The Difference Between In-Ear, On-Ear and Over-Ear Headphones

The Difference Between In-Ear, On-Ear and Over-Ear Headphones

The last decade has seen the headphone market change drastically. New models offer a wide array of unique features at price points to suit any budget. Despite this rapid growth in the market, all headphones still fall into the same basic categories — in-ears, on-ears, and over-ears. Before you spend your money buying a new set of headphones, it is important to understand the differences between these types of headphones.

In this article, we will walk you through the basics of each headphone type. We will provide you with a comparative analysis of in-ear vs on-ear headphones vs over-ear headphones, and show how each performs in terms of sound, noise cancelling, comfort, portability, and applicability for sport activities.

Table of Contents

  • Pros & Cons of In-Ear Headphones
  • Pros & Cons of On-Ear Headphones
  • Pros & Cons of Over-Ear Headphones
  • Conclusion

Pros & Cons of In-Ear Headphones

In-Ear Headphones

Just as the name implies, in-ear headphones go inside your ears and create a partial or complete seal. They are the most popular type of headphones due in large part to their relatively low price. In fact, they are often found in the box with a smartphone.

Sound 

In-ear headphones do not typically excel in terms of sound quality. Equipped with small drivers, which amplify music right inside your ear, their small size means the quality of sound being produced is inferior to their on-ear and over-ear alternatives.

Though there are still in-ear headphones that create fairly reasonable sound quality. One example of this are planar magnetic earbuds. They can often outperform over-ear headphones that utilize dynamic drivers. The construction of planar magnetic drivers ensures a better bass response and resistance to any kind of distortion, leading to better overall sound quality. 

Noise Cancelling

In-ear headphones are the most efficient type of headphones in terms of blocking ambient noise. For best results, users should make sure these headphones fit well inside their ear canal. One alternative is to use memory foam tips that adjust themselves in your ear.

Comfort 

In-ear headphones are the least comfortable option in the “on-ear vs over-ear vs in-ear headphones” comparison. Since they sit inside your ear canal, you can begin to feel a little soreness over time. If you plan on using headphones for extended listening sessions, in-ear headphones are probably not the №1 option you should go with.

Portability

Due to their miniaturized size, in-ear headphones are the champions in terms of portability. Simply stuff them into a pocket or toss them into a bag. 

For Sports

In-ear headphones are a wise investment for a gym enthusiast. Lightweight and small in size, they will not interfere with your athletic activities. Created to provide a firm seal, in-ear headphones will rarely fall out of your ears when you run or jump, as opposed to on-ear or over-ear headphones that may slip off your ears during athletic activity.

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Pros & Cons of On-Ear Headphones

On-Ear Headphones

On-ear headphones cover your earlobes but do not completely cover your ears. These headphones are an ideal middle ground between in-ear and over-ear headphones. 

Sound

With the larger drivers than those of in-ears, typical on-ear headphones produce a more diverse range of frequencies. Sound quality is highly dependent on the design and the cost of the headphones in question.

Noise Cancelling 

Since on-ear headphones do not offer a complete seal around your ear, they do not cancel ambient noise as well as in-ear headphones.

Comfort

Like with any type of headphones comfort is a matter of personal taste. Contrary to in-ear headphones, on-ears are not designed to be fitted inside your ear. Because of this, they will not irritate your ear canal. You may experience soreness of your earlobe though if you use them for extended periods of time.

Portability 

On-ear headphones are a perfect option if you want to enjoy high-frequency sound response without compromising on portability. Though they are bigger than in-ears, they won’t take up much space in your pocket or bag. With comparatively small ear cups, many on-ear headphones fold up for easier transportation.

For Sports

Like in-ear headphones, on-ear headphones can also provide a stable fit, when sized properly. What’s more since on-ear headphones offer wireless capabilities, tangling of headphone cords will not be an issue. Many on-ear headphones are often available in sweatproof designs, making them extremely popular in the gym. 

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Pros & Cons of Over-Ear Headphones 

Over-Ear Headphones

Though some users see no difference between on-ear and over-ear headphones, this is a somewhat common misconception. Also known as around-the-ear or circumaural headphones, over-ears are the biggest in size and completely enclose your ears. They are commonly meant for studio use or relaxed listening at home. 

Sound 

Over-ear headphones are considered to be the winner in the “in-ear vs over-ear headphones” comparison in terms of sound reproduction. Due to the largest drivers, over-ear headphones have the highest frequency response. Users can enjoy everything from “weightless” highs to deep, rich basses that can give you goosebumps. Over-ears are big enough to provide a wide soundstage, which gives the sense that music is “happening” right in front of you.

Noise Cancelling 

In terms of sound isolation, over-ear headphones fall into two categories:

  • Closed-back headphones These eliminate any type of peripheral noise while creating a 100% isolated sound experience. This makes them perfect for a professional environment.
  • Open-back headphones These feature “open” ear cups, which allow some leakage, making the sound more “airy”. 

Comfort

Created for long listening sessions, over-ears rate the highest when it comes to comfort. Due to the special design of ear cups, over-ear headphones will rarely make your ears sore or sweaty. Though most of them are much heavier than on-ears and in-ears, around-the-ear headphones normally come with a padded headband. 

Portability 

Portability isn’t the strongest suit of over-ear headphones. Larger in size, they take up quite a bit of space compared to in-ear and on-ear headphones. That being said, if your highest priority is sound quality, but you also want some amount of mobility, you can consider foldable models of over-ear headphones.

For Sports

Not all over-ears are created only for studios or gaming headsets. Some over-ear models are sweat-resistant. This makes them great options for sports and workouts. What's more, some models can be folded up and tossed into a gym bag. 

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On-Ear vs Over-Ear Headphones vs In-Ear Headphones Comparison

Type

Sound

Sound Cancelling 

Comfort 

Portability

For Sports

In-Ear

Medium

Great

Medium

Great

Great

On-Ear

Medium

Medium

Medium

Good

Good

Over-Ear

Great

Medium

Great

Bad

Medium

Conclusion

So when making the choice of on-ear, in-ear, or over-ear headphones, which is right for you? Each fit is created to serve a specific purpose. If you prioritize mobility and passive sound isolation over high-quality of a sound, in-ears rate the highest in the “in-ear headphones vs over-ear headphones vs on-ear headphones” comparison.

On the other hand, over-ear headphones are an ideal solution for relaxed listening, studio environment, and gaming. On-ears will help you get the best of both worlds since they incorporate the portability of in-ears coupled with the comfort and performance of over-ears. 

Whether it comes to in-ear, on-ear, or over-ear headphones, there is always room for exploration. At Treblab you will discover an extensive variety of in-ear and on-ear headphones, which combine exceptional sound quality, portability, sound cancellation, and comfort.

Fully optimized for sports, our headphones come as wireless, true-wireless and sweat-resistant models. Check out our range to find earphones and headphones that will make your workout flawless!

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