Earphones and Headphones - What Is The Difference?

Portability is one of the major influences on the development of modern sound technology. From the first headphones, which were used with stationary sound reproduction devices, through the lighter models which were introduced along with the first mobile reproduction devices, we’ve seen headphones transform from clunky, heavy pieces of hardware to light and small sophisticated pieces of modern technology that can fit in our ear. And today, people want to listen to the music they want at the quality they want whenever and wherever they want, so manufacturers like Schultz are coming up with innovative ways of giving them the best of quality and mobility in the same package. That package could, today, be broadly divided into two categories – headphones and earphones.

Headphones come in two distinct designs – circumaural and supra-aural. Circumaural are made with earpads that are large enough to encompass the whole ear, while supra-aural, being much smaller, do not encompass the ears but press against them. Earphones also come in two designs which have one thing in common – they both allow the phone to be inserted into the ear. Earbuds are the ones that can be fitted into the outer ear, and the smaller ones, in-ear monitors, can even fit into the ear canal.

The obvious difference between headphones and earphones is in the size. Headphones are larger, and they need a headband or a neckband to be worn. Earphones are smaller, and everything they need is a cable to connect them to a device that plays sound. This difference in size, however, affects other characteristics of both headphones and earphones.

For one, earphones are much more portable than headphones. Wearing headphones while doing any physical activity such as working out might not be the best idea since they are big and easier to damage, and they can quite heavy and fall off more easily. In same conditions, earphones can sit comfortably in the ear, without much fear of them falling out. Earphones, especially in-ear monitors, are superior to headphones when it comes to noise isolation. To isolate ambient noise, it is necessary for the headphone or earphone to form a tight seal in or around the ear, so to prevent any ambient noise from leaking in. And the seal that’s made by in-ear monitors in the ear canal is usually better.

On the other hand, the fact that earphones are smaller also means they have smaller drivers, which affect their ability to reproduce bass frequencies, especially the lower ones, as they tend to command a bigger driver for quality reproduction. This means that headphones should have a better frequency range, although the advantage might not even be audible if it is in the very low bass register. There is also the question of comfort, as some people – especially those with tight ear canals – find earphones to be too uncomfortable to wear over an extended period of time. On the other hand, there are those who don’t like the feeling of headphones pressing against their ears, so it comes down to personal preference.