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Earbuds vs headphones Which is better for you

Learn the differences when comparing earbuds vs. headphones. And which type is better for you.

Headphones are much bigger than earbuds and generally have provides a premium sound quality and long lasting battery life, whereas earbuds are more portable, stable, and durable. However, that’s only the tip.

Let’s take a more in-depth look into each type to determine which one should be best or suitable your new pair.

Earbuds vs. Headphones: The Differences

Which Sound Better?


  • Sound quality depends on the type of earbud’s. earbuds basically don’t have as impactful listening experience as with bigger headphones (the bass tones don’t produce the same rumbling sensation).
  • Since earbuds have a smaller soundstage as a result it gives them a slight advantage with imaging.


  • Their sound feels smoother and more impactful then earbuds.
  • They also sound roomier because it have a wider soundstage (especially the ones with an open-back).
  • Full-sized headphones are the closest to the sound of room speakers

Conclusion: Headphones offer a fuller, more realistic sound then earbuds.

While both earbuds and headphones can be very expensive, the more expensive pair the better listening experience

Which are More Comfortable?


  • It depends, upon quality from earbuds to earbuds. Some people don’t like how they fit in ear
  • If they are bulky, they can create unnecessary pressure in your pinna.
  • Of course, there are exceptions too. Some are very comfortable to wear, don’t cause any pressure either, and are so lightweight you don’t even know you’re wearing them.


  • It also depends on the model, quality.
  • On-ears have decent comfort and are comfortable enough for short listening sessions.
  • Over-ears are the comfiest of all, especially the truly over-ear models.
  • Some models have smaller earpads that don’t fully enclose your ears, putting pressure on your earlobe’s edges, which is so uncomfortable.

Conclusion: Both headphones and earbuds can be very comfortable if you pick the right model.

Many consider Apple AirPods Pro are one of the most comfortable true wireless earbuds available in market

Which are More Stable?


  • If you looking for headphones for working out, pick earbuds.
  • In-ears are usually pretty stable, especially if you use them with foam ear tips also comfortable too.
  • More sport-oriented models have stabilizers to help them stay in place (ear fins, wings, hooks).
  • Some models have the over-the-ear wire that better distributes the weight, reduces cable noise, and improves stability.


  • Plusher headphones with tight clamping force can be pretty stable but can also cause discomfort over some time.
  • Generally, some on-ear models can be used for running, working out, sports. 
  • In contrast, full-sized headphones are more suitable for home use.

Conclusion: Earbuds are more stable during rigorous head movements thanks to stabilizers and lower weight.

Earbuds does the job best for stabilizers to help them stay in place.

Which have Longer Battery Life?


  • The battery on a single charge is only okay for all day, but it’s getting better.
  • Their total battery life (earbuds + case) can be extremely high, right up there with the best batteries in over-ear headphones.


  • Much better battery life on a single charge thanks to bigger casing or size.

Conclusion: In raw battery duration, headphones are still more reliable since you can listen to them for more hours straight.

Big headphones have a more reliable battery because of their size.

Which are More Expensive?


  • In-ear monitors specially wired ones can be quite expensive, but they’re generally still not as expensive as a bigger headphones.
  • Premium earbuds are usually cheaper than premium headphones from the same brand.


  • Audiophile headphones are by far the most expensive ones, costing thousands of dollars
  • They are often made from luxurious materials, which add to the total cost.

Conclusion: Headphones are, in most cases, noticeably more expensive.

Some high-quality headphones are made of premium materials and equipped with high-end tech, which raises their price.

Which are More Portable?


  • They’re so small and light weight that you can quickly forget you’re wearing them.
  • You can carry them in any pocket.
  • True wireless earbuds (TWS) earbuds have an additional charging case that protects them from harm as well as charges them at the same time.


  • Usually, full-sized ones are the least portable of the bunch.
  • Over-ear headphones are particularly bulky and can take up a lot of space in your backpack to carry.

Conclusion: Earbuds are much easier to store and transport due to their smaller design.

Charging cases for true wireless earbuds are small enough to fit in most pockets.

Which are More Durable?


  • If having a fixed wire, earbuds are more susceptible to failure since the cables break quite easily.
  • True wireless earbuds can be very durable primarily because they lack wires. Models like Jaybird Vista 2 are also fully waterproof, shockproof, and even have splashproof protection on the case.
  • Their small, lightweight housing makes them more durable if they drop on the floor.
  • The biggest disadvantage with Bluetooth earbuds is batteries, which will eventually stop working.
  • Silicone tips can last for years without changing their quality. In comparison, foam tips are much worse at longevity.


  • They’re heavier and fall with greater impact. Because of that, there’s a higher chance of something breaking.
  • Also, affordable ones have cheap plastic that can easily snap in half.
  • Leather earpads tend to start cracking after 2-3 years. With proper maintenance, you can slow down the process; here’s how you clean your headphones.

Conclusion: In general, earbuds, especially true wireless ones, are the toughest. However, with proper care and maintenance, headphones can still surpass earbuds in longevity.

Best true wireless earbuds can be fully submerged down to 10 feet (3m).

Which Better Isolate Outside Noise?


  • Since they go fully inside your ears, they isolate ears quite well. Especially if they use multiple flanged ear tips (Etymotic Research earbuds or swimming earbuds).
  • Custom-made ear tips are the best solution for those, who is seeking ultimate passive isolation.
  • Foam tips are also great at blocking more ambient noise compared to silicone ones.


  • Regular headphones have a slight edge over earbuds, especially closed-back ones and over-ear leather earpads.
  • Also, they have a great noise cancellation performance that’s a bit more effective than the ANC found in earbuds.
  • Specially designed noise-isolating headphones more effectively block surrounding noise. However, those don’t play music.

Conclusion: If you want the best passive isolation, getting earbuds with custom or multi-flanged ear tips is the best solution.

Different ear tip materials and designs offer different characteristics which can may affect the sound.

What are Earbuds?

Earbuds are likely tiny headphones that use ear tips to go inside your ear canal or rest right in front of it (earphones).

Their small and lightweight housing causes they don’t require an over-the-head headband to keep them in place.

They’re much smaller and inconspicuous than full-sized headphones, and therefore much more portable and easy to use.

True Wireless Earbuds

TWS earbuds work independently using wireless connection, with each earbud contain its own battery and Bluetooth chip.

Truly wireless earbuds lack wires completely, so it will give you the ultimate freedom of movement.

Since they receive audio signals wirelessly, they offer greater freedom of movement so yo can move freely. You don’t have to worry about pulling onto the wires. That makes them a perfect workout companion too.

Furthermore, you have to be extra careful where you place them. Unless you place them straight into the charging case, they might get lost or accidentally fall on the ground so be careful.

Wireless Earbuds

While they are lacking a wire or cable connecting earbuds to an audio source, they still have a wire connecting the two earbuds.

Wireless earbuds still have a cable connecting the two earbuds.

This design has its advantages and disadvantages. The thing is good about it that they last a few hours more on a single charge, and you can hang them around your neck whenever you stop using them or not listening music.

On the other hand, the bad thing is that the wire causes cable noise. Also, manufacturers have abandoned the design and don’t make many new wireless earbuds either.

Wired Earbuds

Wired in-ear earbuds rely on old-school analog technology by sending the audio signal through cable .

They can also be made from more comfortable, luxurious and durable materials like various metals, rubbers etc. While that makes them heavier as usual, the cable helps distribute the weight better (if you wear earbuds with a wire behind the ear). Of course, cables can be problematic since they get easily damaged or tucked on. 

Ear Hook Earbuds

Hooks help to grab an entire earlobe and prevent earbuds from falling out from ears so they don’t get lost so easily. They’re an accessory that you either attach yourself or they come permanently attached to the earbud. so this type of earbuds can be great for work out experience.

Ear Fin Earbuds

Ear fins/wings are the most common earbud stabilizers. Instead of grabbing your entire ear, they only latch inside your ears, making them a more comfortable solution compared to ear hooks but they get lost so easily as the don’t have hook or something else to grab the ears.

Earbuds vs. Earphones

The main difference is that earbuds use ear tips that go inside your ear canals, whereas earphones only hang in front of the ear canals.

Wireless earphones and earbuds vs. wired earbuds and earphones.

Since earbuds completely seal off the ear canal, they offer a better and fuller sound quality.

Earphones also let in and leak a lot of sound, making them a poor choice for music experience or for calling someone.

What are Headphones?

Headphones are big, on or over-ear headphones. They have 2 ear cups that connect with a headband frame. 

There are many types of full-sized headphones and neither go inside your ears Instead, they use earpads to stay put over head on or over your ears (as the name suggests).

Over-Ear Headphones

Over-ears are one of the most common types of headphones present in market. They have the biggest earpads to accommodate an entire earlobe.

As a result, they don’t squish your ears, preventing wearing fatigue during long listening music or calling sessions.

Circumoral headphones do an excellent job with passive noise isolation and comfort as long as earpads are thick and go around your ears.

On the other hand, they aren’t the best pick for outdoor use and sports activities due to their bigger size.

On-Ear Headphones

On-ears took place on top of your earlobes and are usually much smaller in comparison to over-ears.

Due to some obvious reasons, they aren’t the most comfortable (at least for more extended listening sessions).

While their earcups are noticeably smaller, most of them still house 40mm dynamic drivers. Meaning they can still able to produce a powerful sound.

Furthermore, a smaller size means lighter construction. In conjunction with a tighter clamping force, they’re quiet suitable for exercising.

How’s a headset different from headphones?

In general, a headset is a headphone with a microphone which can be built-in or detachable.

Most gaming and wireless headphones are headsets since they all have built-in microphones.

Earbuds vs. Headphones: Which One Should You Get?

For working out/lifting weights

Earbuds are so smaller, provide a more secure fit than bigger headphones, and are basically water-resistant too for that sweaty workout. If you really want to go with headphones, choose on-ears.

For running

(True) wireless earbuds are lighter and remain more stable on your head during rapid movements. Again, if you still want to go with headphones, on-ears are the lightest and the most stable of the bunch.

For working

You can pick any headphones or earbuds with good passive isolation and active noise cancellation.

For flying

in airplane Cabin noise can be quite loud, so picking noise-cancelling headphones is a wise decision.

For gaming

Competitive gamers will prefer a closed-back solution since they don’t want to hear any ambient noise, so picking noise-cancelling headphones is a wise decision. Also, good imaging is vital when playing competitive shooters.

In contrast, if you want better immersion, so you should pick the open-back ones with a bigger soundstage. You may also choose a dedicated gaming headset with virtual surround sound.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are Earbuds Bad for Your Ears?

In a way, yes. Since earbuds skip the pinna and play music straight into your ear canal, some frequencies appear louder than with full-sized headphones.

As a result, they might cause more harm to your hearing health when playing at the same volume than full-sized headphones.

Also read: When You Wear Headphones All Day, This Is What Happens

Earbuds vs. Headphones: Which are More Harmful?

Sound-wise, earbuds can be slightly more problematic since they boost specific frequencies more than headphones.

Furthermore, ear tips push earwax back into the ear canal, preventing it from cleaning itself naturally. Consequently, your ear canals become a suitable place for bacteria to grow, causing infections.

Read: Everything You Need To Know Before Buying A Wireless Headphone

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