Headphones-why the L/R designation?

Why, for most headphones/earphones, whatever, do they have “Left” and “Right” marked. Is there a difference on which side the sound comes out of it?

Well, yes… stereo sound, as opposed to mono sound, will output different audio on the left and right speakers.

If a recording is meant to sound as though, say, there’s a buzzing to your left, you’d better have the left headphone on your left ear.

Also, it really matters when you are watching, say, a movie. If a car drives by, from left to right, you want the sound coming from the headphones to reflect that.

I used to have an old stereo connected to my computer; the channels were reversed somewhere along the line. I didn’t notice until I started playing “Half Life 2.” I kept looking in the wrong direction when I was attacked.

Ergonomically-designed headphones are not necessarily symmetrical back-to-front, either; my work phones won’t feel right if I switch them around.

Music is typically recorded so that you can visualize the soundstage by where you percieve to hear the individual instruments. The singer is typically in the center and the bass and lead guitars can be to the left or right. Keyboards typically fill the whole soundstage. Drums are typically behind the singer. You can also “hear” them as they move across the stage, as in a marching band or a guitar player walking from one side to the other. Check out a concert dvd on a big screen TV and close your eyes, you can point to individual musicians.

Not only that, but the drums are often mixed so that, say, a full-kit roll will pan noticeably from one side to the other (for a standard right-handed drummer’s set up, the hi-hat and snare will be at audience’s right, floor tom and ride cymbal at audience’s left).

If you only just realized that getting your headphones’ L/R output synchronized may be relevant to what you’re hearing, you’ve only peered through the looking glass, Alice.

Thank you! Yeah, the headphones/earbuds I have now are designed so they only work for left/right ears. But in the past, that wasn’t the case, and I was curious.

And if you listen to orchestral music, strings should sound in your left ear.

Just the violins are on the left; the violas and cellos are on the right, and the string basses are somewhere in the rear. But some orchestras switch the positions of the 2nd violins and violas. And other variations.

I can’t imagine listening to orchestral music with the L/R reversed.

Yes, thanks for the correction. It is especially annoying to have them reversed, particularly for a familiar piece. Movies too.

I have a top quality headphone amplifier and some top quality headphones, and this is a nice way to listen to great sound without going broke or annoying your neighbors. Just don’t blast the sound.

Throw your headphones on and get your virtual haircut. That should answer your question quite succinctly. :slight_smile: