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Headphones and Earphones Audiophile 101 | Part 1: Over-Ear vs On-Ear vs In-Ear Headphones

Headphones and Earphones Audiophile 101 | Part 1: Over-Ear vs On-Ear vs In-Ear Headphones

Many of our readers have mentioned the confusion between the different types of headphones, most of this confusion is caused by the terms that are used and many times interchanged by people referring to different types of devices.  The following discussion of the different types of headphones and earphones will give you the basic knowledge you need to choose the right model for your purpose. 
In part 1 I spent some time on types by appearance structure design of headphones and earphones. 

1.On-Ear Headphones

As the name implies, on-ear headphones go over the head and rest on top of the ears. We were first a little confused when it came to on-ear vs. over-ear headphones(listed next), so to summarize what we found, think of it like this: on-ear headphones are a little smaller (nearly the size of your actual ear) rest nicely on top of them while over-ear headphones are a little larger so the cups can engulf your ears with some padding that surrounds them. 
Advantages of the on-ear headphones
  • The best portability among the “real” headphones (not considering buds, just compared to over-ears)
  • Can sound great (with the right model)
  • More stable and better suited for sports and running than over-ear headphones


2.Over-Ear Headphones

They are the biggest in size and probably the first idea that comes to your mind when you think about headphones. The reason they are called over-ear is that the earcups are big enough to cover your whole ears all around. Consequently, they’re also called around-the-ear headphones (or circumaural). This style of headphones is the superior model for noise reduction because they create an intimate environment between you and the sound you’re listening to. They are very capable of limiting noise leakage which keeps the sound you are listening to in and also allows the sound in the surrounding environment out.  It is possible to get over-ear models that are open-backed which lets them breathe and allow sound in and out. However, this style is usually closed-back as they are preferred for their potential noise cancellation, isolation, and high-quality sound capability.


3.In-Ear Headphones

Considering the design of housings, there are 2 kinds of in-ear headphones: canal phones and earbuds. Each type fits differently into your ears. Canalphones Insert Into The Ear Canal; Earbuds Do Not Insert Into The Ear Canal

3.1 Canalphones ( IEMs)  

The most portable and popular style of headphone types out there right now are in-ear headphones, or as some know them, ''canal phones".  in-ear canal phones, ear-canal phones, or they are sometimes even called ear canal headphones. These in-ear headphones feature ear tips with universal sizes that are directly inserted in the ear canal. As a result, the noise-isolating performance is better than earbuds. Deep or shallow insertion will decide whether you have a comfortable fit. Canalphones are called IEMs when they are used by artists, audiophiles or audio engineers in a professional setting. The benefit of this includes a few factors, such as comfort (for some, at least), sound isolation, and sound accuracy. Think of them as the closed-back version of portable headphones. This style generally has very little sound leakage, keeping the sound in your ear and keeping external noises out. In-ear headphones generally have a silicone ear tip for protection and more comfort. This ear tip fills the ear canal and allows the sound from the headphones to enter directly into your ear while keeping most of the sounds from the surrounding environment out.

3.2 Earbuds

Earbuds are the same as canal phones in terms of design. The main difference is that earbuds don’t feature ear tips and/or nozzles, so they don’t enter ear canals and don’t isolate noise as well as canal phones. While the tight seal plays a crucial role in how the bass comes across, earbuds will never have better bass than canal phones. Earphones are typically included with portable mp3 players.  Consumer-grade earbuds shouldn’t be confused with pro-quality in-ear headphones and earbuds designed for applications like monitoring live performances and other critical listening uses.   Earbuds are easily portable and very compact, similar to in-ear headphones, but they struggle to create true sound isolation due to the size of the little speaker. If you are looking for the high-quality sound it is tough for this style to compete with other headphone categories but if you want a compact model that is easy to carry around these may be for you. 
Truly wireless earbuds offer a bit more freedom than regular headphones. They offer a lot of options for all situations, whether you want to use them at the gym, at the office, or during your commutes. It has not been perfected yet, but it’s been very popular lately. Now, everyone is releasing a pair and we saw a number of established manufacturers launching their advanced TWS. There is some stylish design with cheap prices.  

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