We have a plethora of choices when it comes to choosing headphones. If you think you can pick one easily, think twice. The audio industry comes up with new types of headphones every day. The list of features they provide is incessant. In no time, your current model of headphones can get outdated compared to the advanced technology launched on the market. While not easy, choosing the right types of headphones for you is not that intricate or time-consuming, either. It boils down to the features you are looking for. That way, you can select headphones that will give you ultimate comfort.
Quick Answer: Headphone Types
Headphones can be categorized into three main types: over-ear headphones, which completely cover the ears offering excellent sound quality and noise isolation; on-ear headphones, which sit on top of the ears providing a balance between sound quality and portability; and in-ear headphones, also known as earbuds or earphones, which are inserted into the ear canal, ideal for mobility and active use.
Additionally, there’s another headphone classification based on functionality: wired headphones, wireless (Bluetooth) headphones, and true wireless earbuds. Noise-canceling headphones, a special category, use technology to minimize external noise and can come in any of the aforementioned styles.
What is a headphone?
Headphones are electronic products that are sound output devices worn around or over your ears. They are a pair of small loudspeakers housed in various designs. They work by converting electronic signals into sound. These are devices that let you enjoy music and other audio materials privately. Sometimes, they are also called earphones; however, typically, headphones are considered larger and are worn over your head instead of your ears.
Things to consider before buying headphones
Headphones are in fashion. Be it due to the introduction of the Apple AirPods or the general love for music among the masses, headphones have always been a much sought-after electronic product. You can use it while exercising, running, commuting, or even gaming. And it shows. If we take the global market data for headphones, as seen in this report, the industry has shown growth potential from an initial $28 billion in 2020 to approximately $51.56 billion by 2026.
Headphone sales are on the rise, as they are expected to sell around 1.3 billion pieces by 2028. This is why we have created a list that can aid you when purchasing a headphone. Below are a few points to consider when looking for headphones:
1. Why do you want headphones?
Before buying a headphone, you have to narrow down your perspective, as it all ultimately boils down to your personal choices. Thus, you should examine your needs and finalize a budget before placing an order. After you have finalized your thoughts, you can proceed with selecting and purchasing the headphones.
2. What type of headphones will suffice?
Now, you have to decide what type of headphones will fulfill all the criteria you have thought about. If you look closely, there seems to be a plethora of headphones available on the market. Headphones differ from wired to wireless, with various sizes, form factors, and features. Then there are in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear headphones. You should consider your comfort level and practicality while choosing the type of headphones.
3. How much will it cost?
Ultimately, every purchase option is influenced by pricing. Most people are restricted by a budget, and they can only choose a product within a particular price range. Thus, before purchasing a headphone, you should compare pricing with other similar products and make concessions with inconsequential features that can be sacrificed. For example, if your sole objective is to listen to music, you might want to focus on the output quality instead of the mode of connectivity.
We have compared the various types of headphones and created a table with the key features and general price range.
|Types of headphones
|General Price Range ($)
|They feature portability, are smaller, are lightweight, and offer noise isolation, audio enhancement, and wireless connectivity.
|10 to 300+
|More balanced audio output, is portable, comes with adjustable headbands, and has control buttons.
|20 to 500+
|Most offer excellent sound quality made up of premium materials and features like noise cancellation, isolation, and control buttons.
|50 to 1000+
|Doesn’t require wires, touch controls, noise cancellation, or charging.
|20 to 800+
|Offers features like surround sound, a microphone for input, RGB lighting, and a comfortable build.
|30 to 500+
|Sound Canceling Headphones
|It comes with ANC (active noise cancellation) EQ, a longer battery, and premium build quality.
|50 to 1500+
|Sportswear & Fitness Headphones
|Water resistance, a secure fit, is often wireless, and has a long battery life.
|20 to 300+
4. What about the design?
Sometimes, the design of the headphones also matters. Mostly, you will see closed-back options on the market, however, those who love music sometimes also go for open-back ones as they sound better. Similarly, you have to choose between other form factors like in-ear, over-ear, and so on, based on when and where you are going to use these headphones.
5. Should brand matter?
Finally, there is the question of branding. Should it matter? Generally speaking, yes. Premium brands offer quality products because they have to maintain their goodwill. However, they are often costlier than the competition. So it comes down to the person and whether he is willing to spend that much for brand assurance.
Also, take a look at the top 5 headphones of 2023:
In our previous discussion, we learned the advantages and disadvantages of headphones. Thus, this time around, let’s explore different kinds of headphones.
Before we head into the varying types of headphones, let’s take a look at earbuds and what makes them different from others. Earbuds were designed to fit in your ears and at the same time sit outside your ear canal. Therefore, you can expect to hear sounds from the external environment, too.
If you are looking for a portability feature, earbuds are a perfect choice for you. They are compact and comfortable. Also, since they don’t enter the ear canal, you won’t have to deal with problems such as ear fatigue. Plus, earbuds are comparatively cheaper, so you can find one at the best prices.
- Fits outside the ear canal
- Allows you to hear external sounds
- Compact and comfortable
2. Closed-back Headphones
Closed-back headphones are the common form of headphones used by people who want nothing but excellent audio quality. Due to the closed-back design, sounds from the external environment cannot enter your ear while using this piece of audio technology.
Similarly, the sound from inside cannot escape. This ultimately produces high-quality sound hence it’s used by musicians during their performances. But there is a drawback with closed-back headphones. While their design can limit distraction, it also leads to breathability issues. You can experience this frequently, usually in the form of sweaty ears.
- Blocks external sounds
- Produces high-quality audio
- This can lead to breathability issues
3. Open-back Headphones
Open-back headphones are a counterpart of closed-back ones. This time, sound from the external environment can enter your ear and the one from speakers can escape, too. This way, people can hear what you are listening to. Unless you are not looking for an intimate listening experience, the open-back type is the one for you.
Just remember, if you happen to be in a bustling environment, you must prepare for a compromise with your listening experience. On a brighter note, you won’t face breathability issues because of their open design. Thus, no more sweaty ears. Plus, you can use them for a longer duration without discomfort.
- Allows external sounds and audio to escape
- Not suitable for noisy environments
- Offers good breathability and comfort
4. Noise-canceling Headphones
The noise-canceling headphones are the talk of the town. Not that you can hear it, though. As the name suggests, these headphones cancel noise. If you want to create an isolated environment, the noise cancelation headphones are the ones for you. They have a built-in microphone that monitors the external sound and creates an opposite sound wave that cancels it.
This is the concept of phase inversion that creates anti-noise. Therefore, users will only hear the sound coming from the headphones and not the external environment. If you travel frequently, noise-canceling headphones can be your perfect companion to block unavoidable background noises.
- Cancels external noise
- Creates an isolated listening environment
- Ideal for travel and blocking background noise
5. Bluetooth Headphones
Bluetooth headphones are ideal for users who want to go cordless. We can’t really judge them for their choice, as cord entanglement is the common cause of headphone damage. This headphone skips the wire connection process, allowing you to go wireless. You get a portability feature along with the convenience of going tangle-free. But it’s not all rosy.
With Bluetooth headphones, you can expect a delay as connection and transmission occurs through radio signals. Other than this, Bluetooth headphones need to be charged. Ergo, be sure to charge your device before using them. Finally, considering they provide a hassle-free listening experience, the expensive price comes as no surprise.
- Wireless, no cords
- There may be a slight delay due to the Bluetooth connection
- Requires charging
- Convenient but can be expensive
6. Over-ear Headphones
The name of these headphones speaks for itself. Here, the earpads cover your entire ear. This creates an isolated environment, blocking interference from the surroundings. If high sound quality is your requirement, over-ear headphones are a perfect choice for you.
Plus, the cushion covering your ears gives you ultimate comfort. This can either be made up of velvet or leather material. But on the flip side, they are one of the bulkier types of headphones. If you can compromise on portability and arrange for the space to store it properly, you can freely go for over-ear headphones.
- Earpads cover the entire ear
- Isolated listening environment
- High sound quality and comfort
- Bulky and less portable
7. On-ear Headphones
On-ear headphones are similar to over-ear ones, with the difference the earpads are comparatively smaller. Thus, you can easily wear them while on the go. Also, since the earpads of on-ear headphones are the perfect fit for your ears, you don’t have to worry about them slipping and falling out. This way, you get stability and can use them while performing physical activities. On the other hand, you can expect to experience breathability issues with this type, leading to sweating if used for a prolonged duration.
- Earpads are smaller, suitable for on-the-go use
- Stable fit for physical activities
- May cause breathability issues with prolonged use
8. In-ear Headphones
At first, in-ear headphones may seem similar to earbuds due to their design, but they are actually different. In-ear is one of the most common kinds of headphones and, chances are, you own it or are used to. Here, the ear tips go to your ear canal.
Therefore, the sound goes directly to your ear with little to no leakage. This improves your listening experience and allows you to focus more on the music you are listening to. But again, you will have to be careful when using these headphones. Since it goes directly to your ear canal, avoid turning up to high volume. Otherwise, loud sounds can rupture your eardrum.
- Ear tips go into the ear canal
- Direct sound delivery with minimal leakage
- Improved listening experience
- Caution needed to avoid high-volume
9. Bone Conduction Headphones
The headphone options we explored until now are concerned with ears. Now we will discuss bone conduction headphones that can help you listen to music without covering your ears. In this kind of headphones, sound vibrations transmit through the cheekbones and jaws and reach the inner ear. This is how you hear sounds.
Using these headphones, you can listen to your environment, which increases your situational awareness. This way, you can use these headphones while safely walking the streets. But everything comes at a cost. In this case, it is the high price and low-quality sound.
- Transmit sound through cheekbones and jaws
- Doesn’t cover the ears, allowing awareness of the environment
- Suitable for outdoor activities
- Typically more expensive with lower sound quality