Headphones vs. Earbuds: Everything You Need To Know
If you want to listen to audio on the go then you’ve probably encountered a familiar problem, trying to decide between headphones or earbuds. While they look very different, there are important distinctions between the two.
Before spending your hard-earned money you need to assess the features of both and decide which one is best for you. What makes the decision even more difficult is that there are different types of each option.
There are a few key questions you’ll need to ask yourself such as what type of audio will you be listening to? How stable do they need to be on your head? And in what environment will you be using them?
Here we’ll go through everything you need to know so that you can answer all of these questions with confidence. We’ll break it all down and give you the knowledge you need to make the right choice for you. Let’s get started with everything you need to know about headphones vs earbuds.
To put it simply, headphones are an audio device that has two round speakers attached to each other with a band. They’re worn over the head and can rest on your ears or head, depending on the type you choose.
It’s important not to confuse a headphone with a headset; while they are both audio listening devices a headset has a microphone attached. While a headphone may have a small mic, it will be recessed into the unit.
Types of Headphones
There are three features that you can choose between when it comes to selecting headphones.
Wired or Wireless: Headphones are available as both wired and wireless, with both options having their pros and cons. Wired headphones are less convenient to wear but you don’t need to worry about charging them and they’re also cheaper.
Wireless headphones are easy to work without worrying about a wire, but are more expensive and need to be charged.
Over-ear or on-ear headphones: Over-ear headphones are large and sit comfortably on the outside of the ear. They provide excellent noise cancellation and are more comfortable with extra padding, but they are difficult to carry around because of their size.
On-ear headphones sit on top of the ears, which can cause pressure and pain to the ears if used for an extended time. They can have sound leaking in from the outside because they don’t perfectly seal the ears, but these are relatively lighter to wear and easier to carry around.
Closed-back or open-back headphones: Closed-back headphones have a closed covering over the outer sides of the cup of the speakers. This allows the sound to stay trapped and prevents audio from going in or out, but they can also prevent your ears from breathing and could make them sweaty. It can also give a stuffy feeling to the music.
Open-back headphones have small holes on the outer side of the ear cuffs to allow sound to escape and to give your ears breathing space. It allows for you to listen to music without sound pressure being created, and hearing the music can be more organic but it does not provide sound cancellation. Open-back earphones are better suited for indoor listening, while closed-back headphones are better suited for using outside.
Earbuds are two audio devices connected to each other, each having its own driver. The earbuds are then connected to the required device and are a very easy way to listen to music on the go.
These earbuds are always small in size and compact. It allows you to carry them with you wherever you go, making them great accessories to have while on the move and meet your audio needs at any moment.
Types of Earbuds
Earbuds can be categorized into two different categories based on their features.
IEMs (in-ear monitors) or standard earbuds: As the name suggests, in-ear monitors IEMs go inside the ear canal while standard earbuds just rest against the inner part of the ear. IEMs do come with great noise cancellation ear tips, while standard earbuds do not provide great noise cancellation.
Wired or Wireless: Wired earbuds are connected together with a wire that leads all the way down to the audio jack. These are generally the cheapest option but are also lightweight as they don’t need a power source. They can be more awkward to wear and on cheaper models, the wire can become frayed.
There are two types of wireless earbuds. One has the two buds connected to each other with a wire, but they are connected to your device via Bluetooth. The last type is completely wireless, connecting to each other and the device wirelessly.
Headphones vs. Earbuds
In order to decide between headphones and earbuds, you need to know which are best suited to you. Here we will compare the different qualities of the two and you can decide which one you’d prefer.
One of the most important things to consider when buying an audio device is the sound quality. Clear sound is something that everyone desires. If we compare the sound quality of the two devices, then headphones outperform earbuds.
This is because of their respective designs. Due to the small size of the earbuds, there is less space for internal components. While headphones are large and can have better drivers in the larger space.
Although this is generally true, it also depends on the model you’re buying. There are models of earphones that surpass some headphone models in terms of quality. For an equally priced pair from the same brand, headphones will provide you with better quality sound.
Another thing to consider is the ability of the headphones or earbuds to block the outside noise. The better the noise cancellation, the more you are able to hear the music without interference.
In terms of noise cancellation, the best are over-ear headphones and EMIs. They are designed to seal around your ears and prevent any outside noise from coming in.
Standard earbuds and on-ear headphones are considered the worst for noise isolation. Their design prevents them from sealing against your ears. Open-back headphones are also not suitable for complete noise cancellation. For the ultimate noise cancellation performance, you’ll want to have over-ear headphones that have active noise cancellation (ANC).
It’s very obvious from their size that earbuds are more portable when compared to headphones. Earbuds are small and can even fit inside your pocket and be taken out to put in your ears as required.
You can use earbuds on the go, during shopping, running, biking, and even hiking. Headphones on the other hand are large and heavier. They can be cumbersome to travel along with and can move around during intense activities such as running.
Comfort is a vital factor to consider when choosing between a headphone or an earphone. Out of all options available, the most comfortable are the over-the-ear headphones.
They rest over your ears and thus do not put pressure on them. You can get them with extra padding as well, if you want it to be softer and reduce pressure on your head.
Even the band that connects the two drivers can be padded to prevent any uncomfortable or painful sensation along the head. You should keep in mind that the padding of the headphones should be soft and breathable.
Earbuds on the other hand are placed directly inside the ear canal or outer ear. Because of this, they can cause pain or irritation if worn for long periods of time. The size and shape of the ear of every person is also different. A pair of earbuds that suit one person might be painful for another. Due to this, many models come with interchangeable earbud tips to get the perfect fit for you.
One of the most important factors in your buying decision will be cost. The price of each depends on the build quality and features they have. It also depends on the model and the brand that you are buying from.
Cheap and expensive versions can be bought of both models. If you’re looking at features of expensive models, then headphones would offer better quality.
On the other hand, if you’re just looking to find a good product at the cheapest range, then earbuds would be a better option. Earbuds are cheaper because they are smaller in size and have fewer materials used to make them.
Who Are Headphones Best For?
Headphones are best for those who want to immerse themselves in their music. With headphones, you’re much more likely to get a deeper bass along with crisp mids and highs. Volume is usually higher too.
They’re also ideal for those who commute or work in noisy environments. The higher level of noise cancellation allows you to clearly hear the music above outside distractions. For long-term use, headphones will also be more comfortable.
- Higher level of comfort
- Excellent sound quality
- Better noise cancellation
Who Are Earbuds Best For?
If you’re out and about, you’ll see the vast majority of users wearing earbuds. The reason for that is due to their convenience. They are much lighter and smaller, making them much easier to travel with.
This makes earbuds better for those on the go or looking for something more discreet. Earbuds are also a lot less likely to get dislodges, making them much better for exercise. While not as impressive as headphones, a high-quality pair of earbuds can still have great sound quality and noise cancellation.
- Lightweight and portable
- Perfect for exercise
- More discreet
As you can see here, there is no clear winner in the headphones vs earbud debate. Both have their place with many music lovers having a pair of both. The right one for you will depend on your lifestyle.
Looking for something while commuting on a train? Then headphones would be the best bet. Want to enjoy music while running? If so, then choose earbuds. The choice is ultimately yours but hopefully, we’ve given you some clarity to choose the perfect pair for you.
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