Headphones Vs. Noise Cancelling Earbuds: Which Is Better And Why?

Headphones Vs. Noise Cancelling Earbuds Which Is Better And Why
  • Anthony

Many people are confused about the difference between Noise Cancelling Earbuds Vs Headphones. There is a big difference in what you will want to use depending on your circumstances.

While running or walking, noise-canceling earbuds will help you focus. However, if you need to hear someone talking close by, they won’t be very helpful at all.

On the other hand, noise-canceling headphones can be used for both because they cover the full ear.

Noise-canceling headphones aren’t just for flying or working out if you need to hear what’s going on around you.

Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Noise Cancelling Earbuds

The third type of noise-canceling headphones is earbuds. They are also known as in-ear. They fit into your ear canal to partially block external noises. They can’t filter out higher-frequency sounds like earmuffs or headphones.

They excel in many other areas, however.



Earbuds are small and lightweight and can fit comfortably in your ear canal. They can be taken anywhere, wireless or not. After long-wear, headaches are not an issue. If you don’t use the correct plugs, you might experience occasional tangling or fallout.


Due to their cheaper price, noise-canceling earbuds have a shorter battery life than headphones. They don’t offer the same quality noise cancellation. You get the least amount you want at a lower price.

Tip: Plantronics BackBeat Go410 and Bose QuietComfort30 wireless headphones are better noise-canceling headphones. These earbuds offer superior noise cancellation and great sound quality but at a higher cost.


Sound quality

The sound quality of noise-canceling earbuds is not exceptional. Some have better bass tones, but they aren’t loud enough, and others have trouble separating high and mid-level tones.

To hear every instrument in your favorite song, you’ll need to turn up the volume as much as possible.

Hearing Loss

High volume music can cause hearing loss, especially if it goes directly into your ears. Your hearing will not be protected from prolonged exposure to loud music through earbuds.

You should take breaks if you decide to get noise-canceling headphones. Also, keep the volume at a minimum.


Noise-canceling headphones are movable and light, but they don’t last long. If you put them in your bag, they can easily get broken. It’s always best to be careful and keep them in their own bag as much as possible. This will help to avoid any tangling.

Noise-canceling headphones

Noise-canceling headphones

These headphones are becoming more popular on the market. There are two main types of noise-canceling headphones people will consider: on-ear or over-ear.

Both headphones feature closed earcups. You can disable ANC and still get noise cancellation. The only option is passive, thanks to padding. Passive noise-canceling headphones can only block up to 15-20 decibels of sound.

Tip: For passive noise cancellation, consider circumaural headphones. They have high-quality foam padding made from noise-absorbing materials. These headphones are heavier than regular headphones.


They cancel 20 decibels more background noise when active noise-canceling headphones are used. There are other pros:

Low Music Volume

It’s much easier to concentrate on the music when noise cancellation is in place. You don’t have to turn up the sound to listen to your favorite songs one by one.

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The sound quality will suffice. Some headphones have deeper bass, while others have balanced high and low levels. You don’t have to worry that noise-canceling headphones will hurt your ears.


Focusing on tasks while wearing noise-canceling headphones will eliminate all background noise. Noise can be bad for your health, especially if it happens at work.

The best noise-cancelling headphones can do the job and block out low- to mid-frequency sounds, so you can focus better.

Tip: Noise-cancelling headphones won’t work for conference calls in noisy situations. Krisp noise-canceling software removes all background noise from both parties.

Appsumo Deals recently set a new record for the software. It also set a record on Appsumo Deals.

Noise cancellation quality

ANC headphones can cancel low- and intermediate-frequency sounds. The foam padding can help cancel out some high frequencies. You will be able to hear voice announcements and noise cancellations from nearby people if you buy expensive ANC headphones.


Portability And Long Wear

The headphones become bulky due to the extra padding and isolation from circumaural noise. They won’t fit snugly around your head, so it’s hard to wear them for long times.

ANC headphones are foldable and durable, however carrying or packing them can be difficult.

Tip: Look for headphones with more padding around your headband. It is sometimes a good idea to sacrifice exceptional design in favor of comfort.

High Power Consumption

Battery life is cut by active noise cancellation. With active noise cancellation on, the best noise-canceling headphones can last up to 30 hours. It can be challenging to use ANC with plugged-in headphones.


You can’t get an exceptional design, sound quality, and active noise cancellation without investing in them. ANC headphones are not cheap, but it’s not a significant drawback. You can still choose budget noise-canceling headphones with mediocre ANC until you’re ready for more.

Tip: Even the most expensive ANC headphones can excel in a particular feature. Before you buy noise-canceling headphones, think about what you need them to do.

The Sony WH-1000XM3, Bose QuietComfort 35 II, and Bowers & Wilkins PX are three examples of high-quality headphones.

So Do ANC Earbuds Cancel As Much Noise As ANC Headphones?

So Do ANC Earbuds Cancel As Much Noise As ANC Headphones

They’re not there yet. Earbuds can be used in different ways, but they aren’t as good as their bigger brothers.

Comparison of two great noise-canceling earbuds (1More dual driver ANC Pro and Bose QC20) and two state-of-the-art noise-canceling headphones (2Sony WH1000XM3 or Bose QC35).

The big headphones are still the best in terms of overall noise reduction.

1More’s ANC Pro earbuds are excellent for low-frequency noise reduction. (Review). They are even better at some frequencies. This opens up new possibilities.

The Sony headphones are better for high bass and high-frequency noise. The Bose QC35 headphones, although not as powerful as the Sony, reduce ambient noise more than the earbuds.

It becomes even more evident when you sit in loud coffee shops.

Both the headphones and earbuds perform well against the low-frequency HVAC system.

When pouring coffee or using utensils, cups, and glasses, both over-ear models lessen chatter and music frequency.

Earbuds positioned passively at the ear canal’s entrance cannot isolate like over-the-ear headphones’ earcups.

Some passive in-ear headphones, e.g., The Etymotic Research in-ears, offer better passive noise isolation than the earbuds. However, like foam and reusable earplugs, they must go deeper into your ear canal.

Passive noise isolation is essential for optimal low- and mid-frequency noise reduction.

Comfort And Consistent Seal

Comfort And Consistent Seal

A headband and ear pads can be used to hold anything in the ear when stationary.

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It would help if you accepted headphones with a headband force applied to your head and the ear cushions pressing against it.

You will need to place something in your ear with earbuds.

Maybe you prefer earbuds?

In-ear speakers go deep into the ear canal, but earbuds sit at the opening of the ear canal.

Earbuds are generally more comfortable than in-ears. Bose’s Stay Hear tips are favorite earbud tips, though others are also fine.

A good pair of headphones can provide a reliable seal for most people.

Both the 1More ANC earbuds and Bose will seal well. However, if you move your jaw in a specific direction or swallow, outside sound can seep in.

This could lead to the noise-canceling performance of the ANC earbuds dropping. You will also need to replace the earbuds now and again.

The following will compare headphones and earbuds in different situations.

If you use headphones daily to block noise and focus, over-ear noise-canceling headphones are better than earbuds.

As we mentioned, even the most expensive over-ears can still block more noise than the best. This is especially true for high-frequency noise that can be found in almost every place people gather.

Although ANC headphones may not block all conversations perfectly, they will make you feel more exposed than earbuds.

Over-ear headphones can also be seen and communicate to others that you are busy.

It would help if you also considered how comfortable you feel with plugging your ears every day.

Though the earbuds are relaxing, you can also use earplugs to block out noise at night. It would be best if you tried to rest your ears during the day.

Even though good earbuds can sound great, you’ll still prefer the sound quality and sound quality of over-ear headphones.

It would help if you considered true-wireless earbuds rather than neckband buds. Also, they won’t last for a whole day.

You can always put them in the charging case, but headphones that last 20 to 30 hours are just as convenient.

Use For Travel And On The Move

Long-haul and other long flight

Both neckband and over-ear headphones are excellent choices for long-haul flights.

Over-ear headphones block more talk and cry, have a longer battery life, and most still have a flight entertainment system cord.

You can also sleep with foam earplugs under your pillow to block out even more noise.

Neckband earbuds make it more convenient to sleep with your ears against the pillow. The current model has about 15 hours of battery life with ANC enabled. They also come with an audio cable.

True-wireless earbuds can’t connect through audio cable and don’t have enough battery life for long flights or trains.

You can solve this problem by putting them back in the wireless charging case after a few hours. A Bluetooth adapter can be purchased to connect to your inflight entertainment system.

Both full-size noise-canceling headphones, as well as earbuds, are fine here.

Earbuds are more lightweight and discreet and don’t get too hot. However, they won’t keep your ears warm during winter.

A neckband model is preferred because it’s easy to wear all day and doesn’t require me to worry about losing headphones.

Others prefer not to wear a neckband and opt for true-wireless.



Exercise: Noise-cancelling headphones are the best. True-wireless is the best option. Earbuds with a neckband work well, too. The neckband can get sticky if you sweat a lot.

Bose noise-canceling headphones are comfortable and fit well. However, they can get hot, and the cushions in the ears will deteriorate quicker under sweat which adds to their cost.

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If you use them for daily exercise, they might crack or sustain water damage.

Please choose an earbuds model with an IPX4 rating for water ingress to ensure they can withstand sweat and light rain.

AirPods Pro (IPX4) is, for example. They are water and sweat resistant for exercise and non-water sports.


Earbuds and headphones that cancel low-frequency sound can be as effective as any other tool.

For overall noise reduction, over-ear headphones would be the best. They can be used if you sleep on your side.

They can be used with a horseshoe pillow to side sleep, and it works well but isn’t ideal.

Micro earbuds that don’t protrude out of the ear are ideal for side sleepers, as well as headband sleep phones. However, they don’t offer active noise cancellation.

Neckband noise-canceling headphones are the next best option.

They protrude like most earbuds but can be used well when paired with a towel or hole-punched pillow.

You will need at least 10 hours of battery to use active noise cancellation and white noise, or natural sounds, for the entire night. Many neckband models have this feature.

It would help if you looked for models that last at least 12 hours. If not, you might not have enough power life and your earbuds will start to wear out.

There are currently no true-wireless earbuds with noise-canceling that can last more than 10 hours. Many won’t even last 6 hours.

These can be okay if they are used to aid in sleeping, but not if you require noise cancellation and sound throughout the night.

Noise Cancelling Earbuds Vs Headphones: What’s Else to Consider?

Noise Cancelling Earbuds Vs Headphones What's Else to Consider

Noise Cancelling Technology

Noise cancelling technology is another key consideration when deciding between earbuds and headphones. Passive noise cancelling seals the ear canal to block outside noise in earbuds.

On the other hand, headphones can use both passive and active noise-cancelling technology. Active noise canceling uses microphones to pick up external audio, creating a sound wave that cancels the external noise. This makes headphones more effective at blocking out exterior sounds than earbuds.


The size of the audio device is another important consideration. Earbuds are easier to carry because they are smaller and less bulky than headphones.

They are easy to carry around and can fit in a bag or a purse. Headphones are larger and bulkier and may require a carrying case. They work best in places where you stay still, like at home or at the office.

Battery Life

Lastly, when deciding between earbuds and headphones, battery life is important. Earbuds typically have a shorter battery duration than headphones due to their smaller size. However, many earbuds have a charging case that can extend their battery life.

However, headphones with active noise canceling may need to be charged more often.

Read more:


Noise-canceling earbuds block out more noise because they are smaller and fit more securely in the ear canal. They also block out a more comprehensive frequency range of sound but require more power to run.

They don’t need a headset and can be utilized with a smartphone, making them more intimate.

Noise-canceling headphones are comfy, compact, and require no hardware. These headphones are the best option for listening to music or watching movies.

The best earbuds for blocking out sounds depend on the circumstances.

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