Headphones Vs Earbuds: Top Full Guide 2023

Earbuds Vs Headphones Which Is Better And Why
  • Anthony

Most people think that earbuds vs headphones are the same things. They are both small audio devices that fit in or around your ear, but some key differences are. Earbuds are usually cheaper and less durable than headphones. They also tend to have poorer sound quality. On the other hand, headphones are more expensive and have better sound quality. Which one is better? Read more to find out!

What Are Headphones?

What Are Headphones

Headphones are made up of two miniature loudspeakers linked by a band. They are worn on top of the head, either on or over the ears.

Their function is to let a single individual secretly listen to an audio source. Although each pair of headphones looks different, their basic construction is the same.

Headphones are often available in two configurations: on-ear or over-ear and open-back or closed-back.

Over-ear headphones

Over-ear headphones (also known as circumaural headphones) include large earpads that encircle rather than sit on the ears.

They also often have additional cushioning on the headband for comfort. However, they may be extremely heavy while traveling due to their size and weight.

These headphones are effective for noise isolation since they seal against the head.

On-ear headphones

On-ear headphones (also known as supra-aural headphones) are intended to be worn on your ears rather than around them.

On-ear headphones are often lighter than over-ear headphones due to their tiny shape. Long durations of listening, on the other hand, may cause pain. This is caused by the pressure of the headphones on your ears.

Because they lie on the ears, they are more vulnerable to the outside sound incursion. This also implies that loud noise may escape from the headphones.

Closed-back vs. open-back headphones

Along with deciding between on-ear and over-ear headphones, you must also pick if you want closed-back or open-back headphones. Let’s take a quick look at the distinctions between the two.

Closed-back headphones are those with a solid enclosure on the outside shell. This enclosure preserves sounds inside the headphones and directs them directly to your ears. The closed construction also aids in the capture of bass tones.

The outer shell of open-back headphones is breathable. This improves ventilation and keeps your ears from sweating. It also contributes to a more authentic sound by removing minor echoes. However, noise isolation becomes an issue due to their open construction since there is no seal to keep sound in.

The vast majority of headphones on the market are over-the-ear, closed-back models. However, personal choice is everything. It would help if you tried on many different headphones before settling on a pair that works for you.

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Headphones vs. headsets

In terms of design, headphones resemble headsets. The microphone is the only significant variation.

Headsets, like headphones, may be corded or wireless. They have a microphone directly connected to them. Furthermore, depending on the model, the microphone may be removable.

Depending on your requirements, a headset may be the preferable alternative. Headsets are utilized when headphones and a microphone are required. They’re a less expensive (and less cumbersome) option than utilizing headphones with an external mic.

What Are Earbuds?

What Are Earbuds

Earbuds are two little gadgets that each have their driver. They may fit straight into the ear or rest on the inner ear. Depending on the model, they may connect to audio equipment through cable or wireless connection. Because of their compact size, they are unrivaled in terms of portability.

Headphones outperform earbuds at the same price point in terms of audio quality. Earbuds have substantially less room for internal components. Thus design is important. Earbuds may also be painful for certain people, depending on how they fit their ears.

Earbuds are classified into in-ear monitors (IEMs) and ordinary earbuds.

IEMs are intended to be inserted directly into your ear canal, while ordinary earbuds sit inside your ears. Both are designed to send sounds straight into your ear. IEMs also includes removable ear tips for improved noise isolation. This also lets you change the fit to your ear size.

Furthermore, they may exist in one of three distinct connection types:

  • Wired earphones are linked by a wire that connects directly to an audio source.
  • Wireless — Both earbuds are wired to one other, but they wirelessly connect to an audio source.
  • True Wireless — The earphones communicate wirelessly with the audio source.

Differences Between Headphones vs Earbuds

Differences Between Headphones and Earbuds

Both headphones and earbuds have advantages. To decide which to purchase, you must first determine what you want from them.

While the observations below are a good starting point for what to look for when buying, certain variances will depend on the type and model and the price range of the headphones or earbuds you’re considering. Always read the user reviews first to get a sense of what to anticipate.

Sound quality

Sound quality is one of the most crucial elements to consider. Everyone wishes for crisp, clear sounds. Poor sound quality is unmistakable in any listening situation.

It isn’t easy to compare the quality of headphones and earbuds since it depends on the model. Both headphones and earbuds have versions that exceed the other. However, headphones often outperform earbuds in the same price range.

While the physical design might influence sound (for example, larger drivers provide greater bass on headphones), the model mostly determines sound quality.


Portability might be a decisive factor depending on your lifestyle. If you want to frequently take your headphones or earbuds with you, they should be tiny and lightweight.

Both headphones and earbuds may be used when traveling. However, headphones may be difficult to carry and use due to their size and weight. Earbuds, on the other hand, have been built to be portable.

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In terms of portability, earbuds, both regular and IEMs, are the ideal alternative. Because of their compact size, they are light, inconspicuous, and take up significantly less storage space than any other set of headphones.

Battery Life


  • The battery life on a single charge is merely adequate, although improving.
  • Their combined battery life (earbuds + case) may be incredibly long, rivaling the finest batteries in over-ear headphones.


  • Because of the larger shell, the battery life on a single charge is significantly increased.

Noise isolation

Sound isolation assesses how effectively headphones or earbuds can filter out ambient noise. The higher the noise isolation, the less you can hear outside your headphones.

Noise isolation is rated the poorest with standard earbuds and on-ear headphones. Their design prevents them from sealing against your ears and blocking out outside noise.

Because of their design, closed-back over-ear headphones frequently feature the finest passive noise isolation. Because the earpads cling around the ears, they form a seal that keeps sounds out.

If over-ear headphones are too big for you, consider IEMs. Because of the tips that mold and seal in your ear canal, they provide excellent noise isolation.


When it comes to headphones and earbuds, comfort is crucial. Nobody likes to feel uneasy when listening to music.

Over-ear headphones are often preferred if comfort is a consideration. They lay on or around the ears rather than within them. While certain over-ear headphones may still strain your ears, the ear cushions, and headband feature foam to assist in alleviating the pressure. However, you should evaluate the padding material of the headphones and whether or not it allows for enough ventilation.

Over-ear headphones are recommended for extra cushioning in the earpads. They also usually have to cushion the band that joins the two drives. This reduces their weight when worn. They also do not sit on or in your ears. Thus, there is no pressure imposed on-ear headphones or earbuds instead.


While headphones and earbuds can potentially damage your hearing if used improperly, earbuds are generally considered riskier. This is because earbuds sit closer to the eardrum, which can increase the volume of the sound that reaches it.

Additionally, earbuds are often used with portable music players or smartphones, which can lead to extended listening periods at high volumes.

Use Cases

The primary use cases for headphones are for listening to music or watching movies. They offer better sound quality than earbuds due to their larger speakers, which can produce more significant sound output. Additionally, they are ideal for use in noisy environments or when privacy is essential, such as in an office setting or while commuting.

They are ideal for exercise or outdoor use because they are lightweight and less bulky than headphones. Earbuds are also suitable for phone calls, video conferencing, and other communication applications.


Headphones and earbuds vary significantly in price. Headphones, particularly those with high-end features, can be expensive, with some models costing hundreds or thousands of dollars. However, there are also budget-friendly options available that provide decent sound quality.

Which One Should You Get: Earbuds or Headphones:?

For working out/lifting weights

Earbuds are smaller than larger headphones, give a more snug fit, and are generally water-resistant for that sweaty exercise. If you must use headphones, on-ears are the way to go.

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For running

True wireless earphones are lightweight and stay on your head better during quick movements. If you still wish to use headphones, on-ears are the lightest and most sturdy option.

For commuting

Any closed-back headphones or earbuds would suffice. Choose ones with active noise cancellation to eliminate outside noises like engine noise or road noise.

For working

You may use any headphones or earbuds that provide adequate passive isolation. Noise cancellation is a great plus, and larger over-ear headphones often provide the finest noise-canceling capability.

For flying

Because cabin noise may be fairly loud, investing in noise-canceling headphones is sensible. You may also choose ones with excellent passive isolation and use music to drown out the rest of the noise.

For sound mixing

Closed-back headphones or earbuds are preferred when recording since you don’t want sound leaking into the microphone.

When mixing, open-back headphones with neutral tuning and superb sound are the way to go. You may also utilize closed-back ones, which provide a stronger bass extension.

For gaming

Because they don’t want to hear any ambient noise, competitive gamers will want a closed-back system. When playing competitive shooters, excellent imagery is also essential.

Choose open-back models with a larger soundstage if you want more immersion. A specialized gaming headset with simulated surround sound is also an option.

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FAQs Headphones vs. Earbuds

Which is better for working out?

Earbuds are generally better for working out because they are lighter and less bulky than headphones. They are less likely to fall off during exercise and allow for more situational awareness, which is important when working out outdoors.

Can earbuds cause hearing damage?

Yes, earbuds can cause hearing damage if they are played at high volumes for extended periods. It’s important to listen to music at a safe volume and take breaks from using earbuds to give your ears a rest.

Do headphones or earbuds provide better noise cancellation?

Headphones typically provide better noise cancellation than earbuds because they cover the entire ear. However, some earbuds are specifically designed for noise cancellation and can provide similar isolation levels.

Which is more comfortable to wear?

This is subjective and depends on personal preference. Some people find headphones more comfortable because they distribute the device’s weight across the head. Others find earbuds more comfortable because they don’t pressure the ears.

Are headphones or earbuds more expensive?

Both headphones and earbuds come at various prices, from budget options to high-end models. Generally, high-end headphones tend to be more expensive than high-end earbuds. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and the price ultimately depends on the brand and features of the device.


While earbuds and headphones have unique advantages and disadvantages, the choice of which one depends on your needs and preferences.

For example, earbuds may be the right choice if you prefer a lightweight device with excellent sound quality.

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