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Just Why Are Headphones Called a Pair?

In the world of headphones, why are headphones called a pair? While most products have abbreviated nicknames or head-scratching codenames, some are named exceptionally vaguely.

Apple headphones, for example, have an actual product name. And while it might be frustrating to try to pair them with your phone or computer next to your ears, at least they’re named a pair.

Hopefully, the following explanation will help you figure out the differences between earphones and a pair of headphones.

Why a “Pair” of Headphones?

While headphones today are largely synonymous with music listening, the term “pair” is a little more ambiguous. The history of the term “pair” can be traced back to the early 1900s.

Mercadier first patented telephone headsets in 1891, and these early devices were basically shoulder harnesses that barely meet modern definitions. So why are they still called a pair?

While most headphones have similar sound quality, they differ in their sensitivity to sound. Most headphones produce sound at a range of 85-120dB SPL per milliwatt. To help understand the range think about regular city traffic is between 80-85dB and a screaming voice is around 105dB.

On the other hand, a jet takeoff is 130dB. Many people consider the noise level to be below the threshold for pain, and SPLs above this range are hazardous to their health.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has warned of the dangers of exposure to noise levels above 85dB. A higher SPL means that the headphones are more sensitive, and they require more power to operate.

The term ‘headphone’ is a noun. Headphones are normally worn in pairs, one on each ear. While some users only wear one, others wear both pairs. In addition to being a noun, headphone is an adjective.

In the English language, headphones are often used interchangeably, though some individuals choose to wear only one headphone. So how do they differ? They can be called a pair when they are paired, or simply a set if they are designed for different uses.

One of the most important questions to ask when purchasing a pair of headphones is how to use them. The design of headphones is an important consideration, because they’re used in music production. The quality of a pair should be good enough to survive the abuse they receive.

While the quality of sound depends on how durable they are and how comfortable they are to wear. The question then becomes: “should I buy a pair or a single headphone?”

One of the major concerns about the sound output of headphones is the risk of infection. Sharing headphones can introduce new bacteria into your ear. You may suffer from earaches, fungus infections, or even swimmer’s ear – an infection of the outer ear, characterized by redness and pain.

The Finnish study(1) also suggested that you limit the volume of headphones to half the normal level and use them for about half an hour.

Over-ear headphones

Over-ear headphones are sometimes called pairs, because of the two ear cups that fit snugly over the ear. However, some in-ear headphones are too small to fit a large driver. Instead, most of these headphones have dual drivers that are responsible for the bass, midrange, and high frequencies.

Dual drivers improve sound quality for both over-ear and in-ear headphones. The sound pressure level is measured in decibels, and the sensitivity of headphones is generally stated as decibels per milliwatt.

Over-ear headphones fit over the lobes of the ears and seal tightly against the ear cartilage. These headphones offer the best sound quality and noise-cancelling capabilities. These headphones are commonly used by musicians and audiophiles to reduce background noise.

Over-ear headphones come in various prices, ranging from less than $100 to upwards of $1000. Some over-ear headphones are foldable and come with a carrying case.

Noise-canceling headphones are popular among musicians in recording studios. They block out most ambient noise, allowing you to focus on the notes of your instrument without distractions. Some models even feature active noise cancellation, or ANC, to minimize background noise.

Noise cancelling headphones do not leak sound into the microphone, which can muddy your recording. Instead, they block out most external noises, including low plane rumbles.

Over-ear headphones are called pairs for a reason. If you want to listen to music while running errands, it’s best to get a pair that is designed for both listening to music and working. A good pair of headphones will last a long time and be comfortable for a variety of activities.

Most headphones are not waterproof, but a waterproof case is included for your convenience. You can even find wireless over-ear headphones that are noise-canceling.

To choose the best pair of headphones for your needs, it is helpful to read reviews online. These can narrow down the options and help you identify potential issues.

Supra-aural headphones

While both types of headphones work to isolate sound, supra-aural headphones are smaller and lighter than their circumaural counterparts. Since they do not cover the ears, they are better suited for situations where the sound produced is not completely blocked.

They also allow more noise into the earcup, but do not block out outside sound as well as circumaural headphones. These headphones can be used by both audiophiles and professional musicians, as well as people who use headphones in noisy environments.

There are two types of supra-aural headphones: over-ear and on-ear. Over-ear headphones are usually the most popular type of headphone for both people and musicians. They are typically the most comfortable, providing a higher level of sound.

On-ear headphones cover a much smaller area and tend to be more versatile. They also tend to be cheaper than their circumaural counterparts. This means that people can choose a pair based on personal preferences, ranging from comfort to noise cancellation.

As the name suggests, these headphones are meant to be worn around the head. Supra-aural headphones work by converting electrical signals into sound. These headphones have a band that fits around the top of the head to secure them.

The wire of these headphones may be dirty or tangled. To fix this problem, you can use compressed air or electrical tape to secure the wire. If the headphones are still not working, you may have to purchase a new pair.

While the quality of sound quality is a primary concern, these headphones are designed to be comfortable and durable. The aluminum yoke on the back of these headphones provides comfort and asymmetrical attachment points allow them to fit almost every head shape.

The memory foam material provides a soft feeling that won’t make your ears sweat. The gray fabric of these headphones can look a little dirty after prolonged use.

Typically, the maximum volume of these headphones is about 90-110dB (SPL) per milliwatt. For comparison, regular city traffic has an SPL around 80dB, while a jet taking off has a SPL of 130dB or higher.

Noise levels above this level may cause pain and even damage to your hearing. Occupational safety and health administration warns that a person with an SPL of 85dB is at high risk of hearing loss.

Circumaural headphones

Circumaural headphones are also called “pairs” because they enclose the ears, preventing sound leakage. These headphones are usually bulkier than other types but are very comfortable to wear.

These headphones are a good choice for studio users because of their ability to eliminate sound leakage. They are also ideal for audiophiles and musicians. Despite their large size, however, circumaural headphones are often not portable.

Another difference between supra-aural and circumaural headphones is the form factor. Supra-aural headphones rest on the outer ear. These headphones are known for their portability and efficiency.

They are also known to be effective at reproducing bass frequencies, but can be more uncomfortable if you have sensitive ears. Circumaural headphones are usually larger than in-ear headphones. These headphones can be used by either ear or on the head.

The biggest difference between the two types of headphones is in the design. Supra-aural headphones are smaller and lighter than circumaural headphones, but they are not as comfortable. Supra-aural headphones sit on top of your ears, so they can be uncomfortable to wear for extended periods.

The shape and design of the earcups also determine comfort. They are also more comfortable to wear, but they do not fit as well in your ears as circumaural headphones.

Sennheiser’s HD 280 Pro has a deep bass, a well-balanced treble, and superb mid-range. It’s a great choice for critical listening. It also offers zero latency, good isolation, and is portable. Their HD 600 Headphones are among the most popular headsets, but they contain plastic. Regardless of their cheap feel, they’re still durable.

Over-ear and circumaural headphones are similar but serve different purposes. The former are bulky, preventing outside noise from penetrating your ears. These headphones are more comfortable because they isolate the ears from external noise.

Over-ear headphones, on the other hand, sit on your ears, but do not completely cover them. Ultimately, both types have the same function: to isolate your ears. The former are more expensive than the latter, but offer better isolation.