Earbuds VS Headphones : Which are Better ?

If you are going out for shopping to buy yourself the best sound solution, then you will most probably be confused about whether to buy headphones or earphones. There are a lot of parameters and factors that may influence you in picking one over the other option. Features, comfort level, size, and convenience are a few of the most important factors that you may consider before choosing one ultimately.

Now, what is it that matters for you the most?

Is it the sound quality and performance?

First and foremost, you should know the difference between earphones and headphones.

Earphones are the personal listening devices that can fit inside your ear canal perfectly. Whereas the headphones are the devices that rest on the outside of your outer ear. In most of the cases, the headphones deliver a better and richer sound experience for the users than the earphones. But, there are exceptions where the earphones turn out to be the better choice.

Let us talk about different parameters that can help you decide which is a better choice: earphones or headphones.

earbuds vs headphones


This is the most important part of the users. In the aspect of comfort, earphones tend to suffer when compared to headphones. The earphone manufacturers have to put the magnets, drivers and the support equipment carefully enough to fit in your ear.

Though the earphones fit finely in your year, they tend to be irritating as well as painful sooner or later.

Unlike the earphones, the over-ear headphones which cover your ear entirely are extremely cozy. And, in addition, the headphones keep your ears warm. There is a disadvantage the headphones bring and that is that it can get uncomfortable for the ones who wear glasses with a thick frame. So, for this aspect, headphones seem to be the winner.

Frequency response curve

This aspect answers the question that how much distortion do these devices introduce? Ideally, phones should be able to respond to every frequency equally. This property is known as ‘flat’ frequency response. What this means is the output signal is almost like the one that was fed – for all frequency ranges.

The earphones tend to have worse frequency response, whereas the headphones have a better frequency response comparatively. Evidently, the clear winner out of the two is headphones, because then you will not be worried about the distortion.

Noise isolation

This is another important parameter which will help you decide on which of the two you want to buy: earphone or headphone. Does noise isolation mean to tell you about how well the device is able to isolate you from the sounds other than the ones you are trying to put your focus at? More noise isolation is preferable, unless or until you want to listen to the background music. Also, it means you won’t bother the people around you with the music you are listening to.

Earphones – properly fitted – are meant to give you the best noise isolation. As the earphones are completely sealed with your ear canal, there is no sound in as well as no sound out. Whereas even the best over-ear headphones will not be able to cover your ears properly. Thus, noise isolation is better off with earphones than headphones.

Noise cancellation

This parameter lets you know about how good the device is for the atmospheric sounds. Noise cancellation is a different concept when compared to noise isolation. Isolation is a feature of all phones, but noise canceling is not a common feature. Noise canceling earphones or headphones listen for atmospheric sounds – like an air-conditioner or a car horn. They take the noise and play the inverted waveform of the noise with your noise. This eventually cancels the noise.

In the case of earphones, they are not as effective in canceling the noise when compared to the headphones unless your budget is over $200. While the headphones are slightly better at canceling the noise than earphones of a similar standard. Since there is more room for electronics as part of headphones, it can cancel noise more effectively. Thus, headphones have an edge in this case.

Frequency response

This parameter deals with knowledge about the pitch range of the device. This term is used alongside the frequency response curve, discussed earlier. What is the pitch range? It is defined as the lowest sound transmitted by the device (earphone or headphone), followed by the highest. Most devices available in the market can play with any frequency in between the range of 20 Hz and 20 kHz.

Most of the earphones have a smaller pitch range when compared to the headphones apart from the few exceptions. Whereas all the headphones are inclined to having a better frequency range. Well, this parameter is not that important for consideration as a human ear cannot really hear too low or even too high music. So, any device that can play between 20 Hz and 20 kHz should be fine for you.

Earbuds Vs Headphones : Wrapping Up :

So, if you compare all the parameters, it is evident that headphone has been the clear choice in most of the parameters. Thus, the headphone is the recommended device as they are more comfortable and reproduces sound much better than earphones. But, exceptions are always there. There are some situations where earphone turns out to be a more viable option.

Plus, it depends on what purpose you are using the device for. For example, if you are going to be traveling, then earphones are a better option because you need isolation from the background noise. Whereas, if you are in your office working at your desk, then the headphones are much better.

Lastly, the sound quality is not merely dependent on whether you are using headphones or earphone, it is also dependent on the files you are playing. Even if you have the best headphones or earphones in the world, they won’t be able to do anything about the quantization noise, i.e. the noise that is reproduced when you are converting the analog sound waves to digital ones., or even the background hum. It is your preference in the end that matters.

Erwin Cooper

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