Headphone Types

Headphone Types

Headphone Types

In this section we take a look at all the different types of headphones available. I will try to point out the specific features of each type and what the pros and cons are. Hopefully the information you find on this page will help you to make a decision on which type of headphones you would be interested in purchasing if you are in the market for a new pair.


Earbuds are the simple tiny speakers in what is usually plastic casing you often get free with a media player such as a smartphone. They rest in the outside of your ear canal. Usually the cord length is short, only giving you limited freedom and distance from your media player. But this is exactly the point: provide basic audio playback for your device.


An example of earbud heaphones

You might want to consider upgrading to a more expensive set of earbuds if your do like the comfort level provided by this type of headphone. For example upgrading a more quality, branded product can improve bass response. Often information such as audio response frequency is not available when purchasing earbuds. Sounds coming from the environment might not be well blocked as there is often still some space between your ear canal and “bud” left or your ear is simply not covered enough to isolate your audio experience enough.


  • Lightweight
  • Cheap
  • Can be quite comfortable
  • Most portable headphones type available


  • Usually basic Audio Quality
  • Can be less durable, especially thin cords
  • Bad for disguising environmental sounds

 View all Earbud Headphones that we have reviewed on the site here.


In-Ear Headphones

In-ear style headphones are very similar to earbuds and mostly contain the same technology. The only difference here is that the “buds/speaker housing” will have a sleeve attached (usually a gel type material) that will go into your actual ear canals. Usually the sleeve housing is actually separate from the little speakers, still keeping these at the end of your ear canals. However these little sleeves will direct the sound straight into your ears better than earbuds do. This means that you can indeed expect a better audio experience from in-ear headphones.

In Ear Headphones

An example of In Ear Headphones

A plus point is that noise insulation is better and certainly allows for a more private listening setting. Also they are often more comfortable or at least stay in your ears better. This means that the headphones are more practical for most users and can also be used for a range of activities whilst still staying in place.

There is no big difference in portability to that of the earbud style or will the weight make any difference. Perhaps one of the drawbacks is that because these headphones actually go into your ear canals a little bit, one should consider cleaning the sleeves more than earbuds probably and also sharing headphones quickly in a social setting is perhaps a bit less ideal.


  • Still lightweight
  • Still very portable
  • Can be bought with a small budget
  • Better Audio quality than standard supplied earbuds usually
  • Good at disguising environmental sounds


  • Some concerns with hygiene perhaps when sharing headphones
  • Can be uncomfortable or cause further discomfort later on.


On-Ear Headphones

On-Ear Headphones became very popular in the 1980s and 1990s with the introduction of personal audio. It was only later, from the mid 1990s, that technology allowed for smaller and far more portable headphones styles such as earbuds and eventually In-Ear Headphones. These days the materials used are better in On-Ear Headphones and the sound quality has vastly improved as well. So these are not simply budget considerations anymore, they are a viable type of headphones still very much worth considering.

On-Ear Headphones became very popular in the 1980s and 1990s with the introduction of personal audio. It was only later, from the mid 1990s, that technology allowed for smaller and far more portable headphones styles such as earbuds and eventually In-Ear Headphones. These days the materials used are better in On-Ear Headphones and the sound quality has vastly improved as well. So these are not simply budget considerations anymore, they are a viable type of headphones still very much worth considering. Most likely bass frequency response can be better in On-Ear headphones due to the size of the speakers being better at reproducing low frequencies with low wavelengths.

On Ear Headphones

An example of a pair of On Ear Headphones

The biggest drawbacks with this type of headphones are that they are far less portable than the types we have already discussed above and that there can be some audio leakage or even environmental sound leakage since the earcups do not necessarily form an enclosed fit against your ears. However this last problem is perhaps less of a concern with improved technology these days. Still it is worth keeping this in mind when you are interested in buying a pair. You might not be able to play these as loud in social settings and during commuting.

Although On-Ear Headphones seem very similar to Over-Ear Headphones one of the biggest advantages they have over the latter type is that because the earcups are not entirely closed over your ears there usually will be much less of a heat build up. Therefore the listening experience can be more comfortable, also because of the slight difference in weight there can be.

It is worth noting that some On-Ear Headphones may not always be practical. For example a neckband style pair of On-Ear headphones might seem like a good idea if you don’t want headphones to potentially mess up your for example. However such headphones may not be possible to use easily when lying down or even when resting your head against a seat in the train for example.


  • Perhaps the most comfortable type of headphones available
  • Reasonably lightweight.
  • Often better audio quality than earbuds or in-ear style due to large speaker, better bass reflex response can be achieved.


  • Less portable than earbuds and in-ear style headphones
  • Audio leakage to and from environment resulting in much less private experience.
  • Some styles may be impractical at times

 View all On-Ear Headphones that we have reviewed here.


Over-Ear Headphones

Over-Ear headphones has its earphone cups sitting all the way over each of your ears. As a result they can isolate the enivornemntal sounds very well and make your listening experience a very private one. As the space for speakers is the largest (bigger than on-ear ones even) you can expect the best audio experience here. Plenty of space to make it easy for manufacturers to include good bass reflex in these types of headphones. They can also be packed with the latest technologies such as wireless Bluetooth pairing and proper noise cancellation (though we are increasingly seeing these two technologies in the smaller headphone types as well).

Over Ear Headphones

An example of a pair of Over Ear Headphones


  • Can achieve the best quality personal audio
  • Provides the most private listening experience and isolates environmental sounds well
  • Has the most surface space so design can be very unique.
  • Recently made a huge comeback on the market and is seen as acceptable cool these days to wear.


  • Can get hot and uncomfortable as a result during extended listening times.
  • Not great for being active or even mobile
  • The least portable headphones


View all Over-Ear Headphones that we have reviewed here.


Wireless Headphones

Traditionally wireless headphones have always been over-ear headphones. The big reason for this is the size of the headphones allows for two main technologies which are required: the wireless sensors, these days Bluetooth, and of course battery power whilst still also offering the standard features one expects from a pair of headphones: good sound quality. However these days changes are all around and the same goes for wireless headphones. Several companies have taken the plunge to start to offer in-ear headphones which are wireless as well.

Wireless Headphones

An Example of a pair of Bluetooth Wireless Headphones


  • Ultimate freedom from cables
  • New technology allows for alternative headphone types and designs to adopt the wireless technology making the choice more interesting
  • These days easy pairing via Bluetooth to most media devices.


  • All wireless headsets will either require batteries or a recharge for them to operate
  • Can be expensive
  • Because of the features will not be as portable and as light in weight as most wired equivalents.
  • Not backward compatible with older media players or televisions for example

 View all Wireless Headphones that we have reviewed here.


Gaming Headset Headphones

Gaming headsets are usually similar to over-ear headphones, though some alternative headphones styles are available. The biggest difference with normal headphones is that there will be a microphone (with short boom) attached to one of the “earcups”. Note since there is a microphone this of course also means that most likely the headset will require a microphone port to operate. However more recently wireless / Bluetooth models are also available. Usually the headphones can be used in other situations fine such as listening to music or VOIP such as using them with Skype. Since a lot of gamers like to game for an extended period of time, perhaps a few hours or even longer the big recommendation here would be to look for a pair of headphones that are relatively comfortable.

Gaming Headset

An Example of a Gaming Headset

More and more these days do we see wireless gaming headsets, however these can come in at a premium price. The bluetooth pairing to modern consoles and computers makes complete sense I think. It certainly can help reduce the slightly fiddly two cable connection the traditional gaming headsets have.

One thing to look out for if you are interesting in purchasing a gaming headset that is wired is the length of the cable.


The standard over-ear headphones style is perfected suited for gaming as it helps to isolate the sound to your headphones thus not disturbing anyone else as much and should also help to block environmental sounds.


  • Listening and talking in one device
  • Usually the headphones can be used for other purposes as well
  • Usually doubles up well as a VOIP headset.


  • Will require a microphone connection if the headset is wired.
  • Cable length might not be sufficient since gaming situations can vary so much.
  • Finding a set that will be comfortable for longer gaming sessions might be vital.

 View all Gaming Headsets we have reviewed on the site here.