What is the difference between headphones and earphones?

While earphones are inserted inside the ear canal creating a plug effect, headphones can rest on the ear or even envelop it, completely isolating the listener from outside noise. In this article, we will delve deeper into the difference between headphones and earbuds. 

What is the difference between headphones and earphones?

Headphones are colloquially called earphones. They are characterized by the fact that they can be placed in the ear by slightly penetrating the ear canal.

These are the favorite devices of athletes, especially those who  like to run while listening to music. The headphones are small in size and are easily transportable, although they have one drawback: prolonged use can cause pain to the listener, precisely because they are inserted in the area of ​​the ear between the tragus, the lower left part of the auricle, and the antitragus, which instead forms the lower right part.

The other problem is how easily they come off, as they are not secured to the ear by any anchoring system.

Open headphones and closed headphones

Headphones, on the other hand, can be closed or open. The differentiation comes from the degree of isolation they produce from external sound. Open ones are also called supra-auricular, because they rest on the ear without completely isolating it.

Closed-back headphones are also called circumaural headphones; they isolate more, giving the listener a total experience. However, they are heavier than open-back headphones and this feature affects the overall experience.

Closed headphones, also called  external headphones  ,  are high-fidelity headphones  and are very popular among users of music listened to at home, when they enjoy the sound experience comfortably seated, to perfectly perceive the purity of the sound and all its components.

In general, headphones, and therefore also in-ear headphones, can allow stereo listening thanks to the presence of a double transducer, each characterized by a letter: the transducer marked with the letter L, which means left, is reserved for the left ear; the one marked with the letter R, which means right, must be applied to the right ear.

What is the difference between in-ear, on-ear and over-ear headphones?

Headphones are also called in-ear headphones.

This model of headphones was born as a professional device; it was used by musicians during concerts, but over time they were put on the market becoming a consumer product.

In-ear headphones are applied to the ear canal, at least in the outermost part of it, and are protected by a silicone or memory foam sheath.

It is important to pay attention to the quality of the coating because it is one of the characteristics that distinguishes a modest quality product from a high-level product; we advise you to see on the  comparative site of the best headphones .

Very cheap headphones have a rubber coating that does not adapt perfectly to the shape of the ear canal; what suffers is the sound insulation, and therefore the listening quality; listeners therefore feel the need to constantly reposition the headphones, which tend to slip.

What is the difference between headphones and earphones? 3

What are in-ear headphones?

In-ear headphones with silicone sheath are perfectly insulating because they work like a plug, not letting any sound from outside pass through.

Listening is satisfactory because the complete isolation creates a pressure which is conveyed towards the eardrum, without causing dispersion.

The result is quality listening, even at a not particularly high volume level and in fairly noisy contexts.

The disadvantage is a prolonged stress on the eardrum, which in the long run tires the listener. For this reason, it is recommended to use it in moderation.

What are in-ear headphones?

Over-ear headphones are characterized by the presence of two pavilions inside which the speakers are placed; thanks to passive soundproofing, these devices partially reject external noise.

The problem with this type of headset is the pressure of the padding on the ear, which after prolonged listening can cause pain.

On the other hand, the advantage is a quality use of audio content. In fact, they are distinguished by the intensity of the sound, which necessarily comes “wider” than that produced by headphones.

However, over-ear headphones cannot completely isolate the listener; in fact, they allow “external” sound to reach the ear, somehow negatively affecting the listening quality compared to closed headphones, which represent the best option ever. 

On-ear headphones are practical because they are compact and have the particularity of being small in size to be able to be easily transported. On the market there are also foldable models that take up very little space. 

What are over-ear headphones?

Circum-aural headphones instead have padding that completely surrounds the ear, which is why they are also called “closed headphones”. Thanks to their enveloping shape, the listener does not feel the pressure typical of over-ear headphones, which over time can cause some discomfort.

The advantage is expressed in the possibility of even prolonged listening.

However, it should be considered that these headphones weigh just under 500 grams, so prolonged use can be particularly tiring for the listener wearing them.

In any case, the added value of this type of device is precisely the soundproofing, which perfectly isolates from the outside world and makes music a very different experience from that heard by other means.

Closed-back headphones are particularly effective with low-frequency sound because the drivers are larger and are often housed in a small, compact enclosure. 

To influence the sound quality, and therefore that of external or circumaural headphones, there is certainly the technology used to build them. Let’s just take as an example the presence of magnetodynamic speakers, which are quite similar, albeit on a smaller scale, to those used in audio speakers.

The closed electrostatic headphone, on the other hand, is equipped with a preamplifier that houses a power supply circuit necessary to provide the auxiliary voltage; all this results in a linear frequency and a higher cost of the headphone, to the benefit of the overall sound quality.

By connecting these sophisticated but also very delicate audio devices to a good level amplifier, the listener will benefit greatly because circumaural headphones with preamplifier exploit a particular electrical signal that only the amplifier of a Hi-Fi system can guarantee. 

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