What is a Headphone?

A headphone refers to a pair of small speakers worn on, in, or around the ear over the head of the user.

From a technical point of view, this is a small loudspeaker driver or an electroacoustic transducer which converts an electrical signal into sound energy.

Understanding Headphone

What is a Headphone

A headphone is a device that allows listening to audio from a computer or any other device in private.

These are actually a pair of small speakers, but they have the same functionality, albeit on a much smaller scale in comparison to a traditional external speaker system.

A headphone can be connected to the audio source in different ways. It can be connected directly to the source by using a cord and a jack, or by using wireless technology such as:

Typically, the electrical signals are converted into audio signals to produce sound waves by using transducers. However, these signals can be either analog or digital. For example:

However, in a digital headphone there is also a Digital to Analog Converter, or DAC, which converts the signals and produces the eventual analog output.

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Nevertheless, the audio output of the headphones is much different from that of the standalone speakers, being limited to a much smaller frequency range.

This is mainly because it needs to send the sound waves only a few millimeters away from the ear drum, in comparison to a traditional speaker system that has to send them a long way, needing a higher amplitude.

It is for the same reason that the components of the headphones are much smaller in comparison to the components of the conventional external speaker systems.

However, the headphones are more precise and produce very loud sound due to their close proximity to the ears than the standalone speaker systems.

Uses of Headphones

The main purpose of using a headphone is to let a single user listen to the audio privately.

A headphone can be used with different audio signal sources, such as:

People from different professions also use a headphone, such as:

The call center employees and the aircraft pilots also use headphones, usually with a microphone integrated in them.

Types of Headphones

There are different types of headphones available on the market and they are categorized based on their designs. For example, you will get circumaural headphones, supra aural headphones, in-ear headphones, on-ear headphones, and others.

Each type of headphone comes with different features, as explained hereunder:

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How Do Headphones Work?

In general, the working process of the headphones is pretty much the same as that of the speakers and just the opposite of microphones.

In simple words, magnets are used in the headphones to vibrate the air inside and turn the electrical energy into sound energy.

Usually, the process involves a few stages, such as:

In the driver unit, rapid switching of polarity takes place, which creates a vibration and the eventual sound.

If you are using in-ear headphones or earbuds, the working process is exactly the same as the regular and wireless headphones, but on a much smaller scale. This is why the ear buds cannot produce the same kind of frequencies as traditional headphones.

On the other hand, if you are using a Bluetooth-enabled headphone, the process is almost the same. The only difference is that the 1s and 0s are sent directly through the Bluetooth radio instead of through the DAC in the computer system to the chip in the headphone and then sent to the DAC within the headphone.

What Material is Used on Headphones?

The most commonly used materials used on a headphone are silicone, PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride, and thermoplastic polyurethane, whether it is an on-ear or around-the-ear headphone.

There is also a soft material in the in-ear headphones used, made up of silicone or rubber.

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However, based on the type of the headphone, here are a few other types of materials that are also used in the construction.

For the on-ear headphones, the manufacturers may use the following materials:

For the around-the-ear headphones, the manufacturers may use the following materials:



What are the Parts of a Headphone?

Typically, a regular headphone is made up of a set of speakers, a headphone jack, a long piece of cable, the headphone cushions and a headband.

What are the Main Features of Headphones?

Some of the most important features of the headphones include noise cancellation, bone conduction, microphone or remote usage, and even wireless capability.


Headphones are designed to be worn over the ears and allow listening audio alone. They come with useful features that produce high-quality sound, cutting the surrounding noise.

As you can see from this article, a headphone offers a lot of benefits with a few downsides as well, but that does not lower their utility.