With so many headphone options in the marketplace, it’s hard to know which headphone will meet your classroom needs. Familiarize yourself with headphone components and options before spending money on something you may not need. Here’s a quick reference guide to determining your classroom headphone requirements.
Age Group, Frequency of Use & Budget
Age group, frequency of use and budget are three major factors to consider when determining what type of headphones you will need. These will make the difference between selecting between high-tech, durable models or simpler, disposable models.
Younger children may benefit from headphones that have a limited volume threshold, nearly indestructible construction, fewer buttons, stronger cords, and fit smaller heads. Many larger, over-ear headphones are simply too big and bulky for smaller kids. Whereas, lighter weight headphones or those with a lot of buttons or knobs may easily break in the hands of younger children. One size does NOT fit all. Consider purchasing different headphones for different age groups, or buy a lighter weight, adjustable headphone to span age groups.
Frequency of Use
Any school with daily 1:1 device programs, technology labs, resource centers, or online curriculum programs should consider the daily impact on headphones. No headphone is indestructible. Daily handling, wear and tear, and sanitizing across a large volume of students requires more durable headphones. If only a subset of your students will be utilizing headphones on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, you can choose between simpler, budget-friendly headphones with a shorter shelf life.
Large school sites that require headphones for one time annual testing might appreciate inexpensive disposable headphones or earbuds. Disposable headphones are often sold in bulk, which provides great price breaks. Alternatively, if you’ve invested in language learning programs, game-based learning, video presentation or online curriculum, then a quality, more expensive headset with may be required.
Before purchasing any school headphones, make sure you know what type of plug your technology requires. If you are unsure, most technology comes with an adapter that allows you to convert your plug.
Tablets, Laptops, Computers and Smartphones
A 3.5mm plug (sometimes referred to as 1/8”) is standard for most tablets, laptops, computers and smartphone devices. Many headphone manufacturers have moved to a narrow barrel design, which allows plugs to easily fit within the confines of bulky tablet cases. Dual-, Tri- and TRRS-plugs are also available to expand device compatibility. Some headphones come with a USB plug, which connects directly to your computer. The popularity of USB compatibility has surged in recent years, but it comes at a price – USB headphones cost an extra $10+ per unit due to expensive, built-in sound-card functionality.
Jack Boxes, Cassette Players, Record Players & Musical Keyboards
The ¼” plug is standard for a lot of older audio technology, such as listening centers (with jack boxes), cassette players, record players and musical keyboards. If you’re planning to upgrade your audio technology, consider what type of plug you’ll need to use in the future.
Not plugging in?
If you’re hoping to create a wireless school environment, headphones with wireless or Bluetooth options may be your best bet. When considering wireless or Bluetooth headphones, think about impacting factors like interference, connectivity and group syncing. Troubleshoot wireless connectivity at your school site prior to making a large investment. If you’re not confident in wireless or Bluetooth options providing a secure, quality connection, then stick with wired headphones until site conditions improve.
To Speak or Not to Speak
For some classrooms, just being able to provide listening tools for individual listening is important. Classrooms, libraries, and audio labs frequently need listening tools for individuals, allowing for privacy or working at a listener’s own pace. You’re also more likely to find a variety of budget-friendly, disposable headphones without a microphone, so don’t pay for a microphone if you don’t need it.
Headsets are an essential tool for those who frequently communicate or record audio and need a quality microphone. Classrooms or testing centers might require recordings for exams or assignments from individuals, which makes headsets a more viable option than relying on a computer microphone. With a headset microphone placed in front of a speaker’s mouth, the recorded audio will be clearer than some standard built-in microphones on various devices.
In-Ear, On-Ear or Over-Ear?
When considering over-ear, on-ear, or in-ear headphone models, consider listening time and environment. Each style has its own advantages, especially when you consider noise cancellation, portability and comfort. However, all designs (depending on the quality of the headphones) have the ability to isolate noise and allow for an immersive listening experience.
Not everyone will find in-ear earbuds comfortable since they sit in the ear canal, but earbuds have become a hugely popular option for students. Disposable earbuds are budget friendly and provide a great hygiene option for single-use, annual testing with large populations. When considering earbuds for younger students, rubber tipped earbuds may offer a more comfortable fit for smaller ear canals.
On-ear headphones offer a nice combination of noise isolation, comfort and background listening for instruction integrated environments. Students often need to hear teacher or administrator instructions while listening to curriculum programs, testing sessions or technology labs. On-ear headphones deliver a quality sound experience while enabling critical instructions to be heard.
Over-ear headphones have ear cups that fit over the ear. They tend to be better at naturally blocking out sounds from the outside environment, which could be a selling point for exams or busy settings. However, when worn over time, over-ear headphones can feel heavy, sweaty and uncomfortable, which can make students less intent to remain focused. Avid Education SM-25 headphones or the Califone 3068-AV headphones are both popular choices.
Mono Vs. Stereo
Mono Headphones are typically used with older audio technology such as listening centers, cassette players and recorders, and record players.
Stereo Headphones should be used with newer audio technology such as tablets, laptops, computers, CD players, TV’s or anything with a stereo output.
Switchable Headphones eliminate any compatibility issues by providing the option of switching from mono to stereo sounds. If you are unsure of which output your technology source has, switchable headphones would be your best choice because they can switch from mono to stereo or vice versa.
Understanding the need for volume control can help you determine whether or not it’s an appropriate addition to your headphones. Built-in volume control makes it easier to hear important sounds, enables fast adjustments, helps prevent damage to your hearing, and allows you to mute your headphones quickly. Being able to adjust the volume on your headphones can be the difference between missing a vital portion of the program or your teacher’s instructions and hearing exactly what you need to hear.
Depending on your environment, the age of your users and your listening source, you will want to choose the best cord for your classroom headphone. Consider the following when making a decision based on the style of cord you need.
Headphone cord lengths have become largely standardized, but still remain a topic of debate. Consider student age, mobility needs, and device mobility when determining ideal cord length. If students are expected to remain seated at a computer station, then a shorter cord length may work. If multiple students are plugging into a single listening station or jack box, then longer cords might provide needed flexibility.
Straight cords are preferred for older children or adults because they provide increased mobility. Coiled cords are more flexible, prevent tangling, and are preferred for younger children due to their thickness, durability and reduced choking hazard. Several headphone manufacturers have developed nylon-braided cords to prevent cord tangling, knotting and splitting. These nylon-braided cords are sometimes coated in PVC to reduce chewing damage and allow cords to be wiped down for safe hygiene.
Overall, by determining what your classroom headphones will need to accomplish, who will use them and how often, finding the right pair should be easier. For any help or advice, contact us–our team can help you find the right pair of headphones for your education setting.