What Exactly is an Earpiece?

In general context, an earpiece is anything which becomes purposeful when it covers the ear or hangs near it. This means that an earpiece could be used as a general term for several related items which include eyeglass frames, headsets and anything else whose design allows it to fit into the ear and the block entry of sound waves. However, the most common description of an earpiece is that of an electronic device that is used to convert electronic signals into sound waves which are then directed to the ear’s canal; devices in this category can also be referred to as electronic-acoustic transducers.

In the past, the only way of listening to electronic-audio signals generated by a device was through the earpiece. However, with time, amplifiers were developed which made it possible to listen to audio via speakers. This did not render the earpiece useless; on the contrary most people use them as a preference for personal reasons which could be privacy, allowance for hands free operation or for listening to audio playbacks in good quality where there is a lot of noise. Depending on the design, devices can be described as headphones, ear buds, headsets or stereo phones.

Earpieces can be put into two categories which again depends on design and how the device functions. If an earpiece connects to the source of sound via cable, then it can be described as a wired earpiece which came before the cordless or wireless earpieces. Wireless headphones or earphones are similar in design to conventional earpieces of their kind only that they connect to the source of sound via infrared signals or radio waves. Some of the devices which are compatible with the wireless type include mobile phones, computers, CD players, MP3 players and gaming consoles with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi adapters.

Wired earpieces are convenient to some extent but the wire which dangles from a user’s ears to the device they intend to listen to can be disturbing at times. Remember, a wired earpiece has to connect to the sound producing device physically. This means that you will have to bear with dangling motion of the wire although some are designed to be spiral so that the move less. The most common earpieces come with the 3.5 millimeter (0.2 Inch) jack which has been made a standard though introduced by Sony in 1979. Before the 3.5 millimeter jacks came into existence, ¼ inch jacks were the standard. Today, there are still in use but only for professional equipment.

Ear buds have not been in the market for long but what makes them worth mentioning is their design which completely changes how the user perceives sound. An ear bud feeds sound directly into the ear drum which is unnatural because the waves bypass the acoustic contouring provided by the listener’s outer ears and head. This way, the user’s brain will assume the sound is in a straight line in the head and between the ears; the result is sound which does not have the three dimensional effect which is normally provided by loud speakers due to the configuration between them and the users ears.

Depending on their configuration, earpieces can further be classified according to their shapes and sizes. For instance, circum-aural headphones come with large pads which surround the outer ear and are the kind used in most professional recording studios. The other type in this context would be supra-aural headphones which fit over the ear without surrounding it. Ear buds which were discussed earlier fit into the ears outer canal but do not fully cover it which means external sounds from other sources are still audible around them. Canal phones which make the fourth category fit snugly into the ears canal and are therefore effective in blocking exterior sounds.

Noise cancellation is a feature which is slowly gaining popularity with the public. The technology works to improve the quality of sound reaching the ear drums by cancelling out other sounds from external sources. The most advanced noise cancelling headphones utilize a physics principle called destructive interference where the headphones produce sound of equal wavelength with noise so that they cancel out. Note that noise cancelling headphones direct some of their sound outwards so as that it cancels noise coming from exterior sources. If you plan to buy earpieces, list down the specifications you would want to avoid purchasing something which will later frustrate you.

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