Different Types of Headphones

What Are the Different Kinds of Headphones?

Headphones also come in different shapes and sizes. They can be wired or wireless. They can be in-ear, on-ear, or over-ear. And then there are all the extra features like noise cancellation and built-in microphones.

Choosing the right headphones can be tricky with so many different types with different features.

So, this post will help you figure out which type of headphones are right for you without overwhelming you with too much information.

Over-Ear Headphones (Full-Sized Headphones)

Over-ear headphones (Amazon), or sometimes called full-sized or circum-aural headphones, are the largest type of headphones. These headphones have large ear cups that completely cover the ears.


  • Over-ear headphones tend to be more comfortable and less likely to cause ear fatigue than other types of headphones.
  • They usually provide better sound quality and bass compared to other types of headphones.
  • They’re better at blocking out external noise.


  • They can be more expensive than other types of headphones.
  • They can be bulky and inconvenient to carry around.
  • They can make your ears feel hot and sweaty after extended use.

Closed-Back vs Open-Back Over-Ear Headphones

There are also two main types of over-ear headphones; closed-back and open-back.

Open-back headphones are a type of headphones that allow air to flow into the ear cups. This allows for a more natural sound and prevents the build-up of heat and sweat.

Open-back headphones are often used by audio engineers and music producers, as they provide a more accurate representation of how the music will sound in a live setting. However, open-back headphones can also be enjoyed by anyone who wants to experience their music in a new way.

On the other hand, closed-back headphones have a solid back that helps to block out external noise. This makes them ideal for use in noisy environments. However, closed-back headphones will have a smaller soundstage compared to open-back headphones.

When talking about headphones, soundstage refers to the three-dimensional space that the sound seems to come from. This is different from the traditional left and right stereo channels, as it creates a more realistic listening experience.

For example, you may be able to hear sounds coming from in front of you, behind you, or even above you. This can give you a better sense of immersion in the music or movie you’re watching.

Good soundstage headphones will make it feel like you’re in the room with the musicians or in the middle of the action.

On-Ear Headphones

On-ear headphones (Amazon), also called supra-aural headphones, look pretty much like over-ear headphones, but they sit on top of your ears instead of around them.


  • On-ear headphones are smaller and lighter than over-ear headphones. Some on-ear headphones also fold up to make them more portable than over-ear headphones.
  • They’re less expensive than over-ear headphones.


  • They generally don’t have as good sound quality as over-ear headphones.
  • They might not be as effective at blocking out external noise.
  • They might become uncomfortable with prolonged use because they can put pressure on the ears. This is especially true if you wear glasses.


Another type of headphone are earbuds. These are usually the cheap headphones that come bundled with cell phones and mp3 players.

These headphones have smaller one-size-fits-all ear cups that loosely fit in the ears (but still rest outside of the ear canal).

You can see an example of earbuds by looking at these Sony MDR-E9LP Ear Buds (Amazon).


  • They’re portable and lightweight.
  • They’re a cheaper alternative to other types of headphones.


  • Since earbuds rest on the outside of your ear canal, they don’t provide much sound isolation.
  • They’re one-size-fits-all, so they can be uncomfortable.
  • They don’t provide much bass and the sound produced is very flat compared to other types of headphones.
  • Since they’re usually cheap, they don’t last as long compared to other headphones.
  • Loose fit, so they’re not good for working out or running.

Today, earbuds aren’t very popular because they’ve been replaced with earbuds (next section).

In-Ear Headphones (Earphones)

Although earbuds and earphones are 2 terms that are used interchangeably, there is a difference!

Earphones (Amazon) look similar to earbuds but they fit inside of the ear canal. This gives earphones a much more snug fit, which can be important for people who are looking for the best sound quality possible. It also helps to keep them in place better during activities like working out or commuting.


  • They’re portable and lightweight.
  • They tend to have better sound quality overall than earbuds.
  • They create a seal in your ear canal that allows for less outside noise interference.
  • They can also usually handle more powerful bass tones without distortion.
  • Most earphone manufacturers also include different sized silicone or foam tips, so you can get a better, more comfortable fit.


  • Earphones are generally more expensive than earbuds. This is because they require more precision engineering to get the sound quality and fit just right.

Wired Headphones

Wired headphones are headphones that connect to an audio source using a cable. The most common type of wired headphone uses a 3.5mm jack, which is the same type of jack used by many portable music players.


  • Wired headphones are typically more affordable than their wireless counterparts.
  • They don’t require batteries and you don’t have to charge them.
  • They also tend to have better sound quality, since there is no interference from other electronic devices.


  • They can be cumbersome to deal with, and the wire can get in the way when you’re trying to do other things.
  • The wire can also get tangled easily, which can be frustrating.
  • If you lose or damage the cord, it can be difficult or expensive to replace.

Wireless Headphones

Wireless headphones receive their audio signals wirelessly rather than via headphone cables. It uses technology such as Bluetooth, radio waves, infrared, or internal memory.

Here’s a bullet list of the pros and cons of wireless headphones to help you make up your mind.


  • One of the main benefits of wireless headphones is that they allow you to move freely without being tethered to a device.
  • You don’t have to worry about tangled wires.
  • Wireless headphones are less likely to break than wired ones.


  • They require batteries, so you must remember to keep them charged. If the batteries die, you’re out of luck until you can recharge them.
  • Wireless headphones can sometimes be less stable than wired ones, meaning they might cut out or have static intermittently.

Wireless headphones are convenient and come in a variety of styles, including in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear. But there are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for wireless headphones, such as battery life and audio quality.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones are designed to block out ambient noise from your surroundings. They use special microphones to pick up incoming sound waves and then generate an opposing signal that cancels out the noise.


  • This feature can be helpful if you work in a noisy environment or if you want to focus on your podcast, music, or TV without distractions.
  • They can help you concentrate. If you’re studying for a test or trying to get work done, being able to block out distractions can be a huge help.
  • They can help reduce the amount of stress that comes with being in a noisy environment. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling, live in a busy city, or have noisy neighbors.


  • Noise-canceling headphones can be expensive. Some models can cost hundreds of dollars, which may not be affordable for everyone.
  • Another potential issue is that they can require batteries to function properly. This means that if the batteries die, the noise cancellation will no longer work.
  • Additionally, noise-canceling headphones can sometimes make it difficult to hear other sounds around you, which can be dangerous in certain situations.

Gaming Headphones

If you’re looking specifically for gaming headphones, then there are a few extra factors to keep in mind. Here’s a quick list of the pros and cons of buying gaming headphones:


  • You’ll be able to hear game audio more clearly, which can give you an advantage over other players.
  • Many gaming headsets come with built-in microphones, so you can communicate with teammates easily.
  • They typically have high-quality audio, giving you an immersive experience.
  • They have a comfortable fit so that they can be worn for long periods of time.


  • They can be relatively expensive, so you’ll want to make sure you really need them before making the investment.
  • If you plan on using them for marathon gaming sessions you might want to try them out first to see if they’re a good fit.

Keep in mind that not all headphones are created equal, so do your research to find a pair that will work well with your specific gaming setup.

Conclusion: Choosing Different Types of Headphones

When it comes to choosing the best headphones, the type that is best for you depends on your needs.

If you are looking for headphones to use while traveling, then you will probably want to look for a pair of earbuds. If you are looking for headphones to use while working out, then you will want to look for earbuds that are true wireless or Bluetooth compatible. And if you are looking for headphones to use while watching TV or movies, then you’ll want to look for comfortable over-ear headphones.

Ultimately, the best headphone type for you depends on your needs and what you will be using them for.

The only type of headphones I would advise against are earbuds because the sound quality is low and they are annoying to wear for long periods of time. Only use them if you absolutely have no other choice!