Does it make any difference if you use your headphones with the L on your right ear and the R on your left ear?
In most situations, and for the majority of people, there is no such a difference.However, there are still some situations when this L/R markup is critically important.
However, there are still some situations when this L/R markup is critically important.
When Left/Right Markup on Headphones is Important
L/R markup on headphones or earbuds does matter if you are listening to a genuine stereo sound. Stereo music is usually recorded to two (sometimes even more) microphones and supposed to be heard as part of a bigger picture of some sort: a game, a concert or a movie.
In this case, some actions should or can happen in different parts of “soundstage” and their location is critical for the best listening experience you can get from your headphones. You will find several clear examples below.
If you getting a mono signal to each ear this difference disappears.
Examples of Differences Between Left and Right Sounds on Headphones
In the majority of first person shooter games (FPS, e.g. Counter-Strike), the success of a player strongly depends on how well he can hear things happening next to him. If you had an enemy on your left but heard him on your right, you may end up getting hit!
You are listening to an interesting dialog between two speakers, but strange things happen: a woman sitting on the left asks questions with a deep, punchy bass while a man from the right answers with a delicate crystal alto. Oops…
You paid a lot of money for an HD quality movie, prepared popcorn and started watching. A new sports car is moving at a crazy speed from the left to right on your huge home screen and hits a wall with a terrible roar…but… why has the sound of the crash come from the right? Sound engineers tried to do their best for you, but this means nothing because you put the wrong earbud on your ear.
This can become even more frustrating for 3D movies when you are supposed to hear something behind your back, e.g. steps of a bloody maniac, but instead, you are hearing them in front of you. Not good.
Some music genres intend to feature certain instruments to be in specific places on the soundstage, and audiophiles feel this difference very well.
For example, they could normally expect drums on the left side, rhythm guitar on the right, etc. However, when something goes wrong, the balance becomes inverted and the listening experience becomes ruined.