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Headphones

Why this headphone website's year-long return policy is crazy good

It's kind of hard to believe, but Headphones.com has the best return policy we've ever seen.

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Headphones.com's Andrew (left) and Taron Lissimore (right).

Karolina Turek

I met Andrew Lissimore at an audio show last year, and we immediately hit if off, probably because we share a common interest in turning people on to great headphones

Lissimore does it with his sales site, Headphones.com. It obviously has a lot of competition on the web, but Lissimore has a secret weapon: he sells headphones with a 365-day return policy

You read that right. Customers have up to a year to decide whether they really love the headphones. If not they can return them for a full refund. 

To put the 365-day return policy in perspective, I checked around the internet and Sweetwater, B&H Photo, and Amazon offer 30 day returns, Crutchfield's runs to 60 days. 

I thought Lissimore was crazy to give people a year to decide about a headphone, but he tells me his return rate is no higher over the 365-day term than it is for 30-day home trials. 

The only catch is the returned headphones and packaging have to be in good condition to get the full refund. Headphones.com will accept them in less-than-perfect condition, but will charge a restocking fee for that. Returned headphones aren't resold by Headphones.com, they're handled through other channels.

Why you want a long trial period for headphones

Lissmore told me his goal is to help buyers answer the age-old question of whether one headphone is better than another. Unlike other audio gear, you wear headphones. You really should try them on your head to find out if they feel good, preferably for a long listening session. 

Comfort takes time to fully assess, so what at first seems pretty darn comfy sometimes turns out to be torture after a while. What might have felt comfortable on a cool day in June might be unbearable on a hot August day. So it might also make sense to buy more than one headphone at a time, maybe three, so you can find out which one is right for you, and return the others.

The same goes for sound quality and noise suppression or cancellation. Some headphones sound better with certain types of music, and some do a better job battling noise than others. Depending on your musical tastes and the noise levels in places where you usually listen, those differences can make or break a set of cans. Ears-on auditions cut to the chase.

Just like more well-known retailers, Portland-based Headphones.com stocks a wide assortment of 'phones of all kinds and brands, as well as headphone amplifiers and digital converters. And pricing is competitive with other authorized dealers' prices. Headphones.com will try and beat their price by two percent, but if their price is, as Lissimore put it, "too ridiculous to match, we'll let you know."