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In-Ear, Over-Ear, and On-Ear Headphones: Which one is the best for you?

Speak of headphones and you are speaking as much of an audio device as a ubiquitous fashion accessory. 

When it comes to making the choice of headphones, the decision really has to begin with a fair understanding of what your exact requirements are and the kind of lifestyle you lead. Some of the questions to ask your self include:

  • Are you an audio enthusiast for whom sound quality is most important?
  • How often do you wear headphones?
  • Where are you most likely to wear them?
  • Is travel or workout a large part of your headphone requirement?

On the basis of your lifestyle, you could choose between in-ear, over-ear and on-ear headphones. Typically the choice of earphone type would boil down to a choice between three priorities, often competing with each other:

  • Sound Quality
  • Comfort 
  • Portability

Let us look at each kind of headphone a little in detail to see how it ranks on these parameters:

Over-Ear Wireless Headphones

Over-ear headphones, also known as “circumaural” headphones, are largely considered to be the most high-quality and are every audiophile’s first choice.

Sound Quality

If you are looking for a great listening experience, there is no doubt that you should go for over-ear wireless headphones. Their large driver ensures that you have better sound quality. 

You will also benefit from the fact that it can reproduce the widest range of frequencies; from those highs to the deep bass. The fact that they enclose your ears completely, also means that they provide noise isolation and add to your listening experience.


With an over-ear headphone cupping your ears, comfort is a given. As long you aren’t using a very heavy pair, you simply don’t have to worry about your ears getting sore. 


This is the only area, that isn’t the strong point of these earphones. They are large and hence don’t lend themselves to portability. They may not be your best bet, therefore, if what you need is to travel light on that trip. 

On-ear headphones

This type of headphone sits directly against your ears and is far smaller and lighter compared to over-ear headphones.

Sound Quality

In terms of sound quality, on-ear headphones do not rank as high as their over-ear counterparts. They also leave a lot to be desired when it comes to noise isolation as they aren’t able to create a seal the way over-ear and in-ear headphones do. 


While comfort is a matter of personal preference, for people, who do not prefer the headphones to sit inside the ear canal, they are a happier alternative than the in-ear ones. Even though, some people do feel some kind of soreness that comes from constant contact with their ears.


Most on-ears are optimized for on-the-go users. Even if their portability quotient isn’t as much as that of in-ear headphones, these earphones are made with travel in mind; some may even fold up! Remember to put them in a hard case and you have a travel companion in place.

In-ear headphones

Also called earphones or earbuds, these headphones have rapidly become a must-have accessory with the rise of MP3 players as also smartphones. 

Sound Quality

When it comes to in-ear headphones, their small drivers are a constraint in producing the kind of high or low that over-ear headphones produce. Having said that, however, the sound quality really depends on whether you pick up cheap, plastic earbuds or high-performance in-ear headphones from companies such as Samsung, JBL and World of Play. The fact that they create a seal inside your ear canal, also mean that they are good for noise isolation.


If you have sensitive ears, odds are that anything resting in the ear canal may cause you some discomfort. Finding the right size is all the more essential when you decide to go for in-ear earphones. A half-in ear design also lends itself to all-day comfort wear. For the same reason, silicon ear tips are preferred.


Due to their small size, in-ear headphones rate the highest when it comes to portability. Slip it into a travel case or simply toss them into your pocket and you are good to go. That there are wireless variants available means that you do not have to worry about those tangling cords. 


Besides analyzing your bespoke needs, do remember to conduct detailed research to understand the features of the specific model of headphones you are considering! Here’s to a great listening experience and to up your style quotient several notches!

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