What Are The Different Types Of Headphones?

by Emma Williams | Published On

Table of Contents

All about types of Headphones

If you love to listen to quality audio using headphones, you should know about various headphones. They are available in so many categories that it may confuse you when and if you plan to purchase a new one. They are required for everyday needs, entertainment, work, meetings, gaming, etc.

But when considering buying one, going through different articles to know which will suit your needs becomes quite exhausting.

Here, I have tried to describe different types of headphones based on their size, technology, design, and connectivity. Hopefully, this will be helpful to you in knowing which one will be an ideal fit for you.

Types Of Headphones

Over-ear headphones fit on the top and over the head and are big enough to fit around your ear. These are the most common type of headphones.

They aim to focus on sound isolation, less ambient noise, and limiting noise leakage creating an intimate environment between the listener and the sound. These are considered a superior model due to their enormous size and well-padded earcups, isolating the listener from the world. In addition, the audio drivers placed further away from the ears provide a more expansive soundstage sound.

They are also known as circumaural headphones. Though these are available in open-back and closed-back styles, they are preferred in their closed-back version for better noise reduction, isolation, and high sound quality.

However, due to their bulky size and full coverage, they do have the potential to reduce the air inflow in ears and cause sweating and cause strain, and fatigue in your head and ear muscles, especially when worn for longer hours. Whereas if you love noise cancellation, then it would be better to give over-the-ear headphones a miss.

On-ear headphones are so-called as they go over the head but rest on the ears, unlike over-ear headphones. But since our ears aren’t flat, they do not entirely seal our ears, leaving space for external noises to be audible. Hence, they do not give complete sound isolation and noise reduction.

Also known as Supra-aural headphones, these are more stable on the ears, lighter in weight, and smaller in size, making them more portable.

They are available in both open-back and closed-back forms. Comparatively, they cause less sweating and fatigue due to the tiny space between the ears and the padding, allowing air to inflow into the ears.

They provide sound quality with a good picture of low frequencies but are more common among consumers for regular use than studio workers for sound production.

A headphone that uses noise-canceling speakers is generally known as ANC headphones. These headphones work by blocking the sound both physically and technically. They have miniature microphones in the earcups that pick up the external noise by listening to the outside noise frequencies, calculating the inverse sound, and emitting the exact opposite signal, thereby canceling both sounds.

Active noise-canceling headphones(ANC) are preferred a lot these days as they provide isolation from external noises giving a unique experience and also helping in reducing stress. They also protect your hearing as you do not hear any distractions in the form of external noise due to the noise-canceling feature, so you do not increase the volume. A great example of good use of ANC technology would be earbuds that you can wear when you are working out.

There are four types of active noise-canceling(ANC) headphones:

Feedback ANCs– These types have a mic inside the earcup and one at the front of the speaker, which allows the headphones to hear those external sounds you hear and set the noise cancelation frequency accordingly.

Feedforward ANCs– These types have a microphone set on the outer side of the earcup. As the name suggests, the mic hears the external noise before the listener, processing and creating an anti-noise before sending the resulting signal to the speaker.

Hybrid ANCs– These offer a combination of feedback and feedforward ANCs by placing a microphone both on the outside and the inside of the earcup. Though they are expensive to manufacture, they have the power to suppress noise over a wide frequency range.

Adaptive ANCs– These are the new digitally adaptable type of ANCs that automatically detects the level of frequencies and adjusts to the surrounding sounds to cancel out the external noises.

Bone-conduction headphones use bones to transmit the sound to the ear, unlike other headphones, which rest on or over the ears; this is one of the main differences that separates them from standard headphones.

The bone-conduction audio technology has a transducer that converts audio data into vibrations that travel through the listener’s cheekbones to the inner ear structure, transmitting the signal through the auditory nerve to the brain. The listener’s skull becomes the audio speaker in this case.

These headphones are unique as they are designed to bypass the outer and middle ear. So they might be helpful to people with impaired hearing as they can listen to audio of better quality without directly affecting their ears.

They might also be preferable for regular use outdoors as they allow you to be attentive while listening to your favorite music.

Bone-conduction headphones, also known as Bonephones, eliminate the risk of ear infections and hearing damage that comes with hearing at a loud volume for longer hours. Also, no moisture and heat formation allows the ears to stay healthy.

On the other hand, when we talk about its drawbacks, listening to audio at a loud volume on Bonephones might be a little uncomfortable as they tend to cause an unpleasant or strange vibration sensation on the face along with a certain amount of sound leakage which can cause a slight disturbance in public.

A headset comprises a set of headphones to reproduce audio and a microphone to record audio. Generally, a number of different types of headphones have an in-built microphone but a headset comprises a dedicated mic of better quality that is meant for this purpose only.

These microphones can be detached, moved, or bent in any direction. Though these headsets are designed for a comfortable experience, they do not provide an enhancing sound quality as the focus of these headsets is on the mic.

They are a good option for voice identification technology, meetings in working from home or anywhere outside, or gaming consoles as they make long communications easy and comfortable.

Ambient sound headphones serve the exact opposite purpose of noise-canceling headphones. With these headphones, the goal is to amplify the sound to be aware of the surroundings.

They use an external microphone to allow you to hear external noises. These headphones are ideal for use while traveling when you are in an unknown place and are required to be aware of your surroundings. These are also known as the ‘Ambient sound’ mode, ‘Transparency mode’, or the ‘HearThru’ mode headphones.

Closed-back headphones are designed to act like noise-isolating and noise-cancellation headphones to give you an immersive audio-listening experience. In noise isolation, the noise from the surrounding environment is contained using the material used within the headphone. Whereas in noise-cancellation headphones, the cancellation is carried out with the help of electronic circuitry. In addition, the earcups of closed-back headphones are closed from the rear end to avoid any sound inflow and sound leakage.

As these headphones have a sealed earcup, it allows no air-inflow resulting in warmth and moisture generated inside ears which can be harmful as it can lead to ear infections. Though these headphones are meant for long-hour usage, they should still be removed occasionally to allow some air inflow and avoid infections.

They are bulky in size and are available in both over-ear and on-ear styles. In terms of sound quality, professionals prefer these headphones for music engineering and production. They provide excellent sound quality enhancing the low frequencies and allowing the listener to feel like part of the audio. These can also be used as monitoring headphones in studios, home environments, or quiet surroundings.

Open-back headphones are designed with their rear ends open to allow some sound to escape into the environment purposely for a natural and airy sound experience. Their open earcups allow breathability compared to closed-back earcups, which naturally prevent moisture and warmth, leading to less probability of ear infections. However, these do not feature sound isolation and noise cancelation.

While wearing these headphones, you can hear all the external noises, and people can listen to the audio in your headphones. This is why these are ideal to be worn at places where you must be aware of your surroundings. Open-back headphones are also preferred in studios for the purpose of mixing and mastering as they do not enhance any part of the audio like in closed-back headphones. Several gamers also use open-back headphones, especially in the category of audiophile headphones for gaming.

Due to the open earcups, there is a flat sound with no enhancements, which allows accurate mixing and production of the audio. They are also considered soundstage-friendly types of headphones.

Wireless headphones can connect to a mobile, speakers, stereo system surround sound system without taking any help from wires. They generally use the technology of Bluetooth to connect to the speakers. These are considered one of the most relieving transformations in the world of headphones, as there is no hassle of dealing with wires.

There are two types of wireless headphones, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi standard headphones. These are connected to audio-generating devices through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. They have a small computer chip inside them for transmitting audio signals and are very portable while traveling, commuting, or exercising with impressive sound quality.

They are required to be charged from time to time which can become troublesome in case you are traveling and have no source of charging nearby. They also have high latency, i.e., there can be a noticeable lag between your video and the audio in your headphones.

These aren’t popular for music engineering and production as they have a lag or delay, which might not give accurate results but they are more popular for personal usage as there is no hassle of sorting dangling wires all day.

Unlike wireless headphones, wired headphones rely on cables for transmitting audio signals. All the above types come under wired headphones except for wireless Bluetooth and Wi-Fi headphones.

Wired headphones naturally have good sound quality with the least distortion. Depending on the type of wired headphones, they can range from bulky to small, affecting their portability status accordingly. Even professional sound engineers and mixing engineers generally prefer wired headphones, and monitor headphones could be a great example of wired headphones.

They can cause discomfort because their wires get stuck in clothes and sheets. Another issue can be the length of cords, you can manage them if they are too long, but if it is short, it can limit your movements, causing discomfort. In terms of affordability, they are more affordable in comparison to wireless headphones.

However, gen z kids are following a trend of carrying wired retro headphones. Most of them claim that using wireless headphones destroys the aesthetics of listening to music, and they want to combine the retro look of the headphone with the new-age sound technology of wired headphones.


To sum up, several different types of headphones are available, providing you with different methods of connectivity, sizes, and fits of over-ear and on-ear. In addition, there are other ways of sending vibrations to your ear, like in the case of Bonephones or noise-canceling and ambient sound headphones to make an audio sound a certain way.

The manufacturers come with different designs that are also available to provide comfort, style, and connectivity, with their benefits and drawbacks. Hopefully, this article has helped you figure out the various types of headphones available in the market and choose your preferred style.

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