Earphones and headphones have been in the music industry for decades and are used by almost everyone that listens to music on the go.
However, deciding between the two can be a challenge. Each has its benefits and shortcomings, and to choose one over the other means to compromise on certain features in your daily dose of music.
In this article, not only will we discuss both in detail, but we’ll take a look at their pros, cons, features, and we will also help you choose the best fit for your needs.
To begin our earphones or headphones comparison, we’ll start with a look at earphones.
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Earphones are highly versatile and portable. You can wear them in both ears, or wear one bud and share the other with someone. Having both buds in your ears provides the listener with an immersive music experience, while only using one bud is ideal for social or work environments.
Wearing one bud can help you keep track of the sounds in your immediate environment while treating yourself to your favorite music playlist.
Earphones are also popular because they are incredibly compact and can be carried or stored with ease. They are worn outside the ear canal and attached or linked to the music player, whether your smartphone or an mp3 device.
Earphones are available in wired and wireless configurations, with wireless headphones on the higher end of the cost spectrum.
The quality of sound generated by earphones depends largely on the model and earphones’ brand. While the cheapest earphones have inferior sound quality, branded and more advanced ones (such as Apple earphones) provide full bass support, noise cancellation, calling, and other advanced features.
Typical Features of Earphones
Earphones are sometimes also called in-ear headphones, as they fit snugly at the ear canal’s opening. Although properties vary with brands, models, and price range, some properties are common among most earphones available on the market.
Every earphone has a model-specific pitch range. Also known as frequency response, this refers to the bandwidth difference between the lowest and highest sound frequencies that your smartphone or music player can transmit to your earphones.
However, this is where the limitations start coming in. Since the diaphragms are smaller in earphones than headphones, the frequency range of earphones is lower. However, in choosing between earphones or headphones, the frequency range is just one of the many important factors to consider.
What earphones lose in terms of sound quality, they make up for with other characteristics. This brings us to our second point of detail: noise isolation.
Noise Isolation is a feature that sets earphones one step ahead of their over-ear competitors. This is not to be confused with noise cancellation, as the latter is an electronic process.
Earphones naturally excel at noise isolation and noise reduction, as they are physically wedged into the opening of the ear canal. This helps to prevent significant ambient noise from filtering in.
While the sound quality is of a lesser quality than headphones, noise reduction makes sure that you can enjoy a more immersive experience. However, cheaper earphones might not fit properly, making them unimpressive in terms of noise isolation and reduction.
Earphones find themselves outplayed by most premium headphones that allow for digital noise cancellation. However, some high-end earphone models from world-class brands can even provide 100% noise cancellation, Apple among them.
Earphones lead in compactness and portability, but when the discussion hinges on the listener’s comfort level, earphones have their inherent pros and cons.
On the one hand, earphones can be said to have much more comfort features than headphones. Having a bulky headphone set clamped over your ears can be very irritating, especially while traveling.
You can disconnect earphones from one ear and keep track of your immediate surroundings, making them a more reliable and safe option for pedestrians.
On the other hand, earphones are designed to block your ear canal completely, wedging into the opening, which means that listening to loud music for long durations can even be painful. Depending on your usage patterns and how long you wear them, this may prove an issue.
Noise cancellation is the electronic version of noise isolation. It is produced by the artificial generation of standing sound waves that cancel out any ambient sound. Some high-end earphones offer noise cancellation capabilities, which enhance the quality of the transmitted sound and provide smooth immersion.
Moreover, being in direct contact with your ear canal makes it easier to feel the beat during those intense workout sessions. Modern wireless earphones are easily concealed. Barely even noticeable, they meld seamlessly with your attire, allowing you to go about your daily life while listening to soulful melodies.
Disadvantages of Earphones
- Long durations of listening to music may result in pain.
- Since the earphone is so close to the delicate inner structures of your ear, listening to loud music can result in hearing loss.
- Numb ears are a common symptom, especially if you listen to music non-stop for hours on end.
- Using earphones in the rain can trap water in your ear. This has the potential of leading to a fungal infection in the inner canal of your ear.
- Lastly, the proximity of the earphone to your brain and its emitting Electromagnetic Waves can potentially be a health hazard.
Having discussed the pros and cons of earphones, let’s move on to headphones and their features.
Headphones are the more technologically advanced variety, with a better and more diverse range of frequencies, accompanied by active noise cancellation technology in higher-end models. Noise cancellation in headphones helps you enjoy your favorite tunes in absolute privacy.
When it comes to portability when choosing between earphones or headphones, headphones are far less portable and less compact than their earphone counterpart. Having a wide band of plastic or rubber resting on your neck can be a serious inconvenience, especially when you are on the move.
However, in regards to sound, strong bass support, coupled with a wider frequency range, also improves sound quality significantly. In addition, immersive sound quality is a specialty of headphones that set them far ahead of their in-ear cousins.
Features of Headphones
Some typical features of wired and wireless headphone models available on the market include:
A Higher Pitch Range
Headphones trump earphones in sound quality. You can attribute this to their larger diaphragm size, which allows the listener to have a wider range of frequencies. It helps to enjoy pitch-perfect tunes on the go.
Most commercial headphones provide a phenomenal sound frequency range of 10-20,000 Hertz. As with anything, you get what you pay for, so be sure to purchase a reputable brand.
Electronic noise cancellation is usually exclusive to over-ear headphones. These noise cancellation modules use the concept of standing waves to generate different sound varieties and block out any ambient source of the noise.
Usually, noise cancellation headphones use an attached microphone to detect ambient noise. In most premium varieties, the noise cancellation is so good that you can be in the middle of a busy city without getting any audio indication.
Improved sound quality and active noise cancellation are important points to note in the choice between earphones or headphones. Some high-end headphones have electronic filters for noise cancellation that can remove all traces of ambient sound. However, headphones do not offer passive noise reduction, as they are totally outside the ear cavity.
Headphones take a beating when it comes to comfort. Most earphone users find headphones to be far more cumbersome, clumsy, and constrictive. That is why, unlike earphones, headphones are not the best possible choice for office workers and travelers.
Unlike earphones, which allow you to detach them from one ear and listen to the real-life sounds around you, headphones are not as flexible. This limits how usable they are in certain situations. However, they can produce a high-quality sound that allows for a better experience during those early morning workouts and cardio sessions.
Noise isolation in headphones is dependent on the quality of the seal embedded in the product. Although less effective than advanced earphones, many high-scale headphones have highly efficient sealing technology that blocks out and reduces ambient noise from your surroundings.
Noise isolation also depends on how well the headphones fit you. This is a predominant problem that you can see in larger headphones. When it comes to headphones, you’ll want to be sure to test out the product for noise isolation before making the final purchase.
Disadvantages of Headphones
- The rubbing action of the band on your scalp can cause a reduction in hair growth and higher chances of balding due to a medical condition called Traction Alopecia.
- Headphones are bulky and harder to travel with. Unlike earphones, which can be shoved in your pocket, headphones will need to take up space in your travel bag or be stored in a separate carrying bag.
- Long durations of listening to deafening music can be detrimental for the brain and the delicate inner structures of the ear.
Are Headphones Better Than Earphones?
After comparing the two, we feel that headphones win the earphones or headphones debate. This is especially true when you consider the medical repercussions.
However, as we have discussed in detail, each has its own advantages, disadvantages, and hazards. As for the popular myth that audio quality is always better in a headphone, that is simply untrue.
Most modern earphones have high-end features that push the frequency ranges to almost the same levels as the most advanced headphones. Besides, noise cancellation and noise blocking and reduction is a common feature in the two.
Making a choice in the 21st century can be difficult, as the pros and cons of both systems are comparable.
Earphones or Headphones: How to Choose Between the Two
Choosing whether to purchase headphones or earphones should be based on your usage patterns. Depending on the purpose of the appliance, earphones can outweigh headphones and vice versa.
If you are a musician or DJ, headphones would be the better choice, especially for performances. Along with a wider frequency range, Minute sound details allow for a rich sound that most musicians in the industry would prefer.
Headphones are also applicable for videographers, telephone calling executives, online customer service professionals, and gaming streamers.
However, if casually listening to music on the go is your jam, earphones will serve your purpose far better and is a hassle-free option. Not only can they be partially detached on the road, but they are also far ahead of their over-ear competitors in terms of versatility.
Compactness and comfortable usage also favor earphones over headphones consistently.
Nevertheless, you should always avoid listening to loud music for extremely long periods of time. This presents a potential hazard to the delicate inner structures of your ear.
Durability and price also favor earphones over headphones in both wired and wireless models.
After all, is said and done, whether you choose earphones or headphones really comes down to your needs.
What matters most in your choice is comfort and suitable application. If it meets your needs and makes you feel comfortable, it is the right choice for you. We suggest looking at the various models and high-quality brands available on the market and trying them for yourself before making the purchase.