Headphone, Earbud & Headset Testing

Headphone, Earbud & Headset Testing

Measuring and characterizing the audio quality of headphones, earbuds, and headsets present unique challenges to both the design engineer in an R&D lab and the test engineer on a manufacturing line.


Earphone Classifications

Headphones are classified according to their shape and how they couple to the ear. Primary earphone classifications are:

Circumaural earphones surround the pinna (outer ear) and rest on the surface of the head surrounding the pinna. They may touch the pinna, but do not significantly compress it.

Supra-aural earphones rest on the pinna.

Intra-concha earphones are small earphones intended to rest within the concha cavity of the ear (the hollow just outside the ear canal).

Insert earphones are small earphones which are intended to enter the ear canal partially or completely.

Supra-concha earphones are intended to rest upon the ridges of the concha cavity.


Earphones are further classified as acoustically open or closed. Open earphones (also called nominally unsealed) intentionally provide an acoustic path between the external environment and the ear canal. Closed (or nominally sealed) earphones are intended to prevent any acoustic coupling between the external environment and the ear canal.


With the various types of headphones in mind, it is worth noting the importance of fit when testing. The fit of an earphone to the head and/or pinna can have a dramatic effect on performance. As such, acoustic test fixtures (ATF) play an important part in headphone tests and a variety of these fixtures, chosen by headphone characteristics and applications.