Headphones vs. earbuds: Which are better?


Fact Box

  • The world’s first pair of large in-ear headphones, resembling today’s earbuds, were invented by French engineer Ernest Mercadier in 1891. Headphones were mostly used by telephone operators at the beginning.
  • In 1910, inventor Nathaniel Baldwin invented the first type of modern over-the-ear headphones intended for Navy use, but didn’t patent them. Wanting to increase production, the navy increased production of these headphones through another company that used Baldwin’s design. 
  • Apple headphones/earbuds are by far the most popular company in the US, more than doubling the second place, Beats, in usage percentage. Apple acquired Beats in 2014. 
  • In the US, both Sennheiser and Marshall are the least popular headphone companies, with a usage of only 2% each. 
  • Statista found that more people tend to wear ear-covering wireless headphones while at home, compared to being outdoors, where people opt to wear the smaller earbuds. However, headphones are worn more on public transit versus earbuds being worn more on airplanes and at the gym.

Rob (Earbuds)

Similar to the iPhone and Android debate, personal preference plays a crucial role when deciding between in-ear earbuds and ear-covering headphones. Nonetheless, earbuds objectively outshine headphones in a variety of ways. Earbuds are far more affordable than headphones. Premium earbuds are typically cheaper than premium headphones from the same brands. Additionally, their versatility and ability to be used in any setting provide better value. According to the NY Times, earbuds are ideal for outdoor activities and the gym since they are small and unobtrusive. They are also sweat-proof and easy to clean

Earbuds stick better in the ears and are very subtle if you don't want something clunky and attention-grabbing, like wearing bulky headphones. Technological advancements have also made earbuds much smaller and more comfortable to wear, and they don't fall off easily. Earbuds are also much easier to carry with you at all times because they come in tiny cases that can fit in almost any pocket, purse, or even the palm of your hand. Headphones typically come in larger cases that are far more difficult to conceal.

Comfort is subjective to most people; however, headphones are generally more comfortable when used in sitting positions. Even then, headphones are notorious for leaving dents in the hair, which can be challenging to get out without using hot hair-damaging tools. If you need something for everyday use, earbuds are superior because they can be used almost anywhere and in any posture, even while sleeping! So, while the choice between earbuds and headphones depends on personal preference, the advantages of earbuds are evident, making them the superior choice. 

Elisa (Headphones)

While earbuds have gained popularity in recent years, headphones are the better choice for many reasons, such as design, sound, health, and comfort. Headphones are more comfortable to wear for long periods. They are convenient for working out or physical activity as one does not have to constantly worry about them falling out. 

It is important to note that headphones come in many varieties—there are simply more choices for headphone-wearers than those who wear earbuds. On the other hand, earbuds are limited in design due to their size. Headphones are available in Bluetooth and wired, with wired headphones not requiring charging and offering a more stable connection. Due to the headphones' size, wireless headphones have large batteries, allowing longer wireless time. 

Headphones' sound quality is far superior to that of earbuds. Phiathon, a headphone and earbud company, states that headphones allow you to 'better appreciate the width and soundstage of a musical mix. Close your eyes and the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals seem to spread out around and in front of you.' Through earbuds, the sound can feel 'trapped in your cranium.' 

While anybody can suffer hearing damage from headphones or earbuds, some earbuds use microwave radiation, making them dangerous to long-term users. Additionally, there is a slight increase in ear infections for earbud users. Because earbuds are in the ear, they can trap moisture and earwax, leading to ear infections. 

While earbuds may be the trendy option, ultimately, headphones are the better choice regarding sound quality, safety, and comfort. There is a reason why 'sound professionals, gamers, and your average audiophile' prefer headphones over earbuds. So, headphones are the way to go when it comes to pure utility.

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