Here's something to wrap your head around.

Portable hi-fi players have come and gone, from the Sony Walkman to the latest MP3 players. All portable audio players have one thing in common; they all require headphones. Too often people put more thought into the playback device they're going to use and no thought into the headphones. It's the headphones that produce the sound you hear, therefore dictate sound quality. No matter how good your playback device is, it'll only sound as good as your headphones.

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Too many people buy expensive MP3 players or portable CD players only to slap on the headphones that came free in the box. It's a shame that more people don't appreciate getting the full measure of sound quality from their portable playback experience. The latest MP3 player is soon to be outdone by something newer, with a higher capacity and more features that interest you. A good quality set of cans that can be plugged into generations of music playing gadgets will last you a lifetime.

But good headphones aren't simply designed for portable audio. There are many opportunities for a good pair of cans to replace a full sound system. There's no limit to the quality of sound you can obtain through headphones- quality that rivals the best speakers made. Whether you're looking for headphones to use with a portable or as an alternative to a hi-fi system for music or loud TV and movie viewing, there are headphones made to fit your needs.

Ear bud headphones should fit snugly inside the ear canal. A proper seal is required for perceptions of bass. Street style or behind the neck headphones offer a tight fit on your ears to stay in place, but they're discreet without having to stick anything in your ears. There are also sealed headphones that will play loudly for the listener without disturbing people around you. Sealed headphones are usually full sized.

Open headphones are the opposite in quality to sealed headphones. These are usually full sized also and provide very good bass response with good sized drivers. But open designs leak sound so people around you can hear what you're listening to. Noise canceling headphones are designed especially to cancel outside noise and keep the listener sealed in their own acoustic environment. Full sized headphones are the old style cans that comprise the best headphones made. These fit over the head and over the ears.

Wireless headphones offer the wireless option of a free roaming headset inside the wireless transmitter's range. Whatever your taste and need in headphone options, each type of headphone offers a range in sound quality from less expensive budget headsets to audiophile cans that put you right into the middle of the performance.

There is something particularly relaxing about listening through a good set of headphones. They grant the listener a sense of isolation, deprivation of every other sense but hearing to draw you into the performance. Headphones don't have the concerns regarding room acoustics that speakers do and since it's a pleasure enjoyed alone, there's little to distract you from the sheer listening enjoyment of a good set of cans.