Headphones vs. Earbuds – Do You Know the Difference?

They're Not the Same, or Are They?

Headphones vs. Earbuds

Headphones vs. earbuds is one topic that has become a debate among our users. While some claim they are the same, the others beg to differ. Nevertheless, to eliminate the confusion, we decided to write the post and help you understand how headphones and earbuds are different. Yes, you read that right. They are “not the same.” We’ve written a variety of posts on both so we know the difference inside out. Read further to know more.

Headphones vs. Earbuds – The Basic Difference

First things first, let’s begin with the main difference between both music accessories. What are they? Headphones or earbuds, which is better for your ears?

Headphones are bulky music accessories that were created back in 1980. Even though headphones-like accessories existed way before 1980, the actual prototype came into existence in 1980. As the name suggests, they are worn over your head. These days, you can easily find different types of headphones on the market, such as on-the-ear, over-the-ear, circumaural and so on. However, over-the-ear headphones are the best since they provide optimum noise isolation and a great hearing experience. 

Moreover, most headphones on the market come with soft ear padding that provides the utmost comfort. Headphones are popular among musical professionals, DJs and teenagers who love to flaunt their music accessories. They are chic and stylish.

Since headphones are large, they comprise drivers with big diaphragms. Since these big diaphragms generate powerful bass, headphones are perfect for bass lovers.

On the other hand, earphones are lightweight and a mini-version of headphones. Even though most earbuds are worn inside the ear, many brands have launched earbuds that sit in the exterior of your ear inside of digging deep into your ears. All in all, earbuds are more convenient to use and carry than headphones. Nevertheless, they are not suitable for music professionals and DJs who require the power of headphones to create magic. One of the most widely used earbuds these days is earplugs. They are wireless earbuds that sit inside your ear and block all the outside noise and sounds.

Read Also: 5 Best Invisible Earbuds in 2023

Earbuds vs. In-Ear Headphones – Are They Different?

Yes, earbuds and in-ear headphones are not the same. They are different. Earbuds are tiny, almost invisible, and sit on the edge of the ear canal. On the other hand, in-ear headphones sit inside your ear. 20

This is an overview of the basic differences between headphones and earbuds. Now, let’s look at the key differences on the basis of:

Headphones vs. Earbuds – Which One Has a Better Design?

Which One Has a Better Design?

As already discussed above, headphones are bulkier than earbuds. They sit across your head and on/over your ears. On the other hand, earbuds are lightweight and sit inside your ear. Both headphones and earbuds are available as wired and wireless. 

Headphones primarily come in two designs: open back and closed back. The ear cups of closed-back headphones are completely sealed and do not allow any sound leakage. Also, they do not allow any external noise to get inside the earcups. On the other, open-back headphones allow sound leakage as well as external noise to enter the headphones. So, if you are someone who likes to be aware of their surroundings, we suggest you buy open-back headphones.

There are no primary design variations as far as earbuds are concerned. However, they come with ear tips of different sizes to provide a perfect fit. 

Headphones vs. Earbuds – Which One is More Comfortable?

Which is more comfortable?

This is one area where the debate gets heated. While most users find earbuds more comfortable as they are lightweight, others incline toward headphones as they are worn on the headphones and sit on your ears. In simpler words, headphones don’t cause any discomfort inside the ears. So, it’s hard to judge which one is more comfortable.

The extent of comfort would depend on the duration of use, the purpose of use, and so on. For instance, earphones will be a better choice if you are working out, as they won’t fall during rigorous workouts. Moreover, you can use waterproof earbuds while swimming too. Nevertheless, if you have small ear canals or existing ear sensitivity, we suggest you purchase headphones. 

Read Also: 8 Most Comfortable Headphones in 2023

Headphones vs. Earbuds – Which One is More Portable?

This one’s a no-brainer. Earbuds are any day more portable than headphones. Most top-rated earbuds on the market come with a carry case or pouch for carrying them. Since headphones are bulky, it’s not easy to carry them. Even though some headphones such as the Tascam TH-02 Headphones can be folded and carried, earbuds are more portable than headphones.

Headphones vs. Earbuds – Which One Has a Better Sound Quality?

We have a clear winner here too! Since headphones come with large drivers (30-55 mm), they deliver dynamic and powerful sound. Some headphones also have more than one driver. Multiple drivers combine to produce excellent bass and sound effects. They also deliver different frequencies and enhance the overall sound quality. 

On the other hand, earbuds comprise smaller drivers (8-15 mm), so you have to keep the volume high all the time to enjoy great sound. Nevertheless, if you don’t like high volume and prefer soft music, earbuds can be a good option.

Headphones vs. Earbuds – Which One Provides Better Noise Isolation?

Headphones vs. Earbuds - Which One Provides Better Noise Isolation?
Headphones vs. Earbuds – Which One Provides Better Noise Isolation?

Per our testing and research, earbuds provide the best noise isolation, especially the in-ear ones. They settle inside your ear and block all ambient noise. However, you need earbuds that fit properly for the same. Earbuds that sit on the exterior do not provide noise isolation.

Over-the-ear headphones also provide good noise isolation, provided they are closed back and come with the active noise cancelation (ANC) feature. On the other hand, on-the-ear do not provide good noise isolation. The ear cups are typically smaller than those of over-the-ear headphones and they do not seal the ears completely. 

Headphones vs. Earbuds – A Quick Recap

Don’t have time to read the detailed headphones vs. earbuds comparison, here’s a quick overview to save time!

DesignBulky and largeLightweight
ComfortComfortable when not very heavy on the headComfortable for all except those who have a small ear canal
PortabilityNot easily portableEasily portable
Sound QualityMore powerful bass and sound because of large driversSuitable for daily use; sound best on maximum volume
Noise IsolationOver-the-ear headphones provide good noise isolation; on-the-ear headphones do not seal the ears completely.In-ear headphones provide excellent noise isolation. Earbuds do not sit inside the ears; hence they are not noise-isolating.


Now that you know the main differences between headphones vs. earbuds, do you agree they are not the same? We hope you do. Also, now you can easily distinguish between both categories and pick a product (headphones or earbuds)  that suits your requirements the best.

We hope you found the headphones vs. earbuds comparison useful. If you have something to share, please post your thoughts in the comment section below. Your questions and suggestions are more than welcome.

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