The Old Guide to New Headphones


We often get asked by new customers what they should listen to, or how they should listen to it, in order to get the most of their new headphones. Collected below are some of our thoughts, answers, recommendations and – let’s be honest – some instances of ‘we don’t know, but you probably do’.

Listen to what you want to listen to

There is no internationally-approved playlist for new headphones. The United Nations have other things to do. There IS, however, an RHA one:

We update this all the time, but the specification goes thus:


But testing playlists are not the answer to the question ‘what should I listen to?’ Simply, you should listen to what whatever you like. Whether you want to be or not, you’re likely an expert in how certain songs should sound. Listen to Lizzo’s Juice 983 times last year? Then you are much more qualified than most people to judge how your new headphones are recreating those particular sounds. So, congratulations! You’re an expert. Update LinkedIn.


We’ve written about this before! If you really want to enjoy your favourite tracks, try and listen to them in silence. This may involve shutting a few windows or cutting the power supply to your neighbours' television, but hopefully just finding the right ear tips for your ears.

Audio can be intensely personal: it’s about silence; about what you choose to fill it with. So if you really want to give something a listen, try and make sure that you’re not hearing anything else.

Be nice.

Over time, your headphones are going to develop some, eh, character. Keep them in the supplied cases and pouches to put this off for as long as possible. Also welcome your new earbuds to the house. Introduce them to everyone, sing to them in the evenings, but don’t give them soup. Soup voids the (RHA® Signature© InternationalTM 3-Year!) warranty.

Phone home

If you’re going to use your earbuds for calls (would recommend!) you should test them the same way you test new recipes or new head-massage machines: on an unsuspecting loved one. Figuring out how to activate your magic digital assistant of choice? “CALL MUM MOBILE”. Want to test the hang-up function (double-tap)? “I’m going into a tunnel!”. Easy.

Wading into the burn-in debate

This is going to be niche, but it’s an issue that rages throughout the audio enthusiast community: burn-in. The basic premise is that – like new shoes, or a car, or a spoon – new headphones take a few hours/days of use to reach their final or settled sound. To give you some scale of how hotly-debated this idea is: we are guaranteed to receive some excitingly-worded emails based on that short definition alone.

Fundamentally, every earphone is a tightly-packed group of components – the things that make the sound are crammed into the same space as the things that do the Bluetooth and the things that do the microphone, and so on. And that’s surrounded by the pieces that keep everything in position, and safe, and dust/waterproof. It is logical to expect that these components will take a day or two of usage to reach the state that they were designed to operate in. Is that diplomatically worded enough?

CliffsNotes®: use your headphones to listen to your music for a few days (about 20 hours playback) and try all the ear tips for the right fit. Then both your headphones and your ears will become more accustomed.

Back to top