Different Types of Headphones Explained in Precise Detail

Featured Image - Different Types of Headphones

Do you have questions like:

What are the best headphones out there?

Or...

What are the best headphones to buy?

The questions aren’t as simple as they seem, are they?

Look:

You need not be an audio enthusiast to choose the right headphone for you...

...but being a noob will do no good.

Hence why...

...in today’s post I’m going to take an ocean-deep approach about various types of headphones out there and how to choose the best headphones for everyday use.


Do check out: 20 Best Headphones for Rock Music under $25-$1000

Demystifying the Truth About Different Types of Headphones

Truth is:

"No one headphone is best!"
What are the Best Type of Headphones out there

It’s all down to you.

Just give me 8 minutes of your precious time (and a couple of minutes more), and I’ll demystify the different types of headphones.

Types of Headphones

#1 Earbuds Headphones

These are simply called as Earbuds.

Earbuds headphones...

Earbuds are the oldes types of headphones out there

,,,were a huge game changer in headphone industry which was being dominated by large bulky over-the-head counterparts.

Due to small footprint, extreme portability and take-it-where-you-go approach sales record broke all over the world.

Remember: Sony Walkman?

Sony Walkman came with Earbuds Types of Headphones

It popularized the use of Earbuds Headphones.

They are cheap, very small and offer good sound quality for an affordable price.

These types of headphones are manufactured at a large scale even now...

...however audio enthusiast try to stay away from them.

Apple Earbuds:

Apple Earphones - Earbuds Types of Headphones

Photo Credit Dan McKay

Most Popular version of Earbuds Headphones offer great sound quality at cheap price.

However, the other breeds aren’t at par with them.

Earbuds headphones are poor in terms of...

  • Blocking Outside Noise
  • Fit Poorly within our Ears
  • Fall out frequently
  • At times; can be Hurtful to Ears

Brands like Philips and Sennheiser introduced earbuds with a ear-hook design...

...but that didn’t improved its poor noise isolation and hurtful nature.

Thankfully popular Headphone manufacturers like Philips, Sennheiser, Sony and many more have taken into the drawbacks of these types of headphones...

...and have stopped introducing newer Earbuds models.

Below are the Pros and Cons of Earbud Headphones​

Pros

  • Portable
  • Cheap Price

Cons

  • Miserable at Blocking Outside Nosie
  • Poor Fit and Fall Out
  • Hurtful design
Nerd Tip: "Earbud Headphones are techically called as Intra-Concha Headphones”

Also Read: 7 Best Microphone for Youtube Commentary and Gaming

Moving on… the next type of headphone are:

#2 In-ear Headphones

Currently:

In-ear Headphones are its peak of popularity

…many smartphone manufacturers now include them as a standard offering inside-the-box.

Symphonized NRG Premium In Ear Types of Headphones

Symphonized NRG Premium In Ear Headphones

These types of headphones offer excellent price-to-performance ratio…

…and loved by all music aficionados.

In-ear headphones are smallest of them all:

Being incredibly light-weight; offering an average weight of 1-1.6 ounces (included wire weight).

Buyer’s Tip: "Manufacturers and Sellers exclude wire-weight while quoting in-ear headphones weight."

For an average consumer:

Who hasn’t been exposed to high-fidelity audio will be happy with these types of headphones.

These types of headphones successfully seal your ear canal opening; offering favorable noise-isolation…

…depending on earphones you own and ear-tips you wear.

To know the difference about Noise Isolation and Noise Cancelling... click this link!

In-ear Headphones offer proper seal allowing you to enjoy your music in your home, during travel and anywhere you choose to be.

Once music is played through these types of headphones, most of the ambient-noise gets blocked like birds chirping, passerby footsteps, car passing by and so on.

Well!

Sharp noises like car-honks, tire screeching and sound of train vibrations via tunnels can easily pierce in.

Nerd Tip: "In-Ear Headphones sit right inside the ear opening…

…offering little room for sound to reflect, and space to move around.

Due to this, audio phenomena known as ‘Soundstage’ isn’t at equivalence with other types of headphones.”

Various ear-tips sizes of Small, Medium and Large either made up of Silicone or Memory Foam are included with in-Ear Headphones; choose the one which suits you best.

Comply Foam Eartips with In Ear Types of Headphone

Comply Eartips are popular choice when it comes Memory Foam tips

Memory Foam eartips are more comfortable and offer better sound isolation compared to Silicone Eartips.

For great sound audio; it's better to invest in Memory Foam tips as they block outside noise and are easy on ear skin.​

Buyer’s tip: "Choosing the wrong ear-tip can make your earphones sound awful, try all of them and use one that’s right for you."

However:

Prolonged use of these types of headphones causes ear irritation; it might even cause sound haloing if used for more than 4+ hours.

Doctors recommend that in-ear headphones should be worn only for 1 hour in a day

…and at 70% volume max; to avoid permanent ear damage.

Plugging these types of headphones into your ears causes increase in ear-wax; as your ears consider earphones as foreign object object and hence multiply growth of ear wax to avoid it entering deep inside.

wax growth in ear using inear types of headphones

Doctor's don't recommend putting cottonbuds to clean ear wax

You might have noticed increase in ear-wax if you’ve recently started using in-ear headphones, haven’t you?

Read this interview of Dr. Brian Fligor (audiologist); who explains the correct way of using headphones and reducing maximum damage to your ears.


​Also Read: Top 5 Best Cheap Earbuds under $30: Hand Picked For You

Special Mention >>>

Apple Earpods also come under in-ear headphones category...

...though they sound superb, Earpods fit very loose and keep falling out.

Many Apple Earpod users have found a solution to this problem by using a small hack called as Earhoox; which allows these earphones to stay inside the ear with a rugged fit.​

Nerd Tip: "In-ear Headphones are also called as inter-concha headphones.”

#3 On-Ear Headphones

The type of headphones which sit right over your outer ear is called as On-Ear Headphones.

Beats Solo HD - On Ear Types of Headphones

These types of headphones cover your ear canals, rather than cover your entire ear.

They have a closed back and are preferred for both indoor and outdoor usage.

Coming to sound quality, they don’t stand out as these types of headphones do not provide proper seal

…allowing ambient noise to leak inside.

Bass feels muddier; if used outdoors.

On-ear Headphones however are lightweight causing lesser strain on your ears and neck.

Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear Headphones

Top quality headphones like Sennheiser Momentum (4.5 Star Rating) and Grado Prestige SR80e (4.5 Stars Rating) offer excellent sound quality and an affordable price under $100.

Due to mixed usage of indoors and outdoors, on-ear headphones like Beats Solo 2 and Bose SoundLink On-Ear Headphones come with a collapsible design…

Bose SoundLink On Ear Types of Headphones with collapsible design

…allowing you to fold these and keep them in your backpack, purse or briefcase.

At loud volumes:

Sound can leak from these headphones.

Nerd Tip: "On-Ear Headphones are called as Supra-Aural Headphones.”

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy-to-wear design
  • Newer models now come with easy foldable design
  • Easier to use during commute

Cons

  • Foam padding on ear-cups can get moist due to ear sweating
  • Offer poor noise isolation outdoors due to open design
  • Causes Warming and Irritation of Ears if used for longer periods

Also Read: Top 15 Best In Ear Headphones under $50 for Budget Concious

#4 Over-the-Ear Headphones

Over-Ear Headphones have ear cups that cover the entire ear.

At initial glance:

Over-Ear Headphones are large… very large.

Compared to other three types of headphones:

Audio Technica ATH-M50X Over Ear types of headphones

Audio Technica ATH-M50X are popular Over-Ear Headphones

They cover the entire ear, noise isolation is top notch if you’re looking out for headphones like Audio Technica ATH-M50X and Sennheiser HD 280 Pro.

These are desirably meant to be used only at home…

…as their weight causes neck ache if worn outside for longer time and aren't portable compared to other types of headphones.

Wouldn’t it even look funny? If you wear these headphones which seems like you’ve worn two big speakers on your ears.

These headphones are comfortable to wear for prolonged period as the diaphragm is away from ear-canal…

…ear padding on these headphones sit behind the ears rather than on-ear.

Due to this design, soundstage is marvelous creating space for sound to reflect naturally.

As mentioned earlier, newer models are less power hungry and work superbly well with smartphone…

…whereas other bulkier power hungry models; require an amplifier to sound exceptional.

These types of headphones come in two categories…

They are:

>> Closed Back Headphones

>> Open Back Headphones

Closed Back Over-Ear Headphones

Closed back headphones are more popular among average day consumers and come in more affordable range compared to Open Back Headphones.

Science behind Closed Back Headphones is…

…back of these headphones are closed that blocks outside ambient noise; at the same time avoiding sound leakage.

AKG K550 Closed Back Types of Headphones

AKG K550 is an example of Closed Back Headphones

Why Closed Back Headphones sound so good?

Because they dampen the outside noise and once you turn on your music, It eliminates outside noise completely offering excellent noise isolation.

Listening experience is a pleasure on these if you own headphones like Sony MDR7506 Pro or V-Moda Crossfade LP2.

Nerd Tip: "Due to closed nature of these headphones, continuous airflow Is restricted causing dampening of ears after prolonged use.”

Open Back Over-Ear Headphones

Open Back Headphones look wise look very similar to Closed Back Headphones; however there is a major design difference.

The back of these types of headphones is completely open i.e. the back of their ear cups are physically open having a grilled mesh and you can see its internal circuitry as seen in almost all headphones of Grado.

Grado SR325E - best headphone for the price

As we know, Closed Back Headphone block outside noise, but Open Back headphones allow outside ambient noise to enter inside your ear cans.

Just take this example:

You’re sitting in your bedroom with a pair of Open-Back Headphones on and music at loud. Now with music, you’ll be able to hear movement of your fan blades or air gusting through your air conditioner, dogs barking outside and TV sound from another room.

Wait:

You might be wondering, why these types of headphones even exist?

Truth is:

Open Back Headphones offer phenomenal sound quality. I listened to them in a quiet studio and they sound exceptional; a kind of sound you might never hear from your cans.

These types of headphones allow free movement of air which makes the headphones to create a livelier sound with excellent bass response.

Nerd Tip: "To produce deep bass your Headphones need flow of outside air…

,,,hence all headphones have perforations on its back for air to move through-and-fro your headphones.”

Since studios have quiet environment and sound dampening construction, it make sense using Open-Back Headphones there.

Open Back Headphones from Audio Technica

Average day consumers can give open-back headphones a shot if you can manage to find a quieter room and blast your volume.

Here's a full rundown of all the difference between open and closed back headphones. Even watch the video uploaded below!​

Pros

  • Optimum Noise Isolation
  • Excellent Sound Stage and Exceptional Sound Quality
  • Provide Surround Sound
  • Highly Durable

Cons

  • Bulky Design
  • Not meant for outdoor use
  • High Spec’d models are costlier
  • Powerhungry; require Amplifier to do 100% justice


Also Read: Best Earbuds under $100: Top 5 Best Sounding Earbuds Picks

#5 In-Ear-Canal Headphones

Let truth be told:

Etymotic Research MC5 - In Ear Canal Types of Headphones

Etymotic Research MC5 - Popular Example of In-Ear Canal Headphones

I’ve never used these types of headphones even when I had chance of using them.

The idea of even stuffing these into my ears sends chills down my spine.

Why?

Because they sit deep into your ear canal.

A place where I wouldn’t even want cotton buds to enter to.

Health Tip >>>

Doctors from all over the world suggest not to clean ear canals using cotton bud.

Instead of cleaning, they put ear wax more deeper towards your ear drums. Read this article to know more.

Earphones like Etymotic MC5 are popular among audio-enthusiast…

…but I wouldn’t want them to be anywhere near my ears.

However; since they sit very deep, noise isolation is at par from these types of headphones.

These shoot sound straight deep into your ear drums and causes excess sweating.

Due to excellent fit, bass response is of remarkable quality.

I wouldn’t talk much about these as I haven’t personally used them.

Pros

  • Excellent Bass Response
  • Tight air seal gives way for proper noise isolation

Cons

  • Uncomfortable for some users
  • Not meant for prolonged use
  • Great quality earphones can cost a fortune

Personal Tip >>>

Popular In-Ear Headphones like the MEElectronics Sport-Fi M6 come with triple flange in-ear-canal tips.

Meelectronics Sport-Fi M6 In Ear Canal Types of Headphones

If you own these, it’s just my personal advice to avoid using them.

#6 Wireless Headphones

First of all:

Let me tell you, there are three types of Wireless Headphones…

They are:

  • Infrared Headphones
  • Radio-Frequency Headphones
  • Bluetooth Headphones

Headphones like Bose SoundLink and Beats Solo 2 brought great interest in wireless headphones for outdoor use.

Earlier version of Wireless Headphones like Nokia BH-503 and Sony DR-BT50 offered poor sound quality and lack of clarity; as the technology used back then compressed MP3 files in the device and then transmit it to the headphones.

Sony DRBTN200 Wireless Types of Headphones

Sony DRBTN200 ($50) is a great sounding entry level Bluetooth Wireless Headphones

This problem was overcomed by AptX Bluetooth codec which offer better sound fidelity, making it hard for average consumers to differentiate between sound quality in wired and wireless headphones.

Now coming to use, they are preferred indoors as well as outdoors.

Eliminating the wire part:

It allows you to take these types of headphones everywhere and anywhere you go.

Wireless Headphones are great when it comes to subways

It makes easy to jump into rushed subway trains, in buses and walk freely on a crowded street without the worry of wires getting tangled with other people.

Absence of wire remembers me of an incident that I saw…

I was in train and about to get off the next station, ahead me were standing two people with one towards the door wearing Beats Solo Headphones.

The train stopped; just when he was about to get off, person behind him grabbed his Beats Solo and disappeared in thick rush of people. 😀

Pros

  • Absense of wires makes them easy to take anywhere
  • Excellent use at gyms and travel where dangling wires can be a bit of problem

Cons

  • They run on batteries/charge; when your battery dies, your music dies
  • Sound quality not at par with other types of headphones


Also Read: Top 5 Best Soundbar Under $300

Features of Headphones

#1 Clip-On Headphones

Earbuds and in-ear headphones are in surge of popularity due to their small size, portability and cheaper price.

This led to its usage among various places like schools, colleges, travelling in trains and buses, gyms, offices, superstores and any place you can imagine to be.

Major problem occurred when fitness enthusiasts and gym-goers saw frequent fallout of these types of headphones from their ears.

This led to headphone manufacturers:

Introduce a special type of design, called as Clip-On Headphones.

Clip-On Headphones for Running and Gym like MEElectronics Sports-Fi M6 and Sennheiser OCX 686G meant earphones no longer would fall-out from ears.

Sennheiser OCX 686G Clip on Earphones

These types of headphones are usually sweat and water resistant making them perfect choice for people who are…

…health conscious and athletes; wanting to enjoy their music.

Buyer’s Tip: "If buying On-Clip Headphones, it is recommended to try them before making purchase.

Headphones comfortable for one; may be entirely uncomfortable for you.”

The Next popular feature found in Headphones is…

#2 Behind-The-Neck Headphones

Behind-The-Neck Headphones are those types of headphones whose wires rest behind the neck, rather than dangling in front of your chest.

Technologies used in them can be… Wired or Wireless (Bluetooth).

>>> Behind-The-Neck In-Ear Headphones

Popular examples of these types of Headphones are Soundpeats Qv7 ($30) and Jaybird BlueBuds X Sport ($130).

Jaybird Bluebuds X - Behind the Neck In Ear Headphones

Jaybird Bluebuds X is popular among Gym goers

Both of these are Wireless; supporting Bluetooth Technology…

…and meant to be used in gym and workout purposes.

You might be wondering; how are these headphones charged?

This small video gives you walkthrough about entire setup of Jaybird Bluebuds X.

Coming to battery life, these types of headphones last for only 4-5 hrs until to need run for a charger.

The Better part however is; you can keep your smartphone in your gym bag and keep working out with these.

Isn’t that awesome?

>>> Behind-The-Neck On-Ear Headphones

Unlike In-Ear Headphones, joints of these types of headphones are made up of fiber rather than rubber or plastic wires.

Philips SHS5200-28 Behind The Neck Types of Headphones

This can be problematic if you sleep with these headphones as the fiber module pushes ear cups away from your ears.

However, these models are lightweight compared to other On-Ear Headphones…

…but these too suffer from leakage of external noise into our ears.

Padding isn’t the best on these types of headphones and fit loosely on your ears:

Sometimes lack of prominent padding can be hurtful.

Popular examples of these types of headphones are Philips SHS5200 and Sennheiser PMX95; that offer great sound quality at an affordable price point.

Moving on…

Let’s take a look at other features of Headphones.

#3 Noise Cancelling Headphones

As the name suggest:

These types of headphones excel in cancelling external noise to a greater extent. Almost by 90%!

They are designed in such a way that…

...ambient noise gets reduced by a larger margin when you wear them on.

Noise Cancelling Headphones are of two types…

>>> Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

Wikipedia states

“Active Noise Cancelling Headphones are Headphones that reduce unwanted ambient sound using active noise control engineering.”

Active NC Headphones use simple electrical circuitry that blocks outer ambient noise. Bose QuietNoise 25 ($300) are a popular example of premium-grade Active Noise Cancelling Headphones.

Bose QuietComfort 25 - Best Active Noise Cancelling Types of Headphones

To be true:

I can write an entire new article explaining about Active Noise Cancelling Technologies, but to keep things simple…

Here's How Active NC Headphones work!

Active Noise Cancelling Headphones have a microphone inside which listens to the outside noise and emits sound waves opposite to outside noise and hence cancelling it out.

Noise Cancelling Headphones image by Howstuffworks

Photo Credits - Howstuffworks

These types of headphones have three additional components than normal headphones…

They are:

  • Microphone: It listens outside noise such as traffic, airplane blades, chattering of people, wind noise and any kind of outside unwanted noise.
  • Noise Cancelling Electricals: The circuit listens to such unwanted noise and mimics sound waves which are 180 degree opposite of outside noise; that helps erasing noise upto 90%.
  • Battery: Powers the entire circuitry.

To experience true Active Noise Cancelling; cheaper alternatives like Monoprice 10010 and Audio Technica ATH-ANC7B are available

But… there’s one more thing to ought to know.

Major Problem associated with Active NC Headphones

As mentioned earlier; Active NC Headphones have their electrical circuit and battery working to cancel-out noise.

This avoids manufacturers to use heavy padding to block outside noise.

What if? Your battery dies out… Do They Still Work?

Yes! They do work without battery; but then they sound cheap, very cheap.

Because they don’t have extra padding and rely heavily on Active NC Circuit.

However on full charge Bose QuietComfort 25 runs at most 35 hours.

Not quiet bad if you ask me.

The next type of NC Headphones we have is…

>>> Passive Noise Cancelling Headphones

Passive NC Headphones are void of Noise Cancelling Electricals that Active NC Headphones use.

To block out external noise they rely heavily on thick padding construction of the Headphone itself.

These headphones are also referred to as Noise-Isolating Headphones.

Popular Examples are Sony MDR10RNC ($200) and fitness specific Soul Transform ($99).

SOUL Transform - Passive Noise Cancelling Headphones

One Man’s Pain; is Another Man’s Pleasure

As mentioned before; when battery dies off in Active NC Headphones, they sound terrible.

However; that’s not a problem with Passive NC Headphones as they don’t rely on any Noise Cancelling Electronics.

This saves your time and trouble in-case you forget to charge your headphones.

As per usage 99% of people use Passive Noise Cancelling Headphones.

#4 Headphones with Microphone

With evolution of Skype and Video Recording, there has been a huge boom in Headphones with Microphones.

There are basically two types of Microphone Headphones…

…also referred to as Headsets.

>>> Extended Mic Headset

Skype headset like Microsoft Lifechat LX6000 ($50) and Gaming Headset like Logitech G230 ($38) are popular examples of Extended Mic Headsets.

Logitech G230 - Extended Mic Types of Headphones

Logitech G230 Gaming Headset

These are mainly meant for chatting purpose and might not have excellent sound quality.

These are designed to sound clear during conversations and hence have more treble and lesser bass.

Trying to enjoying music through these is an overkill.

The connections on these types of headphones have two plugs; one for Mic and another for Audio.

Gaming headsets usually have USB connector; as they are precise and users can manipulate sound as per their needs with provided software.

>>> Inline Microphone Headset

Inline Microphone Headsets are basically those types of headphones which have microphone along the lines of wires or built inside the headphone itself (in case of wireless headsets).

AKG K551 Inline Microphone Type of Headphones

Popular example for inline Microphone Headsets are AKG K551 and Klipsch Image S4i.

Beats Solo 2 is a popular example of Wireless In-line Microphone Headset.

Klipsch Image S4i Inline Microphone Types of Headphones

Some cheaper quality headsets (under $10) can capture surrounding noise you whereas quality ones reduce ambient noise.

These types of headphones are compatible with iPhones and can be taken wherever you go; unless they are as large as AKG K551.

Conclusion

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I'm glad you survived this entire article and reached till the conclusion.

I hope was able to provide valuable information about Different Types of Headphones.

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Have a nice day ahead!

7 Comments

  1. Will Seymore August 22, 2016
  2. Ben September 24, 2016
    • Abhishek Tavasalkar September 29, 2016
  3. Mish October 1, 2016
  4. Sam October 21, 2016
  5. Taz November 22, 2016

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