Headphones, Headsets, or Earbuds – Undestand the Difference

Headphones, headsets, or earbuds? Even the most experienced people sometimes struggle to differentiate between these three audio peripherals which are similar in function and design, but with key differences that are worth noting. Below is a detailed description of each of these distinct devices, plus a guide to help people decide which one is the best for them.


Headphones consist of a strap that goes over the head and ear cups that go on the ears. They have speakers in the earcups and their main aim is for audio consumption. Featuring larger drivers than headsets and earbuds, headphones offer superior quality sound and their larger case can accommodate far more technology. They have a strong signal which carries a stronger audio and have thick earcups that offer great noise cancellation.


Headsets are similar to headphones, except that they have an inbuilt microphone. The microphone can either be attached to a boom, which can be positioned as desired, or an in-line microphone which is attached to the cord that connects the headset to an external device such as a computer. Headsets are ideal for use in voice over IP communication systems such as call centers, talking to friends via Skype or phone system, playing online games that require sound and much more. They are more comfortable for long use as they have more padding. Most headsets have a unique design and can be customized to include macro keys and programmable LED lights. Wireless versions are also available on the market.


Earbuds are also referred to as earpods or earphones. They are petite headphones and are great for use while on the move. They come in different shapes and sizes, and some have noise-canceling capabilities, making them ideal for use in noisy places. They have small drivers and are preferred by people who frequently use mobile devices, especially sports enthusiasts and athletes. Although they are small in size, they can be very uncomfortable when used over a long period of time as they are meant to be inserted in the ear canal, although they can rest on the outer ear as well. Earbuds deliver inferior sound especially when it comes to bass tones. They do not filter external noise very well and can wreck the ear canal.

What Needs to Be Considered When Purchasing Any of These Peripherals?

There are several things one needs to consider when deciding upon the best peripheral to use. These include the sound quality, bulkiness of the device and noise isolation. The headphone concentrates the sound and provides a better bass response as compared to the headset. The headset is more comfortable and can be used for a variety of tasks. The earbud is portable, but with a not-so-good sound quality. Ultimately, the best choice comes down to the intended purpose and personal preference. Some of the best audio peripheral brands are discussed at Dextro Audio, a great site which provides a systematic analysis of the headphone, headset and earbud and outlines the top 8 models of each of the three brands.