Over Ear vs On Ear Headphones

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Updated June 27, 2022

If you are new to the world of wearable audio, you may look to compare over-ear vs on-ear headphones. Many of the best headphones, after all, come in one of these two designs. So what are the major differences between these two headphone styles and which is better for your needs? Keep reading to find out.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Over-ear headphones tend to include slightly more additional features than on-ear models, with larger drivers and better sound quality.
  • Over-ear models also tend to be more comfortable than on-ear designs for long periods of time, as the former wraps around the ear lobe and the latter rests on the lobe.
  • On-ear models, however, are much smaller and more portable than over-ear designs, suiting workers with extended periods of commuting.

Differences Between On-Ear Headphones and Over-Ear Headphones

The primary difference is fairly obvious and suggested in the names of each headphone. On-ear headphones rest on the ear, while over-ear headphones cup over the entire ear lobe. This, however, leads to a host of other differences, such as when comparing on-ear headphones vs earbuds.

Insider Tip

If you can, try any pair of headphones before you buy, to ensure adequate sound quality and comfort for extended periods of use.

Additional Features

You’ll find that both types of headphones are stuffed with additional features, if you are looking to compare Bluetooth vs RF headphones, you’ll have your pick from both types. Both on-ear and over-ear headphones come as wireless headphones and wired headphones, with some including smart features, built-in equalizers, and all kinds of other bells and whistles. However, over-ear models tend to be for professional studio use and, as such, include advanced audio drivers and related technologies. Compare a couple we have here: Aftershockz Openmove vs Trekz Air.

Comfort

The comfort of any headphone is, more or less, up to personal preference, but most wearers suggest that over-ear headphones are more comfortable than on-ear headphones. Why is that? Great on-ear headphones actually rest right on the ear lobe, leading to friction and pressure over time. Excellent over-ear headphones, on the other hand, wrap around the ear lobe, which lessens some of this friction. However, even the most comfortable pair of over-ear headphones will cause pain with prolonged use.

Portability

On-ear headphones tend to be smaller and more portable than over-ear headphones, thanks to the design. As a matter of fact, many modern on-ear models actually fold, making it easy it easy to stuff them in a small backpack or purse when not in use. Of course, neither on-ear nor over-ear headphones will fit in a pocket, as this is the exclusive purview of earbuds and some in-ear designs.

Sound Quality

Over-ear headphones tend to be for more advanced listeners, including studio engineers, so you’ll find better audio quality on average when compared to on-ear models. This is not to say on-ear headphones sound bad, as many modern units sound nearly identical to their over-ear counterparts. Technology is always advancing.

F.A.Q.S

On-ear vs. over-ear headphones: Which one sounds better?

It truly depends on the design of each headphone. Instead, look for comfortable headphones and listen for adequate sound reproduction later.


How does noise cancellation work?

Active noise cancellation actually creates a companion noise to the ambient noise to, effectively, cancel it out. Any noise-canceling pair of headphones tend to include this technology, even wireless earbuds.


Which has more battery life?

Battery life depends on the actual make and model of the headphone, not the type of headphone. Each in-ear model and over-ear model will have its own battery life if they are wireless.


STAT: The construction of planar magnetic drivers with in-ear headphones ensures a better bass response and resistance to any kind of distortion, leading to better overall sound quality. (source)

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