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Buying Guides Earbuds vs Headphones vs Headsets Comparison

Earbuds vs Headphones vs Headsets Comparison

Let’s Beat the Confusion

Earbuds vs Headphones vs Headsets Comparison

Honestly, the earbuds vs headphones vs headsets comparison is boggling all our minds. When we learn the differences between headphones and earbuds, we’re faced with headsets and earphones. And, when we learn the differences between headsets and earphones, we have earbuds and true wireless earbuds. The confusion is never-ending. Moreover, with hundreds and thousands of headphones, headsets, earbuds, and earphones on the market, it can be daunting to find the right product if you don’t know how they’re different.

Are headphones better than earbuds? Are headsets better than headphones? We know you’ve been thinking about these questions. However, we’ve got a quick fix right here.

Almost every month, we receive more than 100 queries requesting us to solve this confusion once and for all. So, we’re finally here to put an end to this confusion. Read further to know how headphones, earbuds, headsets, and earphones are different.

Earbuds vs Headphones vs Headsets – The Basic Differences

Earbuds vs Headphones vs Headsets

Short on time? Here’s a quick look at how headphones, earbuds, and headsets are different from each other.

DeviceQuick SummaryTypes
HeadphonesHeadphones are devices that comprise two drivers. They are connected by a headband and are worn over the head.

Also, it is the main category or umbrella term that covers all other devices (earbuds, headsets, earphones, true wireless earbuds, and so on).
Over-the-ear and On-ear

Wired and wireless

Open-back and closed-back
HeadsetsHeadphones comprising microphones (built-in or boom) are known as headsets. Wired and wireless
EarbudsEarbuds are headphones that are worn inside the ear canal.Wired, wireless , and true wireless

Earbuds vs Headphones vs Headsets – Detailed Comparison

Now let’s look at the detailed descriptions of each of these devices to gain a deep understanding of how they are different.

Headphones

A Pair of Headphones
A Pair of Headphones

Let’s begin with the first category, that is, headphones. Please note that headsets, earbuds, and earphones are also referred to as “headphones” sometimes. In simpler words, headphones is also used as an umbrella term. However, headphones are a separate category altogether.

Components of a Headphones
Components of a Headphones

Over-the-Ear vs On-Ear Headphones

Headphones are always worn over the head. There are two types of headphones on the market based on style and design:

  • Over-the-ear
  • On-ear

Don’t get confused if you come across the terms circumaural vs over-the-ear vs supra aural headphones. In simpler words, circumaural and over-the-ear headphones are the same, and supra aural and on-ear headphones are the same. 

A Pair of Over-the-Ear Headphones
A Pair of Over-the-Ear Headphones

Let’s look at the basic differences between over-the-ear and on-ear headphones.

Over-the-EarOn-Ear
Ear Cup SizeLarge ear cups that cover the entire earSmaller ear cups that sit on the ears than covering them completely
WeightBulky since they comprise large ear cupsLighter than over-the-ear headphones since they comprise smaller ear cups
Clamping ForceSince they comprise large ear cups, they sit comfortably around the earbuds and do not clamp the head with a tight grip. Therefore, they are more comfortable than on-ear headphones.Since they comprise smaller ear cups, they clamp the head with a tight grip to stay in place. Therefore, they are less comfortable than over-the-ear headphones.
UsageSuitable for indoor usage; mixing, mastering, and recording; listening to music and watching movies; gaming

Not suitable for outdoor usage since they are bulky
More suitable for outdoor usage since they are lightweight
SoundstageWideNarrow

In conclusion, over-the-ear headphones are the most comfortable headphones on the market. They comprise large ear cups made of soft materials. Therefore, they feel cushiony and plush. Most of the over-the-ear headphones comprise headbands that are generously padded. So, you don’t need to worry about ear discomfort. Also, since they have a wider soundstage, they sound excellent.

A Pair of On-Ear Headphones
A Pair of On-Ear Headphones

Wired vs Wireless Headphones

A Pair of Wired Headphones
A Pair of Wired Headphones

Over-the-ear and on-ear headphones can further be classified as wired and wireless headphones. While wired headphones sound better, wireless headphones are more convenient. Let’s quickly look at the key differences between the two.

WiredWireless
Sound QualitySince wired headphones directly connect to the device through an audio jack, they sound better than wireless headphones. There are no latency or signal loss issues.

Wired headphones receive analog signals. They can handle more data than wireless (Bluetooth) headphones. Therefore, they are more reliable than wireless headphones.
With every new version of Bluetooth, headphones with older versions become obsolete. Moreover, wireless devices cannot transmit large quantities of data that are required to listen to lossless music. Therefore, no matter how excellent your wireless headphones sound, Bluetooth will always limit the audio quality.
ConvenienceLess convenient than wireless headphones since they have wiresMore convenient as you can use them without wires
ConnectivityCan be connected to different devices using the 3.5 mm audio jack; if you want to connect wired headphones to your Apple device, you can use one of the best lightning to 3.5 mm headphone jack adaptersCan be connected to different devices using Bluetooth or Near Field Communication (NFC)

NFC and Bluetooth are different technologies used for the same work, that is, data transfer. NFC is a lower range bandwidth provider, while Bluetooth is a larger ranger bandwidth provider. However, both the technologies come with the same kind of functionalities.
BatteryDo not require batteriesRequire batteries and charging
UsageSuitable for listening to music, watching movies, mixing, mastering, and gamingSuitable for travel, running, walking, working out, making/receiving calls, remote work, driving, and gaming
A Pair of Wireless Headphones
A Pair of Wireless Headphones

Open-Back vs Closed-Back Headphones

A Pair of Closed-Back Headphones
A Pair of Closed-Back Headphones

Both over-the-ear and on-ear headphones can also be further classified as open-back vs closed-back headphones. Let’s look at the main differences between the two.

Open-BackClosed-Back
DesignThe ear cups of open-back headphones are not completely sealed from the outside. Therefore, the audio produced by the drivers can leak out the ear cups.The ear cups of closed-back headphones are completely sealed from the outside. Therefore, sound waves travel in a single direction, that is, into your ears. There’s no sound leakage.
Sound QualityOpen-back headphones provide listeners with a more natural and real-word experience since there’s no sound echoing within the headphones. In fact, the sound quality provided by open-back headphones can be compared to the sound quality provided by speaker systems.Closed-back headphones also sound great. They are more bass-heavy than open-back headphones.
SoundstageWideNarrow
Noise IsolationNo; the ear cups are not sealedYes; the ear cups are completely sealed. The person sitting next to you cannot hear what you’re listening to.
UsageSuitable for audiophiles, gaming, and mixing, and mastering musicSuitable for gaming, travel, remote work, music production
VentilationYes; since the ear cups are openNo; they can lead to overheating due to lack of ventilation

Read Also: Best Open-Back Headphones in 2021

A Pair of Open-Back Headphones
A Pair of Open-Back Headphones

Headsets

Now that you know everything about headphones, you can easily understand what headsets are.

A headset is a pair of headphones with a microphone. Most headsets on the market comprise either of these two types of microphones, or both:

  • Built-in
  • Boom or detachable

Like headphones, headsets can further be classified as over-the-ear, on-ear, wired, wireless, closed-back, and open-back. Some of the most expensive gaming headsets on the market are combinations of all these headphones classifications.

A Headset With a Boom Mic
A Headset With a Boom Mic

Headsets are typically used for:

Earbuds

We’ll close the earbuds vs headphones debate with this section. Let’s now deep-dive into the detailed understanding of earbuds. 

Earbuds are tiny headphones. Instead of wearing them around the head, they’re worn inside the ear canals. Since they are small, they comprise smaller drivers and have a very narrow soundstage. Earbuds are also known as in-ear headphones or earphones.

A Pair of Wired Earbuds

Whether you are looking for the best earbuds for phone calls or the best gaming earbuds, you’ll find that most earbuds on the market come with multiple pairs of ear tips to provide an accurate fit

Wired vs Wireless vs True Wireless Earbuds
Wired vs Wireless vs True Wireless Earbuds

You’ll find three types of earbuds on the market:

  • Wired
  • Wireless
  • True wireless
Wired vs wireless vs true wireless earbuds
WiredWirelessTrue Wireless
Sound QualitySince wired earbuds directly connect to the device through an audio jack, they sound better than wireless earbuds.. There are no latency or signal loss issues.

Wired earbuds receive analog signals. They can handle more data than wireless (Bluetooth) earbuds. Therefore, they are more reliable than wireless earbuds.
Wireless earbuds are those in which both the right and left earbuds are connected with a wire. They’re not completely wireless.

However, they’re connected to different devices using Bluetooth.
With every new version of Bluetooth, earbuds with older versions become obsolete. Moreover, wireless devices cannot transmit large quantities of data that are required to listen to lossless music. Therefore, no matter how excellent your wireless earbuds sound, Bluetooth will always limit the audio quality. 
True Wireless earbuds do not comprise any wires at all. They’re 100% wireless. They provide excellent freedom of movement. Like wireless earbuds, they are also connected to different devices using Bluetooth.
ConvenienceLess convenient than wireless earbuds since they have wiresEven though they’re connect to each other through a wire, they can pair with different devices using BluetoothThey’re the most convenient of all earbuds. They do not comprise any wires at all.
Connectivity




Can be connected to different devices using the 3.5 mm audio jack; if you want to connect wired headphones to your Apple device, you can use one of the best lightning to 3.5 mm headphone jack adapters
Can be connected to different devices using BluetoothCan be connected to different devices using Bluetooth
BatteryDo not require batteriesRequire batteries and charging; short battery lifeRequire batteries and charging; very short battery life

Earbuds vs Headphones vs Headsets – Final Thoughts

Now you know that headsets are nothing but headphones with microphones and earphones are nothing but earbuds. Therefore, you bid goodbye to the confusion between headphones, earbuds, headsets and earphones, and close the headphones vs earbuds debate. 

In conclusion, headphones and headsets are more comfortable than earbuds since they are worn around the head. Earbuds can cause discomfort if you’re not using the right ear tips. Also, headphones and headsets sound better than earbuds as they comprise bigger drivers and have a wider soundstage. Nevertheless, earbuds are more portable and lightweight. They can be a good choice if you don’t want to carry the weight of bulky headphones on your head. Overall, over-the-ear headphones are a better option. However, the choice is completely yours and will depend on your exact requirements. 

The headphones technology is indeed confusing. If you’re still confused or have questions for us, please share them in the comment section below.