If you’re a music lover or audiophile, testing your headphones is a must. But with so many different metrics and considerations to take into account, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which tests to prioritize. To make things easy for you, we’ve put together a list of seven essential headphone testing benchmarks that will help you determine if your cans are up to par.
Testing headphones can help you get the best pair of headset that suits your needs. It is pretty easy to test a headset nowadays. Headphones and earphones benchmarking test files are available online and can be used to test any kind of headphones and earphones.
These files use specially designed sounds to test different abilities of your headphones. You should know what you are trying to achieve with these test files because you will use the outcome from these tests to understand where your headset stands. Here is what you need to know:
- Frequency Response Testing
This will help evaluate the bass extension of the headphones. Play this and you will hear a sweeping sound getting higher gradually. You will be hearing voiceover about the frequency as it rises. This frequency is the lowest possible frequency for the earphone or headphones you are testing. A good pair of headset should have at least 20 Hz which is the lowest possible frequency we humans can hear.
There will be two kinds of files for frequency test. One tests the bass and the other tries the treble extension. This second test will measure your headphones highest possible frequency. You should hear high pitched sweeping tones. The upper limit of a humans hearing is 20 KHz and this is what a good headphone should supply. If you hear strange ups and downs it may be possible that something is wrong with your sound card.
- Quality Testing
Most low quality headphones start to rattle whenever deep or loud bass comes. The Bass Shaker file will shake the drivers. This test should be carried out at the highest volume and you should hear the sweeping tone loud and clear at all frequencies. Any buzz indicates that the quality of your headphones has deteriorated. It could be in just one ear bud or both. This is how you can also test an old headset and see if it still works as good as it did on day one.
- Dynamic Range
This is the ratio between the loudest and the lightest signal that can be heard with the headphones. It is generally not mentioned in the headphone specifications but is a good benchmarking measure for knowing the isolation your headphones can provide in a boisterous surrounding.
This test file will play full scale noise first and you must adjust your headphones accordingly so that it does not get too loud for you. The voiceover will tell you the decibels of the sound being played. It will gradually go down and the range ends at the level when the voice could be barely heard. In ear headphones will have higher dynamic range as they provide more isolation then other kinds of headsets.
- Driver Matching
A good headset will have fewer variations in their drivers’ frequency response. The left and the right drivers should respond same to each frequency in the audible spectrum. This test’s success means your drivers are matched.
This test plays different frequencies up to 10 KHz and diverts same levels to both sides. Listen carefully, the tone should have a central position i.e. it should play right in the middle of your head. There should be no deviations to either side.
If you want to make sure that it is the drivers fault and not your ears (as some people have unbalanced hearing ability in their ears), swap the ear buds. If the deviation you were experiencing earlier shifts to the opposite side, congratulations, your hearing is fine and just your headphones drivers match poorly.
- Testing the Cables
It is the wiring of the headphones that diverts the left channel to the left side and right channel to the right side of the headset. The polarity of the drivers is maintained by the wire. The left and right channel test will evaluate the wire’s channeling ability.
The polarity can be tested using the Central and Twisted test audios. If you hear the sound in a prominent spot between your ears, the polarity is preserved. The twisted audio, in contrast, should be difficult to locate. If the results are opposite, the polarity of your headphones’ wire is defected. This could be a result of an amateur fixing of the four drivers’ wires. This is common in counterfeit headphones.
- Binaural Testing
These test recordings are carried out by using microphones and placing them in your ears, recording the sound reaching the pinnae. This recording is then played back to see if it is the exact same sound as the original. This test is unique to headphones.
The test plays a recording of someone knocking. It should sound very real almost as if you are right next to a door. If it sounds real, your headphones are good.
- Spectral Flatness
Headphone should produce all the frequency between the upper and lower bounds consistently without any dips or peaks. That does not mean we want absolute flatness. Most people’s hearing is not perfect and the best headphones would be the ones that adopt your hearing curve. They should sound flat in your ears though.
With special test equipment and sine sweeps we can measure frequency responses. Humans cannot judge flatness for frequencies around 1-3 KHz. For that you need a special kind of sweep. Perceptual Sweep Spectral Flatness test uses an inverted sensitivity curve which makes the sound flat. Before running this test, lower the volume of your computer.
If you hear the sweeps clearly at your hearing thresholds, the headphones are perfectly matched with your ears. And in case you believe your hearing is perfect, then your headphones have flat frequency response. If the sounds of this test file stops or turns too loud, it means you have a problem in your headphones or in some cases with your hearing.
This test can also be used to test the impact of the depth of your earphone’s ear buds in your ears. You will notice that frequency will change depending on this depth. You can measure how deep you should put in the ear buds to get flattest frequency.
How to Test the Headset
Well, it is pretty simple and free. Just search online for these test files. You can test your headphones for all these tests or any one in particular. You can play it directly on the page or download it. Plug in your headphones and follow the directions to better comprehend the results.
If you are going shopping and want to test different headphones, download these test files and put them in a USB and take along with you. Try these with different headsets until you get that perfect one that passes all the tests.
5 Benefits of Testing Your Headphones
The benefits of testing a headset are many.
- You can get good quality headphones that are adequate for your hearing.
- You can be sure that the headphones will not damage your hearing.
- If your old headphones start sounding anomalous and you are not sure where the problem is, you can use these tests to detect the issue and fix it.
- Some headphones are ridiculously expensive and it can be beneficial to test them first to know if they are even worth the money.
- You can even detect if there is something wrong with your hearing
Test Your Headphones with Music
Another great way to test your headphones is by playing your favorite music. Play songs that you have been hearing forever and recognize each and every beat and lyric by heart. This test is fun and will surprisingly help you discover the limitations in your headphones. Here are some of our picks to try with your headset:
- Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack: The thunderous intro of this song will test the bass of your headphones.
- Hotel California by Eagles: This song has some crisp guitar playing and a thumping bass to try your headsets bass frequency limits.
- Baba O’Riley by The Who: This track will test the smooth flow from left to right. It features a lot many instruments that you should be able to distinguish.
- Carribean Blue by Enya: This new age track is subtle and is the best test for the isolation ability of your headphones.
- Harlem Shake by Baauer: This is another great and catchy track to test the frequencies.
- I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston: This song with its powerful vocals can help determine the clarity the earphones can offer.
Testing your headphones is a good practice especially when you are cashing out a lot of money on them. These simple tests will help you understand the product better and ultimately make the right decision. You can even fix your old headsets with the help of these tests. These files are free to use and easily downloadable. Ultimately, you can try the headphones with a variety of music. If you like the sound and it is clear and well balanced, go ahead with the purchase.