaning you won’t hear too much of the outside world; models which are inserted into the ear canal are especially good for this.


  • cords have a habit of getting tangled
  • small size means that speaker quality is typically not comparable to other types
  • can be uncomfortable for some wearers.


These headphones sit on the outside of your ears, and are held in place by a band that runs over the top of your head, but occasionally some models are held in place by ear clips.


  • good sound quality, although not as good as over-ear models
  • very portable
  • typically, will not cause discomfort for glasses wearers.


  • poor noise isolation, meaning you will hear much of the outside world, although this is a positive for some situations, such as bike-riding or walking/running on footpaths
  • because of poor noise isolation, if you have these headphones turned up loud, nearby people may be able to hear sounds coming from your headphones.


These headphones are large and will cover your entire ear, usually creating a tight seal around your head to prevent any outside noise from getting in. They are held in place by a thick headband and can be a little heavy.


  • very good sound quality
  • very good sound isolation, which means you can listen to music quietly without the outside world interrupting.


  • larger models aren’t very portable
  • some users may experience discomfort and/or hot ears, and those who wear glasses may experience significant discomfort.


Noise-cancelling headphones are available in all of the types listed above. What sets them apart is that they include anti-noise technology to cancel background noise. It works wonderfully for cancelling out the noise from heaters or air-conditioners, as well as airplane cabin noise. If you are a nervous flier, you should consider looking into noise-cancelling headphones, as they can help to ease anxiety and let you relax on your flight.


  • terrific for travelling
  • noise cancellation means you don’t have to turn the volume all the way up to hear things.


  • require batteries
  • some users find the noise-cancelling hum to be disorienting.

Click NEXT to see our tips on buying and our top recommendations in each category. Whether you’re looking for an affordable option or ready to splash some cash, we’ve got you covered.

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    6th Aug 2015
    I can't see a pensioner forking out $55 to $400 for headphones. That's for audiophiles.

    6th Aug 2015
    no reports on Bluetooth on Wi-Fi headphones theses are the way to go for TV no cords to get caught up in
    6th Aug 2015
    I wanted some Infra Red phones --lite and comfortable and rather cheap but was not able to get them got some other ones that are rather big and uncomfortable, they are wireless though which I need
    6th Aug 2015
    I have hearing aids, and would like to use headphones when travelling in car with my husband. I do not want to remove my aids, so which type of over ear head phones wpuld be suitable?
    6th Aug 2015
    Hi cazza, I would ask at a well know place that sells them --maybe get some info from your hearing Dr as well, hope you are able to find some suitable ones

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