Earbuds vs. Headphones: Which Are Better (Pros and Cons)

Alex | Last Updated On December 30th, 2021 | This post may contain affiliate links.

TWS earbuds have come a long way. Due to the many efforts of Apple, Samsung, and many other smartphone manufacturers in getting rid of the headphone jack, wireless earbuds are starting to become the norm.

Whether you are working out in the morning, listening to podcasts during your commute, or just hanging out on the couch after a long day of work, wireless headphones (see also wired vs. wireless vs. true wireless headphones here) are earbuds are the way to go. These wireless devices offer a lot of freedom that their wired counterparts cannot provide. No wires are getting in your way, and you can move around without having to pick up your phone every time.

But when it comes to headphones or earbuds, picking between the two can be a difficult option. Although both of these devices provide good sound quality, there are some striking differences between the two. So if you are wondering whether you should get a pair of earbuds or headphones (or both), this guide will help you decide on what’s best for your particular situation.

Long story short: earbuds offer greater freedom of movement while headphones provide better sound. However, to help you get a deeper understanding of the differences between the two, we need to consider more in-depth aspects such as:

  • What are the differences in terms of hardware?
  • Which is the best for daily use?
  • What’s best for your ears?

So without further delay, let’s get into it.

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What are the differences in terms of hardware?

In terms of comparing headphones and earbuds by their hardware, we can see major differences between the two. The earbuds are smaller and more compact while the headphones are relatively larger and take up more space in your “inventory”.

Portability

Speaking of space, we have to talk about the size difference between headphones and earbuds. The earbuds are very compact, and the entire case (including the two earbuds) will easily fit inside your pockets. Some cases can be coupled to a carabiner and carried around as a keychain. Therefore, when considering the portability of earbuds, they are very easy to carry around, even in a more “professional” setting.

The headphones are not so subtle. You can’t jam them in your pockets, so you will have to carry them around in a case or keep wearing them. So whenever you have to go outside without a backpack or purse, you are going to miss the headphones. So when it comes to portability, the TWS earbuds take the cake.

Battery Life

In terms of battery life, the headphones are taking the lead here. They have bigger batteries and can last two to three times as earbuds when it comes to continuous listening time. For example, an Apple AirPods Pro will last 4.5 hours, while an affordable headphone such as the Sony WHCH710N will provide 35 hours of listening time at only half the price.

So if you prefer listening to music or podcasts for more than three hours at a time, then the headphones are going to be your best bet.

Audio Quality

Headphones are also the best when it comes to audio quality. They provide the best ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) features and, they have the biggest drivers, which are the deciding factor when it comes to audio quality.

So if you are serious about your sound quality and want the most premium features, headphones are the better option.

Which is the best for daily use?

Higher battery life and better audio quality are great and all, but for the majority of people, is it worth it to carry around a bulky set of speakers on either side of your ears? Also, the extra battery life may not be that important for listeners who use it in short spurts, no more than a couple of hours.

So in this section, I’m going to compare how earbuds and headphones fare against typical daily activities such as working out, listening to podcasts, and gaming.

Working out: If fitness is an important part of your life, you are going to love the earbuds. Most earbuds are rated IPX6 or higher, meaning that they will be fine against sweat and light rain. The earbuds are also less intrusive, and you can easily move around without them falling out. So even though they look like they are hanging on for dear life, a good set of earbuds will not fall off so easily. I have used TWS earbuds while working out and in my experience: they are very comfortable and easy to clean. (they don’t collect a lot of sweat)

Listening to music/podcasts: Casually listening to music or podcasts while you are doing the dishes or taking the subway to work is made very easy with the help of earbuds. You can easily keep them in your pocket and whip them out whenever you need to. They connect quickly and you can keep them on for hours at a time without you noticing. However, you will not have the best audio quality or higher battery life. So if rely heavily on ANC, then you’ve got to compromise comfort for audio quality.

For recommendations on some good headphones for casual use, click here

Gaming: For serious gamers, I don’t recommend wireless options, but if you have to, I recommend using headphones, more specifically gaming headsets. They will provide a more immersive experience and will keep distractions to a minimum.

What’s best for your ears?

All things considered, I hope you’ve got an idea about the major differences between earbuds and headphones, along with how they would affect you during daily activities. So if I have to pick out what’s the best type of device. I would say that earbuds are the most comfortable for your ears, they feel more natural and they don’t hold you down as much as headphonesdo. I recommend keeping a separate set of gaming headphones while getting a good pair of earbuds for working out and everyday carry. (EDC)

Conclusion

For beginners: the choice between earbuds and headphones might not be that obvious. Most tech enthusiasts would prefer earbuds because of their compact nature and affinity for casual use with smartphones. Because of this, earbuds are easy to use, and you can take them with you wherever you go. However, their main drawbacks are (continuous) battery life and audio quality, two features where the headphones are still on top. Therefore, during long sessions of gaming/deep work where you don’t move around a lot, headphones are the better option. For everything else: earbuds are the best.