Headphones Technical Specifications- Explained


Headphones come with many technical specifications, usually located on the back of the box of the headphones.

These technical specifications include such features as the type of headphones it is, its frequency response, the impedance of its speakers, and its cord length.

But what do all of these specifications mean?

Being that you may be buy at some point a new pair of headphones, these specifications may be important in your decision to decide which headphones you buy.

In this article, we will go over all of the main technical specfications which come with headphones, so that you can understand them better.

Headphone Type

The first specification which is normally listed is the headphone type. By type, it is referring to the kind of headphones which it is. There are many types. The headphones may be supra-aural, circumaural, or earbuds.

Supra-aural headphones are headphones which fits onto a user's ear but doesn't enclose them. Circumaural headphones are headphones which go over and enclose entirely over a user's ears. Being that they enclose over completely over a user's ears, they allow for the greatest amount of noise-cancellation, because it is harder for noise to seep into the earcups and harder for sound to escape which a user is listening to. Earbud headphones are headphones which fit into a user's ears.

Headphones are normally specified according to these 3 types.

Frequency Response

The frequency response of the headphones is the range of frequencies which the speaker can play sound out of with high gain. Thus, if a headphones has a listed frequency response of 20Hz-20KHz, it can play out sound from the frequency of 20Hz to the frequency of 20KHz with good gain that a user can listen to. The headphones will not be able to play out sound well below or above these frequencies, but can play out sound well between these frequencies. Thus, this range represents the headphones' bandwidth.

Normally headphones have a range of somewhere between 12-22Hz on the low end to 20-22KHz on the high end.


The impedance of the headphones is the amount of resistance which its speakers offer to electrical current flowing through them.

Common headphone speaker impedances are between 4Ω and 32Ω.

Usually this is not a feature that a purchaser of headphones needs to be concerned with. Usually the impedance won't come into play when being used. Being that most people use headphones alone without an amplifier, they won't need to connect it with an amplifier to increase output. However, if using this with an amplifier, check the impedance and get one which matches the impedance rating of the amplifier which you will use it with. This is a concept called impedance matching which causes an amplifiers to be able to maximize the sound from speakers.

Power Handling Capacity

The Power Handling Capacity is the maximum amount of power which the headphones can handle. Power is the value of voltage * current. If the you take the voltage dropped across the headphones and multiply it by the current running through the headphones, it will yield the total power going across the headphones.

The headphones has a maximum power handling capacity because too much power can destroy the speakers of the headphones.

If you're just using the headphones regularly by plugging them into your computer, CD player, or Ipod, you don't need to worry about this rating. If using it with an amplifier, you may need to take this rating into consideration and get headphones with a higher power handling capacity to meet your needs.


The drivers of the headphones are the specification which refers to the size of the speakers.

Common values are between 10mm and 40mm.

This is again not a specification that produces a buying decision. However, if a user is looking for smaller headphones, usually the speaker drivers will be on the low end.

Plug Type

The plug type of the headphones are usually either 3.5mm or 2.5mm. The majority of the time 3.5mm are the dominant type of plug used.

The 3.5mm and 2.5mm are the 2 usual sizes of the plug, which the headphones plug into. They are shown below:

3.5mm and 2.5mm plug types

Again, 3.5mm is the most common type. However, some headphones still do come with 2.5mm plugs.

Cord Length

Cord length is just how long the length of the cord is.

Typical values are around 3-4ft. This value usually also has a meter equivalent shown beside the foot value.

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