Over-Ear vs In-Ear vs On-Ear Headphones: Explain with Example

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Over-ear vs In-ear vs On-ear

If you are a sports person but also wear glasses, none of the on-ear and over-ear headphones won’t be comfortable to wear. In that case, you can choose in-ear headphones as they are lightweight. Over ear with open back will deliver an openness and spaciousness in audio. But they will also leak sound so, if you want to use them in library, it will not be a good choice

On-ear headphones with velvet are comfortable as it will not give pressure on ears. If you think you will be in contact with sweat or water, make sure the headphones are resistant to them. For office use, you need one that doesn’t leak sound, closed back headphones will be a good choice. Bose, SkullCandy, JBL makes some of the best headphones.

Price range varies vastly and so does the features. Some headphones excel in producing low-ends. So, if you like bass-heavy sound, choose them. Phone call feature is included in most headphones. However, EQ isn’t, it is a handy feature with which you can adjust audio as per your taste. If you want to use the earphone on the go, make sure it can withstand wear and tear. Over-ear vs in-ear vs on-ear, which one is the best choice? Let’s find out.

Over-ear vs in-ear vs on-ear: Which is for what?

Which headphone is best for which use case? Let’s find out. Other parameters in the table are discussed elaborately below.

Table: Comparison table of Over-ear vs in-ear vs on-ear

 Over-earIn-earOn-ear
Best for:Everyday use, but also sportsOutdoor useSports
Audio quality:Depends on design, driver size and user preference.
Comfort:BestGoodBetter
Ease to carry:Not very easyEasiesteasier
Eliminate outside noiseBetterBestGood
Leakage level highLowMedium

 

Over-Ear vs In-Ear vs On-Ear: Differences

The table above gives you a summary but if you want to know the details, read along.

Which Headphone Performs Better?

Comparing over-ear vs on-ear vs in-ear headphones, over-ear performs better than the other two. They can completely isolate any outside sound delivering clean sound. If you compare the over-ear vs in-ear sound quality, in-ear represents audio as it is playing inside your head or ear. It displays minute details. However, over-ear products create a spatial effect as a result, you hear immersive sound coming from all around you. In-ear headphones often lack to deliver a ‘soundstage’ that give you 3D effect.

On the other hand, they can represent more details than an over-ear headphone. Noise isolation feature in in-ear ensures better imaging. Low-ends are better in over-ear. Another issue with in-ear is, in-ear will allow you to listen each and every sound, like if you are chewing or swallowing, you will hear them. This isn’t pleasant for everyone. Consumers who used in-ear or IEMs complained feeling ear pain after around 10 minutes of use.

Other users prone to ear infection avoid IEM whatsoever. But, if you prefer sticking in earphones, then in-ear will suit you. Comparing on-ear vs over-ear, more most people on-ear performs pretty good as well. So, which one is the winner? There will be no winner depending on headphone type rather, it depends on driver size, engineering, specific model design. Still, we try to elaborately what most users feel, hear and think.

Can it block noise completely?

Till now, we have mentioned several times that in-ear can be uncomfortable at times. But, why do they exist? In-ear headphones have the best isolation from outside noise. This is the advantage you get by inserting the earphone into the ear canal. Over-ear and on-ear have earcups, but on-ear earcups are smaller and doesn’t seal the ear to give a good noise isolation.

Over-ear performs better than on-ear in this case. The large earcups wraps the ear completely and blocks unwanted noise.

Does it leak sound outside?

If you are at office or library, and your headphone leaks or reveals some of your music to outside people, it will be very annoying. Comparing in-ear vs over-ear vs on-ear headphones, over-ear leaks sound to the surrounding at high volume. As a result, it won’t remain ‘private listening’ with headphones at all.  Over-ears have large drivers and it the headphone model has open back, it will allow sound to come outside.

On-ears leak as well but not as much as over-ear. In-ear headphones have small driver and they doesn’t leak too much audio outside the headphone.

Which one is more comfortable  to wear?

Headphones must be physically comfortable to wear. Longer listening period shouldn’t give you ear-ache or soreness. Adequate padding is a way to improve comfortability. Comparing over-ear vs on-ear, over-ear headphones are the best in terms of comfort. In most cases, it is well padded, doesn’t give much pressure to ear or head.

IEM or in-ear headphones goes directly into ear canal. Whether it is comfortable or becomes painful with little use varies vastly from user to user. Most users claimed they don’t find it easy to wear for long time.

How easy is it to carry?

Whether the headphone is portable depends on its weight and size. Some headphones are large but offers folding option. Between over-ear and in-ear, over-ear is larger and bulkier so it isn’t very easy to carry it wherever you go. On-ear headphone size and portability will vary from model to model. They are easier to carry than over-ear.

In-ear headphones are very light and small, and are the easiest to carry. You can take it on the go in car, bus or plane. Simply put then in your pocket.

Best Over Ear Headphones:

Some of the best over-ear headphones are reviewed below.

Master & Dynamic Award Winning MH40 Closed Back Over Ear Headphones Review:

Specs:

  • Bluetooth v5.0
  • 40mm drivers
  • Charging time: ~10 hours
  • Battery life: ~18 hours
  • Impedance: 32 ohms
  • Weight: 276g

Master and Dynamic over ear headphones has two microphones that helps to ignore additional noise from surrounding. Beamforming Noise Reduction Mic Array is used in the microphone. This over-ear Bluetooth headphone will come in handy while receiving phone calls. It allows you to connect two devices, like you can connect both phone and laptop simultaneously.

You can listen with these headphones at office. But, due to leakage issue, try listening at moderate volume levels. Although they are a bit heavy, you can still carry it inside the given pouch to keep it safe. This over-ear closed back headphones sounds quite decent. The treble region is clear and accurate. Bass is present and has good punch. Audio is presented at its real form.

It has high-quality build that gives a premium feel. Coated Canvas, Anodized Aluminum, and real Lambskin Leather are used to build it. The earpads have replaceable Lambskin and is made from Wrapped Memory Foam. With large circumaural cup, the headphones seal the ear and fits well. These are some of the best comfortable headphones that you can wear long hours.

On the right earpad there are power or pairing button and USB-C port. An LED is there that tells you when you get paired and shows remaining battery life (red means low). Use the USB-C for charging and passive audio. Then there is volume + and – buttons, another button can be used for the following options: play/pause, answer/end call, skip forward, back. Press the same button for a long time to activate mobile’s voice assistant.

Although there isn’t any noise cancellation feature, the thick and tightly-sealed earcups will help a lot. For pairing, turn on the headphone and search for the name in the mobile’s Bluetooth list. For multiple pairing, pair the first device. Then again go to pairing mode so that the 1st device is disconnected. Then pair with the 2nd device and turn off headphone. When you power it again, it will connect two devices.

If you are looking for an over-ear sweatproof headphone, check the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 6100

Sony WH-1000XM4 Over-Ear Headphone Review:

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Specs

  • Driver: 40mm, dome type (CCAW Voice coil)
  • Frequency response: 4Hz-40,000Hz
  • Sensitivity: 105dB / mW (1kHz)
  • Charging time: 3 hours
  • Battery lifetime: Max. 30 hours(NC ON), Max. 200 hours(NC OFF)

WH-1000XM4 is a Sony over-ear noise cancelling headphone. Two mics with dual noise cancelling technology is present in the two earcups. These will detect ambient sound and pass it to HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 and then noise is eliminated. Sony | Headphones Connect app allows you to adjust Ambient Noise Control.

As a result, along with eliminating noise, you can still hear important things like announcements. Placing hand over left earcup will reduce music volume so that you can listen to surrounding. The mobile app also has EQ feature so you have the freedom to change settings and get the preferred sound. Using the app, you can take advantage of voice assistants and speak to chat feature where the headphone will detect that you are talking and pause music.

This over-ear earphone with mic consists of neodymium magnet and aluminum coated LCP. With USB cable, charging is done. In case you are in a hurry, use an additional AC adapter, charge it for 10 min to get battery of 5 hours. Sony’s Edge AI performs upscaling of compressed files. Adaptive Sound Control is a smart function that have access to user’s location and what they are doing, then it adjusts audio and ambient noise accordingly.

Sony is full of smart functions. This includes a proximity sensor in the headphones that can ‘read’ whether you are wearing the headphone or not. With auto-pause feature, if you put them on, the song starts and if you put them off, it pauses automatically. These are highly comfortable and you can wear them for a long time. The earpads are extremely soft foamed urethane.

It weighs around 272g and comes with a case for protection. They are also foldable so you can keep it in your bag. So, although these will not be as portable as in-ear headphones, with longer battery life, you can still wear them on transports during long journey. With cushioned earpads, you can wear them hours after hours without feeling any fatigue. It also comes with a wire so you have the freedom to go wired or wireless.

Similar to the previous headphone, it can connect up to two Bluetooth devices. In this case, both devices should use AAC Bluetooth codec. It can also detect which device a phone call comes and then automatically receive call in that device. Phone calls are clearer with Precise Voice Pickup Technology. There is a total of five microphones with advanced audio signal processing built-in inside the headphone.

Control buttons are also easy to use. Overall, it has a bass heavy audio profile at the same time, mids and highs are accurate. Premium build, uncountable smart features, and ease of use make it one of the best over-ear ANC headphones.

Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Open-Back Headphone Review:

Specs:

  • Impedance: 30 Ohm
  • Driver: 50 mm
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB @ 1mW
  • Frequency range: 5 – 40,000 Hz
  • Weight: 390g

Unlike other two headphones mentioned earlier, X2HR has open back. This is known to allow the diagram move freely. Multilayered polymer diagram due to Layered Motion Control (LMC) drivers delivers a flat frequency response. As a result, the audio profile is neutral. Build quality is sturdy and has a premium feel.

While over-ear headphones are well known for their comfort, this one is specially designed with 15-degree angled drivers. The tilting is done so that the headphone follows the ear shape and fit accurately. To further ensure fitness, use the airy hammock and adjust as per need. Earpads are made with deluxe memory foam and velour material.

These headphones are quite breathable. However, the earpads are prone to attract hairs easily. A dedicated cable is included for wired connection. But don’t be afraid of tangled wires, simply use the supplied cable management clip. Although it has articulate bass, it might still feel to be lacking. But this is quite common for open-back headphones.

The audio remains consistent throughout the frequency range. Higher frequencies are average but could be better. Overall, the sound is balanced and listening for longer period of time won’t cause any fatigue. Due to the open-back design, the soundstage feels broad and spacious and it has got impressive stereo imaging. Philips Fidelo X2HR is the best headphone for home usage. Since the back side of each earcup is open, it will not eliminate outside noise.

At the same time, even at medium volume, people next to you may listen to the song you are playing. This wired over-ear open back headphone doesn’t include mic, have no battery life or mobile app. you can use these headphones to connect to PS5 or Xbox X but for audio only. Since wearing them for hours after hours isn’t an issue. Music and movies are also enjoyable with it.

If you want closed back noise cancelling headphones, check the Bowers & Wilkins PX7.

Best On-Ear Headphones:

Some of the best on-ear headphones are listed below.

Sennheiser Momentum HD1 On-Ear Wired Headphone Review:

Specs:

  • Frequency response: 16Hz – 22000Hz
  • SPL: 112dB (1 kHz/1 Vrms)
  • Closed back

Headphones aren’t only for audio listening; aesthetics is important as well. With that in mind, Sennheiser Momentum 2 on-ear comes in six different color options. It has Alcantara-covered foam padding. Alcantara is a soft material and looks and feels premium. Metal gantries and high-quality plastic are used in the build as well.

The metal headband is sturdy that is wrapped in hard faux fabric. With long usage, it might become discomfort for some. With the supplied case and the fact that these headphone fold easily, you can easy carry it in your backpack. The inline cable has volume buttons and in the middle is the multipurpose button. Use it for calls and, play, stop, skip for music files.

In terms of audio, it is one of the best wired on-ear headphones. The audio has a certain depth, it is rich and detailed. It sounds full, has a warm and balanced audio profile. So, you can listen to it hours after hours. Soundstage is average, imaging is impressive and the bass is tight. These supra-aural on-ear headphones might feel a bit tight around ears but with time, you will get used to it and won’t feel any pain or discomfort.

However, the fit and comfort may vary from person to person. Elimination of outside noise of this Sennheiser Momentum on-ear wired earphone isn’t very impressive. So, if you use it outdoors, the outside noise will bother you. But, if you want to remain aware of car horns or dog barking, you can easily use it for a walk.

Audio leakage is present as well. As you connect the headphone jack, it will interlock so that with sudden force it won’t become loose. With built-in mics, it is the best on-ear headphones for phone calls. The calls are clear and the controls are easy to use. Since these are on-ear wired headphones, it doesn’t support Bluetooth and there is no app for control or EQ adjustments.

If you want Sennheiser Bluetooth on-ear headphones check the MOMENTUM – Truly Wireless Bluetooth Headphones.

Skullcandy Uproar Wireless On-Ear Headphone Review:

Specs:

  • Battery Life: Up to 10 Hours
  • Noise Isolation: Passive
  • Driver Size: 40mm
  • Weight: 123g

These Skullcandy on-ear Bluetooth headphones come in four different color. We loved the white color where the skull image on the headphone looks so cool. It has perforated earpads that are soft with adequate cushion. Headband is sturdy and lightweight, if you think it feels hard, simply adjust and loosen it a bit. controls are on the headphone: volume up, down and Main function button.

Use the MFB for play/pause, pairing, power on/off and answer or end call. If you want to go to next or previous track, press on volume up and down respectively. LED on the Skullcandy wireless on-ear headphones will glow red and make a sound 4 times to draw your attention. Battery life of 10 hours is sufficient for a day.

In terms of performance, you will find it has boosted bass. Another thing to praise about this on-ear wireless earphones is that, you can turn up the volume and still hear undistorted audio. overall, it will deliver crisp and clear sound. You won’t find additional accessories like pouch or 3.5mm wire. It is one of the best budget wireless on-ear headphones. So, just because you have budget limitations doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent pair.

Without making a negative review, understand that these are cheap on-ear headphones that doesn’t have ANC or any other fancy feature. At such a low budget, the inclusion of phone calls feature makes us surprised. Bluetooth connectivity remains stable. It will remember any paired device, so re-pairing is easy.

You can also check Skullcandy riff on-ear headphones . If you want a sweat resistant over-ear headphone from Skullcandy, check the Hesh 3 

JBL Tune 510BT On-Ear Headphones Review:

Specs:

  • Bluetooth v5.0
  • Driver: 32mm
  • Driver sensitivity: 103.5 dB
  • Dynamic frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Input impedance (ohms): 32

JBL Tune on-ear Bluetooth headphone has small earcup and the headband is made of plastic but only in the middle portion. The earpads are soft and the headphone fits well so that you will feel no pain or soreness with long usage. Build quality isn’t premium but quite decent. You will see the padding is lined with faux leather.

Although this isn’t highly portable, you can still fold it and with a weight of 158g, you can carry it on the go. JBL on-ear headphones wireless style takes two hours to charge via USB-C and can last up to 40 hours. You also have the option to give a quick charge of 5 min for 2 hours. It supports multipoint connection so you connect two devices and use them for playback.

You also have the option to take a call in first device, then switch to another call in the second device. Use the multifunction button to talk to Google or Siri. It is one of the best on-ear headphones under $50. It doesn’t support any noise cancelling feature so you can hear outside sounds. While it may bother audiophiles, it is best for outdoor use where you can listen to music and at the same time be attentive of any accidents.

This is one of the best budget Bluetooth on-ear headphones that is easy to use and performance is good. In terms of control, the buttons are located on the right earpad. Use the volume buttons for skip forward and backward. Press the middle button for play/pause, answer/end phone calls. This is a multi-purpose button so, if you double press it you can talk to voice assistants also.

The mids and highs of this wireless earphones on-ear type are accurate and precise. Low-ends are average. While the imaging is decent, the soundstage isn’t one of the best. You can listen to them indoors easily, specially in office because it has moderate leakage. At medium volume levels, people sitting next to you might hear a part of the song you are playing.

Best In-Ear Headphones:

Some people prefer in-ear headphones because they remain secure. Lets have a look at different in-ear headphone models.

Beats Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earbuds

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Specs:

  • Class 1 Bluetooth via Apple H1 chip;
  • up to 9 hours with single charge;
  • 5-minute charge for 1.5 hours;
  • Rechargeable Li-ion;
  • IPX4-rated sweat and water resistance.

Powerbeats Pro in-ear is one of the best portable in-ear headphones that is designed to be with you wherever you go. The earhooks are adjustable so that it fits for different ear shapes. You can walk in the rain or jog/run vigorously with this headphone on, because it can withstand both rain and sweat. Powerbeats Pro is one of the best sweat proof in-ear headphones.

This wire-free headphone has great stability which means it will stay put into your ears and that makes it the best in-ear sport headphone. It has silicone tips on the earhooks and three additional tips come in different sizes: small, medium and large sizes. It works with Siri and other voice assistants. Controls on each earbud is same.

Blindly run your fingers for a B button that can be used for play/pause, next track, previous track and with a long press talk to the voice assistant. There is a dedicated button for volume. You have the freedom to listen with one earbud and charge the other. The headphone has a balanced sound profile rather than being bass heavy. Although you won’t complete noise cancellation, it has noise isolation.

Outside noise from traffics are hearable. If you want ANC, you can check the Airpods Pro in-ear headphones. Phone calls are clean and understandable. It has longer battery life with charging case. The headphones will last more than 24 hours easily. It has two beam-forming microphones along with a motion & speech accelerometer.

These ensures the reduction of surrounding noise. Connection and setup are very easy. On the Bluetooth settings, Automatic Ear Detection will automatically play music when you wear them on. It weighs only 20.3g that makes them one of the most comfortable on ear wireless headphones. You can share audio or podcasts from one headphone to another.

So, from Powerbeats Pro to another Beats model or AirPod that are compatible with Audio sharing can share it. It will work with Android and you can also use apps on iOS. Check the Find my app on iOS and locate or track your headphone if it is missing.

Mi In-Ear Pro HD Headphones Review:

Specs:

  • Weight: 17g
  • Speaker Impedance:32 Ω
  • Sensitivity:98 dB
  • Frequency response range:20 – 40,000 Hz

Mi dual driver in ear earphones uses two dynamic and balanced armature drivers with graphene diagram. Each driver focuses and work on different frequencies resulting in a balanced sound. This in-ear headphone is designed with a circular shape and sits inside ear tilting by 45°. This is accurately and intelligently designed to fit any ear perfectly.

Since it enters into ear ergonomically, it can eliminate outside noise. It comes with 4 earbud sizes: XS, S, M and L. addition of metallic luster on metal headphone body makes it durable. The headphone is sturdy and protective from scratches. Anodized layer of 6μ and zircon sand make it resistant against wear and tear.

Mid and low-ends are precise and pleasant whereas the overall sound is rich and full. Audio is superior without noticeable distortion. Scientific acoustic tuning makes it one of the best in-ear headphone for audiophiles. Control buttons are easy to use and similar to other phones. The headphone suffers from mediocre noise leakage so, if you turn the volume up, other people may hear you too.

Use the mic for clean and loud phone calls. In-ear headphones are ideal to take with you anywhere you go. Lightweight is their main attraction and durability is always a concern. they are also very budget-friendly.

Bose SoundSport In-Ear Headphones Review:

Specs:

  • Weight: 18g
  • Three ear tips
  • Wired headphone

Bose in-ear headphone has a full and neutral sound profile. StayHear tips are designed as per ear shape. There are three tips: Large, medium and small. With ear tips, the headphones remain tight so that you can run or jogging with them. Use the carrying case to move with them while they remain protected. Since they are protected from sweat and water, exercise won’t damage them.

Bose wired in-ear headphones excel in comfortability. It is very lightweight, portable and fits without exerting any pressure on ear canal. It has highly breathable which means, with long usage, the earphones will not heat up. The cable is strong and overall, the build quality is good. It has in-line mic and three control buttons and this is in a similar standard as other headphones. The mid button can be used for play/pause, answer/end phone call, next and previous track selection.

For connecting to phones, use the headphone cable and insert it into the 3.5mm port of the mobile. Bose in-ear headphone manual suggests to try an eartip and talk, if you hear the voice is muffled, then that one is right for you. As per the name, it is designed for sports. However, you will still hear car horns and other noises so that you can be aware of them.

This also means it won’t be ideal for noisy environments. The sound performance is decent and average, it will suit sports activity. It has an openness and balanced audio profile. It can also be used for office or library as sound leakage isn’t too much. Low-ends are present as well. Unless you want to scrutinize each detail, it will suit most users.

Parting Words: In-Ear or Over- Ear or On-Ear Headphones:

Comparing over-ear vs on-ear vs in-ear headphones, there isn’t one clear winner. This is because, audio is subjective. It depends a lot on the user’s taste of music. It also depends vastly on the use case. For instance, if you prefer lightweight and portable headphones with average sound, in-ear headphones are best for you.

Choose over-ear if you prefer broad soundfield with accurate bass. Users often prefer comfortability in headphones. In that case, you might not prefer to stick something inside your ear because it can get quite uncomfortable. Comparing on-ear vs over-ear, on-ear has smaller ear cuffs. If you want to use them for long period, make sure they have adequate padding in both earcup and band.

Also, they should be highly breathable. While choosing the best headphone for you, check whether you prefer wired or wireless headphones. Wireless are easier to use outdoors so that it won’t get tangled. Lastly audio remains a major factor and, in this case, driver size and engineering will do the magic.

FAQ:

Are headphones bad for you?

Although headphones aren’t designed to damage your ear, it might still affect your hearing. A wrong fit or excessive usage without any breaks may result in hearing loss or tinnitus. Among the three headphone types, in-ear is often accused to be more problematic as it is put inside ear canal. This doesn’t mean headphones are scary, but it must be used with proper knowledge.

How to avoid hearing loss while using headphones?

When we say prolonged use, we actually mean volume. Higher volume levels are harmful if listened hours after hours. If you think you are turning volume up due to surrounding noise, simply choose noise cancelling headphone. Simply turn the volume down and if possible, use over-ear or on-ear headphones.