Bose.pngI’m not going to lie … being sent products to review never gets old. In fact, it’s almost like Christmas morning when a new box arrives at your front door and you get to rip it open and give what’s inside a whirl.

In my five years as a blogger for Best Buy, I’ve reviewed a wide variety of products. From Blu-ray disc players to , I’ve had a blast testing products and reporting my findings on the Plug-In Blog. But looking back at the past year, there was one product I tested far more than any other—headphones.

I think what’s surreal about the whole thing is that you unwittingly become an expert on the product you’ve reviewed, and given the fact that I’ve reviewed 12 different headphone models in 2015, I must say that I hold that “expert” flag proudly. I kid. I’m not an expert, but I have certainly learned a whole lot about headphones, like which types suit which activities, what’s important, and what to look for.

Before I dive into what I’ve learned about headphones this past year, I thought I’d answer a few questions for you. As a blogger for Best Buy I’m asked these questions repeatedly, and it got me thinking that perhaps the readers of the Plug-In Blog were wondering the same things.

  1. Do I get to keep the headphones I’m sent to review?
    Sometimes. For hygienic reasons, I get to keep any in-ear headphones I test, which means that I have quite the inventory from which I can choose on any given day. That said, I definitely have my favourites. My daily go-to in-ear headphones are the Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-Ear Headphones, which I was thrilled to be able to keep. These are the ones I use when I am working at my local coffee shop or pub, or when I’m commuting to and from work. They stay in my purse at all times. As far as over-ear headphones are concerned, unfortunately I have to send those back, even when it makes me cry to do so.
  2. Are my headphone reviews genuine or am I told what to say?
    Yes, they are absolutely genuine. Sometimes when I have something negative to say I’ll say it in a very tactful manner so as not to come across too critical, but the words I write are my own.
  3. Do you really put headphones through the tests you say you put them through?
    Yes I do. Like I said, my reviews are genuine, and as you can see by the stunning photo I posted of myself for my review of Bose SoundTrue Around-Ear Headphones, I put every set of headphones I’m sent through a bunch of real-world tests.

What I’ve learned

I’ve learned so much about headphones this past year and while the opinions I express below are mine and mine alone, they may come in handy for you the next time you’re looking at purchasing a new set.

Around-Ear vs. Over-EarBose-All.png

All right folks, here’s the deal … around-ear and over-ear are the same thing and are terms that are used interchangeably. True, there are some in-ear headphones that have “around-ear hooks” but they are still considered in-ear. So, don’t get confused by the different terms, as they are one and the same.

Around-Ear/Over-Ear Ear Cup Size

The size of the ear cup of your around/over-ear headphones is important. If the cup is too small for your ears, you’ll be feeling it after a couple of hours at most. Your ears will start to get pinched, and the pain you’ll start to feel after a while will begin to affect your listening pleasure, so make sure you put the headphones on before you buy to make sure your ears are cradled in comfort.

Ear-gels are essentialear-gels.jpg

The more sizes of ear gels a set of in-ear headphones comes with the better. These are the little gels that attach to the ear bud itself to provide a custom fit, and even though you may think that one or two different sizes is sufficient, you’d be surprised at how much better a fit you can create with a couple more options.

When to go wireless

I reviewed a number of wireless headphones this year, including the BOSE SoundLink II Over-Ear Wireless Headphones and the Jabra Wireless Sports Earbuds. For the most part, I found over-ear wireless headphones to be great for my day-to-day activities like listening to music at the office, walking around town, commuting on public transit and grocery shopping. Not having to deal with cords is fantastic! They are also great for low impact athletic activities like walking and hiking, but are a little cumbersome for higher impact activities or any that require a lot of movement.

As far as in-ear wireless headphones are concerned, they too are great for everyday activities, but when it comes to using them for working out, it’s important to make sure you get a pair that has a decent wireless range. When I reviewed the Jabra Sport Wireless+ headphones I could lunge and jump rope and squat as far as 20 feet away from my smartphone. On the other hand, the Jabra Step headphones only had a wireless range of about 5 feet, which was exceedingly frustrating–if you need to have your smartphone on your body to use your wireless headphones as intended, it kinda negates the point doesn’t it?

Around-Ear vs. In-Earwireless.jpg

I think one of the most important things I’ve learned about headphones is that you really do need different sets for different activities. Sure, you can get away with one pair of ear buds, but I highly recommend investing in at least one pair of in-ear headphones and one pair of over-ear headphones. Over ear are much more conducive (and comfortable) for longer wear and more sedentary activities, while in-ear headphones are best for more active pursuits.

In-Ear Headphones for Working Out

While there are some over-ear headphones that do a decent job of staying put during a workout session, like the Bose SoundTrue Around-Ear Headphones II, I definitely recommend in-ear headphones for any work out session that involves anything more than walking. That said, not all in-ear headphones are created equal, so for working out, make sure you go with a set that are sweat proof, and that come with a variety of ear gels so you can customize them for a secure fit.

There are a ton of headphones out there from which you can choose, so I’ll leave you with one last bit of advice–make sure you know exactly how you intend to use your headphones before you buy. Don’t let aesthetics or “cool factors” sway your decision-making. Go with a set that will enhance and compliment the activity for which they are intended. Happy listening and Happy New Year!