There are three primary types of home theater headphones: those that are wired, those that are wireless, and those that can share a signal with other users. Within each of these categories, headphones come in many different varieties at a range of price points. They are made by many different manufacturers. Some are designed to complement specific home cinema systems, while others are marketed more broadly. No matter their source, however, all products tend to fall within three broad types.
Wired home theater headphones connect to the system’s base station with a cable. Most of the time, this cable plugs into the home theater system’s audio or headphone jack. This type of headphone is most popular for video game players and others who tend to sit close to the screen without moving much. Having a cable often provides superior sound quality, but can really limit a user’s options when it comes to allowed movements. An extension cable is a good way to provide some flexibility to these units.
Headphones that can link in with media room design through wireless technology tend to be more popular amongst video and music lovers. These types of headphones typically come with a base station that must be plugged into the home theater system’s main console. That base then transmits sound signals digitally. Wireless home theater headphones must usually be kept within the specified range of the base to work properly, but they generally provide much more flexibility than wired models. Users can move about the home media room without disrupting the sound quality.
Most of the time, home theater headphones are designed for but one listener at a time. Multiple-signal headphones are great options for families or couples who want to use headphones simultaneously. These sorts of headphones are specially designed to share the same signal, either through use of a coaxial cable splitter or a twin receiver. All synched headphone users must necessarily listen to the same programming, but sound quality is often much better than if two separate units were used together.
The variety of different styles, prices, and capabilities of home theater headphones within each category is vast. Many of the most expensive models promise to recreate the multidimensional sound of more traditional surround sound media room design. Surround sound — that is, the strategic placement of speakers throughout and interspersed within home theater furnishings — is a hallmark of traditional home theater design. It is, of course, impossible to actually create multiple sound points in a headphone, but many models come close.
Size and style are also variables. Most of the time, home theater headphones contain large, noise-minimizing ear cups that completely cover the ear. In this way, users can listen at even very loud volumes without any sound being detected by others nearby. Listeners are generally oblivious to outside noises as well. The cups are usually joined with a headband that is often cushioned to add comfort, but lightweight enough to not impede the listener’s experience.
Power source is a distinguishing characteristic, as well. The vast majority of headphones operate on battery power, either through replaceable batteries or rechargeable units. Canceling noise, amplifying sound, and maximizing streamed audio requires a lot more than simply funneling sound and, as such, requires an outside power source. Older models may require a separate power plug to operate.