My name is Keith Howard, I’ve been an audio journalist for over 40 years, and I’ve been measuring headphones – and been fascinated by the challenges of it – since 2007. This website is, in significant part, a product of my frustration at not having an outlet for all the headphone measurements I now make. I used to perform headphone testing for Hi-Fi News, but print media page space restrictions limited me to just two graphs per product there. Here you’ll find the results of the gamut of measurements I now run, and some of them are surprising if not, occasionally, shocking. [See footnote 1.]
How I perform the measurements, how to interpret them, and the relevance of the results are all as important as the test outcomes themselves, so there is lots of supporting material here that describes the test procedures, lists the hardware and software I use (much of it purpose-built and purpose-written), and delves into various aspects of headphone measurement and perception. I strive to make every aspect of my testing regime crystal clear.
Crucially, though, you don’t have to read the supporting material to comprehend the test results. Uniquely, Headphone Test Lab’s graphical material is in the form of SVG (scalable vector graphics) files, which bring two key benefits. First, if you need to, you can zoom the graphs without the text or traces becoming blocky. [See footnote 2.] And second, they incorporate animation features which make them much more informative than conventional graphs. Place the mouse cursor over the information symbol towards the bottom right of each graph and you’ll begin to see the power of this. [See footnote 3.] Different graphs animate in different ways, with some allowing individual traces and/or tabular data overlays to be displayed. Please read each graph’s information panel for details. If you don’t access the graphs’ animation features, you'll miss out on all they have to offer. There's a demonstration video here. Note: the animation features do not work in the graph thumbnails. You have to click on each graph to enlarge it first.
I don’t offer subjective opinions of headphone sound quality here. The web is replete with people doing that: most of them poorly, in my opinion. But there is a Commentary section at the foot of each measurement page which describes key features of the test results. There is no forum here either, because I’d rather be generating more test data or further expanding and refining the HTL measurement regime. If you’ve a burning question to ask me, or feedback to offer on HTL, please use the Contact page – having checked the FAQ pages first, if you have a question, in case the answer is already there.
A lot of effort went into generating the measurement results on this site and making them as relevant and as comprehensible as possible. I hope you find them useful and insightful.
Footnote 1. Not all the headphones tested here get 'the full treatment', as explained in Legacy test results.
Footnote 2. The graphs all support pan and zoom. If you’re using a mouse, left-click and drag to pan the graph, and use the mouse wheel (or mouse finger drag) to zoom in and out. You can also use browser zoom ('Ctrl'+'+' to zoom in, 'Ctrl'+'−' to zoom out with Windows; 'Cmd'+'+' to zoom in, 'Cmd'+'−' to zoom out with Mac; and 'Ctrl'+'0'/ 'Cmd'+'0' to restore the default page size) to optimise your viewing experience. With a touchscreen, use the usual finger-drag to pan, and two-finger pinch to zoom. On an Apple Trackpad: two-finger drag down/up to zoom in/out; click and hold down plus one-finger drag to pan. Zoom can also be controlled using zoom in, zoom out and reset pan and zoom buttons beneath each graphic.
Footnote 3. With Windows and macOS computers all animation events are instigated by placing the mouse cursor over particular positions on the graph. With a touchscreen device (Android, iOS, webOS) you have to tap on these positions instead (or left-click if using a Bluetooth or wired mouse). Please bear in mind with mobile devices that the graphs are not intended for viewing on screens smaller than 10-inch (254mm) because some of the type is then hard to read, although the general form of the graphs will remain clear on smaller screens. With touchscreens, particularly small ones, more consistent responses may be had using a stylus than with finger taps. Almost all web browsers are compatible; tested ones are listed here.