headphones vs. Earphones

headphones vs. Earphones

What Are Headphones?

Headphones are two small loudspeakers connected by a band. They’re worn over the top of the head, resting on or over your ears.

Their purpose is to allow a single person to listen to an audio source privately. Each pair of headphones may look different, but their general make-up is the same.

Headphones generally come with two necessary choices: on-ear or over-ear and open-back or closed-back.


Over-ear headphones

Over-ear headphones (also known as circumaural headphones) have large earpads that surround the ears rather than rest on them.

They also often come with extra padding on the headband for comfort. However, due to their size and weight, they can be quite cumbersome when on-the-go.

These types of headphones are good for sealing against the head to help with noise isolation.

On-ear headphones

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

Thanks to their small design, on-ear headphones are generally lighter than over-ear headphones. However, you may experience discomfort over long periods of listening. This is due to the pressure of the headphones resting on your ears.

Because they rest on the ears, they are more susceptible to sound intrusion from the outside. This also means that loud audio can leak outside the headphones.

Closed-back vs open-back headphones

Along with making the choice between on-ear or over-ear, you need to decide on whether you want closed-back or open-back headphones. Let’s take a brief look at the differences between the two.

  • Closed-back headphones are headphones that have a solid enclosure on the outer shell. This enclosure keeps audio inside the headphones, directing it straight to your ears. The closed design also helps trap bass tones.
  • Open-back headphones have a breathable design on the outer shell. This helps with airflow and ensures your ears don’t sweat. It also helps create a more natural sound, as it eliminates small echoes. Due to their open design, however, noise isolation becomes a problem as there is no seal to keep sound in.

The majority of headphones on the market are over-ear, closed-back headphones. However, preference is everything. It’s recommended that you try out a few different types of headphones to find a pair that works for you.

What Are Earphones?

Earphones are two compact devices, each with its own driver. They fit either directly into the ear or rest on the inner part of the ear. They can connect to audio devices either through cable or by wireless connection, depending on the model. Their small form factor means they’re unmatched in terms of portability.

In terms of audio quality, headphones outperform earbuds at the same price point. Design plays a big part in this, as earbuds have much less space for internal components. For some, earbuds can also be uncomfortable, depending on how they fit your ear.

There are two types of earbuds: in-ear monitors (IEMs) and standard earbuds.

IEMs are designed to go directly into your ear canal, whereas standard earbuds rest on the inner part of your ears. Both are intended to deliver audio directly into your ear. IEMs also come with detachable ear tips that offer greater noise isolation. This also allows you to customize the fit to adjust to your ear size.

In addition to this, they can appear in one of these three different connection types:

  • Wired – Both earbuds are connected via a cable that plugs directly into an audio source.
  • Wireless – Both earbuds are connected via a cable to each other but connect to an audio source wirelessly.
  • True Wireless – The earbuds connect to each other and the audio source wirelessly.