This is one debate that has been going for for a very long time
There are some people who are of the opinion that headphones that cost less sound much better that speakers which are usually high priced.
Others are of the opinion that it does not really matter
Each has its pros and cons and in this article we will be taking a critical look at the two of them
Can speakers sound as good as headphones? No they can’t. This is because speakers and headphones sound way different. Speakers play the “room” while headphones play your “ears”
What this simply means is that when you are listening to speakers, the sounds get bounced and reflected more along the walls, floors and ceilings.
So your room acoustics tend to have a major effect on the actual sound that you are hearing
If you have messed up and cheap room acoustics then your sound is going to be low quality.
Headphones on the other hand are directly placed over your ears and the influence of your room acoustic is taken out or greatly reduced.
This is why most times you get to hear all the subtle details of the sound, even as tiny as the singer’s breath and the insane bass guitar.
This is exactly what is referred to as music accuracy
These are small details that are present in the recording but they are usually lost and cannot be heard when played over speakers in a room
Another major advantage of headphones over speakers is that most headphones use a single full range driver in each ear cup
What this means is that speakers usually divide the frequencies into bass, midrange and treble or bass and treble, and play each frequency band over separate drivers.
Doing so is bound to have sound losses
But headphones have just one single full range driver and as such no losses are noticed
When it comes to bass, speakers outperform headphones.
Looking for the best speakers for classical music?
While headphones can reproduce deep bass accurately, headphones never let you feel the bass the way you can with speakers.
Big speakers can energize an entire room with bass, you feel in your body and through your feet.
Headphone bass is all in your head.
Another unique thing is what we call stereo imaging.
According to wikipedia, stereo imaging is the aspect of sound recording and production that is concerned with the perceived spatial locations of the sound sources both laterally and in depth
What this means is that for speakers, the stereo imaging is more realistic than most headphones
That said, headphones, especially open-back, over-the-ear headphones can produce a stereo image that can sound like it’s coming from outside your head
When I posed the speaker vs. accuracy question to my Facebook friends one guy hit the nail on the head and said. “Oh, this is easy… headphones are more accurate, speakers are more realistic.”
Then a number of engineers chimed-in, ones that used headphones when recording, editing, and mixing at least some of the time for the accuracy, but many other engineers relied exclusively on speakers.
A few mastering engineers used headphones some of the time.
Like i said earlier, this is one debate that will continue to go on for years without any clear winner emerging
But the one thing you can count on is that a truly great set of audiophile headphones are a lot more affordable than a great pair of audiophile speakers.
Here is an article I wrote showing you the best speakers for bedroom.
You will definitely have to spend a whole lot more on speakers and amplifiers than headphones to even get close to the same resolution of detail.
Finally, in my opinion, it’s not an either/ or question. Its more about using what you are comfortable with and what gets the job done for you
Ideally audiophiles and anyone who really loves music should have quality speakers and headphones
Why Do Headphones Sound Better than Speakers?
It also has to do with the placement of the speakers in the room and how that room is furnished.
Most of what destroys the listening experience through speakers is the listening environment.
Hard surfaces reflect sound, soft surfaces absorb sound.
Unless you want to spend the money to change your listening room into a complete an-echoic chamber (totally sound proof with zero echo) and remove all furniture apart from your listening chair, even the best speakers will have a fairly tough time in creating the full illusion that you experience through headphones.
Related: Want to know about the best speakers? Read this article