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Choosing Headphones for Transcription

written by: Halahblue•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/5/2011

With so many choices of headphones in the marketplace, choosing the best fit, comfort, and sound for transcription requires a lot of research and trials. Startting with a list of the main types of headphones available and your own preferences can go a long way to narrowing down the perfect pair.

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    Transcription Headphones

    Transcriptionists spend hours and hours on end wearing headphones. Comfort and sound quality are the top two priorities in transcription headphones. Choosing headphones that are just right can be an arduous task. Before you head to the store, learn what types of headphones are available.

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    Also known as behind-the-head earphones, this type is very popular among athletes. The name refers to the position earbuds of the headband, but behind-the-neck headphones are available in ear-bud, on-ear, and ear-cup styles. This style is purely a matter of personal comfort. If you’d rather have something that feels securely attached to your head, then these are not for you. If you like the freedom of ear-buds, but want a little added tension to keep them inside your ears, then behind-the-neck ear-buds are for you. Many of these phones are available with Bluetooth technology, which is good news for those who love to go wireless, but the option is aimed at cell phone users still, so sound quality may not be up to par for transcription.

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    On-ear headphones, or ear-pad headphones, sit on the outside of your ear. They don’t completely enclose the ear like ear-cup On-Ear headphones, but some models have similar thick cushions. Comfort can vary considerably with this type of headphones. Because of the differences in comfort, buying on-ear headphones may require a few more trial periods than some of the other types.

    If you’re looking for something fancy and portable, Ultrasone iCans have a great reputation. They are sold online for $130 or more. A less expensive option is the Koss PortaPro Headphones. For around $40 you will get good sound quality and a nice looking set of on-ear headphones from a reputable company.

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    Ear-cup headphones might look a little too 1970s to be good for transcription, but this type can be the most comfortable for extended Sennheiser HD-215 wear. This type of headphones has a band that goes on top of your head. The ear pads are cushy and fit over your whole ear. The ear-cup style can help eliminate background noise, sometimes more efficiently than even noise-canceling ear-buds.

    Sennheiser HD280 Pro is a solid, but pricey pair. They look enormous, but are lightweight. Bose TriPort Around-Ear Headphones cost $100 and are well worth it. I’ve been using the Bose headphones for transcribing for over a year.

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    Under-chin headphones are sort of a rare type of headphones. Most under-chin headphones are basically ear-buds with a u-shaped strap that hangs below your chin. The price range is vast: from $15 to over $200. Sennheiser IS 410 is the Cadillac of under-chin headphones. For a more affordable set, try the Sony DE45 for around$20.

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    What About Noise-Canceling?

    It’s difficult to find anything better than cheap headphones without noise-canceling. For most people, that’s a good thing. However, transcriptionists may find this wonderful technology to be incredibly annoying, especially those who have never used noise-canceling headphones before. Each pair has a different level of white noise. In some brands, you won’t hear a difference. While in other brands you may hear a fully audible buzzing noise behind your audio. Noise-canceling can boost your productivity, especially if you transcribe in your own home. If you’re making the switch for the first time, you may need to try several brands and you’ll probably have a week or so of adjustment time to the new sound.