How to Measure Over-the-Ear Headphones

Coby McKinley Profile image

Written by:

Updated February 10, 2023

If you’re shopping for premium headphones, you may wonder how to measure over-ear headphones. Each headphone type features a different frequency range and sound quality. Whether you’re a casual user or a headphone enthusiast, measuring top-tier over-ear headphones keeps you informed on their maximum output levels and frequency response. So, stick around to learn how to measure over-the-ear headphones.


  • You can test your headphone sound level with a mobile app and your smartphone’s microphone.
  • Place your smartphone’s microphone about an ear’s length from the headphone.
  • Play multiple audio tracks at different volume levels and chart the average decibel reading for each volume setting.

Before learning how to measure your headphone volume, ensure you know how to wear over-the-ear headphones for the best sound quality. Additionally, you should learn what headphone driver size means for tonal balance and the actual noise level from your unit.

Insider Tip

Your decibel levels will not be accurate if you place the measurement microphone too close to the headphone output.

How to Measure Over-Ear Headphones

Understanding the adequate noise levels for human hearing and ear shape can help you learn how to fix broken over-the-ear headphones. That said, you should learn how to carry headphones to prevent future damage to your tech.

Comparing Skullcandy vs. AirPods can help you find an ideal pair of headphones that match your preferred listening levels and fit. For further research, see how the Beats Studio Buds vs. Bose QuietComfort earbuds debate breaks down.

STEP 1 Find a Decibel Meter

While you can purchase a physical decibel meter, the easiest route is to go to the app store on your smartphone and download a decibel meter app. You should be able to find one on Android and IOS app stores.

STEP 2 Limit Ambient Noise

Pick a room for the volume test, and limit the ambient noise in the space. Turn off noise-producing appliances and devices, and close all openings to the testing environment. Some users recommend an interior closet to limit external noise.

STEP 3 Place the Headphone Near Your Microphone

The decibel meter app uses your phone’s microphone to listen to the headphones, but you shouldn’t place the headphones directly on the mic. Instead, place the headphones about half an inch away from the microphone.

STEP 4 Play Audio from Your Headphones

Pick five to ten songs and play one at a time out of the headphones. Every audio file has a different decibel output, even at the same device volume level. Choose multiple genres for a good mix of volume levels.

STEP 5 Test Mulitple Volume Levels

Play a portion of each song at half-volume, three-quarters volume, and full-volume. Write each decibel reading on a piece of paper.

STEP 6 Get Your Average Decibel Levels

Average each decibel reading for half-volume, three-quarters-volume, and full-volume. You now have a rough estimation of your headphone’s decibel output at these set volume levels.


Strong bass frequencies can blow out cheaper headphone models at high audio levels.

STAT: A 2019 Noise Health survey showed that the preferred average volume for earbud headphones was 72 decibels. (source)

How to Measure Over-the-Ear Headphones FAQs

Are open-back headphones better than closed-back models?

Open-back headphones have a grated back that allows sound pressure levels and air to freely move through the oval-shaped earpieces. This creates a more natural soundscape than closed-back headphone models, but you will not enjoy the noise isolation that closed models deliver.

How much should wireless headphones cost?

You can find multiple models of headphones between $10 and $50, but keep in mind that affordable headphones might lack the features of premium brands. Advanced users might want professional-quality headphones that can cost thousands of dollars. These high-end models deliver a strong frequency range for critical listening sessions.

Can high audio levels cause hearing loss?

Certainly. NIOSH recommends limiting your exposure time to sounds at or above 85 decibels to prevent hearing loss. For example, construction workers must wear noise-reduction headphones with oval-shaped earpieces to prevent hearing loss. Additionally, most smartphones feature a hearing protection device that offers a harmful audio level warning.
Coby McKinley Profile image