AudioAudio: Guides

Earphones vs. Earbuds: What’s the Difference?

earphones vs earbuds

Fear no more, brave reader: never again will you be left slightly confused on the landing page of a web store or at a loss for words when describing what you want to a shopkeeper when you want those little round things that make sounds go directly into your ears.

While some people are content calling absolutely any form of these headphones, there’s a marked difference between these various types.

Earphones vs. Earbuds: the Difference

To put it simply, earphones enter the ear fully – via the ear canal – and earbuds rest just ‘outside’, on the outer surface of the inner ear.

Earbuds are known more commonly as… well, they’re just called earbuds, but earphones might also be marketed or classified as ‘in-ears’, or ‘in-ear headphones’ (which can naturally be shortened to earphones).

To know where you stand viz-a-viz the earphones vs. earbuds conundrum, consider the following: earphones are more high-end and come in specific sizes, hence earbuds are cheaper since they can be mass-produced on a larger scale.

Even the best earbuds are unlikely to cancel noise and ambient sound, as well as any regular earphones can, purely on the basis of their design. This also usually translates to a higher quality of the transmission of sound and clearer and stronger bass.

Earbuds are also easier to clean; hence earphones might also have cushions that can be sold separately, or extra ones can come packaged with your purchase. And while earphones might have a secure fit and superior sound quality, this very element of it being pushed into your ear canal can make them very uncomfortable.

Earphones vs. Earbuds: The Pros and Cons of Earphones

Even without looking at the global market research and statistics associated with the growth of sales of in-ear headphones, you can tell that earphones are currently all the rage as opposed to earbuds, which now seem very pre-2010.

However, earphones do have a higher cost associated with them, not only in monetary value, but in terms of possible damage to the ear canal, hearing, and a general discomfort which can grow in time and lead to a persistent or constant scratch or itch within the ear (disclaimer: the writer of this article has one as we speak solely because of a ten-hour trip with earphones in).

To remedy this, different models of earphones have different cushion sizes and utilize different material (silicone, rubber, or memory foam), and might even be custom-fitted by working with an audiologist.

The deeper these earphones lock into the concha of the ear, the more discomfort might be experienced over a longer period of time, no matter how high-quality the sound or how completely they cancel noise.

Earphones vs. Earbuds: The Pros and Cons of Earbuds

While the earphone went straight into the concha without knocking, earbuds rest comfortably on the threshold, being kept in place by the concha ridge itself.

Once again, purely by design, earbuds are cheaper to produce and thus more affordable to purchase, as there are fewer custom specifications involved. You can get some of the best earbuds for less than 50 dollars, whereas in-ear headphones might not be worth paying for if they cost so little.

This means that they can be knocked about (again, they’re more durable than in-ear headphones) and you won’t have to worry too much about scraping together a lot of dough for a new pair down the line.

Ironically, this is what makes them efficient for being taken on the go, but that is also where it might get annoying to be stuck with a pair of earbuds since the looser fit means they’re more prone to fall out of your ears when triggered by movement.

This last part is why there have been a lot of design changes made to earbuds over the years: sports models with loops or ridges might be slightly more expensive than any old pair of OTC earbuds, but they’d be worth the money in what they’ll eliminate from the hassle.

Earbuds also more commonly come with a built-in mic, meaning they’re definitely more suited for use with cellphones and by the larger segment of society, which is also helped by the fact that they are not usually noise-canceling as a rule, allowing for ambient sound and external environmental contextual noise, making them safer for outdoors and general use.


In a word, yes – there is a difference between earphones and earbuds, way beyond marketing jargon.

‘Earphones vs. Earbuds’ isn’t just some clickbait title; it’s a genuine question that this article will have helped you find an answer to in your own personal capacity. Knowing your requirements – sound quality, usability, durability, and budget limitations – goes a long way in deciding which one to use.

No matter what you choose, however, it’s important to remember to keep those earphones and earbuds clean and free from build-up and future problems.

About author

A finance major with a passion for all things tech, Uneeb loves to write about everything from hardware to games (his favorite genre being FPS). When not writing, he can be seen in his natural habitat reading, studying investments, or watching Formula 1.
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