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.

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 and 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.

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.


Technically, headphones and earbuds are both safe. However, this might vary depending on how they are used. Listening to excessive levels for extended periods might harm your hearing. This applies to both headphones and earphones.

On the other hand, Earbuds pose a little larger danger because of their design. IEMs lay even closer to your ear canals than standard earbuds, which transfer sounds straight into your ear. As a result, in larger quantities, they might do more harm.

Long-term exposure to loud music may cause hearing impairment (no matter the device). On the other hand, headphones are normally the preferable alternative since they are not as near the ear canal as earbuds.


Both headphones and earbuds may be reasonably priced. Models from each kind are at opposing extremes of the spectrum. It depends on the model, but earbuds are typically less expensive due to their small size and the materials used to build them.

Verdict: The price is mostly determined by the model. There are both inexpensive and pricey varieties of headphones and earbuds available. High-quality headphones are frequently prohibitively expensive. The same is true with earbuds.

Earbuds vs. Headphones: Which One Should You Get?

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.

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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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are Earbuds Bad for Your Ears?

Yes, in a manner. Some frequencies look louder than with full-sized headphones because earbuds bypass the pinna and deliver music directly into the ear canal.

Consequently, when played at the same level as full-sized headphones, they may do greater damage to your hearing health.

Earbuds vs. Headphones: Which are More Harmful?

Earbuds may be significantly more troublesome in terms of sound since they amplify particular frequencies more than headphones.

Furthermore, ear tips force earwax back into the ear canal, preventing it from properly cleansing itself. As a result, your ear canals create an ideal environment for bacteria to flourish, resulting in infections.

Why do people use earbuds instead of headphones?

The answer is simple: the earbuds play the real in-game noises, but the headphones/headset they’re wearing is a noise-canceling pair that also transmits white noise.

Why do pros wear earbuds?

eSports players use two headsets to hear in-game audio and communicate with teammates. Because crowd noise might interfere with gaming, professional eSports players use noise-canceling headphones.

Do earbuds push earwax?

Sweat and moisture are trapped in your ears by earbuds. Ears clean themselves with ear wax, and each time you put in your earphones, you’re pushing the wax back. Wax may accumulate in your ear canal, resulting in obstructions or impacted ear wax. Earbuds might contribute to an increase in ear wax buildup.


There are many factors to consider when choosing between earbuds and headphones. Earbuds are small, portable, and generally less expensive than headphones. They are also easy to lose and can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods. Headphones are larger and more expensive than earbuds, but they are also more comfortable and have better sound quality.

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