On Ear, In Ear and Over-Ear Headphones: Which is right for you?
| Reuben Howe
When it comes to audio experiences, headphones have a lot to live up to. From immersive audio range to the physical comfort of the headset and potentially added features for portability such as folding mechanisms and NFC - there’s a lot to consider!
So, let’s narrow down the search and hone in on the base form your headphones should take. Overall, there’s 3 distinct types (Each with variations thereof) for us to sift through. Your choice will likely be a matter of compromising what you personally need from your headphones. Do you prefer audio fidelity and isolation? Or maybe you need spatial awareness and speedy on/off times for travel? There’s a headphone type for you!
Headphone Types Compared
Over Ear Headphones
Starting with what is essentially the baseline for wearable audio: over-ear headphones. These headphones feature thick earpads connected across the top of your head by a padded spine. They are by far the most iconic and traditional wearable audio device, so become many people’s first choice.
For a lot of people, the choice to go over-ear is based on trends and ease-of-access without having to research different types. Ideally, though, you should be getting the headphones that are right for your needs!
Pros of Over Ear Headphones
Passive Noise Reduction from Earpads
Lots of Internal Space for High-Fidelity Driver Units up to 50mm
A Focus on Cushioning / Comfort
Cons of Over Ear Headphones
Larger Size and Heavier Weight
Lowered Spatial Awareness / Convenience
In Ear Headphones
In ear Headphones are more common now thanks to the rise of Airpods and other True Wireless Earbuds. What sets these apart is the wireless charging cases, allowing you to recharge your earbuds without a cable for sometimes upwards of 40 hours!
Unlike over-ear headphones, in-ear headphones are tiny, silicone tipped little speaker units that at most feature a touch or single button control. They rest inside your ear, the silicone tips often replaceable for hygiene and size differences.
Pros of In Ear Headphones
Smallest and Lightest Wearable Audio Devices
True Wireless Versions Available
Easy to Put in or Out
Good Degree of Noise Cancellation with the Right Fit
Cons of In Ear Headphones
Intrusive Design can be Uncomfortable
Internal Space Allows Maximum 20mm Driver Units
Noise Cancellation is Dependent on Fit
On-Ear headphones are a little bit of a “catch-all” for devices that don’t fit in the other categories. While the most basic on ear headphones resemble over ear ones just with smaller earpieces and no padding, the range is actually huge.
For example, some earbuds clip on to your ear, rather than rest inside it. These are on-ear clip on earbuds and definitely don’t fit the over-ear or in-ear categories. Likewise, Bone Conduction Headphones aren’t in or around your ears, but also don’t rest “on” them, instead resting near your temples and cheekbones.
This range of devices falling in to the “On-Ear Headphones” category makes it hard to definitively say what this type of headphone is good for, as it may change from device to device. In general, though, there are some pros and cons:
Pros of On Ear Headphones
Most Spatial Awareness from Any Headphones
Lightweight, Quick to Put on or Take Off
Can Support Larger, High-Fidelity Driver Units up to 50mm
Cons of On Ear Headphones
Least Potential for Noise Cancellation of Any Kind
Lack of Padding Can be Uncomfortable
Requires More Research as On-Ear Devices Differ So Wildly
Which headphones are best?
Now that we understand the 3 different types of headphones, making a decision is far easier. For example, if you wanted an immersive device for watching TV alone or gaming, or listening to radio in peace then an over-ear pair with the extended comfort, padded earpieces and largest drivers would be perfect. Below are more examples to help you choose!
Best Headphones for Home and Leisure - Over Ear
Over Ear Headphones are the best type for home, solo and leisure activity where the sound quality, comfort and immersion really have to come together. In a situation where you won’t need to constantly address colleagues or classmates, and want to truly focus on your audio, over-ear headphones provide the best experience.
Best Headphones for Commuting and Multi-tasking - In Ear
In Ear Headphones provide the flexibility to quickly take them out or put them in, with limited intrusion in to your day or the day of others. You can hold conversations, work, have lunch and chat all with the same in-ear headphones providing music whilst staying out of your way.
View a guide specifically for True Wireless Earbuds if you want to match your lifestyle to your perfect pair!
Best Headphones for Sports and Public - On Ear
On Ear Headphones can be helpful for taking calls or listening to music in all sorts of public environments. On top of that, on-ear headphones are a perfect fit for running or working out since you maintain awareness of your surroundings and the public while keeping the headset lighter weight than an over-ear alternative.
Choosing Your Headphones
Overall, your audio requirements will dictate what you’re really after with a pair of headphones. Be sure to explore all your available options from wired, wireless, over ear, on ear and in ear headphones to get the best device for you.
Daffodil supply a large range of products across all of these categories, so you can explore the range here. Happy listening, folks!
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