In-ear vs Over-the-ear Headphones

Earphones come in many varieties, but the main categories would be: in-ear, over-the-ear, on-the-ear and earbuds. How well-suited they are for you depends on a number of factors.

In this article, we will compare in-ear and over-the-ear headphones. Using four parameters; Portability, Comfort, Sound and Noise isolation, let us see if size really matters when it comes to headphones.

Before that, a definition will help us clearly distinguish the two:

An in-ear headphone is a portable small ear bud with tips that fit right in the ear canal.

An over-the-ear headphone is the biggest of the four headphones. It has large ear cups that fully cover the ear and thick headbands.



The ability to carry a headphone without trouble comes in handy for people who are always on the go. This is especially so if you enjoy playing some music when on the move. Portability will refer to the ease of transportation in this case. Although carrying cases and pouches are included with the purchase of most headphones, we will not put that into consideration as they do not affect the ease of transportation. In-ear headphones are more portable than over-the-ear headphones since they are much smaller. One can easily fold and store them in their pocket as opposed to headphones that take much larger room. There are newer models of headphones that are foldable, but their compact nature and size cannot compare to an in-ear headphone.


When it comes to comfort, over-ear headphones take home the crown. They rest well on the ear and do not cause any discomfort or pain when in place. An over-the-eye headphone will give you a pleasant listening experience with no trouble as they are easy to wear and usually padded. An in-ear headphone may cause soreness and pain if it does not fit well. Since the in-ear headphones put pressure to the ear canal, the exerted tension makes it somewhat uncomfortable.

Noise Isolation/Rejection

You don’t want outside noise competing with your music, and this is where the concept of noise isolation or rejection comes in handy. If the noise outside is high, you might be tempted to raise your music volume to an unhealthy level which is dangerous for your ears. To avoid damaging your ears and blocking out outside noise for sound clarity, you need to put this into consideration. The in-ear design simply blocks out any noise when properly inserted. Most in-ear headphones have an efficient seal that blocks out any high-frequency noise. You don’t have to get an active cancellation or resort to other measures to keep out the outside noise. Over-ear headphones come second as they also keep out the noise. They cannot, however, be compared to the in-ear.


Sound is the most important factor when it comes to headphones. You want high-performance devices that will allow you listen to your music and audio in a crisp and clear sound. The quality of sound is largely dependent on the quality of earphones. A cheap headphone might sound far much worse than in-ear headphones. That said, an over-ear headphone is likely to give you the best sound and consistency. In-ear headphones tend to have less bass since the sound is directed to your ear canal thus the psychoacoustic effects of space around the ears is lost. The in-ear headphones, however, are much better with sound clarity and accuracy.

Does size really matter? Based on the factors discussed, we see that it might not after all. One will purchase earphones depending on what they intend to use them for. The in-ear is portable, noise isolating and has accurate sound while the over-ear headphone may offer better sound and comfort. We cannot advise you to buy any type of headphones as models do matter a lot when making this decision. Do, however, put the factors above into consideration when making a choice on what headphones to buy.


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