Guide to Choosing the Right Headphones or Earbuds

by | Jul 26, 2018 | Technology Featured

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Are you using your headphones to run outside or are you using them to listen to music at work? Do you prefer to really experience the bass through your headphones or do you want them to help cancel outside noise? These are the questions you should ask before committing to a new pair of headphones or earbuds.  

With so many unique models and types of headphones available on the market today, it’s hard to know just which pair will work best for you needs. Between celebrity endorsements and social media placement, you’re constantly bombarded with the so-called “best pair” of headphones, but what actually makes them different? Different types and models of headphones have unique benefits to take into consideration. This guide will cover the most common types of headphones as well as what to look for in a pair, so you get the best value.

Types of Headphones

You’ve probably encountered your fair share of headphones in your life, but have you ever stopped to consider how they’re different? Each model of headphones offers a different type of listening experience. The one you choose will depend on your personal preference as well as your listening needs.

Over the Ear Headphones

Over-ear headphones are also known as around the ear, and they’re characterized by a large cup that surrounds your entire ear. With these types of headphones, your ear rests in between these cushions which are usually made of foam and covered in soft materials like leather or suede.

The main perk of over-ear headphones is they’re generally the most effective at noise canceling. While there is no such thing as 100$ noise canceling, these can get pretty close if you purchase a high-end model. Over-ear headphones are the most immersive for sound, which is why they’re favored by most DJs and sound mixers. The con of this type is that they’re bulky. Because of their size, they’re not ideal for travel or exercise.

On-Ear Headphones

On-ear headphones have many of the same features of over-ear headphones, but they rest on the ear instead of over the ear. The cups are smaller, so they usually weigh less than over the ear headphones. While they’re still bulkier than other types, these are easier to tuck away when traveling and they might work for certain workouts. One of the most common drawbacks of on-ear headphones is that the cup can become uncomfortable against the ear if worn too long or too tightly.

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Earphones or Earbuds

Unlike on-ear or over-ear headphones, earphones rest inside the ear canal. They’re removable tips which come in different materials like silicone, rubber, or even foam. The difference between earphones and earbuds is that earbuds do not usually have removable cushions. They also are intended to rest just outside the ear canal, like Apple’s popular earbuds which are plastic.

Because earphones and earbuds are so small, they’re perfect for traveling and day-to-day use. Since they stay firmly in the ear canal and don’t get in the way, they’re usually used for athletics. They come in different styles and even wireless so there are a lot of different ways to approach the cord.


Wireless headphones are becoming the norm today. All of the styles above include earphones and earbuds come in wireless versions. These use infrared (IR) or Bluetooth technology to connect with your favorite devices like your phone or computer. Most include an in-line microphone and controls so you can take calls through your headphones or even control the volume without your phone.

What to Look For

Now that you understand the different types of headphones, it’s time to discuss what you need to look for before you buy. While it’s tempting to buy the latest model you see on Instagram, it’s better to wait until you can experience the headphones or earbuds in person. Look for the following factors before making a decision.

Comfort and Fit

Arguably the most important feature to consider is the comfort of the pair. While most headphones will feel comfortable immediately after putting them on, realize you’ll likely be wearing them for extended periods. Try to spend more than 10 minutes in a pair if you can to see if your comfort level begins to change over time. Most headphones that are adjustable should have different fits so you can find something that feels right against your ears.

For earphones, see if your model offers different sizes. Usually, the replaceable inserts will come in more than one size so you can play around with the fit. Taking comfort into consideration now will save you trouble in the long run.


Headphones should be designed to last, but not all models can take a beating. If you’re planning to only use your headphones at home or at work, then it might be okay to opt out of the protective case. However, if you’re planning to work out or travel with your headphones or earphones, make sure they’re up for the challenge.

Always check the cables and any additional features for durability. Flimsy wires are prone to breakage, while added features like hinges are known to snap under the right pressure. You can check with your manufacturer about replacement parts if you’re purchasing an expensive pair to avoid buying an entirely new set of headphones.


Whether portability matters to you depends greatly on your headphone use. If you’re planning on only listening to music at work or at home, you probably don’t care how heavy your pair is or whether it’s easy to store in a bag. When you’re planning to get physical with your headphones, that’s when you need to check for portability features.

The most portable option is earbuds or earphones which can be rolled up and taken on the go. Click here to see MusicAuthority’s favorite Bluetooth earbuds that are perfect for travel and athletics. If you must choose headphones, on-ear are generally lighter and easier to carry. Look for removable cords that you can store separately to keep them from getting tangled in the cups or the headband. Always review recommended storage instructions to make sure your pair stays in prime condition.


When it comes to headphones, you often get what you pay for. It’s worth doing the research to make sure you’re getting what you’re expecting when you shop for headphones. A great pair should last you years to come, and it will make your music experience much more enjoyable.

Think about how you’re planning to use your headphones before you make a purchase. That way, you’ll know what type works best for your lifestyle. Take the time to take your chosen headphones for a test run before committing to a new pair to feel confident you’ve made the right choice.

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