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Share-It Saturday: Headphones Test

Reblogged from Audio Check

Why would I post this? One – because my own headphones were on their way out and the new ones I ordered are so dull and bland that I thought they were damaged. But, they passed all the tests on this website, so I guess they’re just cheap. Two – because there is NEVER a piece of useless knowledge that won’t come in handy to an author. Whether you want a character who is a tech genius, or has a meet-cute with someone who fixes their headphones/laptop, you never know when it might come in useful.


This page helps you evaluate headphones or earbuds online, and determine which one offers the best performance when comparing different pairs. Do not forget to bookmark this page — or download the sound files to your portable audio player if you are a patron — when going out shopping for a new pair of headphones or earphones.

All our tests should be performed with the headphones on your ears.

For your convenience, this test is also available on YouTube : The Ultimate 🎧 Headphones Test

Frequency Response

10 Hz >> 200 Hz
+ Voice Over

The first file tests your headphones’ bass extension. Play back the file until you start hearing the underlying sweeping tone as it rises. The voiceover tells you the frequency you have reached: this number represents the lowest boundary of your headphones or earbuds frequency extension. Good headphones will go as low as 20 Hz, the lowest limit of our hearing.

22 kHz >> 8 kHz
+ Voice Over

The second file tests your headphones’ treble extension. To measure your headphones’ highest frequency, play back the second file until you start hearing the underlying (high pitched) sweep tone as it descends. Good headphones will reproduce frequencies up to 20 kHz, the upper limit of human hearing range.

Beware though: 1/ this limit decreases as we age. If all of your headphones suddenly exhibit the same upper frequency limit, and this frequency is lower than what is specified by the manufacturer, suspect your hearing, not the quality of your headphones. 2/ If you hear strange ups and downs or anything else that does not sound like a continuously descending sweep, suspect your sound card and aliasing. Have a check → here ← !

Spectral Flatness and Earbud Insert Test

Ideally, you want your headphones to reproduce all frequencies consistently between the lower and upper limits, without a dip or peak in a particular frequency range. Absolute flatness is not exactly what you are looking for, though. Your hearing may not be perfect, and if you think about it, the best headphones are those that compensate for your particular hearing curve. It doesn’t matter if your headphones are not flat, as long as they sound flat through your ears.

Perceptual Sweep
Spectral Flatness Test

Frequency responses are measured using sine sweeps and special test equipment. With a prominent sensitivity bump around 1–3 kHz, humans are not good at judging flatness: frequencies in the upper medium range will always sound louder than what they are because of the increased hearing sensitivity. Our test tone is not a regular sweep. It embeds an inverted hearing sensitivity curve that turns it perceptually flat. Our compensation only works at hearing threshold levels: turn your computer level down so that the test tone plays as quietly as possible.

If the sweep keeps playing at your hearing thresholds, your headphones are matched to your ears. If your hearing is perfect, this also means that the headphones have a flat frequency response. If your hearing is imperfect, this then means that your headphones are simply matched to your ears. If the test tone sometimes disappears, or gets too loud, you know you have a problem, either with your hearing or your headphones.

This test is of particular importance for earbuds. Depending on how deep you insert them into your ear canal, their frequency response will change drastically. Use this test to find which insertion depth gives you the flattest frequency response.

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