What are the Types of Headphones

Types of Headphones to Consider Buying

You can find so many inspiring songs, podcasts, and videos all over the internet. To consume all this content, you need good, quality headphones.  To help you decipher what is best for you, we have put together a complete guide to types of headphones.  In addition, you get the history of headphones plus the pros and cons of all types of headphones available.

What are Headphones?

According to Techopedia, headphones can be described as “a pair small speakers used for listening sound from a computer, radio, music player or other electronic device.”

Nathaniel Baldwin, a 1910 inventor, created the first headset that could amplify sound. It was made for the U.S Navy during World War I. This enabled them to communicate more easily from faraway locations. The headphones were made out of copper wire, leather, and leather.

Many headphones today don’t even need wires. They can be worn by anyone, from kids who ride the bus to work to those who workout after work.

What do People use Headphones for?

Headphones can also be used to listen to music while on the move, or for checking out new podcasts. These are the most common reasons to wear headphones:

  • Work

BBC 2020 reported that music can help us feel more creative and happier at work. An engaging podcast or audiobook can make it easy to complete many tasks.

  • Exercise

Many casual runners and serious competitors have found that headphones help to get pumped up and keep a steady running pace. You will find it more enjoyable to do active exercise when you can listen and enjoy something.

  • Learning

If you listen to classical music, putting on headphones while studying can help improve your cognitive performance. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven are the best for increasing concentration. Are you a college student? Audio versions of textbooks are also available to help you save money.

  • Commuting

Just ask anyone with serious road rage. Commuting can be a nightmare. Research shows that music, podcasts and audiobooks can reduce stress, boredom and anxiety when you commute. Use headphones only when another person is driving.

  • Cleaning

While chores such as washing dishes, vacuuming, gardening, and laundry can seem tedious, they can be made more enjoyable by listening to music or other audio content. You will feel more relaxed and motivated to clean your house more often.

  • Gaming

When playing online against other gamers, gamers might use headphones or headsets. The headset can be used for both being fully immersed in the gaming experience and for talking to the competitors.

  • Talking on the Phone

Some headphones include a microphone. You will be more comfortable talking to your grandma, best friend, or other family members if the phone is not near your ears for long periods of time. If you hold your phone too long, it can even cause neck and shoulder stiffness or pain.

What Types of Headphones Exist?

We will cover the most common types of headphones in this section along with pros and cons of each to provide you with quality information.  Below you will find a summary of the following headphone types:

  1. over-ear headphones
  2. on-ear headphones
  3. wireless earbuds
  4. wireless earbuds with cable
  5. wired earbuds
  6. classic earbuds
  7. noise canceling headphones
  8. bone conduction headphones
  9. headsets
  10. ambient sound headphones
  11. close-back headphones
  12. open-back headphones
  13. wireless headphones
  14. wired headphones

1.   Over-Ear Headphones

As you can see, the above-ear headphones (the circumaural) fit on the top and “over” the ears as well as on the inside around the ear cartilages so the whole ear is “cupped” to isolate sound.

This type of headphones is superior for noise reduction. These headphones can limit noise loss, keeping the sound inside and allowing the ambient sound to escape.

Over-ear models can be purchased with an open-back design that allows them to breathe and allows sound in and out.

These models are usually closed-back, but they have the advantage of noise cancellation, isolation and high-quality sound quality.

Pros and Cons of Over-Ear Headphones?

Comfort Large, over-ear earpads with a lot of padding are very comfortable. High-quality headphones made of premium materials are luxurious.

Passive isolation Because your ears are completely sealed, there is very little ambient noise. Earpads made of leather ensure maximum isolation. A better passive isolation will mean less interference from the outside. You can hear more details and not have to turn up the volume.

Sound Quality – Over-ear headphones have a more natural sound than the smaller alternatives (earbuds).

Soundstage. Over-ears create a bigger soundstage since drivers are farther away from your ears.

Comfort (with low-price headphones): Over-ear headphones that are cheaper often have thin earpads. The result is that your ears can touch the hard plastic earcups which eventually leads to pain. They can also be quite heavy or have strong clamping forces to hold them in their place.

Stability Big, heavy headphones won’t withstand hard movements and can fly off your head.

Prices: Over-ear headphones with high-end features can cost more than $300, or even $1000.

Portability They take up a lot in space due to their size. Some models are foldable and include a carry case to help with this problem.

Over-ear headphones are best for what?

They are an excellent choice for travelling and commuting because they offer good isolation.

When tuned correctly, they can be a great choice for studio workers in music production who want to create mixes that sound natural and accurate.

2.   On-Ear Headphones

The earpads of supra-aural headphones are smaller than those found in over-ear headphones. The earpads are placed on your earlobes.

What are the pros and cons of on-ear headphones?

Stability: The on-ear design and lighter construction offer better stability for physical activities than over-ear headphones.

Portability: They are slightly easier to carry because of their small size.

Comfort: Earpads that aren’t properly padded can be uncomfortable and cause pressure to your ears. After some time, it can become painful and you will need to take a break.

Sweating: Similar to over-ears but with earpads, earpads press against the skin to prevent the air from circulating. Your skin starts to heat up and you start sweating.

Passive isolation: Since our earlobes do not flatten, on-ear pads don’t provide a perfect seal. Noise leakage is another problem that can lead to worse noise isolation.

Why are on-ear headphones the best?

On-ears are an alternative to in-ears if you prefer headphones for exercise but don’t like the fit.

They are lighter and more stable than over-ears so you don’t feel them as much on your head while exercising.

3. Wireless Earbuds

Wireless earbuds are known as true wireless earbuds or TWS. This is due to the absence of wires. They come with a case that charges the device and is easy to transport.

Difference between wireless earbuds and wired ones?

Passive isolation: They completely seal your ears and provide excellent noise isolation. Ear tips provide isolation from noise changes. The most durable are silicone tips, but the foam ones isolate best.

Sound quality: Because earbuds are in the ear canal, there is very little resonance. The result is that earbuds sound very clear and detailed.

Comfort: The best wireless earbuds offer both comfort and stability.

Stability: They are more stable because they fit better, and latch onto the ears with ear hooks. They are by far the best choice in sports.

Portability: True wireless headphones are compact in size so they can be easily carried around in your pocket.

Durability: Because there aren’t any cables, there is less chance of a weak point. Many wireless earbuds are waterproof.

Hygiene: Your ear canals are naturally clean. When you insert earbuds in your ear canal, the earwax is pushed back into the ear. The wax can collect on the earbuds and attract dirt. This can lead to an infection.

A narrow soundstage: Earbuds are not designed to interact with your pinna. This is vital for wide soundstage perception. The results can still be acceptable, but the soundstage is not as wide as larger headphones.

Battery life: True wireless earbuds require batteries to work. Battery life is getting longer, on average 7 hours per charge. You can expect to see a drop in battery lifespan after 2 years.

Lag: Audio lag is caused by Bluetooth codecs having to unpack and pack the audio signal. It takes some time. This is why you may experience an audio delay while watching videos or playing games.

Why are wireless earbuds the best?

These devices are ideal for commuters and travelers who require something compact to keep in their pockets.

TWS earbuds have become a favorite among those who exercise regularly. Wireless earbuds can be replaced with TWS wireless earbuds.

4. Wireless Earbuds with Cable

Bluetooth-enabled in-ear headphones for audio streaming wirelessly over Bluetooth. However, they also have a wire to connect the left and right ears.

Pros and Cons of Wireless Earbuds with Cables?

Portability: They are usually supplied with a case and can easily be carried around in your pocket. They can take up as much space than their wired siblings.

Sound quality: Sound quality is equal to true wireless earbuds.

Stability: Many sporty models tighten their cables, which reduces movement. They can be hung around your neck if you take them out of the ears.

Cable noise: Cables rub against your skin and clothes, causing microphonics (cable noise). This is especially true if the cable has been braided in fabric.

Battery life: Wireless earbuds are usually less than 10 hours long, with some exceptions. The battery life decreases after one or two years.

Why are wireless headphones best?

They might be preferred by active users who may want to protect their ears from being damaged during exercise. The cable will prevent it from falling to the floor.

5. Wired Earbuds

Wireless earbuds have become a niche item and are very popular among audiophiles.

Pros and Cons of Wired Earbuds

Sound Quality: Wired solutions sound better. They don’t rely on DSP to tune, making them more adaptable. (Better amps and cables result is a more precise, detailed sound).

In-ear noise isolation: The best way to isolate your ears from the outside world is with an in-ear design. The passive isolation of your ears is enhanced if you select foam tips or multi-flanged silicone ones.

Stability: Earbuds with wires running over the ear offer great stability.

Cost: Wired earbuds will be the cheapest. Great earbuds are available for as low as $10

Zero audio latency: Wires offer the best audio transmission method with zero audio delay for watching videos and playing games.

Compatibility issues: Modern phones have ditched the headphone jack. You will need either a USB dongle, or a separate MP3-player.

Cable noise: This is what happens when wires rub against clothes. The cable coating can change its intensity. Most vibrate fabric and cheap plastic cables.

Cables: They are reliable but can be annoying. Cables can become stuck on a doorknob and an armrest, which causes your earbuds not to unplug.

Durability: If damaged, cables can make your earbuds unusable. Wired earbuds are not able to be submerged in water with the exception of special protection swimming earbuds.

Why are wired headphones best?

Wireless earbuds won’t cost you more than $20 if that is your budget. There are still some options available at this price point.

Audiophiles, on the other side, still prefer high-end wired headphones due to their driving flexibility (how easy is it to change audio with source), and superior audio quality.

6. Classic Earbuds

Classic earbuds (or headphones) are placed in front your ear canals and rest on your ears. It is hard to find other models.

Pros and Cons of Classic Earbuds

Greater Awareness: Earphones do not block your ears. They let in more ambient sound. This is great for improving awareness.

Comfort: A lower level of in-ear pressure equals greater comfort. Many earphones feel very light, so they are almost invisible.

Soundstage: They’re further away than your eardrums which allows them to create a slightly wider soundstage.

Sound Quality: Although they sound great, many don’t compare to in-ear headphones. They are significantly less effective at reducing bass.

Stability: Earphones are not designed to grab your ears. This makes them more susceptible to falling out when you move. They are not recommended for use in sports.

Why are classic earphones best?

They don’t irritate your ears and are more comfortable. If you don’t like the sound of in-ear headphones, but still need earbuds for your ears, these are the best earbuds.

7. Noise Canceling Headphones

Active noise cancellation is a tried-and-true technology that’s now available in budget consumer headphones.

The ANC headphones effectively block noise from surrounding by recording it, inverting the phase and returning it to your ears. The result is that both sounds “cancel their own” once they reach your eardrums. Our take: there was a noticeable decrease in background sound.

ANC is a highly sought-after technology for headphones.  You should not confuse noise-cancelling and passive noise-isolating headphones. The first requires special technology while the second is possible with smart, conventional design.

Pros and Cons of Active Noise-Cancelling Headsets?

Isolation The combination of active and passive isolation creates an exceptional experience in which external noise is completely eliminated.

Can reduce noise-inducing stress These headphones help commuters and travelers to lessen engine noises. These headphones are great for people who work in loud environments to help them concentrate and improve their sleep quality.

Protects Your Hearing: Music is not muted by surrounding noise.

Prices: ANC headphones can be more expensive than regular headphones because they use extra chips.

Sound quality Cheaper headphones have a less natural sound. Manufacturers counter this by making headphones that have ANC enabled to produce the best sound.

Battery Life: This technology uses more power to actively block noises from the environment. The battery life can be reduced by up to 50%

Not suitable for outdoor use : Microphones pick-up wind noise which is then played back into your ears.

Why are noise-canceling headsets best?

They are suitable for frequent flyers and commuters, as they can be used in noisy environments.

8. Bone Conduction Headphones

To transmit sound through your cheekbones, bone-conducting headphones use bone conducting technology.

This allows the sound to bypass the outer ears completely. You can listen to music and keep your ears open. Shokz (formerly AfterShokz), is the most popular brand.  They are durable headphones that keep your ears open and provide good sound quality.

Pros and Cons Bone Conduction Headphones

Awareness They don’t block the ears, so you have perfect awareness. They can be used in cities.

Stability Bone conduction headphones sit usually over the ear which makes them very stable.

Hearing aids – Bone conduction is a way to help those with hearing difficulties (which are caused by the outer ear).

Sound quality: The only way to transmit sound through bones is to do so much. While the quality is good, the audio lacks both bass and detail.

Isolation means that your ears are fully open and you can hear all the details. Listening in a quiet space will allow you to focus only on the music.

Bone conduction headphones best for whom?

These are the best solutions if you dislike the feeling that something is covering your ears or blocking them.  They are excellent for keeping your eyes open while running outside.

In addition, Bluetooth bone-conducting headphones are a great option for people with hearing loss.

9. Headsets

While headsets do not have a unique technology, they are a combination headphones and microphone. Headsets are best for remote meetings, gaming, and audio production.

There are many different types of headsets available: Most are closed-back over-ear headphones. However, some have on-ear cups and others just one for support.

Pros and Cons of Quality Headsets?

Voice recording and phone call: The boom mic’s voice quality is unsurpassed.

Comfort Most headsets can be used for long-term comfort.

Flexibility – The boom microphone blocks other uses, such as listening to music during a commute or working out.

Sound Quality – Headsets have a low-quality audio system because the emphasis is on the mic.

When are Headsets Best?

Headsets are ideal for all uses that require a good microphone and long-term comfort. They are ideal for gaming and chatting on Discord. Headsets can be ideal for a home meeting for work where you can discuss business or new assignments.

10. Ambient Sound Headphones

Ambient sound headphones can record the background noise and amplify it through headphones. It is also known as “ambient sound mode”. These headphones give you better awareness of situations when they are needed. You can use the Ambient Sound Mode to hear what’s around you.

It is, in a sense, active noise cancellation. This is a way to amplify the background sound, including human voices.  When shopping, for example, you may listen to music . You go to a cashier to pay for your goods. You switch on the ambient audio mode, then have the interaction. After that, you can turn it back off and start listening to your music.

 Pros and Cons of Ambient Sound Headphones

Awareness: They help you hear what is going on around you when it is important.

Price: The headphones with ambient sound mode are more expensive than the others.

Why are ambient sound headphones the best?

Ambient sound mode headphones are ideal for use in cities or in natural settings where you must be aware of your surroundings out of safety or courtesy.

11. Closed-Back Headphones

Closed-back headphones include any type or headphones with completely closed ear cups, whether they are on-ear, in-ear, or over-ear.

Pros and Cons of Closed-Back Headphones

Passive isolation: The earcups are sealed to prevent outside noises from leaking in and affecting your listening experience. They also reduce sound loss so others around you won’t be able to hear your music.

Bass response: A full enclosure traps sound wave and improves the bass response. The sub-bass can have lower frequencies, creating a rumbling sensation.

Soundstage is small: The soundstage of these headphones is much smaller than those made by other brands. Closed-back headphones trap sound and force it into your ears.

Sweating (with headphones or on-ears),: The earcups are too tight and the seal is too tight. Your skin becomes hot and dry.

For what purpose are closed-back headphones best?

Closed-back designs are great for people who want to be isolated from noise, like commuters, workers, or travelers in noisy environments. A closed design is the best for active sound cancellation.

These headphones are ideal for studio monitoring, as they leak very little sound. It is important that headphones don’t leak sound into a microphone.

12. Open-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones can have earcups that are fully or partially open. Drivers can be seen from the outside of headphones and are protected by a wire mesh.  These headphones are loved by audiophiles for their natural sound.

Pros and Cons of Open-Back Headphones

Sound quality: Open-back design makes it impossible for the sound to feel trapped in the cups. It results in a natural and more airy presentation. This headphones can handle higher volumes without causing distortion.

Breathability – Open earcups allow for more air to enter your lungs, which allows your skin to breathe. It is possible to feel warm but not sweaty. Many open-backs have velour earpads which help with breathing.

Soundstage: An open-back headset has a greater soundstage. The sound can move freely and the volume is pushed further away. It sounds almost like you’re listening in a room with speakers.

Noise isolation: Passive isolation is almost non-existent. Open earcups let ambient sound in as if they were headphones. You should use them at your home.

Sound Leakage: People can hear the music you are listening to even when open-back headphones are being used.

Portability: Other than their large construction, their lack of sound isolation makes them ineffective for traveling or commuting.

Bass extension: Open-back headphones don’t have the ability to boost lower frequencies in the same way that closed-back headphones. Open-back headphones are therefore not as good for sub-bass.

For what purpose are open-back headphone best?

Their open sound makes them a popular choice among audiophiles as well as audio engineers for mixing final recordings. You can get a very flat sound with open-back headphones.  Open-back headphones also work well for gaming.

13. Wireless Headphones

Wireless headphones are similar to wireless earbuds. They have all the required components built into the housing. These include the battery and Bluetooth chip, amplifier, DAC and DSP.

There are two types: via Bluetooth tech or WiFi standard used for connecting via USB Dongle, which is common in gaming and Wireless headphones for TV.

Pros and Cons of Wireless Headphones?

Portability: This is the best advantage. It’s liberating to be able not to have your phone in a place you can see, and to be able walk around the streets without worrying about it. They can be used for travelling, commuting and exercising.

Battery. While the battery’s life span has increased in recent years, you still need to charge it. It can be very frustrating to run out and have no charger. They don’t last forever. In fact, they often lose their effectiveness or become less durable over time.

High-quality Audio: While wired headphones still have the edge, they are starting to catch up. Bluetooth headphones can deliver impressive results, even with the latest Bluetooth codecs and better quality chips.

Audio Delayed: The process of transmitting signals from one device or another takes time. Although it is measured in milliseconds you can still see it when watching videos and playing games. The issue can be overcome by wireless headphones that send the audio prior to the video so that it syncs with it.

Why are wireless headphones the best?

Wireless headphones are the best choice if you don’t like the sound of wires. Wireless headphones let you leave your phone at home and allow you to move freely around without worrying about cables getting lost or tucked under a doorknob.

Gamers can eat while they chat with their friends online.  Bluetooth headphones are perfect for traveling and commuting. They can even be folded into a carry case to prevent damage during transport.

14. Wired Headphones

Wired headphones are wired and use a cable for audio transmission. They are very popular among audiophiles. However, they are not as common for the general public because of their inconvenience. The most common plug size is 3.5mm. However, the larger 6.3mm plug can be difficult to find.

Pros and Cons of Wired Headphones

Sound Quality: The best reason to purchase a pair of wired headphones is the sound quality. With wired headphones, there is less floor noise and signal distortion than with wireless technology.

Scalable performance: Wireless headphones’ quality is dependent on the quality and design of their chips. Wired headphones, on the other hand, have scalable performances (better sound quality can be achieved with better sources).

Price: Wireless headphones can be much more affordable than wired ones. You will also find wired headphones that are dirt cheap and perform better than wireless.

Portability: Wires may get caught on objects and cause damage to the headphones or the headphone socket.

Cable noise: When wires rub against your skin, or cloths, it makes audible noise.

For what purpose are wired headphones best?

Wired headphones are great for audiophiles with lots of high quality gear.  They are used by sound engineers in studios to mix audio and provide superior sound quality.

Types of Headphones: Conclusion

This guide covers all aspects of headphones and earbuds.  I hope it helped you make an informed decision. Each type is ideal for a particular use case so you just need to decide which ones you prefer.

Types of Headphones: Top FAQ’s

Are Headphones Harmful?

You can enjoy endless entertainment with headphones, such as podcasts and music or audiobooks or YouTube videos. Even with all the greatness of headphones, it is important to remember that too loud music, falling asleep to your music, and sharing them could cause health problems.

Is it Safe to Wear Headphones for Long?

You should wear headphones for no more than an hour per day. Experts recommend listening to headphones for approximately 60 minutes per day and keeping volume at 60%. Take 5-minute breaks every half hour if you find yourself listening for an extended period. Give your ears some relief by setting a reminder on the phone. This may seem extreme but it’s important to protect your hearing!

Should You Use Headphones While Sleeping?

Experts are divided on whether headphones can be worn while you’re asleep. Some believe that headphones can help you relax and block out noise.

Others are more concerned about the possibility of damage to the tissues and the risk of strangulation from headphones with wires.  Is it necessary to listen to some type of noise in order for you to fall asleep? A Bluetooth speaker can play music, podcasts, and other sounds. You can get the much-needed rest you need by lowering the volume.

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