12 Different Types Of Headphones: A Complete Guide Is Here

types of headphones

Different types of headphones are available in the market to listen to music, watch movies or listen to other audio files. 

Today’s market is flooded with hundreds of different types of headphones, from the most basic and low-priced products to the premium brands like Apple and Beats.

These headphones come with different features and specifications, making them suitable for different purposes. Here you will learn about different types of headphones according to their size, connectivity, design, and technology.

What types of headphones are there?

A few years ago, everything was a little simpler. There were the typical ones that you used over your ear or the laptops you bought or Walkman (for many, this could be a device from another galaxy), or a cell phone and normal headphones already came with its jack cable, and that’s it, we had a long time with these.

At this time, there is a wide variety of types of headphones. As our goal is to help you choose the one you need in a simple and uncomplicated way, we will divide these into size, connectivity, design, and technology.

By size

There are 3 main models, and all headphones are based on these:

  • Over-Ear headphones
  • On-Ear headphones
  • In-Ear headphones

By connection

This is nothing more than how we connect them, and there are several types within the 2 main ones:

  • Wired headphones
  • Wireless headphones

By design

There are 2 headphones according to their design.

  • Closed-back headphones
  • Open-back headphones

By technology

We have explained 5 headphones based on their technology. 

  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Noise-isolating headphones
  • Bone conduction headphones
  • Ambient sound headphones
  • Headsets

These types have a different fit and design and generally perform differently.

But you can find high-quality models in each category. And in general, they don’t differ greatly in terms of volume, frequency response, impedance, and bass response.

Knowing all this, let me explain a little about each one; let’s start with the size.

Types of headphones by size

All the headphones are based on these models, no matter how wireless they are, to watch TV, with radio included or some special feature, what we have to be clear about is that they are all built on these different models that I show you below:

Over-ear headphones

over ear headphones

Over-ear headphones are the most common type of headphones. They have large cups covering the ears and a headband resting on your head.

This can be a bit difficult to put on, especially if you have long hair or a big head. However, they provide great sound quality, comfort, and durability while being portable enough to use while exercising or moving around.

Among the pros and cons of these headphones we have:

Pros

  • Super comfortable fit.
  • Large, plush cushions offer a lot of comforts.
  • They can have an incredible sound.
  • Passive noise isolation enhances the listening experience.

Cons

  • For its size, it is the least portable of all.
  • Expensive
  • They can weigh a bit, making you tired after hours of use.

We have to make it clear that not all Over-ear headphones are the same, you can find some sports models or some folding ones, but they will not be the best for this type of thing.

What are over-ear headphones for?

They are the best when comfort and sound quality are crucial. This means for studio use and listening to music or playing sounds you want to hear fluently.

They are ideal when you do not need headphones that are easy to carry or foldable. If you are interested in listening to music without the headphones’ noise bothering other people because all the audio is heard, closed over-ears are what you need.

Most professional studio headphones have an over-ear design and are used at home and for gaming.

They are the ideal design when looking for a pair of headphones for general use in our house or if you like to listen to your music without being disturbed by external noise.

On-ear headphones

on ear headphones

These are the preferred option for people who need portable headphones, these are also known as supra-aural, with the difference that the over-ear ones cover the entire ear, and these go above the ear without covering it all.

Some models also have soft padding on the band to ensure maximum comfort.

On-ear models usually come with a removable cord and cable, making them ideal for using portable devices such as MP3 players and cell phones. 

They are designed to provide excellent sound quality without being too heavy to wear for long periods.

Some of the pros and cons of these headphones are:

Pros

  • They are mostly portable and foldable, which makes them easy to carry.
  • With a good model, you can have an incredible sound.
  • More stable and more suitable for sports and racing than over-ear headphones.

Cons

  • They do not have good noise cancellation; sometimes, you can hear outside noise.
  • You can also hear from the outside what you are listening to in the headphones.

What are on-ear headphones for?

Because they are smaller than their older brothers (over-ear), they excel in uses that require portability and to be used outside, whether on walks, on the way to the office, or the train.

They are very popular in the gym or sports. They are much better for sports without irritating the ear canal, making them popular with fitness people.

In-ear headphones

in ear headphones

In-ear is the smallest headphones ideal for taking with you to the outside world because they are small and portable. You can carry them in your pants or jacket pocket.

These models are also known as in-ear monitoring headphones, but most people know them simply as headphones. We call them that (it’s easier for people to find what they’re looking for).

These models are called in-ear or internal because part of them is placed inside the ears. A tube is usually placed inside the ear canal to bring the music source close to the eardrums.

This type of headphone helps with noise isolation, improving the sound quality.

You can find them in wired and wireless options. Wireless or Bluetooth headphones of this type are very popular today.

These are some of the pros and cons that we find in this type of headset:

Pros

  • The excellent passive noise isolation offers a lot of privacy and better audio quality.
  • The best portability, thanks to a much smaller design.
  • You can find models with excellent sound, almost better than the big headphones.
  • Some models are waterproof and sweat-resistant, making them perfect for sports.

Cons

  • Many people find them uncomfortable due to irritation of the ear canal.
  • Sound quality is generally good, but the soundstage can’t compare to over-ear or on-ear headphones.

What are in-ear headphones best for?

In-ear headphones are super portable models that are easy to carry. Just put them in a pocket and go.

Of course, the cables are often damaged, and the case is accidentally crushed after a few bumps. Still, in general, the fragile construction of some models has not diminished their popularity.

They sound great, especially if you’re willing to pay a little more for name-brand equipment, and are comfortable and just as reliable as on-ear headphones.

Plus, you can often get them cheaper, which is probably the main reason for their popularity. 

You can use them for commuting, listening at home, using laptops, during a workout, and even for learning. This is the best option if you like to listen to music while doing sports.

On-ear vs. over-ear headphones. What is the difference?

To end this section on the headphones by size, we want to clarify some differences between the 2 main models since it is a question many users constantly ask themselves.

Many people want to know the difference between over-ear and on-ear headphones. Well, it’s time for you to learn precisely the differences between these.

The on-ear headphones are smaller. Their headbands cover the ears but do not surround them since they are above them. In contrast, over-ears cover the ears completely, fitting the ears inside the headphone pads from all sides.

This makes on-ear headphones less comfortable when worn for hours. From our point of view, the over-ear models, by covering the ear completely, offer more comfort throughout the day.

Based on the size, the smaller size of on-ears and adding that you find many models that come with a folding design makes them easier to transport compared to over-ears.

As for audio, on-ears have worse passive noise isolation. They filter more sound so that they will disturb others with your music and you will hear more traffic noise in the city.

Generally, on-ear headphones are better for exercising. You’ll often find sweat-resistant models with a stable fit specifically for that purpose.

The audio quality between these two is practically the same, but it will always depend on the models you use in the brand.

Types of headphones by connection

Let’s go with the differences according to the connectivity of these, and there are 2 types of the main connection with which we connect our headphones: wired and wireless (usually Bluetooth).

Wired headphones

wired headphones

These standard headphones came out first and came with a cable. It is old but reliable technology. Among these, we will find the following models:

The 3.5mm jack

The most common wired connection is the 3.5mm auxiliary plug, also known as “the headphone jack.” You can connect to most laptops, smartphones (with the AUX input), MP3 players, radios, tablets, and other audio devices.

6.3mm jack

Another widely used connector is slightly larger and more common for high-end and professional headphones. The 6.3mm plug and plug into amplifiers and better audio systems.

3.5 and 6.3

In this image, you can see the size difference between these 2. Something to keep in mind is that you can always get an adapter from 3.5mm to 6.3mm (and vice versa) if necessary.

Without a doubt, this helps a lot when you want to connect professional headphones to a mobile phone or equipment with a 3.5 mm input.

The above are analog connections, but some headphones use a digital connection. Although it is extremely rare to see people using it, one of these is the optical cable.

Optical

optical cable

Optical cable has many uses; in some cases, it is also used to connect headphones. However, this technology is not very popular with standard headsets.

Most wireless TV headphones can connect the base station with an optical cable. So probably no wired headphone uses the optical cable to connect directly.

Wireless Headphones

wireless headphones

Wireless headphones have become very popular recently. The latest versions of Bluetooth and fast, quality codecs are better than ever. Wireless technology is the future of headphones (at least for the average user).

And while wireless technology offers many advantages, one more thing to worry about is battery life. More things that need to be charged are more complicated. Fortunately, battery capacity improves every year.

Bluetooth Headphones

While there are many wireless technologies, the most common is Bluetooth. Bluetooth is widely used, supported by many devices, and continuously improving.

While Bluetooth headsets used to sound noticeably worse and had a poor connection with horrible latency, this has changed much today.

The latest Bluetooth codes offer excellent sound quality and low latency to enjoy your music and movies with (almost) the same quality.

Other wireless technologies

Not all headphones use Bluetooth. Wireless gaming headsets typically use a proprietary wireless technology based on radio technology.

The reason is that the radio frequencies (the most common in gaming headsets is 2.4GHz) are better at penetrating walls and floors than Bluetooth models, which is not the best for trying to reproduce sound—being in another room with the mobile in the kitchen.

In gaming headsets, a good connection through walls and other solid objects is vital for a good user experience since most people play games at home.

Types of headphones by design

Another differentiation that you can find about the headphones is their design. Things like whether the audio drivers are inside the headphones or open, closed, and insulated with materials, like plastics.

Closed-Back Headphones

closed back headphones

The closed design is the most common and offers better active noise isolation. The drivers are encased inside the case, which changes the sound quality and blocks unwanted background noise.

Closed-back headphones are best for uses where you want to keep your music private and don’t want to disturb other people with sound leaks—such as commuting, exercising in the gym, using the office, or simply listening to music at home.

Instead, open-back headphones are the exact opposite.

Open-Back Headphones

open back headphones

Open headphones, as the name suggests, are open at the back. The drivers are not closed so sounds can go in and out without hindrance.

Change the audio quality. It improves the soundstage, which is the spatial feeling you get about the space the sound is coming from. It gives a better impression and awareness of the music’s direction.

It makes it easier to imagine you are listening to live music in the concert hall or the studio.

Also, the open back lets in more ambient noise and filters out more sound, which is terrible for noise isolation and privacy but good for situational awareness.

This is very useful if you need to hear surrounding sounds, such as when running in a city.

Open vs. Closed

It is impossible to say that one design is better than the other because both have advantages and disadvantages.

  • Open-back headphones do not block out external sounds as closed-backs do, but they also let more sound in than closed-backs. Open-backs allow outside noise to enter your ears, whereas closed-backs block it.
  • Open-back headphones are usually more comfortable than closed-backed versions because they don’t press against your head as much when you wear them. The downside is that you can hear more noise from the outside world when wearing an open headphone set than a closed one.
  • Open-back headphones are fabulous for those who want to hear the world around them but not the world’s music. The sound is completely unchecked, and you can hear everything around you. This type of headphone is best used when traveling because there is no sound blocking, allowing you to hear what’s happening outside your phone or laptop.
  • Closed-back headphones have a much more intimate sound than their open-back counterparts. These headphones are better for music lovers who want to focus on their favorite tunes without being distracted by other environmental noises. This type of headphone is best used at home, where you don’t want strangers walking in on you listening to “our” song!
  • Open-back headphones provide a better soundstage because they let the air around them vibrate freely, creating an immersive experience closer to what you hear with your ears directly in front of the speakers or speakers at a stage. Closed-back designs block out some outside noise, making them tougher to use while sitting on public transportation or walking around outside.
  • Open-back headphones are also more flexible than their closed-back counterparts because they don’t have rigid parts like headbands or earcups that might be uncomfortable for long periods. Instead, open-back models rely on the natural shape of the headband or earcup itself to hold the weight of your head and ears comfortably in place during extended listening sessions.

Get to know your needs and make a better decision so that your new pair of headphones do exactly what you want.

Types of headphones by technology

Sometimes looking to buy headphones that fit our needs, we find that the size is not as important as the technology. For this reason, in this section, we cover different technology that comes with headphones.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

noise canceling headphones

Noise-canceling headphones work by using technology to cancel out the sound of unwanted noise, like passing traffic or other sounds around you when listening to music.

This is done by applying a high-frequency sound wave against a low-frequency sound wave, which creates interference and cancels out the noise so that only your music remains.

The technology behind these headphones is called Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), which uses a microphone and digital signal processor to analyze ambient sounds and then generate a concise burst of sound waves that are sent out into the environment to suppress them. 

For this technology to work correctly, it requires more power than regular ANC systems, usually at least 20 watts per channel (or 2 watts per channel in stereo).

Noise-Isolating Headphones

noise isolating headphones

Noise isolation is the ability of headphones to block out noise from outside sources. The most common use of noise isolation is with in-ear headphones. 

Earbuds are designed to fit into the ear canal to better isolate outside noises, but they still allow some sound. This can be a problem if you’re walking through busy streets and need to hear what’s happening around you.

Noise-isolating headphones can also help you focus on your music when using them in noisy environments such as a busy train station or an office. 

They provide a comfortable and secure fit that keeps ambient sound from getting in the way of your listening pleasure.

Noise Cancellation vs. Noise Isolation

You’ve probably heard of active noise-canceling headphones. They use various microphones to pick up the noise around you, send it to the electronic circuitry, and send it back to your ears with the power of cancellation.

On the other hand, passive noise isolation only tells you how well the headphones physically block out ambient noise.

Bone Conduction Headphones

bone conduction headphones

Bone conduction technology is a new way of listening to music or making phone calls.

The headphones work by sending vibrations through the cheekbones and skull directly into the inner ear, bypassing the outer ear and ear canal.

This means no more uncomfortable earbuds and less noise pollution for you and others around you.

Bone conduction headphones have been designed specifically with athletes in mind.

They’re ideal for those looking for a more comfortable way to listen to music while still being able to hear ambient sounds around them, such as traffic noise or people talking.

Ambient Sound Headphones

ambient sound headphones

Ambient sound headphones are the ones that allow you to hear what’s going on around you while you’re listening to music. 

They usually have a microphone attached to the headset or earbuds so that you can still be aware of your surroundings. 

This can be especially useful if you’re using these headphones for fitness purposes, but it also comes in handy when commuting or walking through crowded areas.

The main advantage of ambient sound headphones is that they allow for more safety than regular earbuds. 

If you’re listening to music with them, and someone calls out your name, you’ll be able to hear them without having to stop listening or take off your headphones.

Headsets

headsets

Headsets, also known as headphones, enable people to listen to audio content such as music or speech through a loudspeaker or earphones.

They comprise two separate speakers that can be worn on either ear. They may be connected by wires or Bluetooth connection. Headsets are typically used with computers and video game consoles.

Headsets often incorporate a microphone that allows users to talk on the phone without having to hold the telephone itself to their head. 

Most headsets also include a boom microphone, held above and away from the mouth by a flexible rod, allowing users to speak at normal volumes while others can hear them clearly. 

Frequent questions

After all, some questions may arise, among the most frequent we have:

What are the types of headphones?

The main types of headphones are over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear. Taking these models into account, we can find gaming headphones to watch TV, listen to the radio, for sports and other activities.

What are the best types of headphones?

If you want headphones to enjoy the sound that is easy to wear, the best ones are the on-ear ones. To enjoy music without external noise, without a doubt, here we choose the over-ear ones, and if what you are looking for is portability so that they are easy to carry, the best ones for you are the in-ear ones.

What are the big headphones called?

These are known as supraaural or circumaural headphones, which are the largest, representing the over-ear and on-ear models.

Conclusion

So now you know a little bit more about the different types of headphones, the differences between them, and which type would best suit your listening needs. 

Do remember to check product reviews to get an honest opinion on the product you want to buy. 

You never want to risk your hard-earned money on bad-quality devices.

I hope you find this guide helpful if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comment box.

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