There are so many reasons to listen to music! It’s fun, relaxing, and entertaining. Also, the right music can help you to concentrate. For example, I like listening to music around the clock, especially when working or taking a break.
Plus, we now have an unlimited selection of artists, genres, albums, and songs that we can choose from with the latest streaming services. I can listen to my favorite bands or browse through the upcoming artists’ releases. The choice is endless.
But how do we convert all those MP3s and digital information into acoustic energy, aka sound? To hear the music, our ears need a piece of gear that generates sound waves (previously passed through a DA converter): headphones or loudspeakers. Let’s see the main features of both pieces of equipment.
Listening With Headphones
Headphones are transducers made to deliver sound directly to our ears. With headphones, we can enjoy an actual stereo experience.
When sound engineers mix a song, they have a pan control on the mixing console. With the help of this knob, they can place and separate instruments on the entire stereo spectrum left to right. You can listen for yourself; the kick drum is always in the middle, the snare is placed a little on the right, while the cymbals will be panned hard left and hard right. The bass is in the middle, together with the vocals, while the guitars are usually panned right or left. Effects such as reverb or delay add depth to the mix so that you can enjoy a three-dimensional sound.
Headphones come in different models; over-the-ear, in-ear, closed, open, wired, or wireless. The latest in-ear models, such as the famous AirPods, can be connected via Bluetooth to mobile phones or other digital devices. The connector of the wired models is a stereo 1/8″ mini-jack. Professional models feature the standard stereo audio TRS jack connector.
In general, headphones will deliver a crisp sound, with a little boost on the bass and high frequencies, to correct human ear higher sensitivity to middle frequencies. I choose models that adapt well to my ears, not too heavy and comfortable for my ear shape.
Listening to music at high volumes for a prolonged time can cause ear damage. This is particularly true with headphones, which deliver sound pressure directly into the auditory canal.
Listening With Loudspeakers
Loudspeakers are transducers that transform electrical impulses into sound energy. They can be passive (they need an external amplifier) or active (built-in amplifier). Loudspeakers usually have one or more cones (a woofer for mid-low frequencies and a tweeter for the highs) and bass reflex ports.
During these last few years, there has been a strong rise of Bluetooth speakers. I have found incredibly good sounding speakers for a very affordable price. Plus, they can be connected to my mobile devices. Lately, I got one with AI integration, which works through voice commands.
Suppose you push a loudspeaker at maximum power for an extended period. In that case, you can damage the mechanics of the cone, which will cause audible distortion. Also, be careful with the power amplifier; if it clips, it may send too much signal to the speaker, causing the cone to move too fast and eventually break.
In the End: Which one Should I Choose?
I choose to listen to music with headphones when:
- I am taking a walk, running or commuting
- I want to enjoy loud music at night
- I need to concentrate (for work purposes)
- I want to relax and switch off for a while
- I need to focus in a noisy environment
I choose to listen to music with loudspeakers when:
- I want to enjoy an immersive, authentic stereo sound energy
- I invite friends over, and I want to create the right atmosphere
- I work long hours and want to avoid ear fatigue
- I want to have soft music throughout my whole home