Ear Mufflers

Published Date
01 - Sep - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Sep - 2006
Ear Mufflers
After a long tiring day, most of us at ~Digit~ like to relax listening to music. The iPod is the device of choice for many, however there are few of us who believe in convergence, and have bought cell phones with MP3 capability. No matter which of these devices one buys, the ear phones or headphones turn out to be spoil sports.

In fact, I recently upgraded my cell phone to a Nokia E61, and was horrified at the single ear piece that Nokia bundled along with it - sad but true! I was forced to look for better earphones. I took this opportunity to window shop for all kinds of earphones/headphones available in the market.

Of course, when it comes to headphones and earphones, there is just too much on offer, so I've broken my experiences into categories - for PC's, you have to choose between headphones with microphones as standalone headphones. Earphones for MP3 players, cell phones, etc., are a completely different category.

Headphones/earphones are designed for specific applications, and hence, when buying a pair, make a decision based on your needs. For example, a pair of headphones for TV set will sound horrible with MP3 players or portable CD players because of the impedance difference.

The majority of us use headsets with our PCs. These sets have a big headphone and an integrated microphone. iBall, Intex, Frontech, Zebronics, and more, are some of the key vendors offering such solutions. The typical price range is between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500. The top models generally have bigger earpieces and better padding, but don't offer too much more in terms of sound quality. All this is fine for video conferencing, Skype calls and IM-ing, but for music... think again. Personally, I'd rather opt for a separate headphone and microphone solution!

You can get a decent set of headphones for Rs 800 (Philips), and buy a Rs 150 microphone for your computer. However, if you want a quality headset, then Plantronics is the name you should be looking for. They have good headsets, which are expensive, but comfortable. The basic models cost between Rs 1,500 and 2,000, and the price increases with more advanced features.

I found that headphones come in all sizes and price brackets. The entry level ones cost as little as Rs 250, and the best pair I saw would set you back by a whopping Rs 40,000. Philips has been a long time player in the headphone market, and every music shop sells them (yes, Planet M too). The basic portable ones retail for around Rs 250, and are designed for low impedance devices such as cassette recorders, MP3 players, CD players etc. - and not for TVs or music systems. Moving up the ladder, you can get portable headphones for TVs and amplifiers for about Rs 800 - the Philips set I mentioned earlier. 

If you want something better, you can opt for Sony or Panasonic headphones, which are readily available at any electronics shop - they're priced between Rs 1,500 and 2,000. Headphones from Sennheiser, Grado, AKG, etc., are in a different league altogether, and some of their low-end models are available in India - only in places selling imported goods of course. In Mumbai, you will find these brands at Alfa or Heera-Paana. Expect to pay premium prices for them!

As far as earphones are concerned, you need to be very careful when choosing. Almost every MP3 player we have tested so far comes bundled with shoddy earphones - even models from big brands. Since they are plugged directly into your ear, they can do much more harm than headphones. Most shops will offer 'Sony' earphones for Rs 100, and obviously these are fake - original Sony earphones will cost at least Rs 500. I think the ones that are bundled along with the Sony Ericsson 'W' range of phones are decently comfortable and offer good sound quality. They are called 'Fontopia' and I recommend them for all Sony Ericsson phones and MP3 players - about Rs 1,500. Sennheiser has also recently launched some earphones, and you can be sure that these are good.

When it comes to Nokia cell phones, except for the N91, all the other phones require an adapter. Any Nokia phone with a pop-port will require the Nokia AD-15 adapter to connect a standard 3.5 mm headphone pair. This will allow you to connect any pair of earphones, and not be limited to a Nokia pair.

For my new cell phone, I chose to buy the Nokia adapter and settle for a Philips portable headphone - a temporary solution till I get salary; then I buy a Sennheiser pair!

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