Different Types of Headphones: A Complete Buying Guide

Headphones are our best companions during our journeys, workout sessions, and even staying alone. Before buying, it is really important to understand different types of headsets and their unique characteristics. So the question is- what are the different types of earphones?

different types of headphones

Even though we use the words headphones, earphones, and headsets almost synonymously, they are not exactly the same. They are really different in design, size, and scale of inside parts. Do you know how many types of headsets are there?

Manufacturers have produced different types of earphones aiming at various end-user needs. It might be a loss of your hard-earned money if you are not well aware of them. 

This article is meant to ease your decision-making in choosing your next headphone.

First, let us have a quick look at the classification,

Different Types of Headphones: Headphone types Explained

  1. In-Ear Headphones (Earphones)

2. On-Ear Headphones (Supra-Aural Headphones)

3. Over-Ear Headphones (Circumaural Headphones)

4. Headsets

5. Wired Headphones 

6. Wireless Headphones

7. Open-Back Headphones

8. Closed-Back Headphones

9. Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

10. Passive Noise Cancelling Headphones

So the fundamental question, how many types of headsets are there, is over. We have listed all the mobile headphone types here. But do you know the basics of this classification? It is quite simple. The classification has made based on their,

  • Design
  • Connection
  • Noise isolation
  • Noise cancellation 

It is necessary to understand each of these headphone types to make sure that you are making the correct decision. Now lets us move on to the core of our topic.

1. In-Ear Headphones (Earphones)

in ear earphones

In-ear headphones or simply earphones are one of the most popular types of headphones. As the name indicates, they are designed to insert the earbuds into the ear canal. So they are also colloquially known as canal phones. 

The main advantages are they are small, easily portable, convenient, and cheap also. Since they are in-ear type, it fits the ear perfectly and thus ensure passive noise cancellation.

If you are a casual listener and frequently travelling people like students or professionals, they are meant to you. Directly go for it without any hesitation.

Even though their driver type is smaller in size (usually 6 mm to 15 mm) compared to over-ear or on-ear headphones, don’t worry; they can offer you the same nirvana to your music because they are inserted directly into your ears.

You can select the size of classic earbuds from three or four earbuds available in the earphone pack for the best fit. What are the types of earphones? Fin and bullet bud are two dominant earphone types.

Note: If you are planning to buy a wired in-ear headphone type, always go for a tangle-free cable.

Fin Earphones

fin earphones

Fin earphones are a type of in-ear headphones with a slight difference in the design of earbuds. A “U” shaped structure (Fin) is provided at the earbuds for an additional grip for the earbuds in the ear. It avoids the frequent fall of earphones from your ear. 

If you want to use your earphones during jogging and working out, fin earphones are highly preferred. If your current earphone is not fin-type, don’t worry, fins can be purchased additionally and connected to it.

  • Convenient and portable
  • Cheap
  • Sound leak chances are less
  • Good noise isolation
  • Light Weight and small
  • A slight increase in volume can damage your ears.
  • Not comfortable to wear as headphones

2. On-Ear Headphones (Supra Aural Headphones)

on ear headphones

An on-ear headphone is another type of headphone with earcup size in between in-ear and over-ear headphones. The earcup size is that it just covers your ears.

The earpieces are connected using a headband which can be worn either through the top or back of your head, depending on the design.

They can offer an audio quality better than earphones and audio quality comparable to headphones. Even though the audio quality is premium, the bass associated with on-ear headphones is slightly less.

It works as a kind of open-back headphone because it leaks a small amount of sound between the gap of ear cup and ear. But this problem can be minimized by selecting suitable earcups. You may also hear outside noise.

Since they are supposed to wear on your ears rather than cover them completely, they are also called Supra Aural headphones. It would help if you preferred headphones with soft and skin-friendly cushions; otherwise, they may hurt your ears while using them for a long time.

Note: Purchase in-ear headphones with adjustable headbands. It also should be metallic for better durability.

  • Lightweight and easy to carry than over-ear headphones
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Better audio quality
  • Sound leaks
  • Average noise isolation

3. Over-Ear Headphones (Circul Aural Headphones)

over ear headphones

The over-ear headphones are the king among headphones. In terms of audio quality, comfort, and bass, they are the best.

They have such massive earpads that cover your ears entirely and protect you from external noise. They have the biggest driver compared to other types ranging from 40 mm to 50 mm. 

They deliver you audiophile quality sound without any distortions, even at maximum volume. They will hear you each and every detail of the music without missing any. 

Even though they are a bit heavy, between 200 to 500 gms, the soft cushioned earpad and headband never let you feel so. The big and complete ear covering cups ensure a passive noise cancellation feature.

So even without active noise cancellation property, you can listen to your favourite music in a busy and crowded bus or streets.

Now, companies have started producing foldable and swivel-designed headphones for easy transporting.

Note: Always prefer headphones with feather-light ear cushions and headbands.

  • Best audio quality and bass
  • Premium comfort
  • Suitable for extended use
  • Costly
  • Big and not convenient

4. Headsets


A headset is another headphone type. It has a separate structure for a microphone which is placed just in front of the mouth.

The main difference between a headphone with a mic and a headset is, in a headphone with a mic, the mic is integrated into the headphone, whereas in headsets, it is placed near your mouth.

The headsets come with earpad sizes from on-ear and over-ear. They resemble to telephone receiver, but the only difference is, it provides hands-free operation. 

They are widely used in the aviation industry, customer service centres, and for gaming purposes. Since the microphone is close to the mouth, communication will be drop-free and clear. Audio from these headphones is of high quality.

  • Clear communication
  • Suitable for gaming
  • Difficult to carry and fold because of the mic arm
  • Not preferred for casual use

5. Wired Headphones

wired headphones

Wired headphones are the most sold headphone type. They are cheap and offer high-quality audio. Here a cable is used to take the sound signal from the mobile phone to the earphone. 

If you compare wired and wireless headphones of the same company and specifications, audio quality and bass delivered by wired are slightly higher( from our experience). 

You need not have a charge such headphones, and they are battery-less. As long as your mobile phone is charged, you can hear songs through it.

Wired headphones have different types of earphones plug or different types of headset connectors. But Audio Lightning and 3.5 mm Universal jacks are more popular.

Nowadays, premium segment mobile phone manufacturers started eliminating headphone ports and using the same charging slot for headphones. Another latest entry is type C earphones.

Do you know what is C-type earphones or micro USB-type earphones? Instead of a 3.5 mm or Audio Lightning jack, they have C-Type jacks or micro USB jacks. In other words, they are other types of headset jacks.

Anyway, while choosing wired ones, always purchase tangle-free or flat cable. Also, make sure that the length of the cable is suited for your convenience.

The wired earphone types are available for in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear headphones.

  • Need not to worry about charging
  • Inexpensive
  • Better sound at a low price
  • Inconvenience
  • Tangling issue with the cable

6. Wireless Headphones (Bluetooth Headphones)

wireless headphone

A wireless or Bluetooth headphone type is another classification based on the mode of connectivity. If you are fed up with your wired one, this type is for you.

It uses Bluetooth technology to connect the headphone to your mobile. But the playback time depends on the battery capacity of each model. 

Most of the latest wireless headphones use Bluetooth version 4.0 or 5. This connection technology is available for earphones, on-ear, and over-ear headphones.

The range delivered by them depends on the type of environment and obstruction between your device and headphone.

The main problem associated with this type is its drop in performance and audio quality towards the end of the range that the company offered. For example, if a company offers 10 meters range, we may experience some distortions after 8 meters.

If your headphone got discharged completely, you could not use them again without recharging.

Note: Highly recommended to purchase wireless headphones with an AUX port. Hence you can use your headphone by using an AUX cable even though your headphone is discharged.

There are two types of wireless headphones or two types of Bluetooth earphones,

  • Neckband Earphones
  • True Wireless Stereo (TWS) Earbuds 

Neckband Earphones

neckband earphones

Neckband earphone is a type of Bluetooth earphones that uses a neckband or cable to connect the earbuds. They are usually in-ear earphones. You can use a standard micro USB charge to power them. They are lightweight and easy to wear during walking and running.

They are convenient to wear and carry. You can feel premium quality audio and deep bass. 

  • Easy to carry and lightweight
  • No tangling issue
  • Needs to charge regularly
  • Require a mobile phone within the range
  • Costly

True Wireless Stereo (TWS) Earbuds

truly wireless earbuds

True Wireless Stereo Earbuds or simply TWS is the latest and most convenient earphone type. As the name indicates, it is free from any kind of cables, and they come in in-ear models.

It consists of a pair of earbuds wireless and a case that can be used to charge the earbuds multiple times based on the capacity.

The connection technology is Bluetooth, but the range depends on the version. Both earbuds and case contain a battery, and earbuds can be charged through the case, whereas the case needs a micro USB or C-Type cable for charging. Some variants support mono mode.

These are the two Bluetooth earphone types or two types of wireless earphones.

  • Professional look
  • The case ensures better playback time
  • Easy to carry and comfortable
  • Costly
  • Needs a mobile phone within the range

7. Open-Back Headphones

open back headphones

Open-back headphones are more common among professionals and audiophiles working in a quiet environment or a studio setting. Here isolation from external noise is irrelevant because there are such disturbances.

It never lets the pressure inside your ear and echoes spoil your song.

As the name suggests, the outside of the earcups or driver is open, and there is no layer between the outside and the driver. The main advantage is its natural sound, and you feel like the audio is coming from a speaker placed in your room rather than an earpiece.

It feels like the sound is coming from a distant place, and you can even separate vocals and each instrument sound. It is really a pleasant experience if you never felt it. The guy sitting next to you can hear what you are listening and you can listen to what that guy is talking about.

The main problem of open-back is its sound leak. Actually, it is not a “leak”; we are permitting the sound to move out.

Note: Not recommended if you need privacy and also for calling purposes.

  • Natural sound
  • Comfortable and more relaxed hearing
  • Concert like experience
  • Sound leaks
  • Not recommended for casual use outside

8. Closed-Back Headphones

closed back headphones

Closed-back headphones are the most common type of headphones we used to. It builts with earcups with perfectly seal your ears and never let the external noise disturb your music, and never let your music leak out—a perfectly enclosed listening experience.

For listening to music in a noisy environment like in a bus or city, closed-back are the best. But it can’t deliver you the natural audio as open-back headphones.

Since it pressures your ear, it may fatigue and sweat your ears for long-term use.

The closed backside of the earcups blocks noises entering your ears. Experiments show that this design reduces noise roughly by around 10-15 dB. It can also deliver great privacy to what you are listening to.

  • Best noise isolation
  • Privacy and no sound leak
  • It can use in noisy and crowdy places
  • Pressurise your ears
  • It sounds less natural

9. Active Noise Cancelling Headphones (ANC Headphones)

Active Noise Cancelling Headphones are the most sophisticated type of headphones with audiophile quality sound and style. They are best in eliminating external noise and ensuring a better listening experience even at a lower volume. Thus keep your ears safe and healthy

They use a unique noise-cancelling technology called destructive interference for minimizing ambient noise. These types of headphones are actually “listening headphones.”

They have a few mics in the outside of the earcups for receiving external noise, and the headphone produces exactly opposite audio that negates the effects of the noise.

They are designed to cancel consistent noises. So it can’t cancel sounds like vehicle horns and other unexpected sounds.

Even though Bose introduced this technology in 1986, it gained popularity only in the last 5 years.

Initially, it was more popular among airplane pilots and military purposes because of its huge price, but eventually, price came down and became common among normal music lovers.

Note: Basically, ANC headphones eliminate noise and provide a silent environment for your ears

  • Best listening experience even in a noisy place
  • Premium-quality audio and performance
  • Best while commuting on train, flight etc.
  • Expensive
  • Can’t cancel sudden unexpected noise

10. Passive Noise Cancelling Headphones

Passive noise cancelling headphones are the most popular type of headphones which offer a decent noise cancellation with no additional power consumption at a budget price.

They do not use any additional technology for blocking external noise, but it physically blocks it. They follow the closed-back design with earcups that perfectly cover your ears and prevent any noise from entering your ear canal and mixing with your music.

They are made with materials and shapes that can effectively block ambient noise, and they do not have any technology to nullify it.

Note: Passive Noise Cancelling headphones block the noise.

  • Cheap
  • Do not damage your song
  • Do not pressurise your ears
  • Only reduce noise do not eliminate it

Let’s Sum Up

Here we have introduced different types of headsets based on their design, connectivity, noise cancellation, and back style.

We believe this article helps you understand the peculiarity of each type and help you choose the best kind of headphones based on your requirement. For easy understanding, we have described various types of earphones with pictures.

We made this analysis by taking details from experts in the field and professionals. This is all about the topic, and we expect healthy comments and reviews from you to serve you better.

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