Buying headphones

Please note that these guides do not constitute legal advice and any information provided in the guides should not be construed as legal advice or legal interpretation. We do not accept any liability for any loss caused by your reliance on this guide.

The DoneDeal guide to buying headphones

In general

Check them out

  • Inspect them for cleanliness
  • Check the pin or “jack”. Most headphones and jacks are compatible with one another, but it’s worth checking before you consider buying.
  • If you are using these headphones with a portable device (phone, mp3 player or tablet) it would be worth bringing that with you
  • Test the headphones: How’s the sound? Do the left and right headphones sound equally strong? If the voice is muffled, the bass might be too high; if the sound is too tinny, there might be a problem with its treble.
  • Avoid headphones that crackle or provide inconsistent sound.
  • Check the ends of the headphones cables for fraying and/or exposed cables. This is often where the first signs of wear and tear begin.

Headphone use

  • Consider where you (or the wearer) will be using the headphones. Buds are better suited to the gym and running; while larger headphones are better suited to home use, walking, commuting or travelling.
  • When testing headphones, if possible, try to listen to something that you enjoy in your spare time; whether it’s music (pop, rock, classical, rap, jazz, country etc), podcasts, audio books, gaming or your favourite radio station. Don’t be shy about bringing a favourite CD to test the headphones! Different headphones are sometimes suited to different content.

Ear buds and IEMs (in ear monitors)

  • A typical pair of ear buds headphones would be free with your smartphone or mp3 player, though higher end ones are sold separately. They fit within your ear, as opposed to over your head.
  • IEMs (in ear monitors) are similar, but more moulded, precise and generally better quality due to a tighter seal inside your ears.
  • Check to make sure these headphones are completely clean before wearing!


  • Make sure they sit comfortably on your head, in your ears or on your neck. In the case of head and neck speakers, make sure they are adjustable
  • rally, the better quality the headphone the less you’ll hear ambient noise while wearing them.
  • Some people find full-sized (or “supra-aura”) too heavy and uncomfortable.

Wireless headphones

  • Wireless headphones connect via Bluetooth technology. Make sure the headphones can make that wireless connection before purchase.
  • Check that the device you’ll be using with the wireless headphones is Bluetooth compatible also. Some older stereos may not work with wireless headphones.

Headphones features and terminology

  • “Noise cancelling” headphones do exactly that, by using tiny microphones to capture ambient sounds.
  • “Volume limiting” headphones either intentionally don’t go over a certain volume (with kids’ headphones for instance) or have the option to limit the volume. This can be used whether you’d like to limit it to save your own hearing or that of children who borrow the headphones. The limit tends to be at around the 85dB range.
  • “Biometric” is a feature whereby the headphones monitor your heart rate. This is ideal for using to measure how you exercise, and is also compatible with a number of fitness apps.
  • “Surround Sound” features on some specialist headphones, especially gaming headphones, allowing for directional cues of sound (like Dolby Surround Sound in cinema auditoriums).
  • “Hands free” usually refers to a microphone and headphones combo, used with your phone.

Gamer headphones

  • These are designed for talking and listening while gaming (usually online).
  • Different headphones are compatible with different consoles: Some can be used across different consoles (Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 for example) while some others are made specifically for one console.
  • Check both the microphone and sound quality before purchase.
  • Watch out for headphones that only work with previous-generation consoles: For example, a set for Playstation 3 might not with the Playstation 4.


Headphones vary in price from €3 to over €500. Naturally quality varies, but a good rule of thumb is to check the recent second-hand sale price of similar make/model/dated headphones.