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Earbuds vs Earphones vs Headphones: Know the Difference!

Earbuds vs Earphones vs Headphones?

This title is probably confusing, isn’t it? You’re thinking “aren’t earbuds and earphones the same thing?” and “what do headphones have to do with them?”.

Did you know there was a difference between earbuds and earphones? Many think that the two words are synonyms to describe similarly built audio playback devices. However, this is not the case.

While it is easy to distinguish earbuds vs earphones vs headphones due to their more obvious differences, the task becomes somewhat difficult when the comparison is being made solely between earbuds and earphones. 

Although they look very similar and share basic functionality, it turns out that there are actually several notable differences when it comes to the topic of earbuds vs earphones vs headphones that we will discuss below.

What are the differences between earbuds, earphones and headphones?

Appearance

This is the easiest place to start when it comes to earbuds vs earphones, as this is where their most obvious differences are. Both earbuds and earphones share a similar appearance, in that they are small headphones that are designed to fit in different parts of the ear. Earphones are larger in size, with both ear-pieces being connected by a wire that either connects wirelessly or directly plugs into the musical device. 

Earbuds, on the other hand, are entirely wireless pods (hence the name earpods, which has become more common in recent times). Not only are earbuds wirelessly connected to their device, each ear-piece is wirelessly connected to each other. Earbuds also contain silicon tips that Earphones do not, and the volume controls are contained on the pods.

Headphones obviously have the largest difference of the three, being a pair of cushioned speakers that cup the ears and are held together with a headband. They are bulkier and heavier than earphones or earbuds. Headphones come in wired and wireless variations. Wireless headphones tend to contain additional functions such as volume control buttons on the side. 

Comfortability

Earbuds are designed to fit into the ear canal, their silicon tips providing comfort and allowing for a more snug fit. If the earbuds are not fitted properly, it can result in the earbuds falling out during regular use or, if too big, can cause pain to the ear canal.

Earphones have two different kinds of designs. The first is the in-ear style used by earpods, while the other is a slightly flattened design that is built to rest directly in the outer ear. This design is less invasive than earbuds, but it means the earphones are less secure, and can be pulled out of the ear if the connective wire of the earphones is impacted upon.

Headphones are designed to hug the ears, with the cushions on the side made from soft material such as foam or leather. While the right headphones can be really comfortable, there are a lot of factors that can affect comfortability, such as:

- being too tight to listen for long periods of time
- being too loose and falling off with the slightest of head movements
- being too heavy on the head
- retaining too much sweat, which can deteriorate the headphone cushions and give them an odour

Sound Quality

Because of their small size, both earbuds and earphones have small drivers that affect their sound quality. However, it is not as if earbuds automatically have better drivers than earphones or vice versa. Instead, driver quality predicates on the quality of the build specifically. 

What differentiates earbuds vs earphones in terms of sound quality is their fit. Because earbuds fit inside the ear canal, they use noise isolation to block out external noise while directly projecting their sound against the ear canal. The earphones that rest in the outer ear have less sound clarity, and no noise cancellation.

Headphones have a lot more space for advanced drivers, meaning their sound quality tends to be a lot higher than earbuds and earphones. Additionally, most headphones implement both noise cancellation and noise isolation, as their purpose is to cup the entire ear. 

Safety

Earbuds and earphones both have similar hazards associated with them, however the reasons for each danger are different, for example:

- A lack of noise isolation which results in the user overcompensating by raising the volume excessively, which can damage hearing.
- For earbuds, this is because the device has been improperly fitted into the ear canal, allowing background sound into the ear.
- For earphones, this is because these devices don’t contain noise isolation.
- Direct physical damage to the ear.
- For earbuds, this is due to the devices being pushed too far or being too big for the ear canal.
- For earphones, this occurs when earphones are ripped out because of the wire being pulled.

Because headphones are the least invasively built, it is difficult for them to cause direct physical harm to the ear. However, because they are larger and they cover the entire ear, they can cause damage if used with the volume at an excessive level.

Customisability

In order to circumvent the hazards presented in the previous segment, earbuds typically come with different sizes for the silicon tips in order to accommodate different ear sizes, whereas earphones tend to operate on a “one-size-fits-all” kind of model that does not offer much wiggle room for third party accessories.

Earbuds are typically more customisable than earphones, with many additional accessories available such as straps to prevent loss, ear hooks, charging containers, etc. This is to serve both an aesthetic and practical purpose, as earbuds consist of multiple small parts that can easily be lost.

With the exception of replacing the side cushions, typical headphones do not offer a wide range of customisability. However, the Nuraphone is not a typical pair of headphones, offering an unprecedented degree of flexibility and comfort with its unique in-and-over ear build, a wide-range of different-sized ear tips and biocompatible pads that shape themselves to the ear over time. 

Connectivity

Earphones have two different ways to connect to any musical device, depending on the type of earphone used. The first is a wired connection, usually via the 3.5mm headphone jack on said device. The second is a single bluetooth connection between the earphones and the musical device itself.

Earbuds, on the other hand, can only connect to a musical device via bluetooth connection. Additionally, each earbud has to make a connection. Either both earbuds connecting the device, or one earbud connecting to the other while the other connects to the device. Not only can this lead to connection problems, but the act of having to toggle bluetooth connections regularly can also add an extra layer of inconvenience.

Headphones come in different types that each have their own connecting methods. Wired headphones can connect via USB ports or 3.5mm jacks, while wireless headphones connect via bluetooth.

Price

The price depends on the manufacturer and the quality of the build. Earbuds typically contain more technical components that contribute to the higher price range. These parts play into functions such as the advanced bluetooth connection, noise cancelling, bass control, the charge case etc.

While earphones can have these functions too, and having them will increase its price, it is possible to purchase basic earphones with none of those features at a reduced price. Not only are earphones typically more affordable, but they are also consequently easier to replace than earbuds. Headphones are the most expensive of the three, as they are the largest and they contain more parts.

Noise Isolation/Cancellation

Like earbuds vs earphones, noise cancellation and noise isolation are two different things. Noise isolation is the physical blocking of outside sound, whereas noise cancellation is when a small speaker embedded within the earbud plays an inverse frequency that cancels out the existing ambient sound.

Earbuds implement noise isolation by design, as they are supposed to fit snugly within the ear canal, whereas the outer ear sitting earphones do not, as they allow air in. Active noise cancelling is a feature that is associated with higher end earbuds as well, whereas low end earphones do not actively cancel noise. Headphones also use noise isolation by design, as they cover the entire ear, as well as the additional hardware that allows for active noise cancellation.

Battery Life

One of the advantages of wired earphones is that they do not require a battery because they draw power from the musical device itself. They also use less power because they don’t have the additional features of their wireless counterparts.

However, wireless earphones and earbuds both require a battery, of which the battery life is dependent on the quality of the build. For example, the Nuraloop are a pair of high end earphones that will give you a 16+ hour battery life. Earbuds typically have a shorter battery life than earphones, averaging at about 10 hours, because they use extra power for their additional functionality.

Because headphones are the largest, wireless headphones are able to contain higher capacity batteries that last around 20 hours on average on a full charge.  

Control

Wireless earphones and earbuds come with additional volume and playback controls so that the user can control their listening experience without needing to interact with their musical device. For earphones, the controls typically consist of buttons on a small terminal located on the wire, each of which performs a singular function. 

For both earbuds and headphones, it depends on the quality of the build. Some devices will have their controls be in the form of a single button on each ear piece that can perform different functions based on certain kinds of button presses. Others will use sensors to perform certain functions as well.

What should I buy: earbuds, earphones or headphones?

When you are trying to decide what audio device works best for you, it is worth remembering that “earbuds vs earphones vs headphones” is not a concrete measure of quality. It is just an acknowledgement that there are differences between the three. 

As a result, there is no definitive answer as to whether earbuds, earphones or headphones are better. When it comes to earbuds vs earphones vs headphones, the one you settle on should be the one that suits your needs the most, based on the criteria we examined previously.

What are the best earphones available?

The Nuraloop doesn’t just have the advanced features of high end earphones, like sophisticated active noise cancelling, long battery life, advanced touch controls, high quality sound drivers with immersive bass, and even sweat resistance.

The most important point of comparison when it comes to earphones vs headphones is that both Nuraphone and Nuraloop contain Nura’s signature personalised sound technology that actively monitors how you listen to music by using an extremely small microphone to measure the otoacoustic emission (OAE), a tiny sound that reverberates from the ear when the eardrum vibrates in response to external tones. It then produces a personalised sound profile based on the information encoded in the OAE that measures your ears’ sensitivity to certain sound frequencies, perfectly catering that profile to you.
If an unparalleled listening experience sounds like what you’re looking for, order the Nuraloop a.k.a the last earphones you should ever buy.

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