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How to Test Headphones Sound Quality?


Wearing the right headphones will improve your music experience by offering high-quality sound. It is important to check the sound quality while purchasing headphones. Testing headphones will help you to figure out their performance, audio quality, and choose the perfect ones for your needs. 

These days several distinct brands of headphones are readily available on the market. These headphones come with various features including style, design, performance, sound quality, pairing options, compatibility, technology, battery life, and more. Choosing the right one can be a daunting task among many available options.

We are here to help you through this article. We have listed various methods to test headphones and select an ideal one that matches your expectations. 

The Ultimate Headphones Test

Frequency response, stereo imaging, spectral flatness, dynamic range, quality, driver matching, wiring, harmonic distortion, binaural, and thematic tests are some popular tests conducted to check headphones’ sound quality. 

[Note: Put on the headphones while performing the below-mentioned tests.] 













Test Purpose
Frequency response test To determine how accurately and evenly a headphone set will reproduce sound at various frequencies ranging from 20 Hz to 20kHz
Spectral flatness test To determine how evenly or consistently the frequencies are dispersed across all auditory ranges
Earbud insert test To determine whether the shape and size of the headphones fit comfortably inside your ears
Dynamic range test To determine the loudness of headphones i.e how far both the quiet and loud noises can be heard
Quality To determine the quality of headphones i.e reliability, accuracy, etc
Driver matching test To determine whether both drivers have the same sensitivity and impedance to provide optimum sound quality across all frequencies
Wiring To determine if the headphones are wired properly without any flaws 
Harmonic distortion test To determine any sort of audio distortions and faults with the design of the headphones, as well as its components
Binaural test To determine how effectively the headphones reproduce stereo signals, by observing any delays between channels or differences in volume levels

1. Frequency response test

Frequency response is defined as the change (or) variation in output levels across all audible frequencies within any audio system. Usually, this test requires specialized hardware like signal generators, amplifiers, oscilloscopes, and power meters, as well as software tools such as ear simulators that can measure the audio signals accurately. The frequency response of headphones ranges from 20 Hz to 20 kHz which is ideal for human hearing. 

Plug in the selected headphones and play any audio file from your music collection. And then check whether the chosen headphones can playback from the lowest frequency limit (20 Hz) to the highest frequency limit (20 kHz) with the same sound quality. Don’t limit yourself to high and low volume levels. Instead, experiment with different volume levels because different tones can get louder or softer based on the listening environment and user preferences. 

2. Spectral flatness test

Spectral flatness test is carried out to check how evenly or consistently frequencies are distributed throughout all audible ranges. Ensure that absolute flatness is not exactly what you are looking for. So, make sure that the headphones can reproduce consistently between lower and upper frequencies. Frequency responses are measured with sine sweeps produced by using a special test equipment “spectrometer”. If the sweep continues to play at your hearing thresholds, your headphones are properly set to your ears. 

3. Earbud insert test

On the other hand, the earbud insert test helps you to check whether the earbuds’ shape and size fit properly within your ears. So, make sure that the selected headphones sit properly on your ears without applying any pressure on any part of your ear for an extended period of time. Also check how deep you insert them into your ear canal, as the frequency response changes with insertion depth. 

4. Dynamic range test

Dynamic range defines the ratio between the loudest and quietest signal you can hear. Dynamic range is not part of any headphone specification, but it will help you when measuring the isolation offered by your headphones in a noisy environment. Dynamic range can be calculated easily by considering both Signal-to-Noise-Ratio (SNR) and Total Harmonic Distortion (THD). 

plug in the headphones and play any audio file at high volume. Adjust the volume on your headphones so that this noise is audible but not unbearably so. Right after the noise, a voice is played back at a specified level, expressed in Decibels Below Full Scale (DBFS). Noise references and voiceovers alternate, with the voice being played at gradually lower volumes. Play the file until you can no longer hear the voiceover. The level at which the voice message was still (barely) heard indicates the dynamic range that has been attained. The greater the dynamic range, the better the isolation offered by your headphones.

5. Quality

Usually, poorly built headphones may begin to crash whenever loud or deep bass content is played. Plug in headphones and play any audio file. Adjust the volume in your headphone to a high level for the test: scan the bass frequencies of the chosen audio file. Poor-quality headphones will literally shake your speakers when the volume is turned up at various frequencies. 

So, go for the quality ones in which the sweeping tone remains clean and clear at all frequencies, without any parasitic buzz or creaking in one earpiece or the other. 

6. Driver matching test

Driver matching refers to the process of selecting pairs of headphones where one driver has identical sensitivity and impedance characteristics to another driver. High-quality headphones will have greater tolerances for variation in the frequency responses of their drivers. The left and right drivers must respond identically to every frequency in the audible range to generate an accurate stereo picture. Hence, the drivers are considered to be “matched” when this requirement is met. 

Play the test tone at a moderate volume and listen: the sweeping tone should maintain a perfect position throughout all frequencies, playing directly in the center of your brain, with no variation and creating balanced audio from both speakers. Repeat the test with the earpieces switched so that the left channel now feeds your right ear and vice versa. Panning should now go in the opposite path.

7. Wiring

Wiring plays a major role in delivering good sound quality. That’s the reason it is very important to check for proper wiring before purchasing headphones. Headphones that are properly wired will feed the left channel to the left earpiece, and the right channel to the right. More importantly, the relative polarity of the drivers must be preserved to ensure that the same input signal is fed to both drivers. However, the signal should go in the same direction, not in opposing directions.

Check the wire insulation for shredding or damage as well; any exposed metal might produce shorts in the circuit. If the cable has a detachable connection, examine it for corrosion or other damage as well. Moreover, prefer branded headphones instead of going for cheap ones to avoid wiring issues.

8. Harmonic distortion test

Harmonic distortion test is conducted to identify any distortions that may exist when the audio device reproduces high-frequency sounds. It also helps to determine if there are any faults with the design of the headphones, as well as its components and how they interact with one another. 

Plug in the headphones and play any audio file at different frequencies to figure out the amount of distortion across those frequencies. Generally, less distortion implies higher sound quality for listeners. It is important to use special equipment, such as an oscilloscope or spectrum analyzer, to determine distortion levels accurately.

9. Binaural test

Binaural testing helps to determine how long it takes for a series of tones to reach both ears at the same time when the headphones are plugged in. This is one of the popular methods to figure out how effectively the headphones replicate stereo audio by noticing any delays between channels or loudness disparities. In fact, this test also helps in assessing frequency response performance and identifying potential faults such as low-frequency distortion or clipping.

10. Mobile apps to test the sound quality

Here are some mobile apps that you can try for testing the sound quality of headphones. If you are trying on headphones in a store, then undoubtedly you are carrying your music collection in your pocket. Along with that come along with the suite of mobile testing as well. Android users can access most of the applications for free compared to iPhone users.

Headphone check app

This mobile testing app can be accessed freely by all Apple users with ease. This app can be downloaded from the Apple store effortlessly. This tool is pretty simple and it is used to check whether both the left and right channels are oriented properly or not. Plug in the headphones. Open the app and select continuous test sound from the settings menu. Check both right and left channels at various test sounds simultaneously.  

1. Left-right stereo test

Similar to the “Headphone check app” Android users have the left-right stereo test. This app is free to all Android users and can be downloaded from the Google play store. The purpose of this app is to check the orientation of the left and right channels. Connect your headphones. Open the app and pick the sound setting option from the settings menu. And now check whether the orientation of the right and left channels at various test sounds. 

2. Ultimate ear headphone test

This application is accessible to all Android users and can be downloaded easily from the Google play store. This app acts as a complete toolset to set the stereo, binaural, high & low frequencies, and golden frequencies up to 1.618 Hz. Connect your headphones. Open the app and start the test. Play any audio file and check its frequency response at various levels ranging from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

3. Earphones test

This application is available to Android users for free. It can be downloaded from the Google play store. This app has a unified collection of tests that includes frequency sweeps, pink noise, music, voice, and stereo. Along with these, Android device compatibility tests like buttons and headset wiring are also included. Simply download this app and conduct these tests while purchasing headphones. 

Hence, this spectrum of mobile apps allows you to detect which frequencies are amplified and which sounds the headphones just cannot reproduce. You can listen to frequency sweeps over the whole audible spectrum by utilizing any of the more feature-rich apps listed above.  Choose the right headphones that can reproduce extremely low and very high frequencies in order to deliver the best audio experience. 

Web apps to test the sound quality

Here are some additional apps available through websites and streaming services that you can try for testing the sound quality of headphones.

1. Audio check test

These web applications are free and include ten tests including high and low frequencies, binaural, spectral flatness, dynamic range, driver matching, polarity, and wiring. Simply open the website and carry out the tests to check the sound quality of your headphones.

2. Audio spectrum analyzer

Audio spectrum analyzers are open-source web apps that can be accessed by everyone free of cost. These analyzers help to determine the frequency response of headphones and other audio equipment from a laptop or smartphone easily. They also provide more precise information about their frequency response across various frequency ranges. 

3. Audio frequency analyzers

Many audio frequency analyzers are freely available to all platform users online. These applications use digital signal processing methods to offer precise information about the response of audio equipment, such as headphones, over different frequencies. 

4. Online headphone test

Many web applications are available that consist of various tests under one canopy for testing the sound quality of various headphones. This includes frequency response, spectral flatness, dynamic range, quality, driver matching, wiring, and binaural tests. 

All the web tools are extremely convenient to the users as they eliminate the need for costly hardware or software solutions, making them a perfect approach to assess sound quality fast and reliably. Hence, these tools allow consumers to evaluate the performance of different pieces of equipment to manufacturer specifications or industry standards such as THX Audio Certification.

Best songs to test headphones’ audio

It is always recommended to play different music genres like pop and rock while testing the sound quality of headphones. Both genres have different characteristics that affect the sound quality.






Pop music Rock music
It has both a wider frequency range and a compressed dynamic range  This music has a more dynamic range
It helps to evaluate the headphones’ ability to produce clearer high and low frequencies It helps to evaluate the headphones’ ability to reproduce the sound accurately

1. Testing pop music

Pop music has catchy melodies with powerful lyrics, energetic tempos, good rhythm, and repeated chorus that allows for testing bass notes without being too harsh or dominated by other tones. Besides, pop songs are excellent for assessing midrange clarity. Moreover, modern pop songs often include electronic elements such as synthesizers or samples, which aid in determining how well headphones reproduce frequencies other than mid-range sounds. 

2. Testing rock music

Rock music has hard-hitting drum beats, strong guitar riffs, and intense vocals, which lend themselves to audio frequency testing with headphones. As rock songs usually involve multiple instrumental elements, they provide an excellent platform for assessing how well different tones are separated and blended together. This also allows users to identify differences in treble and midrange sounds, as well as any distortions or losses in bass notes. Furthermore, rock songs can be used to evaluate the clarity of vocal recordings, whereas distorted guitars can reveal whether a headphone is capable of reproducing higher-pitched noises accurately without sounding muffled or overbearing.

Therefore, consider all these factors while testing the sound quality of headphones. 

Conclusion

Simply, carry out the above-mentioned mobile app, web app, and other tests to check the sound quality of headphones. Along with these consider the music characteristics like bass, sub-bass, mid-range frequency, treble, balance, sound stage, dynamic range, rhythm, timing, and imaging while looking for sound quality check. Just don’t restrict yourself to one kind of music (or) one genre song. Try on testing the headphones by playing various kinds of songs to get the best result. Enjoy a pleasant music experience by purchasing the best headphones that suit your needs and expectations. Happy listening!

Test Headphones Sound Quality – FAQs

1. What is the maximum frequency response for headphones?

Ans: Generally, the frequency range for most headphones ranges from 20 Hz to 20kHz. Some headphones also have wider frequency responses ranging from 5 Hz to 33 kHz. 

2. How do I know my headphones have good sound quality?

Ans: The best way to evaluate headphones is by listening to them. Listen to acoustic guitar (or) piano sounds. You can easily identify the difference between a good one and poor one. Try on various tests discussed in the article to check the sound quality of your headphones.

3. What is the difference between frequency response and range?

Ans: Putting it simply, frequency response is how evenly the frequencies are handled in terms of volume (or) loudness. Whereas, frequency range is how far the speaker goes in terms of bass and treble. 

4. What affects sound quality?

Ans: Basically, it is dependent on various factors including the equipment used to make it, processing and mastering done to the recording, the equipment used to reproduce it, as well as the listening environment used to reproduce it.

5. Does frequency response matter?

Ans: Yes, the headphones with good frequency response can reproduce sounds evenly at all frequencies ranging from low, mid, and high levels. 

6. Do wired headphones have better sound quality?

Ans: Yes, generally wired headphones have better sound quality than wireless. But with the technology advancement wireless headphones are also offering better sound quality. 

7. How do I fix a bad headphone wire?

Ans: Here are some ways to fix your damaged headphones. 
* Wrap the wire with electrical tape.
* Sand off the thin enamel coat on the wire before soldering.
* Twist together and solder. 

8. How long do wired headphones last?

Ans: Headphones don’t have any particular expiry date. They can last from a few months to decades, depending on various factors such as the brand, model, and kind of headphones, as well as their usage, maintenance, and storage.

9. Is there any app to detect audio frequency?

Ans: Yes, Sound View is an open-source Audio Spectrum Analyzer app that can be accessed by Android users. It analyzes sound from the built-in microphone, or from an attached external microphone, and displays both the input signal and the results of the spectrum analysis.

10. How can noise analysis improve sound quality?

Ans: Noise analysis measures the amount of background noise produced by headphones, such as hiss and hum, and is an important factor in determining the sound quality of headphones. 

11. What are the 4 characteristics of pop music?

Ans: Good rhythm, a catchy melody, easy-to-remember lyrics, and a repeated chorus are the important characteristics of pop music. 

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