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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Heads up for better cans

With headphones boasting innovative designs and features such as noise cancellation, choosing a pair is no longer a walk in the park
The Straits Times - June 26, 2013
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Heads up for better cans

 

Choosing a pair of headphones is no longer as easy as it used to be, said Mr Michael Lim, 30, a sales engineer.
He had planned to upgrade to a more powerful set of headphones for use with his smartphone, but was floored by the huge range of devices and features available.
When it comes to making a decision, one thing matters most. "Comfort is always top priority, as I am going to wear this for at least an hour when I travel for work," he said.
This is where some makers of headphones are trying to outdo one another. Some pad headbands to varying degrees. Others may use memory foam in the earcups to accommodate different ear shapes and sizes.
Portability is also key. Many bulky headphones have earcups that fold inwards or rotate to make them more compact and easier to store for users on the move.
Detachable audio cables make replacements cheaper and easier than sets with integrated wires.
Beyond functionality, looking good is also a key consideration. "We know consumers want headphones that are stylish, comfortable and deliver an unrivalled sound experience," said Mr Choo Heng Tong, marketing manager for Philips Consumer Lifestyle, Singapore.
So headphones such as Sol Republic's Master Tracks have detachable earcups which can be customised with different headbands. "We believe that each individual's taste is very personal and it is part of how he expresses himself," said Ms Veris Chong, director for Sol Republic Asia Pacific.
Audiophiles used to prefer wired headphones because wireless streaming was known to compress the audio signal and compromise music quality. But research firm Gfk Asia reports that sales of wired headphones in the first quarter of this year have dropped by 7 per cent compared with the same quarter last year, while sales of wireless sets have leapt 38 per cent.
Wireless headphones have become more popular because of new technology that has countered the old disadvantages.
Mr Kuah Hsiang Nung, Logitech's senior regional category manager for Asia Pacific and Japan, said: "Our UE9000 headphones allow wireless audio streaming without any compromises on sound quality. We've optimised the wireless signal using the highest quality codecs and advanced digital signal processing."
Logitech's wireless headphones, he said, can now operate up to 15m away from a music player and battery life has been boosted to 10 hours.
Bluetooth is the main wireless standard linking music players to wireless headphones. But pairing them has often been frustrating.
"Instead of a complicated set-up, I'd rather use a plug-and-play wired connection," said Mr Lim, who has narrowed his choices but has yet to make a final decision on the set he wants.
Then there is Near Field Communication (NFC), a standard which allows you to establish a wireless connection by tapping two NFC-enabled devices together. No more remembering and entering passwords. No more having to choose the right headphones in a player's settings to make a connection.
Noise cancellation is another feature which has become quite common even in entry-level headphones costing less than $200. Pay a little more and you get active noise cancellation to drown out background buzz.
With so many headphones to choose from, Digital Life lends its ears to 12 of the latest pairs to help you decide the best set for you.

Choosing a pair of headphones is no longer as easy as it used to be, said Mr Michael Lim, 30, a sales engineer.

He had planned to upgrade to a more powerful set of headphones for use with his smartphone, but was floored by the huge range of devices and features available.

When it comes to making a decision, one thing matters most. "Comfort is always top priority, as I am going to wear this for at least an hour when I travel for work," he said.

This is where some makers of headphones are trying to outdo one another. Some pad headbands to varying degrees. Others may use memory foam in the earcups to accommodate different ear shapes and sizes.

Portability is also key. Many bulky headphones have earcups that fold inwards or rotate to make them more compact and easier to store for users on the move.

Detachable audio cables make replacements cheaper and easier than sets with integrated wires.

Beyond functionality, looking good is also a key consideration. "We know consumers want headphones that are stylish, comfortable and deliver an unrivalled sound experience," said Mr Choo Heng Tong, marketing manager for Philips Consumer Lifestyle, Singapore.

So headphones such as Sol Republic's Master Tracks have detachable earcups which can be customised with different headbands. "We believe that each individual's taste is very personal and it is part of how he expresses himself," said Ms Veris Chong, director for Sol Republic Asia Pacific.

Audiophiles used to prefer wired headphones because wireless streaming was known to compress the audio signal and compromise music quality. But research firm Gfk Asia reports that sales of wired headphones in the first quarter of this year have dropped by 7 per cent compared with the same quarter last year, while sales of wireless sets have leapt 38 per cent.

Wireless headphones have become more popular because of new technology that has countered the old disadvantages.

Mr Kuah Hsiang Nung, Logitech's senior regional category manager for Asia Pacific and Japan, said: "Our UE9000 headphones allow wireless audio streaming without any compromises on sound quality. We've optimised the wireless signal using the highest quality codecs and advanced digital signal processing."

Logitech's wireless headphones, he said, can now operate up to 15m away from a music player and battery life has been boosted to 10 hours.

Bluetooth is the main wireless standard linking music players to wireless headphones. But pairing them has often been frustrating.

"Instead of a complicated set-up, I'd rather use a plug-and-play wired connection," said Mr Lim, who has narrowed his choices but has yet to make a final decision on the set he wants.

Then there is Near Field Communication (NFC), a standard which allows you to establish a wireless connection by tapping two NFC-enabled devices together. No more remembering and entering passwords. No more having to choose the right headphones in a player's settings to make a connection.

Noise cancellation is another feature which has become quite common even in entry-level headphones costing less than $200. Pay a little more and you get active noise cancellation to drown out background buzz.

With so many headphones to choose from, Digital Life lends its ears to 12 of the latest pairs to help you decide the best set for you.

 

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