different types of headphones – which one buy?

Headphones are a necessity these days with people always staying on the go. Even if they are working from home, people rely majorly on headphones and earbuds to emit minimal noise and disturbance so they can work in peace.

In this article, we will dive deep into the world of headphones and learn about the different types of headphones. We have also listed out the pros and cons of each type of headphone to give you a better idea about each type. The list is as follows:

Different Types Of Headphones:

We are providing comparisons and differences of the main 6 types of headphones which is good for you.

Closed-back headphones

Closed-back headphones are the perfect choice for people who wish to shut out peripheral noise from their backgrounds. These are great for recording artists, instrumentalists, vocalists and musicians for an isolated audio experience.

These headphones also do not let a lot of noise leak into the user’s surrounding environment to disturb others which make them a great professional choice. These headphones come in both over-the-ear style and on-ear style.

They produce excellent high quality music and have a versatile build.


  • No sound leaks into recordings
  • High levels of noise isolation
  • Handy for recording activities
  • Better bass effects


  • Could be tiring to the ears
  • Surround sound or ‘concert effect’ of sound is absent

Open-back headphones

As the name suggests, open-back headphones do not have a closed up design as in they have open ear cups. Listening on these headphones feels like listening to a stereo in your room!

These headphones let some noise leak into the environment and that is not a bad thing. This is as this effect allows the user to experience a more open, smooth, flowy and airy sound experience.

Due to this “airy” sound experience, these headphones become perfect for people who like to mix up tunes and master audio setting in studios. The noise leakage is something important for sound engineers and hence it is preferred by them for the flat, raw sounds produced by it.

Although closed-back headphones are great for noise isolation, they do not work for these professions and aims. This is as they embellish the sounds and hide lower frequencies which might be preferred by a listener.


  • Audiophile level of sound quality without constriction
  • Wider soundstage
  • Realistic music listening experience
  • Very lightweight and breathable
  • Does not block out environment completely


  • Average noise isolation
  • Sound can leak in from background while recording

On-ear headphones

This type of headphones rest on top of your ears and for this purpose, are shaped as big as your ears or sometimes smaller than them. These kinds of headphones are also known as supra-aural headphones and their designs are similar to open-back headphones.

This allows some noise leakage into the environment and also quite comfortable to be worn for long periods of time. While they do not put a lot of pressure on your ears and are generally preferred by people, they may tend to absorb sweat and get uncomfortable.

These models are lightweight and very dynamic with a design that is highly customizable.


  • Very unlikely to fall off
  • Easy to wear and maintain
  • Highly portable due to light weight
  • Flexibility in design and style
  • Best suitable for activities


  • Foam from cans can absorb sweat and make it uncomfortable
  • Not suitable for long periods of usage

Over-the-ear headphones

These headphones are also called Circumaural headphones and as the name suggests, rest over your ears’ cartilage, cupping them. They rest over your ears in a manner that the padding in them completely surrounds your ears.

These headphones provide superior noise isolation but are capable of letting noise leak into your surroundings. By providing a silent atmosphere between the listener and the audio, these headphones are of the closed-back design with a high quality of sound experience.

These headphones are very comfortable to wear and put no pressure on your ears but, in fact, soothe them with the soft padding. They feel like pillows on your head and this factor could make them a little heavy.

These headphones are the bulkiest types of headphones which make them a little less travel and storage friendly. But they are worth it, as they really shut the outside world for you, giving you good noise isolation so you could concentrate in peace.


  • Excellent and dynamic sound quality
  • Captures depth of sound in incredible detail
  • Extremely impressive noise isolation
  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Very suitable for spectacle wearers


  • Are a little bulky
  • Can be pricey

In-ear headphones

In-ear headphones basically rest inside your ear canals and are connected to your device via wires or even bluetooth technology. These in-ear headphones are extremely compact and portable, making them a music listener’s favourite device to listen to music while multitasking.

These headphones are much more versatile than the other headphones we have discussed but they do come with a drawback. They tend to break off easily and can get knotted in no time.

Moreover, an actual concern with these headphones is that play music very close to your ear drums which can cause serious damage to them due to prolonged usage. The in-ear design also makes these headphones more prone to causing ear infections if not cleaned regularly.

However, with proper precautions, these headphones can work very well and serve you the best. In-ear headphones come with good noise isolation and generally have low sound leakage but at very high volumes, there might be some leakage. These are also called Canalphones.


  • Value for money
  • Highly affordable
  • Extremely comfortable for lengthy usage
  • Very portable
  • Excellent for multitasking while listening


  • Average sound quality
  • Easily damaged


Earbuds are similar to in-ear headphones but what makes them different is the fact that they rest on the outer ear instead of the ear canal. This makes them a little safer to use than in-ear headphones but the device does not come with an impressive noise isolation.

Moreover, earbuds tend to allow some noise leakage so that the user is not completely shut out from the environment and feels safe in public places. They are compact and very easy to carry on the go.

As these earbuds are slim but rest in your outer ear, the can be a little uncomfortable and difficult to maintain for longer usage. The buds come in one-size for all people which might pose a problem for some people.

The ear grip is weaker in these devices and thus there is heavy chance of the buds falling out when you do some intense activity like gymming, running or jogging.


  • Compact, versatile and highly portable
  • Good grip on ears
  • Safer than in-ear headphones
  • Provide some noise leakage for safety


  • Prone to causing ear infections if not cleaned regularly
  • Can cause hearing issues if used for too long

Noise cancelling headphones

These types of headphones have become all the rage in the modern world and use special technology to help you concentrate and eliminate distracting background noises fully. These headphones can become very handy for people who work in noisy spaces and feel the need to reduce background noises.

These type of headphones are also recommended for people who have sensitive ears and enjoy quieter atmospheres but are not able to so. The noise cancellation aids in hearing music, giving you the ultimate listening experience and is a traveller’s or an audiophile’s favourite.

Although many earbuds and earphones also come with noise cancellation technology, this feature in headphones provides a more accurate and effective experience.

Noise cancelling headphones use sound-proofing or emitting an equal and opposite frequency to cancel out noise that the microphone picks up or both technologies to be more effective. In the range of noise cancelling headphones, there are two kinds of noise cancellation. There are as follows:


  • Boosts concentration
  • Removes environmental distractions
  • Block noise without having to listen to music
  • Improved calling experience
  • Better hearing for sensitive hearers


  • Can be a little pricey
  • Risks safety in public places

Active noise cancelling headphones

Headphones with active noise cancellation cancels background noise via electrical means and require power to carry out its functions. These headphones are also pricey but do the job well in cancelling out all the noise to provide minimal distraction and maximum concentration.


  • Helps boost concentration
  • Gives better audio entertainment
  • Protects your ear’s health
  • Improves calling experience


  • Short battery life
  • Are expensive

Passive noise cancelling headphones

Headphones with passive noise cancellation cancel noises via physical means. These headphones come with sound absorbing ear muffs and coatings that not only cover your ear to block out external sound but also absorb any noise around you.

Such headphones do not require power to carry out their function and are also very cost effective as they are affordable.


  • Effectively stop noisy distractions
  • Reduce our sensitivity to environmental noise
  • Protects hearing from excessive sound pressure levels
  • Does not require power to work
  • Extra comfort and more bass response
  • Lower price


  • Bulky to wear
  • Narrower stereo field

Bluetooth headphones / Wireless headphones / Speciality headphones

Wireless electronics have taken over the world with their easy and seamless connectivity and impressive convenience. Everything these days has bluetooth or Wi-Fi or both, so why should headphones stay behind? This is where wireless headphones come in!

Headphones used to offer wireless connectivity via radio transmitter technology where sound waves were transmitted by air into a receiver. That evolved into what we know as bluetooth today which also uses radio transmitters but also has a separate channel for separate devices and is more efficient.

Now you can completely avoid hassling cords and wires and can listen to your music from quite a distance from your device as well, depending on the range of bluetooth of your device. The sound quality remains as it is and the wireless system provides you more mobility.

However, there might be a lag or delay in the sound and this can be a problem for especially gamers who rely on the accuracy of sound more than anything. Moreover, these headphones require charging and the cheaper models might have a charging or battery life issue.

To combat this problem, some headphones also come with a complementary cord. This is a wire you can use to connect your headphones to your audio-jack of the device you are listening on, if you ever run out of charge.


  • Wireless and convenient
  • Excellent sound quality even while doing activities
  • Value for money
  • No worry of getting lost
  • Synced fully with phone
  • Better button control


  • Relies on battery life
  • Prone to sound delays

Bone conduction headphones

As the name suggests, bone conduction headphones are the type of headphones that conduct sound to the ears via the bones of the wearer. Don’t worry, it is not as scary as it sounds!

The headphones create sound vibrations and rest on your jaw or cheek bones of the face. The sound waves bypass the middle and outer ear and stimulate these bones of the face to conduct sound.

These headphones are wonderful for people who have hearing difficulties but still want to listen and enjoy music and audio. The technology in this improves life quality exponentially and it is also very safe and comfortable to use.

The only downsides of these headphones are that the sound quality is not supreme and they are costly but that is only because this technology is still developing. But it is worth the cost, considering how useful and versatile these headphones are


  • Increased situational awareness
  • Comfortable fit
  • Less chance of ear infection
  • Works as a hearing aid
  • Improves life quality


  • It a little pricey
  • Sound quality is very average and not suitable for music listening

Now that you know the differences between these different types of headphones, it must be easy to distinguish between them. Take clues from the pros and cons listed in this article before choosing the right headphone for yourself. All the best with shopping!

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Mayank Patel Author At Gadgetrates

About Mayank Patel

Mayank is a tech product expert at GadgetsRates. He is frequently written about computers, laptops, smartphones, and other gadgets.

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