When you head out for the day, you always take along your phone, keys and wallet. You may also grab a bottle of water or cup of coffee. Today, most people add “headphones” to their list of must-have items, wearing them during their commute, when working out and even to help them get through their workday. What type of headphones or earbuds are right for you, though? Today, we’ll go through the different types of headphones to consider, covering on-ear, over-ear and in-ear options.
On-ear headphones sit against the ear instead of nestling inside it or wrapping around it. If you’ve seen movies from the 90s with teenagers wearing round headphones wrapped in foam, you’ve seen on-ear headphones. They also make large on-ear headphones that can produce richer sound.
On-ear headphones range in portability based on their size and how much you want to protect them. Some on-ear headphones will fold up so you can toss them in your bag and bring them along with you. If you paid a lot of money for them, though, you may want to use a hard case to transport them, which will take up considerably more room.
In terms of comfortability, whether or not on-ear headphones are comfy is a personal preference. Some feel that the headphones are comfortable, while others don’t like the feeling of something rubbing against or pressing against their ears. The material the headphones are made from plays a role in this, too. Leather headphones may be more comfortable than low-cost foam headphones, which can feel scratchy.
On-ear headphones have pretty good sound quality because they’re larger than in-ear headphones, which allows them to give off a wider sound range. However, the quality mostly depends on who makes the headphones and how much they cost. There are plenty of cool-looking but low-cost on-ear headphones that will have crummy sound.
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Over-ear headphones are what true music fans and audio experts will opt for. Over-ear headphones produce the best sound and are the most comfortable. However, over-ear headphones are not meant to be portable (though you can, of course, wear them when you’re out and about), and they’re not great to wear while working out.
Over-ear headphones are large and clunky, and they’re purposely designed that way. That’s what makes their sound quality and comfort level so great. Since over-ear headphones big and not easily transportable, they’re mostly worn at home or at work.
The cups of over-head phones cover the entire ear, not just part of it like on-ear headphones do. Because the ear cups of over-ear headphone are extra-large, they’re extremely comfortable. However, over-ear headphones can cause you to sweat, so pay extra attention to the material and try them on before you buy.
It’s also important to note that some over-ear headphones can be ultra-heavy depending on what they’re made of and which tech components they have. That’s another reason to try on over-ear headphones before you buy them or to make sure the shop has a good return policy in case they’re too heavy to be comfortable.
Over-ear headphones have the biggest drivers of all headphone types, which means they produce the largest range of frequencies. You’ll hear everything, from high notes to low bass. Also, since over-head headphones enclose the entire ear, they’re the best choice if you want to isolate noise.
In-ear headphones are what are most commonly referred to as earbuds. Think of the white headphones that come standard with every new iPhone – those are earbuds. These are the go-to type of headphones that people on-the-go use, especially if they’re going to be working out. Unlike on-ear and over-ear headphones, the shape of in-ear headphones is like a small pod.
The biggest perk of earbuds is that they’re highly portable. They pack up small and you can stash them in your bag or pocket or wrap them around your iPhone for easy access. While they make travel cases for earbuds, they’re so small on their own that a case will just add unnecessary bulk. If the cord gets tangled easily, though, you can either buy a tangle-proof cord or use a case that keeps the cord neat and untangled.
When it comes to comfort, each person is different. Some find earbuds to be comfortable and barely noticeable, while others get ear pain after wearing earbuds for just a little while. If earbuds are uncomfortable for you, try a pair that’s made with foam instead of plastic. Or, buy a silicon pair that has a few tips included – you can find the size that fits best in your ear for maximum comfort.
You may also find that the earbuds don’t fit well in your ear and tend to fall out a lot. In that case, look for earbuds that have a small piece that wraps around the back of your ear to stay in place.
While there are some high-performing earbuds with excellent sound, they’re not the best type of headphone to choose if sound quality is your top priority. Since earbuds nestle snugly in your ears, they can block a lot of external sound, but otherwise, the music goes straight into your ear canal and ear drum, which doesn’t give the sound the depth and richness that other types of headphones offer.
Final Thoughts About Choosing Headphones
When it comes to in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphones, you get what you pay for. Each type of headphone comes in a range of prices, from extra-cheap to luxury-priced. The more you spend, the more you’ll get out of the headphones, from comfort to sound quality. Also, many of these styles have wireless headphones options, which can be more convenient (so long as the headphone-phone connection stays strong).
As a reminder, on-ear and over-ear styles offer the best sound quality, but in-ear headphones are ideal for working out and listening to music on-the-go. If possible, try on the headphones before you buy them and listen to music on them. If you can’t do that, though, at least read several user reviews to get a sense of what other customers experience.