10 Types of Headphones: Which One Is Better?

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Last updatedLast updated: May 23, 2021
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In the evergreen words of a music veteran, “music is the universal language of mankind”, and guess what? Headphones are one of the ways to engage in this artistry. Most people have experienced those valued times you turn off the world by turning your music on, and you just travel out of where you are mentally and change your mood only with a few beats. Some might wonder: “Why I’m talking about the power of music instead of just diving ahead to the types of headphones?” But it is important to note that both elements are close to being inseparable. It would not be an overstatement to say that headphones have a special place in every lover of music’s life. It is also a known fact that you can listen to other things like movies, news, and the likes through your headphone.

Necessity, they say, is the mother of all inventions, and the sole purpose for the creation of a headphone is no exception to this. Headphones were bred out of the need for a telephone operator to be freed up. Before it came to be known as what it is today, headphones like computers had series of generations. There were several repetitive products which are prototypes to the hands-free headphones, and the first of its kind was developed in the 1890s by a British company called the Electrophone, making room for their clients to join the live streaming of performances at theatres through the use of a pair of huge earphones that linked below the chin and held by a long rod.

Headphones are like the opposite of a loudspeaker as it allows a sole user listen to an audio source confidentially while a loudspeaker produces sound into the exposed air for people at close range to receive. They are otherwise known as earspeakers, earphones, cans as it is used in casual parlance and earbuds depending on the style.

Defined as a pair of small loudspeaker drivers worn on or around the head over the listener’s ears, headphones come in many shapes, models, brands, and sizes, and this is the reason for the existence of this article. That is, to elucidate and make crystal clear the types of headphones there is.

Comparison of Different Models

To every mood, reason, taste, and person, there is a type of headphone for that specific purpose. Hence, you need to figure out what your requirements are and proceed to choose the right one. With tons of headphones on the market, settling for one or picking a new pair can get tricky, and that is why you need to bear in mind the different models there is by means of this guide. I guarantee you won’t regret the time invested in this!

Closed-Back Headphones

10 Types of Headphones: Which One Is Better?

Are you in search of a pair of headphones suitable for traveling by public transport, listening while at the library, or while in the galleries? The closed-back design is undoubtedly the way to go. Closed-back headphones come in both the over-ear style and on-ear style. The former style covers the entire ear while the latter relaxes a bit on top of the ear. This model is referred to as close-back because they have the back of their earcups closed to airflow. An average closed-back headphone is able to block 8-32 dB of environmental noise, which is why it is the best pick for those who want to be rid of surrounding noise and make their music free of any external intrusion and people who are observing to hear every part of the notes of the music they are listening to. This feature of being able to obstruct outer noise makes this type of headphone ideal and used by musicians in their music studios.

The best part of this headphone is that the sound is enclosed in each headphone and sealed in. That is, it has a no-sound-leakage feature and gives you a secluded audio-encounter that even the person next to you would not be able to listen to what you are hearing except in the case where you are listening with the volume set high. They usually also come with a smaller soundscape making the user perceive that the sound is emitting from their head. They are relatively conventional, and statistically speaking, if you have a pair of headphones, they are most likely closed-back headphones. The reason for this wide acceptance is because it is known for keeping more sound in and more noise out, more affordable with myriads of brands to make a pick from compared to open-back designs.

Closed-back headphones have been reviewed to be suitable for disc jockeys, recordings, studying, open sound, traveling, or commuting.

Pros 

  • Private listening
  • Premium listening experience
  • Low music leakage
  • Better as portable headphones
  • Greater bass quality

Cons 

  • Bad for situation awareness
  • Less breathable

Open-Back Headphones 

10 Types of Headphones: Which One Is Better?

As the name implies, open-back headphones are open on the back, having an allowance for airflow. The drivers are not enclosed, so the sounds go unhindered and can escape into your ear and out into your direct environment. The outer shell for ear-covering of this headphone is perforated mostly in a horizontal manner.

It changes the audio quality positively by making a better soundstage, which is said to be the feeling you get about the direction the sound is coming from. It is possible you haven’t come in contact with this design because it is mostly used by audiophiles and professionals and mostly more expensive than its closed-back counterpart.

The airflow feature creates a more open sound wherein your music can breathe without feeling enclosed by sound. It also advances listening sessions by enabling you to listen for more time without your ears being fatigued as it is comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.

The open-back headphone is designed this way on purpose, with the purpose being that it produces a more open sound and makes it sound like you are in a room listening to speakers. It is mostly used by professionals who are in the field of mixing and mastering in studios and also audiophiles, which is why these are excellent headphones for ASMR. This is because it eradicates the build-up of frequencies like it does in closed-back headphones and gives them the sureness to trust the sound they are getting from what they are hearing.

Pros:

  • More breathable
  • Open sound
  • Less ear fatigue
  • Allows for critical listening

Cons 

  • Limited models to pick from
  • Not so affordable

Closed-Back vs. Open-Back Headphones 

10 Types of Headphones: Which One Is Better?

From a fair stance, one can’t say certainly that one design is better than the other due to the fact that they are both good for the purposes for which they have been made. This is a summarization of the necessary differences of both headphones

  • For better sound quality, open-back headphones are the best
  • To be consciously aware of one’s environment in cases of impending danger, the open-back headphone is also the better pick
  • For no or less sound-leakage, closed-back headphones help keep your music a private business
  • Blocking external noise is more efficient with closed-back headphones

Flowing from the above, there is a hybrid of an open-back and closed-back headphone, which is relatively rare, called the semi-open headphones. This type of headphone adds up the features of both open and closed-back headphones by having a style that lowkey allows for sound isolation and also sound leakage simultaneously. They are a great pick for casual listening.

On-Ear Headphones 

Next on the guide of types of headphones is the on-ear headphones. They are also called supra-aural headphones. The distinctive physical feature of on-ear headphones is that, as the name suggests, the earpads rest just on top of your ears and also slightly less bass. The vantage point of this style of headphone is its portability and incorporation of efficiency and compact design.

To some extent, the on-ear headphone is somewhat like the open-back headphone design-wise as it allows some sound from the immediate environment to get in and get out. Say goodbye to sweaty ears days with your on-ear headphone which does not subject your ears to pressure. This design is available in a lot of different models, with each one having special characteristics. But generally, it has been awarded the quality of being the most dynamics.

They are best used for exercising and also advisable for itinerant DJs going from show to show.

Pros 

  • Best portability headphones
  • Excellent sound quality with the right model
  • Better suited and more stable for sporting activities

Cons 

  • Can cause pressure on the earlobes, which makes them uncomfortable

Over-Ear Headphones 

10 Types of Headphones: Which One Is Better?

Over-ear headphones are sometimes referred to as circum-aural headphones. Like its counterpart, the appropriate answer to the question “what are over-head headphones?” posed is quite literal in the sense that over-ear headphones are made with larger earpads that fit around the whole of your ear. That is, they fit on top of the head and over and also the entire ear, so the ear cartilages are cupped. It would be the best buy for listeners who want to have a comfortable fit and don’t mind the larger size of headphones.

Unlike on-ear headphones, they allow for sound isolation and reducing sound leakage, which keeps in the sound you are listening to and creates an atmosphere of intimacy between you and your music.

Over-ear headphones often come in a closed-back design because of their high sound quality, noise cancelation, and leakage limitation feature. However, it would be a grave omission not to mention that there is a possibility to get over-ear headphones that are open-back as its breathable and allows for sounds to come in and go out. Compared to on-ear headphones, they are pretty comfortable with some over-ear cups made out of velvet, leather materials. They are usually bulkier and heavier and may cause your head to be susceptible to tiredness and your ears to sweatiness since it doesn’t really allow for air circulation in and out.

Over-ear headphones are best for gaming, home listening, rest and relaxation, studio use, and many more! For example, you find your favorite pair of headphones for EDM here.

Pros 

  • Absolute comfortability
  • Improved listening experience with good passive noise isolation

Cons 

  • Least portable

On-Ear Headphones vs. Over-Ear Headphones

10 Types of Headphones: Which One Is Better?

In short, the obvious differences between both styles of headphones are included in the succeeding paragraph.

  • On-ear headphones are compact and smaller in size, pressing against your ears.
  • On-ear headphones, due to their portability, allow for easy storage and portability conversation with other persons and also sense hazards, for instance, for those who go for a run on roads in cities.
  • On-ear headphones allow for noise from the surrounding environment to come in and go out, and with this, you can carry on with your
  • Over-ear headphones are bulkier, pressing against your entire ears and skull
  • Over-ear headphones can create technical issues in a bid to transport them from one place to another.
  • With an over-ear headphone, your can easily do your noise isolation when listening to music.

In-Ear Headphones 

10 Types of Headphones: Which One Is Better?

Satisfaction is redefined with in-ear headphones. They combine transportability, flexibility, and convenience all in one design. They are also referred to as canal phones or simply earphones because they rest on the outer ridge of your ears and go a bit deep into your ear canal and then rest inside your ears to get closer to your eardrums. The gains of this model of headphones are that it allows for comfort, sound accuracy, and sound isolation. As you have probably noticed, these are also the vantage points of closed-back headphones. Hence, they’ve been reviewed as the closed-back version of portable headphones. They are the most used and known type of headphone due to the fact that it is easy to use, and can stand as a valid competitor with the bulky on-ear and over-ear styles.

Generally, in-ear headphones’ ear tip is made out of silicone material, which gives you a sense of comfort and makes the headphone portable. Trust me when I say this is your go-to headphone when you are en route and exercising.

Based on the analysis, generally, they provide good sound quality, and it gets better if you opt for the high-end ones. There is a high ratio in the population of people with headphones owning in-ear headphones because they’ve been commonly accepted as the standard type.

An example of an in-ear headphone is the AirPods.

Having a comfortable fit of a canal-phone is dependent on you inserting them in a deep or shallow manner. They are called IEMs (In-Ear Monitors) when they are used in a professional setting by audiophiles, artists, and sound engineers. Many people prefer this type of headphones for drumming.

Pros 

  • Better audio quality and good noise isolation
  • They are perfect for sports because of their sweatproof and water-resistance feature
  • Portable and still sounds amazing

Cons 

  • Might strike as uncomfortable because of ear canal irritation

However, you should be fine with this if you do not increase the volume to the maximum with a headphone amplifier because the hearing damage is not caused by the closeness of the headphone to the ear but the sound volume.

Earbuds 

10 Types of Headphones: Which One Is Better?

It is noteworthy to state that earbuds are different from in-ear headphones. Yes! You read that right. Earbuds are placed to rest a little at the edge of the ear canals. The feel wearing an earbud gives you is the same one you get when you insert your pinky finger in your ear. The term earbud is also used interchangeably to mean earbuds. This will be the best buy for listeners who are in need of an ultra-portable design and find the in-ear headphone fit quite uncomfortable.

In recent times, it has become sort of rare to find earbuds on the market.

Pros 

  • Comes with the specification of being water-proof and or sweatproof
  • Usually cheaper as a result of reduced production
  • Don’t completely cancel noise

Cons 

  • Almost impossible to get a high-end model
  • Comes in a single size, which might be uncomfortable for people with different shapes of ears

In-Ear Headphones vs. Earbuds 

Again, in the end, it all boils down to what each individual prefers personally. They are both good ones depending on your want, need, or purpose. Below are is the major distinctive feature of in-ear headphones and earbuds.

  • In-ear headphones are inserted in the ear canal while earbuds rest on the opening outside the ear canal called concha.

Noise-Cancelling and Noise-Isolating Headphones 

It doesn’t seem like a lot of difference when you think of sweet potatoes and yam, jam and jelly, and other things used interchangeably at first. But on second thought, they are fundamentally different in their own ways, and noise-canceling and noise-isolating headphones are no exemption to this. The difference they have is how they get rid of ambient noise.

Shortly after the first invention of headphones, Engineer Nath Baldwin invented audio headphones on his kitchen table in 1910, and the Navy ordered 100 pairs. Even today, this model of headphones is prevalent for air travel because of its ability to block out immediate environmental noise from other passengers and the high frequencies of the plane’s engine. Before going appropriately into the discovery of which is right for you, it is pertinent we understand what the phrase “noise cancelling” and “noise isolating” means.

Noise-canceling headphones make use of multiple microphones to pick up noise around you and send it back to your ears with the power of cancellation, while noise-isolating headphones tell you how well headphones block ambient noise physically. Check the WHCH700N model from Sony for a major example of noise-canceling headphones. Noise-isolation technology is simple as it just puts a barricade, which comes in the form of earbuds between your ear canal and the world outside.

Because of the similarity of these terminologies, it is very easy to get mixed up in technical Bermuda, and as a reason, the clip below has been prepared specially for you to broaden your knowledge and guide you as a prospective purchaser of a headset.

Pros 

  • Offers you excellent hearing protection against constant levels of noise
  • You don’t have to replace with even louder sounds
  • Useful for traveling, especially for people who travel on commuter trains or airplanes
  • Allows you to talk more comfortably on the phone

Cons 

  • They are more complex and more expensive than standard headphones
  • The internal components use a lot of power

Connection Types 

Connection wise, there are two types of connection for headphones, and they are wired and wireless.

Wired Headphones 

The earliest of them is the wired headphone which comes with a cable. It is old but gold and encompasses trustworthy technology.

The most known of its kind is the 3.5mm AUX headphone jack, or, as known commonly, the plug. It can be connected to most MP3 players, smartphones, laptops, tablets, radios, and other different audio devices having the AUX plug. The next jack on the list of wired headphones is the 6.3mm plug, which connects to amplifiers and better audio systems. It is bigger and mostly used by top-notch professional headphones. It should be noted that both jacks stated above are analog connections, while some headphones, although scarce, have a digital connection. Last but not least, on the different jacks available on the market is the optical cable, which can also be used to connect to a headphone, although it is rare because it lacks popularity with standard headphones.

Wireless Headphones 

10 Types of Headphones: Which One Is Better?

In recent times, the use of wireless headphones has spread like wildfire. It has even been said that the future of headphones is “wireless”.

Although there are many wireless technologies out there, Bluetooth remains the most used. Bluetooth is commonly used, allowed by a lot of gadgets, and it keeps getting better year-in-year-out with the poor connection and inactivity removed. As a result, you have been awarded the opportunity to enjoy your movies and music in the same quality.

Let it be known that although Bluetooth has emerged as the most used, there are other types of wireless technologies, one of which is that based on radio technology called the wireless gaming headsets. Headsets with radio frequencies are built to breach floors and walls better than Bluetooth.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Headphone 

The following consists of things you should consider before buying a headphone:

  • Will I be using them in a noisy environment?
  • Will they be in use while you are engaging in active sports?
  • What budget do I want to work around? Would I get more specifications if I pay more?
  • Is fashion important?
  • Will I be using the headphones primarily with a phone or tablet?

When you have answered these questions yourself with conviction, then you can pinpoint what exactly you need when you find it. It is important to note that what headphone is suitable for Miss A might not work out for Mr. B as it all depends on the purpose which you need them for.

Final Thoughts

10 Types of Headphones: Which One Is Better?

As stated earlier, best is subjective for each person. Over-ear headphones provide good isolation, comfort, and fuller sound but heat up your ears a bit in longer sessions. On-ear headphones with good foam are super comfortable but doesn’t provide complete isolation. Open-back headphones might not be used outside your personal space, and a lot of other controversies stated in the earlier part of this article. So, you need to figure out where you want to pitch your tent of controversies then you can make a pick from the myriads of headphones types.

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