Earbuds vs. Headphones: Which One Do You Need?

Last Updated: September 6, 2021By

Apple AirPods on white table without case

The debated on earbuds vs. headphones has been going on for a while. If you are here to find the one that suits your needs, you are at the right place!

Everyone who loves to blast music while working, running, or simply laying on the couch chooses either of the two: Earbuds or Headphones. You will not find many people who will advocate for both. So, there is a clear divide between people who prefer one as opposed to the other.

To understand which will work for you, you need to analyze them both carefully. This article dissects earbuds and headphones in detail to help you make an informed decision.

An Overview

Earbuds are two tiny devices that have their own driver. They connect to audio devices via a cable or Bluetooth, depending on the design. You can fit them directly on the inner part of your ear or into the ear.

Owing to their small size, they provide excellent portability. In most cases, earbuds outperform headphones when you consider the price point. It is because they have less space for internal components.

Headphones are two loudspeakers connected by a headband. You can wear them over the top of your head and rest them over your ears. Although each headphone looks distinctively different, they have a general makeup that is similar.

Types of Earbuds

  • Wired
  • Wireless
  • True Wireless

Type of Headphones

  • Over-ear headphones
  • On-ear headphones

Functional Features

Black headphones on white book page

Although both come with numerous advantages, one is clearly better than the other depending on your needs. So, take a look at the features below and check out how each of these devices performs. Then, you will be ready to get what you want out of them.

Audio Quality

Before you purchase any sound device, it is important to consider the audio quality. Poor audio quality can always negatively impact your music or movie experience.

As much as it is imperative to consider sound quality, it is hard to compare earbuds and headphones since it entirely depends on the model. You can always find a headphone model that outperforms a popular earbud model and vice versa.

Nonetheless, if you consider a particular price point, headphones usually provide better audio quality than earbuds. Headphones have an edge since they are larger. The larger the drivers, the better it can provide bass.


Comfort is the most important factor when it comes to choosing between earbuds and headphones. Further, you can easily find many sound devices with excellent audio quality, and it isn’t easy to find a device that you feel perfectly comfortable with.

Many people find over-ear headphones the most comfortable since they rest around or on the ears smoothly. Plus, they do not feel invasive like earbuds as they blast sound while they sit inside your ears.

Over-ear headphones have ear pads and pads on the headband for comfort, although they can put some pressure on your ears over time. To conclude, headphones are better than earbuds in terms of comfort.

Noise Isolation

Apple Airpods on white surface

Noise isolation refers to how well the sound device can block external noise. The better the noise isolation feature your device has, the more enhanced the sound experience will be.

Generally, earbuds and on-ear headphones are not the best when it comes to this feature. They have a design that does not seal against your ears. Hence, you can not expect great noise isolation unless they add something extra.

If noise isolation is very important to you, then you can go with over-ear headphones since they can prevent outside noise from leaking in. They have earpads that surround your ear, which can create the necessary seal.


Portability can be a determining factor depending on your lifestyle. Although both headphones and earbuds are good for on-the-go use, it is easier to transport something as tiny as a pair of earbuds. So, if you have to carry them around regularly, you can go with earbuds.

On the other hand, there are plenty of headphones that are lightweight and small. Moreover, many headphones come in a foldable model that makes transport easier. Nonetheless, earbuds are more convenient since they can fit in your pocket, unlike headphones, foldable or otherwise.

Pros and Cons

Headphones and earbuds, these two sound devices have so much to offer, yet they have their own drawbacks. So, it can become quite confusing when deciding.

This section will walk you out of the confusion by helping you understand what’s better for you with a few pointers. Weighing the below-mentioned pros and cons can make the decision-making process easier and faster.



  • Earbuds are more portable than headphones owing to their smaller size
  • A fitted pair of earbuds offer excellent noise isolation
  • Good sound quality


  • Can cause discomfort since you have to place it inside the ear canal
  • Noise cancellation is not always great unless you pay a lot for it



  • Headphones are one of the most comfortable audio devices
  • They can offer an excellent level of noise cancellation
  • Incredible sound quality


  • Not as portable as earbuds
  • Does not offer great noise leakage

Battery Life

When it comes to battery life, the larger the device, the longer it can last. Generally, most wireless earbuds can last as long as five to six hours of listening time after a single full charge. On the other hand, many high-quality headphones can last for up to 24 hours.

You can find expensive earbuds that can last up to 7 to 8 hours. However, spending the same money on headphones can give up to 30 hours of listening time.

Additionally, considering the charging time for the earbud’s charging case can add up to 10 to 15 hours. So, if you want a reliable set for a long journey, you can choose headphones over earbuds as they can last throughout your journey.

Which Is Better for My Health?

Sony WH-1000MX3 headphones on white surface

The earbuds vs. headphones discussion rage on about sound quality and comfort. Besides these features, have you ever wondered about which is better for your health? Further, noise-induced hearing loss is increasing with every passing day.

Both devices can cause damage to your hearing. The length of exposure to sound and volume level is more impactful than the type of device. Nonetheless, earbuds are worse for your health than headphones.

Earbuds blast sound right inside your ears, and they are unhealthily close to your ear canal. That can naturally increase the volume level by about nine to ten decibels. In comparison, headphones sit outside your ears which reduces the natural elaboration.

At the same time, headphones are better at blocking background noise, so you do not have to turn up the volume to dangerous levels. It is also easier to find poor-quality earphones that can be damaging than headphones of that sort.

Which Is Cost-Effective?

The money you will have to spend on these devices depends on the sound quality and other features. Both earbuds and headphones have models that have prices on the two ends of the spectrum.

Although the price depends on the model, you can find earbuds at lower prices. Earbuds are smaller, which means they require fewer materials for manufacturing. Therefore, they cost less than headphones.

If you want a high-quality sound device, you will have to pay more. Further, it is better to invest in earbuds or headphones that provides better sound quality since it is good for your health.

Which Is Good for Me?

Ultimately, what you choose depends on your personal preference. Yet, it is better to make a choice based on what you need the device for. So, here are some suggestions that can help you with some common circumstances.

Work Out: Listening to music can help you concentrate during your workout sessions. True wireless earbuds can be the perfect choice for running, gyms, and other workouts. These earbuds do not have a cable, so there will be nothing that can restrict your movement.

Travel: Headphones with longer battery life and noise cancellation feature can be an excellent choice for traveling.

Commuting: If you want to listen to music or podcasts on your commute to school or work, earbuds are an amazing choice. They are compact and lightweight, making them easier to shove in your bag when you do not need them.

Recording: Noise isolation is crucial for recording and audio mixing. So, a pair of high-quality headphones can be excellent for this purpose. You can go with closed-back headphones if you do not want any disturbances.

Gaming: Performance is imperative to gaming. So, a pair of high-quality headphones can ensure you perform well. Moreover, over-ear headphones offer comfort for longer gaming sessions.

Final Verdict

Earbuds and headphones are very different, even though they serve the same purpose of privately producing music to your ears. Moreover, they are available in various types and subtypes, so you have a lot of options.

It is better to know what you specifically need before getting overwhelmed by the options. So, go through all the features and the suggestions mentioned above before purchasing any.