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Headphone Glossary

Heapdhones, earphones, IEM, earphones - it can all be a tricky thing to navigate. To help you understand the audio headphone world a little better we've put together this audio headphone glossary to make sense of the jargon.

Cans A common slang term for headphones. 
Circumaural Headphones Circumaural essentially means headphones that go over your ears. Full sized headphones that have a band over the head and cups that go over your ears. These are your most typical over the head design. Some completely cover the ears and provide a seal around the ears for better sound isolation....
Closed-Back Headphones Closed-back headphones are headphones that have a closed back, or closed headphone cup. This prevents sound from spilling out and offers better sound isolation as it reduces any sound entering the back of the ear cup. Often a good choice for studio work or office work where you neither want...
Custom IEM (in-ear monitor) The term Custom IEM is a set of in-ears / earphones that are custom molded for the owner. The process involves having an ear impression taken, usually by an audiologist. The ear impressions are then sent to the earphone company who create an in-ear monitor or earphone that has the drivers and...
IEM IEM is the acronym for in-ear monitor. An in-ear headphone type (earphone) that is traditionally a term used by musicians for the earphones they use to perform. IEM's are mostly used live as a fold-back or monitor system to hear them (vocal or instrument), select vocalists and other select...
Isodynamic Headphones Iosdynamic Headphones are a headphone with a thin flat film internally which has a thin voice coil, essentially a conductor, embedded in the film. Driven by magnets on each side the whole film becomes a balanced sound producer as the voice coil causes the mass of the film to create sound via...
Open-Back Headphones Open-back headphones are headphones that have an open back. That is, not a solid closed cup. This allows sound to spill from the headphone but allow the speaker to breath somewhat, opening up the sound. Open back headphones can often have a metal grill or slatted back. See also Closed-back...
Orthodynamic Headphones The term Orthodynamic was coined and made popular in the 70's by Yamaha. It was a branded term that decribed their Isodynamic range of headphones. The Yamaha Orthodynamic headphones have a cult following. See also Isodynamic & Planar Magnetic
Planar Magnetic Headphones Planar magnetic drivers are a type of headphone that share some similar qualities of both dynamic headphones and electrostatic headphones. Standard headphones use an electric current to drive the diaphragm in the speaker. Electrostatic headphones have a thin layer of clear film that is driven by an...
Supra-aural Headphones Supra-aural headphones are headphones where the pad sits on, or presses on your ears.  These tend to be smaller than circumaural headphones and therefore are often lighter and offer less noise-isolation. Depending on the firmness of the earpads these can become uncomfortable over long periods of...
Universal IEM (in-ear monitor) The term Universal means the earphones can be used by anyone and is not customized to the users. Universal IEM’s will usually ship with many different ear foams and ear tips so that the user can find a set that make for a great fit for their ears. A Universal IEM is an in-ear monitoring unit that...