In-Ear vs Over-Ear Noise-Canceling Headphones

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Updated October 31, 2022

The best headphones feature the best technology. If you’re looking into the best over-ear headphones, you will undoubtedly come across noise-canceling models. To ensure you get the best style for your lifestyle, it’s best to compare in-ear vs. over-ear noise-canceling headphones. That way, you can be confident in the amount of ambient noise your model of choice blocks out.


  • The first category for comparison is always active noise cancelation. In this category, over-ear headphones win because of their larger size, which can fit better technology.
  • Passive noise cancelation is another category that’s important to consider. Over-ear headphones win once again because of the way they are constructed.
  • Finally, we compared the overall sound quality of the models. Unsurprisingly, over-ear headphones were victorious due to their ability to fit things like larger drivers.

In-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones vs Over-ear Models

Comparing these two styles of headphones comes down to a few major categories, especially where noise cancelation is concerned. You can also compare in-ear vs. over-ear headphones in terms of health to help decide which option is better suited to you. If you decide that over-ear models are what you want, try looking into the leading closed-back headphones to find your perfect match.

Insider Tip

The AirPods Pro is an excellent pair of wireless earbuds offering active noise cancelation at a reasonable price range.

Active Noise Cancelation

Active noise cancelation refers to the efforts of your earbuds to block out ambient noise using microphones and speakers. In this round, over-ear headphones are your best bet due to their superior technology. Ensure you aren’t using active noise cancelation where it could be dangerous, like jogging in the street. For an avid runner, it’s worth comparing running with headphones vs. earbuds.

Passive Noise Cancelation

You can think of passive noise cancelation as your headphone structure’s “unintended” benefit. Essentially, it is the noise blocking that comes from physical characteristics. Over-ear headphones are victorious because of the seal they create between your ears and the outside world. Earbuds might create a seal, but it’s not as complete as over-ear models. You can also look into earmuffs vs. noise-canceling headphones if you want to put headphones to the test.


Listening to any sound at too high a volume will damage your hearing, but you have to be particularly careful with earbuds because they channel sound directly to your eardrum.

Overall Sound Quality

Finally, we look at the overall sound quality. This is because the sound quality is always impacted by active noise cancelation. You can focus entirely on the music and hear it as clearly as possible. In this round, you’ll find over-ear headphones are in the lead. This is thanks to their larger size, which creates more room for better technology in terms of speakers and drivers. If you’re looking for a little more research, try comparing neckbands vs. over-ear headphones.

STAT: Skullcandy, a U.S.-based consumer electronics company, is the market leader in the low-cost wireless headphone market, accounting for 13 percent of total unit shipments. (source)

In-Ear vs. Over-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones FAQs

What should I look for in wireless earbuds?

There are several different things to look for, such as hours of battery life, sound quality, a comfortable in-ear design, and active or passive noise isolation or cancelation.

Which pair of headphones has the best passive noise isolation?

That’s up for debate, as several models have superior isolation capabilities. However, the AirPods Pro is an excellent, affordable option for those who want an option packed with features.

What are noise-canceling headphones?

Noise-canceling headphones are capable of blocking out background noises so that you can better hear your content.

How many hours of battery life should I expect from over-ear headphones?

Depending on the individual model, most users can expect a few hours of playback on a single charge.
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