Earphones Vs Headphones: Which One Should You Buy?

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earphones or headphones

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It’s a tough world out there. There are so many different types of headphones and earphones. You’ll get confused by the options; we know we do. Which ones should you buy?

And what makes them unique from one another? What makes a pair of earphones different from a pair of headphones?

We’re here to clear all your doubts, and hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll know what to choose between headphones or earphones.

Importance of Choosing the Right Type of Audio Device

Having a good pair of headphones or earphones during your daily commute or morning walks to play your favorite music can make the difference between a good day and a bad one. Or maybe you don’t even want to play music.

You want something with noise-canceling features so you can drown out other sounds and focus solely on your work. We’ll cover all the features that come with headphones and earphones.

Firstly, we’ll briefly describe earphones and headphones and discuss their differences and similarities. Then, we’ll dive into which factors you should consider before choosing one of the two. Let’s get into it.

Definition of Earphones and Headphones

Here’s a brief definition of earphones and headphones.



Earphones are a small piece of audio equipment that produces sound. They have small speakers so that they can be inserted inside your ear. You insert them inside your ear canal to listen to music and other forms of media.

Earphones are more common than headphones as they are inexpensive and easy to carry around. You can take these around anywhere without ever worrying.



Headphones are audio equipment that uses two speakers held together by a band and are typically placed over your ear to listen to music and other sounds.

Headphones are generally considered more comfortable than earphones and can produce better sound because of their larger driver size.

Different Types of Earphones and Headphones

Both earphones and headphones come in various styles, but we will do a broad overview of them and talk about their differences.

Different Types of Earphones

There are two different types of earphones – earphones and in-ear buds.

1. Earphones


Earphones are usually entirely made of plastic, including the ear tips. They rest on the outside of your ear canal. They also don’t fit according to your ear and might lead to discomfort due to improper fitting.

They also allow more ambient noise, so if you are outside and still need to hear other things, these are well-suited. Earphones aren’t great if you prioritize sound quality, as the bass is weaker because of the outside noise.

2. In-Ear Buds

In-Ear Buds

These go inside your ear canal and have silicon tips that mold to the shape of the ear. This causes less discomfort and offers noise isolation as they create a seal to cancel out ambient noise.

In-ear buds also offer better sound quality, and you can enjoy your music clearly at lower sounds.

The Different Types of Headphones

There are two major types of headphones, on-ear, and over-the-ear.

1. On-Ear Headphones

On-Ear Headphones

On-ear headphones are smaller in size with smaller ear cups. They are smaller and sometimes even foldable, making them easier to take around. They rest on your ears instead of covering them.

On-ear headphones don’t offer much passive noise cancellation, so you can still hear ambient sounds. This makes them safer to take outside and in traffic.

You can also wear these in the office to hear what is happening around you. Because they press down on your ear, they don’t offer as much comfort and can’t be worn for extended periods.

2. Over-Ear Headphones

Over-Ear Headphones

Over-ear headphones have large ear cups that cover your ears instead of pressing them down like on-ear headphones.

They also offer passive noise cancellation because of their build, and you’ll hear less ambient noise with these on.

Because of their size, they aren’t as easy to carry around, but they are comfortable to wear for extended hours because of their design.

Major Differences Between Earphones and Headphones

Let’s talk about some of the main differences between headphones and earphones.

Here’s a major difference between earphones and headphones; driver size. Earphones tend to have smaller driver sizes, between 8mm and 15mm. Headphones are larger, so their drivers are bigger at 20mm – 50mm.

Earphones and headphones also differ in size. Headphones have a headband in the middle that connects the two ear cups. While some earphones have a band or a wire connecting them, it’s not necessary, and most wireless earphones are small enough to fit inside our ear canals.

Similarities Between Earphones and Headphones

Similarities Between Earphones and Headphones

Both earphones and headphones convert audio signals into sound for us to listen to. They use similar audio drivers for this, although they vary in size.

A lot of technologies that they use are also similar, several earphones have now adopted active noise-cancellation which used to be an exclusive headphone feature.

Each type of headset is different and suited for different purposes so it’s tough to choose between them, but here are some factors to consider.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Earphones and Headphones

Here are the different factors you should consider before choosing.

1. Purpose of Use

Whether you should go for earphones or headphones depends on the situation and what you will be using them for.

Earphones are great for casual listening if you’re outside a lot and need something you can keep with you or want something you can listen to during hikes.

Whereas, if you’re in the studio mixing audio, you can’t do without headphones that can reproduce the sound without compressing it down.

Or if you want something you can wear comfortably in the office all day for work or listening to music, over-ear headphones will be your go-to.

2. Comfort and Fit

Most earphones will only have an adjustable fit if they come with silicon buds. Even then, they are less comfortable to wear for long hours.

On the other hand, headphones have a more comfortable fit as they go over your ears, so the size of your ears doesn’t matter.

On-ear headphones have smaller ear cups that press down on your ears, so you’ll feel discomfort after some time. Over-ear headphones have ear cups large enough to cover your ears, making them comfortable. They can easily be worn for long hours.

If it comes to comfort and fit, headphones are the better option.

3. Portability

Headphone manufacturers are paying attention to portability and developing foldable headphones. Some even come with a case you can carry them in. This is a good option if you have the space to carry them in.

However, earphones are unbeatable when it comes to portability. Most wireless headphones have cases small enough to fit in your pockets. You won’t even have to carry a bag.

Earphones are undefeated when it comes to portability.

4. Sound Quality

Although earphones have come a long way, headphones have an unfair advantage because of their size. Their larger drivers allow them to produce a better and clearer sound. The bigger the drivers, the better sound can be produced.

Sound gets compressed in wireless headphones and earphones. Manufacturers are coming up with technology that prevents this from happening, such as LDAC and LHDC codecs. But the sound is still better with wired headphones and earphones.

Headphones also have the added benefit of sound isolation; the best headphones will still be superior to the best earphones.

If you want the best sound quality, headphones will be your best choice.

5. Price

There are many affordable headphone options available in the market, but they still can’t compete with earphones when it comes to affordability.

Some earphones might be costlier than headphones. But, if you are looking for headphones and earphones with similar specs, in most cases, earphones will be the more affordable option, and you’ll even have more to choose from.

When it comes to price, earphones are the more affordable option.

Which One to Choose?

We’d recommend Headphones if you can invest in them because they are superior in sound quality and comfort.

They are not as portable, so you can have earphones handy for when you’re traveling.

Earphones are affordable and handy to carry around but not the best to use long-term, and an ill-fitting pair can cause damage to your ears. You don’t have to worry about that with headphones.

Comparison of Key Features

PortabilityPortableNot as portable as earphones
ComfortNot as comfortableComfortable
Wireless CapabilitiesYesYes
Active Noise Cancellation Capabilities YesYes
Passive Noise CancellationWith silicon tips earphones Better Passive Noise Cancellation overall
Audio Driver SizeTypically 8 – 15mm Typically 20 – 50 mm
Universal FitSomewhat with silicon earbuds Yes with over-ear headphones 
Driver PlacementInside ear canal Near ear
Sound QualityGoodSuperior
Affordability Yes Depends


While it’s hard for us to make a concrete recommendation, your choice should depend on your situation and needs. Earphones are great for taking around as they are easier to carry and fit in your pocket. However, headphones should be your go-to if you want superior sound quality. If you are worried about portability, you can choose foldable headphones that come with a case.

We hope this article helped you come to a decision. Make sure to do your own research and decide on your needs.