What Are Headphones? How do they work? (Answered)

I often get asked what headphones are. In this post, I will answer this question and talk more about the types of headphones and how they are used.

What are headphones? How do they work? (answered) | audio apartment

Whether you’re into classical, jazz, rock, or any other genre, headphones can give you a sense of immersion, making the music sound even better than it would in real life. Plus, they’re an easy way to keep your music preferences private, whether you’re working or doing other tasks.

In this article, we’ll talk about headphones, what they can do, and how to choose the right pair for your needs. 

What are headphones? Headphones are personal audio devices with small loudspeaker drivers that fit over the user’s ears. Their job is to turn an electrical signal into sound.

Image of sony headphones on a white backdrop claudio schwarz unsplash
Image Of Sony Headphones On A White Backdrop Claudio Schwarz Unsplash

What are headphones?

Headphones are the hardware that can be connected to a computer, laptop, smartphone, MP3 player, and other electronic devices so that the user can listen to music or other sounds in silence and privacy. These devices are truly “plug and play,” requiring no setup.

My favorite studio headphones:

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Studio Monitor Headphones

What are headphones? How do they work? (answered) | 712j1vd+c8l. Ac sl1500 | audio apartment
My favorite studio headphones:

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Studio Monitor Headphones

There is a good reason everyone has these headphones. (myself included, obviously) they are not very expensive, and they provide you unrivaled listening experience. You can pick up on the highest high and the lowest low.

Types of headphones

There are various types of headphones available, each with its own purpose. There are many different kinds, but some are more prevalent.


In-ear headphones, or “earbuds,” are often made of plastic and come in a single universal size. These accessories might have an unsteady, unpleasant fit depending on the shape of your ears. This makes them prone to falling out, particularly after physical activity.


These headphones sit directly on your ears rather than completely encircling them, isolating them from the outside world.


Wraparound headphones, circumaural or around-ear, can be opened or closed based on what the wearer wants. Versions open to external noise allow for as much as possible, while closed versions restrict it.


Noise-canceling headphones aggressively minimize the sound you hear from your surroundings to create a peaceful atmosphere for listening to music or sounds. The tiny internal engine accomplishes this by picking up on the low-frequency noise in your environment (through a mic mounted on the outer ear cup) and producing a frequency that precisely cancels it out.

There are a lot more different types f headphones on the market. but these are just the most popular ones.

How do headphones work?

Headphones work the same function as speakers. They use the vibration of magnets to transform electrical energy into sound. These magnets cause acoustic vibrations by causing the air surrounding them to tremble.

When you listen to audio on headphones, the digits 0 and 1 are sent to the decoder. This adapter takes digital impulses and transforms them into electrical signals that may be sent to headphones. The driver unit in the headphones then processes these electrical signals. There are three types of driver units:

  • Dynamic
  • Permanent magnetic
  • Electrostatic

Most headphones rely on a dynamic driver to produce sound. These driver assemblies include a permanent magnet, electromagnetic coils, and a diaphragm. So, when an electrical current hits an electromagnet, its polarity quickly changes. Because of this, it both attracts and repels the permanent magnet. Vibrations are created due to how quickly they attract and push away from each other.

Additionally, electromagnets are housed inside the diaphragm; once vibration begins, the diaphragm vibrates. A thin membrane called the diaphragm is responsible for breathing. The sound is produced when the diaphragm begins to vibrate and causes the air around it to do the same. In addition, the rates of vibration for various frequencies vary. The electromagnet needs to move quickly for high tones, but for low tones, it needs to move slowly.

Image of a woman wearing a black headphone while writing on her notebook. Source: ivan samkov, pexels
Image of a woman wearing black headphones while writing in her notebook. Source: Ivan Samkov, Pexels

What’s the best way to enjoy your music with headphones

Existing headphones can have their sound quality enhanced in a few different ways. We’ll go over seven tips like these that can help.

1. Go to a quieter room

Going into a quiet environment is the first step toward a better listening experience. It’s only normal for background noise to drown out your tunes when you’re in a busy public space like a bus stop, railway station, or park.

2. Use active noise-cancelation

Active noise-cancellation headphones are great for providing a peaceful listening experience. Be aware, however, that this feature will eat up your battery faster.

Additionally, because of the lack of ambient noise, you may turn down the volume without sacrificing the clarity of your audio, which is great if you’re using cheap headphones. So, turning down the volume a bit might bring back some of your music’s lost nuance and texture.

3. Use the right-sized ear tips

Even if your headphones have excellent sound quality, you will only enjoy them to their fullest potential if they fit properly. This isn’t an issue with most headphones, especially over-the-ear models, since the ear pads cover the whole ear. However, you should still acquire new headphones if the ones you have are uncomfortable.

On the other hand, many models of in-ear headphones, such as TWS earbuds, in-ear monitors (IEMs), and standard wired earphones, come with interchangeable ear tips. If you want headphones that fit well and block out outside noise, you should try a few different sizes to see what works best. For example, earplugs made of foam, rubber, or a combination of the two might be more comfortable than the standard silicone ones.

4. Adjust the EQ settings

Many like a more balanced sound, while others seek out deeper bass. Different headphones have different sounds that bring out different parts of your music and give you a different listening experience.

For example, high-quality headphones often have a more balanced frequency response, which means that all frequencies are heard well. This allows you to hear your music the way the composer intended.

An equalizer may change the headphones’ sound characteristics if the factory setting isn’t to your taste. Although audiophiles often advise aiming for a flat or balanced sound profile, you should experiment with different frequency settings to find what you like most. While most casual listeners like headphones with a greater emphasis on bass, higher-end headphones may be out of your price range.

5. Listen to high-quality audio files

People nowadays often listen to music through streaming services rather than downloading songs. Premium Spotify users can now only use a bitrate of up to 320 kbps, which is enough for most listening situations.

On all devices, podcast quality is approximately 96 kbit/s, except the web player, which is 128 kbit/s. If you set the audio quality on mobile/tablet to low, the podcast quality will drop to around 24 kbit/s.

6. Use external DACs

To play music, every modern mobile device, from phones to tablets to laptops, has a DAC (digital-to-audio converter) to transform digital audio impulses into analog ones. The problem is that the DACs in these devices are often not very good because they were not made to play music. A portable DAC may greatly enhance your listening experience if that’s the case.

7. Switch to a different BlueTooth codec

The Bluetooth codec you choose can greatly affect how good the sound is on your wireless headset. This is because the audio may be sent wirelessly between a player and receiver thanks to Bluetooth codec software. Simply put, it acts as a bridge between your wireless headphones and other electronic devices.

Many codecs exist. Several of them are great at minimizing delays, while others are consistent. LDAC, aptX HD, aptX Lossless, and LHDC are all excellent options if you want the greatest possible audio quality at the expense of a little bit of extra latency. If you want to use a different Bluetooth codec, you may do so in your device’s settings.

8. Clean out the headphone jack

It’s important to keep the audio jack clean if you use wired headphones. The signal is weakened, and noises like hisses, hums, and static are introduced if the audio jack is dirty and full of dust and lint. Using a certain headphone plug may also prevent some features from working. In the worst case, it could make one or both headphones stop working.

This is the quickest and most practical method for cleaning the headphone jack with a can of compressed air and a thin nozzle to blow air into the jack. However, if you don’t want to clean the jack, investing in some anti-dust plugs to seal it when you’re not using it is a good idea.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “What is Headphone|Define Headphone|Output Device” from the Aradhya GR YouTube channel.

A video called “What is Headphone|Define Headphone|Output Device” from the Aradhya GR YouTube channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about headphones.

What are the most common headphones?

One of the most popular kinds of headphones is earbuds. The outer ear canal serves as a speaker for these devices. They are small, lightweight, and cheap, making them ideal for on-the-go listening.

Are earphones better than headphones?

Compared to earbuds, over-the-ear headphones have better frequency response and, as a result, better sound quality. The turnaround time is minimal when the phone is used to transmit the signal. However, 20 to 20 kHz is acceptable for a decent audio experience. This frequency range and responsiveness will provide you with excellent musical quality.

Is it okay to wear headphones every day?

In most cases, using in-ear headphones or earbuds won’t pose any issues. But wearing headphones for long periods, like all day, may cause the earwax to get compressed, making it harder for the body to get rid of. In addition, press the earwax down so much that it causes inflammation in the body. And listening to music at unsafe volumes or for too long may cause permanent hearing loss.

How long should you wear headphones a day?

As a general guideline, you should only use MP3 players at levels up to 60% of maximum volume for a total of 60 minutes every day.


So, there you have it. Headphones are designed for your comfort and convenience. With so many options available in today’s market, it’s safe to say that your music experience will never be the same after purchasing a pair of headphones!

This article covered what headphones are, the types of headphones, and how headphones work. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Headphones are a form of hardware that can be connected to various electronic devices.
  • There are a variety of headphones available.
  • Extra tips:
    • A headset is a combination of headphones and a microphone.
    • Open-back headphones have the back of the earcups open. 
    • Closed-back headphones are closed at the back so no sound escapes (or leaks in from outside) 
    • On-ear headphones allow sound to escape from their enclosures and need to push even more air to produce the same bass response and loudness.
    • The headphone cushions are soft pads (often made of foam) covering each ear’s speaker box.
    • Each type of headphone has its strengths and weaknesses. 

So, do you prefer to use a headphone? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

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Image Andrew Ash
Written by Andrew Ash, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

Edited by Luke May, Staff Editor

Luke is a seasoned editor with over seven years of experience. His passion for writing and storytelling started when he was a teenager, spending countless hours reading books and creating his own stories.

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