Headphones are over-the-ear or on-ear hearing devices that convert electronically encoded information into sound. They are different from speakers in that they offer a personalized experience to the user. They differ from earphones in that earphones are plugged inside the ear rather than propped against the outer ear.
“Bass” refers to those sounds in any musical composition (or noise) which are of a very low pitch. Bass sounds are often described as “drab” or “dull,” as opposed to the higher pitch sounds which appear more prominently.
Headphones that allow the listener to clearly discern bass sounds are called “bass headphones.” They do so by configuring the headphones in a manner in which they emphasize bass sounds. What are the components that make a bass headphone different from other kinds of headphones? We will explore this in some more detail below.
In understanding the design of headphones, the driver(s) are the key. A driver is an electromagnetic device that produces sound waves. These come in various sizes. The greater the size of a driver, the lower the pitch of the sound they can produce. These are assorted into two casings, one for each ear. These casings are padded with a soft material to keep the ears protected and comfortable.
For bass headphones, the driver needs to be 50mm in diameter or more. For example, the Skullcandy Hesh 2 has a 50mm driver. Headphones with drivers of less than 50mm are not considered bass headphones by “audiophiles.” Some bass headphones have multiple drivers. For example, the JVC HA SZ2000 has both 50mm and 33mm drivers, the latter for higher-pitched sounds.
Bass headphones are usually distinguished by their big, bulging, and dark casings. This is for two reasons: first, their drivers are longer in diameter. Second, the bass sounds depend upon reverberations. Hollow and enclosed spaces are required for creating these.
Why is there a preference for bass headphones? For many “audiophiles,” this question is answered by something called “sound isolation.” Sound isolation is the ability to discern the various components of music apparently. Most genres of music use multiple instruments, creating a medley of different sounds. The clearer each sound in playback, the better the musical experience.
We have noted that the bass sounds in music are less prominent. However, this doesn’t mean that they are less significant. A score without a bass looks empty. And audio playing devices which can’t produce bass sounds are considered inadequate. Hence, bass headphones are considered necessary as they isolate the bass sounds in a score and can emphasize them adequately.
Bass headphones are also more versatile compared to other kinds. Sound transmission also depends upon the transmitting device. Most MP3 players and simpler iPods do not have the provisions to regulate the sounds. However, devices with more advanced settings have “equalizers.” These can be adjusted so as to give a customized sound experience. For example, the Sony NWZ series has MP3 players which are equalizer-enabled. Similarly, the iPod Touch 4th generation.
With such devices, it becomes possible to adjust the bass. These customized differences would not be audible in headphones that lack the physical capacity. Bass headphones, thus, are useful as they can carry off these adjustments well.
Different level of emphasis on the pitch is one factor that differentiates types of music. While pop might be less heavy on the bass, dubstep is the opposite. Even within genres that fall somewhat together on the emphasis on bass, the quality of music differs. This difference is seen clearly using bass headphones.
Not only are bass headphones preferred by amateurs and “audiophiles,” but they are also the choice of professional musicians. For professionals, headphones give them the end product of their efforts. They must be able to clearly tell how well they are doing. Thus, headphones preferred by professionals usually “have a good bass.”
The preference for bass headphones has another professional reason. Most professional sound production involves the use of equalizers. Hence, there is the need for sound transmitters that can achieve such customization.
It is evident, then, that bass headphones are about a more superior musical experience; whether for specialists in the industry, or aficionados who appreciate music. Bass headphones are the next level.