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
Short on time? Here’s a quick look at how headphones, earbuds, and headsets are different from each other.
|Headphones||Headphones 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
|Headsets||Headphones comprising microphones (built-in or boom) are known as headsets.||Wired and wireless|
|Earbuds||Earbuds 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.
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.
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:
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.
Let’s look at the basic differences between over-the-ear and on-ear headphones.
|Ear Cup Size||Large ear cups that cover the entire ear||Smaller ear cups that sit on the ears than covering them completely|
|Weight||Bulky since they comprise large ear cups||Lighter than over-the-ear headphones since they comprise smaller ear cups|
|Clamping Force||Since 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.|
|Usage||Suitable 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|
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.
Wired vs Wireless 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.
|Sound Quality||Since 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.|
|Convenience||Less convenient than wireless headphones since they have wires||More convenient as you can use them without wires|
|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 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.
|Battery||Do not require batteries||Require batteries and charging|
|Usage||Suitable for listening to music, watching movies, mixing, mastering, and gaming||Suitable for travel, running, walking, working out, making/receiving calls, remote work, driving, and gaming|
Open-Back vs 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.
|Design||The 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 Quality||Open-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.|
|Noise Isolation||No; the ear cups are not sealed||Yes; the ear cups are completely sealed. The person sitting next to you cannot hear what you’re listening to.|
|Usage||Suitable for audiophiles, gaming, and mixing, and mastering music||Suitable for gaming, travel, remote work, music production|
|Ventilation||Yes; since the ear cups are open||No; they can lead to overheating due to lack of ventilation|
Read Also: Best Open-Back Headphones in 2023
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:
- 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.
Headsets are typically used for:
- Remote work (check out the best headphones for remote work)
- Aviation (check out the best aviation headsets)
- Streaming (check out the best headsets for streaming)
- Driving trucks (check out the best trucker headsets)
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.
Wired vs Wireless vs True Wireless Earbuds
You’ll find three types of earbuds on the market:
- True wireless
|Sound Quality||Since 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.|
|Convenience||Less convenient than wireless earbuds since they have wires||Even though they’re connect to each other through a wire, they can pair with different devices using Bluetooth||They’re the most convenient of all earbuds. They do not comprise any wires at all.|
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 Bluetooth||Can be connected to different devices using Bluetooth|
|Battery||Do not require batteries||Require batteries and charging; short battery life||Require 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.