Are Headphones Better Than Earbuds? Let’s Settle The Debate

People often see their podcasts and music choices as parts of who they are. That’s why picking between earbuds and headphones can be a big decision for them. These devices are very personal because they play your favorite music and spend lots of time on your head in your daily life. 

If you want something small and easy to carry that stays in your ears during a sweaty exercise, a good set of wireless earbuds might be what you’re after. 

But if you’re aiming for the best sound quality or like to block out the outside world completely, buying over-ear headphones might suit you better. So, are headphones better than earbuds? Here, we’ll answer that question and talk about what makes headphones and earbuds different.

What Are Headphones?

Headphones are a kind of audio instrument for listening to songs without disturbing others. They come in various types. These devices don’t go inside the ears but rest on or over them using earpads.

You can use headphones for professional tasks, like monitoring audio in a recording studio or for personal listening. Some headphones are specially made for particular devices, like computers or music players. Headphones have two main parts. 

One of them is the ear cups that sit over the ears. The other one is the headband that goes over the head to keep the ear cups in their positions. You can open or close the ear cups and pad them for comfort.

Know The Types Of Headphones

Headphones have different sizes and shapes, but we can group them into four main types: over-ear, on-ear, closed-back, and open-back.

  • Over-Ear Headphones

Over-ear headphones, also called circumaural headphones, are the most famous type of headphones for everyday use. They have big earpads that encircle your ears instead of resting on them. 

These headphones prevent wear fatigue during lengthy listening sessions without putting pressure on your ears. Also, they often have additional padding on their headband for added comfort. 

However, over-ear headphones can be a bit inconvenient when you’re on the move because they are big and heavy. These headphones are great for blocking out noise as they snugly fit around your head.

  • On-Ear Headphones

On-ear headphones are made to sit on your ears instead of around them. These headphones are also called supra-aural headphones. They are usually lighter compared to over-ear headphones due to their smaller design. With a snug fit, they are great for activities like exercise.

Even though their earcups are considerably smaller, many still contain 40-millimeter dynamic drivers. This means that these headphones can generate powerful sound. However, wearing these headphones for a long time might cause you discomfort. 

It’s because on-ear headphones put a lot of pressure on your ears while resting on them. Since they sit on the ears, these headphones are more prone to letting in outside noise. It also indicates that others around you can hear loud sounds from the headphones.

  • Open-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones have drivers that are exposed to the outside through openings and a wire mesh. Their design allows better airflow and prevents your ears from getting sweaty. 

As a result, they become more convenient to wear for a long time. Though this design produces a natural sound by removing echoes, these headphones are not very good at blocking outside noise. 

Also, open-back headphones are excellent at recreating a large soundstage, which gives you the feeling of listening to speakers in a room rather than through headphones. However, because the earcups are completely open, they let sound leak out, even when you’re not using them at max volume.

  • Closed-Back Headphones

Most headphones available on the market are equipped with closed-back earcups. These headphones contain a strong enclosure on the outer surface that keeps the sound inside the headphones and directs it straight to the ears.

This design helps in blocking external noise, making them great for use in noisy places. However, sometimes, the sound might feel closed or confined. The closed structure also assists in capturing bass tones. 

The biggest disadvantage of closed-back headphones is that they may not provide the expansive feeling of sound or airiness as if you are listening to speakers in a room. Instead, the sound might feel more intimate and contained, seemingly inside your head.

What Are Earbuds?

Earbuds are small headphones that either sit just outside of your ear canal or inside it. They’re not generally a single unit like headphones. Instead, earbuds are two separate devices, each with its own audio driver that fits straight inside your ear or sits on the inside part of your ear. 

Compared to headphones, earbuds are smaller and simpler, having fewer parts to make them lightweight and easy to carry around. They can link with devices via a wireless connection or cable, depending on the earbud’s model. 

In terms of sound quality, headphones perform better than earbuds at the exact same price level. This is because earbuds have less space for internal parts due to their smaller size. Furthermore, for some people, earbuds might not be very comfortable, depending on the way they fit in the ear.

Understand The Types Of Earbuds

Earbuds are portable, tiny speakers meant to be worn in the ear. They’re well-liked by folks who enjoy audiobooks and music while moving around. They’re popular among folks who enjoy audiobooks and music while moving around. These earbuds come in three main categories. They are in-ear, over-ear, and on-ear.

  • In-Ear Earbuds

The most popular category of earbuds is the in-ear earbuds. They fit nicely into your ear canal, and you can wear them for a long time without discomfort. These earbuds are made to go straight into the ear canal. They also have removable ear tips for better noise isolation. It lets you customize the earbuds to fit your ear size.

  • Over-Ear Earbuds

These earbuds are the biggest types. They sit over the ear’s top and stay in place using a clip or band. Over-ear earbuds offer high-quality sound, but they can feel heavy and uncomfortable due to their size.

  • On-Ear Earbuds

On-ear earbuds also rest on the ear’s top and stay in their position by a clip or band. They’re less prone to falling out compared to in-ear earbuds. However, you can start feeling uncomfortable after wearing them for a long time.

When Should You Buy Headphones?

  • You Want The Battery To Last Longer

Headphones typically last longer on one charge compared to earbuds. On average, AirPods have a battery life of less than five hours. In contrast, many top headphones can last well over a whole day. 

For instance, the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds last around six hours on a single charge. Meanwhile, their over-ear counterparts, the WH-1000XM4s, have a battery life of 30 hours. 

When you consider the extra battery life from the earbuds’ charging case, which is generally about 10-20 hours, the battery life’s gap becomes a bit closer. However, in terms of constant music playback, headphones usually last much longer compared to their smaller counterparts.

  • You Want To Be Sure They Will Always Stay On

One big issue with earbuds is that they sit in your ear and might fall out unexpectedly. For this reason, many high-quality earbuds have a “find my earbuds” feature. If you tend to lose your earbuds often, headphones are a better option. 

Constantly pushing an earbud inside your ear to keep it in place can lead to uncomfortable earwax accumulation in the ear over time. In such cases, you need to clean and sanitize the earbuds on a regular basis. 

On the contrary, headphones stay put on your head until you remove them. The risk of losing headphones is way lower compared to the chance of losing earbuds, especially during your morning commute. Furthermore, they don’t gather earwax.

  • You Like To Utilize Them For Gaming Purposes

Gaming demands top performance, and earbuds cannot match the specialty headphones’ performances. Larger headphones offer better sound quality, which provides an excellent gaming experience to you. Also, they are more comfortable for lengthy gaming sessions. 

Professional gamers would like closed-back headphones that block outside noise. Casual gamers who play alone might prefer open-back headphones that have a larger soundstage. In addition, dedicated gaming headsets often come with virtual surround sound, a feature rare in earbuds.

When Should You Buy Earbuds?

  • You Want A More Simple Style

Over-ear headphones surely look elegant, but not everyone prefers that style. If you want something portable, lightweight, and unnoticeable to some degree, then earbuds are your best choice. Most earbuds come with a small charging case, perfect for storing and recharging them.

They are simple to put in your ears for fast listening, and some are so unnoticeable that people might not even notice that you are wearing them. If you listen to podcasts and music for hours every day and find that headphones give you a headache after some hours, earbuds might be a better option.

  • You Do Excercise Regularly

When you sweat a lot from a hard exercise, do you want those big headphones getting all wet? 

Wireless earbuds are a much better choice for workouts. They won’t bother you as much while you lift weights or run. Some earbuds, like Bose Sport Earbuds and Powerbeats Pro are made for active people. 

They have ergonomic designs and can handle rain and sweat. Even popular wireless earbuds like Galaxy Buds Pro and AirPods Pro are good for the gym. They can resist water and have various ear tips to give a comfortable fit for your ears.

  • You Want Affordability

You can find different qualities of headphones and earbuds. Some cost a lot, while others are more affordable. Cheap wireless headphones exist, but you will get a wider selection of inexpensive earbuds. Normally, earbuds are priced under $200. 

On the other hand, high-quality headphones, such as the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 headphones, might be about $400. In comparison, the House of Marley earbuds isolate noise and are built from sustainable materials, yet they are only $20.

Final Words

So, we can say that earbuds and headphones are both good for enjoying music, but headphones are better. They usually give the best sound quality and block out noise more than earbuds. Headphones also last longer on a single charge compared to earbuds. 

However, the final choice is yours. Whether you use them throughout the day or just for a short while, they should fit what you need. Now that you have the answer to “Are headphones better than earbuds?”, you can pick which one to get based on what you’re looking for.

David Huner
David Huner
I have completed my graduation from The University of Phoenix. Being a graduate, I’ve been writing on tech tips and products for several years. I love to write about all the latest trends in technology, as well as give my personal take on new products. If you’re looking for some inspiration or just want to read more articles like this one, check out our website!
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