Earbuds vs headphones, what do you prefer for all your daily listening needs? While both serve the same purpose, blocking out sound and letting you listen to audio privately, the many differences between headphones and earbuds make it difficult to decide which you should invest in. Teen Vogue says wired earphones are making a comeback but tech companies don’t seem to have heard as yet. Instead, we have an unbelievably vast collection of Bluetooth listening devices to choose from, which makes it very difficult to decide what to invest in. There are many types of earbuds and headphones available as well, but as long as you know which general category you favor, narrowing down your options can become a lot easier. 

Earbuds vs Headphones: What’s Set to Be Your Next Buy?

Pictured here – Razer BlackShark V2 Pro. (Featured thumbnail image shows the Apple AirPod Max)

Earbuds vs Headphones: What Do We Think?

The WHO recommends limiting the use of audio devices to less than an hour a day but most of us know that’s an unlikely reality for a majority of individuals. Whether you need to listen to meetings and attend calls throughout the day or you’re just an audiophile with a preference for music and podcasts running as much as possible, you need audio devices that live up to your needs. Some of the best earbuds of 2023 might be great objectively, but they may not fit into your schedule and lifestyle too well. Exploring the different benefits of each might make it easier for you to decide where you stand on the earbuds vs headphones.

Benefits of Using Earbuds 

There are many types of earbuds available to choose from considering your preferences. Wired ones are an obvious separate category, allowing you to have a direct connection to your device rather than relying on Bluetooth. The classic earbuds are another type, now falling in popularity due to their loose design style, other than Apple’s AirPods offerings. In-ear earbuds are a more popular choice as they sit snugly in your ear and eliminate the stress of them falling out too easily. Wired Bluetooth earbuds are a good middle ground for those who do not want to have separate earbuds lying around but don’t want to invest in headphones. But what is the difference between headphones and earbuds and how do they match up?

Convenient to Transport

The best part about earphones is their small, convenient size. It can be very easy to take out while traveling and packed away in a bag when you reach your destination, making it a very easy-to-use device. Headphones, no matter how minimalistic and bendable in design, take up more space or hang around your neck even when it might get in the way. Most earbud cases are easy enough to clip on and carry around as convenient, making them pretty handy to use. This compact size of earbuds is definitely a point in its favor.

They are also a lot more discreet than headphones could ever hope to be, in case you do not want a bulky accessory to interfere with your day.

Convenient to Use

Because you don’t necessarily have to have both sides of the earbuds on at the same time, it is quite easy to put one away when you don’t need it, or share it with someone else so you can both listen to the same audio. Their noise-canceling features are not as efficient as headphones so while this might not always be a benefit, it can be a safer option to have on. If you’re trying to listen to something on the go but still want to have your attention on the outside world, this might be a better option. 

While these are more likely to fall out than headphones, earbud options such as the JBL Endurance Peak 3 True Wireless are designed to sit securely and completely support movement, even if that means participating in your workouts. 

No Pressure on Ears

In the earbud vs headphones conversation, one thing to consider is the amount of pressure it puts on your ears. Especially if you need to use them for extended periods, comfort becomes a top priority and earbuds are likely to be a lot more comfortable. While some firmly-fitted ones might cause in-ear pain, headphones are more guilty of causing headaches and pain along the outer ear due to the pressure they exert. One of the best earbuds in 2023, the $299.99 Sony  WF-1000XM5 is so small and light you won’t even realize you have them on. 

More Affordable Quality Alternatives 

Considering the types of headphones and earbuds available, there is a considerable price range that is seen among these devices, however, when matched up in terms of quality, headphones do tend to be more expensive. The Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC is another one on the list of best earbuds 2023, especially in terms of premium quality on a budget. At $99, with 10 hours of playback and an additional 50 hours with the case, and wireless charging also built in, it is truly a winner in the earbud category this year. 

Benefits of Using Headphones

Other than looking like the coolest kid to have walked into the room, there are many reasons why choosing headphones might be the better alternative for you. There are several types of headphones to consider as well. Apart from the basic wired headphones, many types are differentiated based on how they fit on the ear. On-ear headphones are a simple type of headphone that sits on the outer ear without fully covering it, allowing for better ambient awareness with its use. Over-ear headphones completely surround the ear and do everything possible to block out external disturbances. These headphone types can also have different backs, open-back and semi-open back, the two categories on whether the outward-facing end is covered with just a mesh or entirely closed off. The difference between headphones and earbuds extends far beyond just their design style.

Good Support and Size

Headphones are more sturdy so there is a lesser risk of damage to them and they are also less likely to fall out and disappear into the void when you’re trying to make your way out of a crowded location. Most headphones are adjustable so the top band can sit comfortably on your head. Some headphones have a swivel feature that will allow you to adjust them on your ears as well. The Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 is one of the best headphones of 2023 in terms of comfort. With no changes in external design, the internal workings of the device are definitely worth an investment.

Headphones are also a lot easier to keep track of compared to the smaller three-piece earbuds—trust us, the case is just as easy to misplace as the earbuds. These devices are easier to manage in case you are often in places where you cannot put your audio device down anywhere, whereas the need to carry the case around for the earbuds can get old pretty quickly. 

Ease of Use

If you’re someone who tends to be clumsy, the buttons on headphones are a lot easier to operate compared to the tactile features in Bluetooth earbuds. The buttons are usually larger and easier to find and operate, as compared to an earbud where you might cut someone’s call off midway while trying to fit it back properly in your ear. Shuffling through music or picking up a call is definitely easier with headphones.

Many headphones also come with a cable that allows you to convert your Bluetooth headphones into wired headphones, making them a lot more versatile. This way, you can continue to use them even after the battery dies out. 

Better Sound Quality, Better Mics

Headphones are more suited for a high-quality audio experience and this might be the most important difference between headphones and earbuds. Designed to block out ambient noise and provide crisp quality music, headphones are the better option for those who want clear audio all the time, even when there is extreme background noise. Additionally, the mics on headphones are usually better designed to pick up on your speech and convey it to a listener. The audio distortions are significantly lesser allowing you to use them for communication more easily. 

When it comes to gaming, headphones are undeniably a better choice. Gaming headsets like the Audeze LCD-GX or the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro are still some of the best gaming headphones in 2023, but you can have a pretty good gaming experience with regular headphones as well. Depending on the exact needs you have, the various types of headphones have something for everyone. 

Better Long-Term Use

Headphones are more sturdy than earbuds are, making them a better long-term investment overall. While there’s no guarantee with any technology, earbuds do tend to be delicate and frequently stop working on one side, making it a little inconvenient to rely on. They also tend to have a better battery life although they do not tend to support wireless charging like many earbuds do. 

The Apple AirPods Max over-ear headphones have burgeoned in popularity, especially among the fitness community, but if you’re looking for some of the more affordable alternatives, then the Bose 700 or the Sony WH-1000XM4s might be two of the best headphones for 2023. 

Overall deciding on earbuds vs headphones boils down to what you hope to use the device for and what your preferences are. If you’re looking for something small and convenient to use on the go, one of the various types of earbuds might be right for you. If you want something sturdy and easy to use, headphones might win the debate. The difference between headphones and earbuds is pretty straightforward so picking between the two shouldn’t be too hard for you.