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Have you ever caught yourself losing your buds while going out for a jog or while working out in the gym? Well, the problem might not be in your device’s build but your choice. Yes, there are many different types of headphones and earbuds that are suited for specific purposes.
For instance, if you’re someone who is always on the move, it’s better that you opt for a wired headphone as it will always stick with you. However, if you’re used to sitting in a busy office environment and just want comfort, a wireless earbud with ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) can be a steal deal for you.
Like this, we’ll talk about different types of headphones and their use cases in this article. So, sit tight because we’re going to find the perfect pair of headphones for you.
Table of Contents
- Based on Fit
- Based on Design
- Different Types of Earbuds
- Based on Technology
- Based on Connectivity
- Comparison Chart for Various Types of Headphones
- Buying Guide
Based on Fit
Here, we’ll cover the headphones completely based on their fit.
1. Over-Ear Headphones
Over-Ear headphones are probably the biggest piece of headphones on this list. They have large earpads that can easily wrap around your ears. These headphones are designed to cover the entire ear, providing a comfortable fit for prolonged use. Thanks to their shape, they have comparatively a superior sound quality and noise isolation than other types of headphone.
These headphones are great for traveling and commuting as they provide good isolation from the unwanted noise coming from the background. These headphones are not only good for your regular use, but they are also preferred by studio professionals in music production, who focus on natural and precise reproduction of sound for mix master.
- Studio Recording: Over-ear headphones deliver a very accurate sound and let the sound engineers capture the precise audio details.
- Travel and Commuting: These headphones are perfect for travelling, as it offers effective noise isolation, which is ideal for blocking ambient sounds while you’re surrounded by unwanted noise.
- Home Entertainment: Thanks to the rich audio, these headphones instantly enhance your movie or series-watching experiences. This means that you can use these headphones for your entertainment purposes as they deliver a very crisp and rich audio.
- Gaming: With a solid immersive audio experience, these headphones are the ideal choice for gamers as well.
2. On-Ear Headphones
On-ear headphones, also referred to as supra-aural headphones, emerge as a popular choice that successfully finds a middle ground between over-ear and in-ear options like Moshi Vortex 2. They tend to rest on the ears rather than encompassing them, and offer a comfortable fit for long listening sessions. Their compact design makes them more portable and suitable for on-the-go use compared to their bulkier over-ear counterparts.
Yes, these headphones do fail to provide the same level of noise isolation as over-ear headphones, but they do offer a good balance between sound quality and ambient awareness. On-ear headphones are ideal for individuals who seek a comfortable fit and can compromise a bit when it comes to noise isolation.
- Daily Commute: On-ear headphones are lightweight and portable, which makes them a convenient choice for everyday travel and even lets users stay aware of their surroundings.
- Office or Study: The comfort and balanced sound profile make on-ear headphones suitable for prolonged use during your work or deep study sessions.
- Fitness: Many on-ear models are sport-focused. That’s why they are in huge demand as they provide a secure fit for workouts and deliver a very defined sound.
- Casual Listening: These headphones are perfect for those who want a decent audio quality without the bulk of over-ear headphones. This makes them suitable for a wide range of music genres and media use.
3. Open-Ear Headphones
Open-ear headphones, also known as open-back headphones, take a unique approach by allowing both air and sound to pass through the earcups. The result is a more open and transparent soundstage, like listening to music while being aware of your surroundings instead of just the headphones. Although they’re great at giving you a big soundstage, their design can leak sound, which can be annoying to people around you.
While using these headphones, the ear canal is left open, Which allows airflow and reduces sound isolation. Open ear headphones are appropriate for outdoor activities that require situational awareness, such as running and cycling. People who are concerned about hearing damage from using closed ear headphones for long periods of time can also consider these headphones.
- Audiophile Listening: Open-ear headphones are favoured by audiophiles for their ability to reproduce music with a broader, more immersive and precise instrument separation of different frequencies of sound.
- Home Listening: These headphones shine while being used in a quiet environment and thus are the best choice if you are used to staying back in your home and listening to music.
- Critical Listening: Professionals like sound engineers and music producers use open-ear headphones for mixing and mastering tasks, as they provide accurate audio distinction.
4. Clip-On Headphones
Clip-on headphones, also known as ear-clip headphones, uniquely distinct themselves from other headphones in terms of its wearability. Eliminating the traditional headbands, they feature clips that attach to the ears. This design makes them lightweight and suitable for active situations, but the trade-off can be your comfort over extended periods.
At the same time, if you don’t intend to use them for long hours and prefer a more secure fit than over-ear headphones, which can slip or move during exercise, Clip on headphones prove to be a great alternative in such situations. Not to mention, they do not require an earbud or in-ear design which makes them a great choice to have.
- Sports and Outdoor Activities: Clip-on headphones do not fall during any rapid movement, which makes it popular for running, cycling, and other physical activities.
- Portable Listening: Their compact form factor and secure fit are a great fit when you want to listen to music on the go without carrying bulky headgears.
- Users with Glasses: People who wear glasses might find traditional headphones with large headbands uncomfortable as they collide with their glasses. However, with the clip-on headphones, you face no such issues and that’s why it is preferred as the most comfortable piece for people who wear glasses.
Based on Design
Here’s a classification of headphones based on their style and design.
5. Closed-Back Headphones
Closed-back headphones find a place in the market because they have a solid material covering the ear cups, which prevents sound leakage and gives you an immersive listening experience. This design offers enhanced noise isolation and focused sound, with minimal leakage. They are commonly used for recording due to their ability to isolate sound and reduce feedback. They can also be used for a great music listening experience since they produce more bass.
Students, office workers, remote workers, and anyone who needs a quiet environment to carry out their tasks can also use closed-back headphones for added noise isolation.
- Recording and Monitoring: These headsets turned out to be a gem for the Studio industry. Musicians and sound engineers often use closed-back headphones for recording and mixing, as they prevent audio bleed into microphones and offer precise sound monitoring.
- Private Listening: Closed-back headphones are perfect for private listening sessions, keeping sound confined to the listener’s ears.
6. Open-Back Headphones
As the name suggests, Open-back headphones feature ear cups with openings, that allow the air and sound to move freely. These headphones offer a more natural and open sound profile. However, they lack noise isolation and leak sound quite frequently.
That being said, they are used for critical listening in a studio or by audiophiles as they produce a more precise sound with more detail and clarity. In summary, they are not suitable for use in situations where privacy or noise isolation is required, but great if you are using them in a quiet environment.
- Home Audio Enthusiasts: Open-back headphones are favored by audiophiles for home listening, offering a wide, immersive, and true-to-life experience.
- Critical Listening and Mixing: Audio professionals use open-back headphones for critical listening and mixing tasks, thanks to their accurate and unbiased sound representation.
Also Read: Understanding Headphone Driver Units.
Different Types of Earbuds
With a whole wave of earbuds storming in the audio industry, let’s check out their different types in this section.
7. Classic Earbuds
Before the TWS earbuds started taking over the market, classic earbuds were a popular choice. These in-ear headphones require a bluetooth connection to operate. These earbuds have a very compact design, which makes them ideal for everyday use and fitness activities. They come with rechargeable batteries that provide several hours of playtime and are perfect for listening to music, podcasts, or making phone calls without wires interfering with activities.
As mentioned, they sit further away from your eardrums, which is why they create a slightly wider soundstage than the in-ears alternatives. On top of it, a variety of ear tips are provided for a personalised fit to improve the noise isolation. Still, they lack active noise-cancelling technology and some of the more premium features of expensive wireless earphones. Lastly, they even tend to fall out of your ears at the slightest movement which makes them not suitable for people who are used to listening music while being mobile.
- Casual Listening: Classic earbuds are perfect for everyday use as they deliver a good sound quality and block away most of the noises because of its fit.
- Portable Design: Their small size makes them easy to carry in pockets or bags and are ideal for on-the-go use.
8. Wired Earbuds
Just when you’re too busy to charge your technologically advanced head gears, wired earbuds are always there to save your day. They are compact and can fit in the smallest of pockets. Still, on the downside there’s a possibility of the wires getting tangled.
However, unlike the TWS, you don’t need to charge them. All you need to do is plug them in with the 3.5mm jack and the lightning port in case of iOS devices and you’re all set to jam. In recent times, various brands have introduced several models with unique styles and designs to match every vibe. Not to mention, the cherry on top for these wired earbuds is its excellent sound quality, which allows you to enjoy uninterrupted music.
- Audio Quality: Thanks to their ability to deliver consistent and high-quality sound, these earbuds are suitable for audiophiles and anyone who prioritises sound fidelity.
- Minimal Latency: Using wired earbuds is a delight for those who appreciate low latency, which ensures that audio is in sync with visuals.
- Portability: No matter how occupied you might be, there’ll always be enough space for these headphones to accompany you.
9. True Wireless Earbuds
The magic behind true wireless headphones lies in their use of Bluetooth technology. True wireless earbuds are completely wireless, with no cables or wires connecting the earbuds to each other or the device. Once your device is paired, you are all set to enjoy music, and podcasts, or make phone calls without being bound by cables. That said, you can only charge them in their custom cases.
- Portability: True wireless earbuds are ultra-portable. These earbuds fit comfortably in the ears, just like their pocket-sized charging case finds a place to be carried away easily.
- Convenience: With no hassle of wires, these earbuds provide a tangle-free experience. This also makes them great for daily commutes, workouts, and activities.
10. Wireless Earbuds with a Cable
If you’re a tech geek, you must be aware of Wireless earbuds with a cable. Popularly known as neckband earphones, these headsets are in great demand in the current marketplace. Although, these headphones support wireless connectivity between the earbuds and the device, they are still connected to each other by a cable that rests behind the neck. This cable is usually made of rubber, silicone, or other materials that are flexible and can be bent or twisted easily. Also, the cable serves as a way to keep the earbuds securely in place and prevent them from falling out.
In recent times, big brands have started to produce these wireless earbuds with a cable. For example, brands like JBL, Skullcandy, Sony, etc. are all launching great neckband earbuds.
- Active Lifestyle: These earbuds are suitable for active individuals who want the freedom of wireless technology combined with the security of a neckband to prevent loss or damage to their headgear.
- Workout Sessions: The Neckband cable keeps the earbuds securely in place during vigorous workouts, ensuring they don’t fall off. Plus, most of these headphones come with a sweatproof technology, which adds a point to its list of efficiencies.
- Functionality: The best part of these neckband headsets is that you can control them directly if they are paired with your device. This feature comes to life with the inbuilt voice-assistant technology.
Based on Technology
Here’s a distinction of headphones based on their technological specifications.
When headphones are combined with a built-in microphone, we get a headset. Designed specifically to be worn over the head, headsets make it possible for the users to go hands-free while communicating. This makes communication using headphones much easier because it is both convenient and efficient. Headsets can be wired or wireless. A wide range of devices, including computers, game consoles, smartphones, and tablets, support headsets. Since their launch in the market, they have been widely used in offices, call centres, etc., for professional use, and casually, for gaming and entertainment purposes.
- Voice Calls: Thanks to their ability to provide clear communication, headsets are a perfect choice for those who prefer hands-free calls.
- Gaming and Virtual Meetings: Gamers and professionals often use headsets to interact with teammates or colleagues, immersing themselves in virtual experiences.
12. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Noise-cancelling headphones are on the tip of everyone’s tongue because they use advanced technology to outplay external sounds, creating a serene listening environment without being too loud. Active noise cancellation (ANC) works by using built-in microphones to detect ambient sounds, followed by generating sound waves that are precisely out of phase with the detected noise. When these opposing sound waves meet, they cancel each other out, resulting in a quieter experience.
- Travelling: Noise-cancelling headphones are essential for frequent travellers. Effectively reducing the noise of engines and crowds turns out to be their prime feature. To unwind and rest while travelling, these headphones can be used to turn a noisy journey into a peaceful one.
- Focus and Concentration: These headphones aid in concentration by blocking out background noise in loud environments like offices or coffee shops. During intense study sessions they act like a lifesaver for students, because it becomes easy to concentrate without disruptions from other noises.
13. Bone Conduction Headphones
If you’re looking for a way to keep your ears open, bone conduction headphones are a great option. They are designed to rest outside the ears and send vibrations through the bones of the skull, directly stimulating the inner ear. Basically, instead of covering your ears or being plugged into your ears, bone conduction earbuds rest on your cheekbones and send sound through vibrations, leaving your ears open to listen to the world around you. In short, they’re great for audio and situational awareness.
- Outdoor Awareness: Bone conduction headphones keep the ears open, which means that the users can stay aware of their surroundings while enjoying music during activities like running or cycling.
- Hearing Impairments: People with certain types of hearing loss can benefit from bone conduction technology, as it bypasses the outer and middle ear.
- Multi-Tasking: Bone conduction headphones are great for students and individuals who want to listen to audio while working, as they don’t completely isolate the user from the environment.
- Comfort: Since they don’t go inside or cover the ears, bone conduction headphones can be more comfortable during extended wear, making them suitable for lengthy work sessions.
Based on Connectivity
In this section, we’ll focus on the headsets, considering different types of connections.
14. Wired Headphones
Wired headphones connect to devices via a physical cable. They offer stable audio quality without relying on battery life. While wireless technology is prevalent, wired headphones still hold their ground, offering reliability and consistent audio quality. To date, for a large chunk of the crowd, wired headphones remain a practical choice for various reasons.
- Audio Quality: With their ability to maintain consistent audio quality, audiophiles and music enthusiasts prefer these headsets.
- Low Latency: Gamers and video editors appreciate the minimal audio delay provided by wired connections.
- Affordability: Wireless headphones are usually cheaper than their wired counterparts, so they’re a great choice for anyone on a budget.
- Compatibility: They can be easily connected to laptops, smartphones, and other devices without the need for Bluetooth pairing, making them versatile for different devices.
15. Wireless Headphones
Wireless headphones connect to devices via Bluetooth or other wireless technologies, offering freedom of movement. Wireless headphones have become a staple accessory for everyone, offering convenience and mobility. With advanced connectivity, these headphones provide freedom of movement and a cable-free experience.
Moreover, the recent advancements in Bluetooth technology have comparatively improved the audio quality of wireless headphones, bringing them on par with their wired counterparts. They come with a range of features, from noise-cancellation capabilities to touch-sensitive controls, offering an immersive auditory experience. As smartphone manufacturers continue to eliminate headphone jacks from their designs, the gravitation towards wireless solutions becomes more pronounced, making them a staple in the modern audiophile’s collection.
- Flexibility: Wireless headphones allow users to move freely without being tethered to their devices, making them great for workouts, commuting, and chores.
- Minimal Tangling: The absence of cables eliminates the hassle of untangling wires, improving overall convenience.
- Modern Convenience: With wireless connectivity, one can seamlessly switch between devices without dealing with tangled cords or port compatibility issues.
- Stylish Options: Wireless headphones come in various designs and styles, allowing users to express their personal preferences and stay trendy while enjoying their favorite tunes.
Comparison Chart for Various Types of Headphones
|Type||Design||Comfort||Portability||Passive Noise Isolation||Leakage||Fit Stability||Sound Quality|
|True Wireless Earbuds||Earbuds||Great||Great||Great||Less||Great||Great|
|Wireless Earbuds with a Cable||Earbuds||Great||Great||Good||Some||Good||Great|
|Bone conduction headphones||Bone conduction||Great||Good||None||Some||Fantastic||Lower|
It can be confusing for you to pick a headphone with so many options available in the market. That’s why we have created this buying guide to help you make an informed decision. Under this, we talk about the various factors that you must consider before buying any headphones. So, let’s get to it right away
First and foremost, you must realize the sole purpose behind getting new headphones. Do you need it for casual music jamming, workout, professional use, or gaming? Every specific use case has a specific headphone that suits a particular type and you must follow that. For example, if you’re looking for a headphone that you can use while working out in the gym, you can opt for a headphone that is waterproof and has a tight fit. Similarly, if you are looking for a headphone for gaming, get a headset with a built-in microphone and surround sound capabilities.
2. Battery Life:
Getting a wireless headphone has many pros and cons. For instance, it does save you from the hassle of wires, but they are completely dependent on battery power. That’s why, it’s very crucial that you check the battery quality and its life while heading out to buy a new headphone.
3. Sound Quality:
No headphone is complete without good sound quality, and it is quite obvious that you should consider this factor. Go through the manual to check the specs of your headphones’ sound quality, like high-resolution audio, deep bass, and clear trebles. Also, make sure that your headphones come with aptX or AAC support for even better audio quality when it is a Bluetooth device.
4. Comfort and Fit:
If you’re someone who is habitual of wearing headphones for long hours, make sure to grab a headphone that is comfortable to wear. Multiple factors like cushioning, adjustability of headbands, and ear cup size become extremely critical in such situations. Not to mention, in-ear wireless headphones should come with different ear tip sizes to ensure a snug fit.
5. Noise Cancellation:
If you are used to living in a noisy environment, the feature of noise cancellation becomes a must for you. Look out for those headphones with active noise cancellation, as they block out all the noise coming to your ears and give you an amazing music experience.
Although all wireless headphones support Bluetooth technology, you should double-check if your headphones have the latest version for better connectivity and a longer range. Also, look out for devices that come with NFC for quicker pairings.
7. Controls and Interface:
What’s the point of getting wireless headphones if you can’t control your music without pulling out your phone from your pockets? That’s why you should check whether your favourite headphones come with controls like volume, switch tracks, and answering/ rejecting calls. Under this, either the headphones come with touch controls or have a physical button to navigate such features.
8. Durability and Build Quality:
Your headphones should have a solid build quality and must be durable enough against regular wear and tear. Headphones are prone to taking damage as we always carry them, and that’s why it’s crucial that you get a piece that is durable enough to withstand such instances.
Just because it’s coming from a premium brand doesn’t mean that it is the best. This statement is also valid in the case of headphones. So, make up your mind and set a fixed budget for your new pair of headphones. With so many new devices launching every day, you’ll easily find multiple options, no matter what your budget is.
10. Brand Reputation and Warranty:
It’s worth considering the reputation of the brand and the warranty they offer. A good warranty can be a lifesaver if you encounter any issues with your headphones. So, don’t forget to check out the complete details of the product before purchasing it.
Gaming headphones with a built-in microphone and surround sound capabilities are ideal. Look for brands like Razer, SteelSeries, or HyperX for gaming-specific models.
Headphones come in various types, including over-ear, on-ear, open-back, closed-back, earbuds, and more, each designed for specific use cases and preferences.
It depends on your priorities. Wired headphones offer stable audio quality, while wireless headphones provide freedom of movement. Consider your needs for audio quality, convenience, and battery life when choosing between them.
We hope that by now, you understand the different types of headphones that are out there in the market. It is equally important to understand that the primary purpose of a headphone is to deliver crisp audio to your ears. So, before you get into the fancy details of a product, make sure to test its sound quality as it reigns supreme.
We have even added a chart that talks about the various aspects of the headphones and where they all exactly stand against each other. This will help you make an informed decision quickly, just in case you don’t have ample time to read our guide.
Lastly, we have also covered a comprehensive buying guide that will navigate you to get the perfect pair of headphones that suit you and are capable of fulfilling your requirements. We hope that we have cleared all the doubts that you had regarding headphones. If you liked this article, do share it with someone who is searching for a new headphone because our guide can help him make a quick and right decision. Lastly, if you have any doubts, drop them in the comments below. We would love to answer them.
Since the time I got my first pair of headphones in 2012, I’ve been fascinated by these little gadgets that have the power to change our moods through our favorite music. Whether it was the cheap $5 earphones or the premium JBL headphones, I have played my favorite music on tons of different audio devices for all these years.
At AudioReputation, I test and review headphones of all kinds. From popular earbuds like the Airpods pro to the expensive HIFIMAN Susvara, I always perform a deep test and present my honest and unbiased opinion to my readers.