Headphones vs EarphonesHey everyone, John here. This may seem like an obvious topic, but there are a lot of differences between headphones and earphones... some of which are not as obvious as you may think.
Starting with the shape and size. Headphones, as the name suggests, fit on your head, and have a headband that sits on top of your head. At either side of the headband, you have the speaker housings or earcups. The earcups hold the speaker drivers, and are designed in one of two ways: on-ear and over-ear. On-ear headphones have the earcups sitting on the ear and tend to be smaller in size, making them ideal for portable use. Over-ear headphones are larger and have the earcups completely surround the ear. Because of this, they tend to be used mainly indoors or where there isn’t much movement needed.
Earphones are a lot smaller, and sit in the ear or in the ear canal. There are three main types of earphones:
Earpods / Earbuds
The older earphone design, or newer earpods, rest in the ear without going into the ear canal. This fit means that you are less likely to create a good seal between the earphone and your ear, resulting in an open sound that can tend to be a bit bass light. This fit also means that they will not isolate sound very well, meaning you are more likely to hear what is going on around you and people nearby will be able to listen to your music. Not ideal for public transport, but liked by sports users as it can be useful to hear your surroundings.
In Ear Earphones
In-ear isolating earphones have a deeper fit and will go into the ear canal, they also have eartips installed. This not only helps to keep the earphones in place, they also help create a good seal which improves isolation and sound quality, especially bass performance. In-ear earphones are the most common fit, and there are two ways of wearing them depending on the design. Cable straight down, and cable over the ear. The cable-over-the-ear design tends to provide a more secure fit and deeper insertion into the ear canal. This way, you will benefit from better isolation. Still, a lot of people prefer the cable-straight-down design as they are easier to use.
A quick note on bass performance. It is very important to make sure that you achieve a good seal when using in-ear isolating earphones. If you do not do this, the main effect to the sound will be a loss of bass... and nobody wants that. When this happens, the sound can come across very tinny and flat, so make sure you try all of the supplied eartips to ensure you’re getting the best sound possible from your new earphones.
Custom In Ears
Lastly, you have custom in-ears. These earphones are customised to fit your ear specifically. This is the best way of achieving a perfect seal, which hugely improves isolation and sound quality. This is done by having a mould of your ear taken, and then used to make an earphone that perfectly fits the shape of your ear. This is a more expensive option and is currently only offered by a small number of manufacturers.
There is also a big difference between how headphones and earphones sound. I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other. The overall experience is different and people will favour one over the other.
Headphones tend to deliver a more natural listening experience. What I mean by this is that with the speakers being away from the ears, sound is delivered in a more natural way. With our ears playing a part in capturing the sound, similar to how we hear day to day. Headphones can also deliver a bigger or wider sound due to the size of the drivers used and them being away from our ears.
With the speakers being so close to the ear, or even inside the ear canal, the experience from earphones is very different and can take a while for some people to get used to. Due to the fit being so close to the ear, and much smaller speakers being used, earphones are capable of delivering a very high amount of clarity and detail. Sometimes this can be overwhelming, especially for those who have never used earphones before. The close fit also means that sound can come across narrower and feel like it is coming from inside the head when compared to a headphone.
Ultimately, it comes down to taste and how you want to listen to your music. Both headphones and earphones can be used in a large number of situations, and whether you prefer using headphones or earphones – there will be a model out there for you.