In-ear, On-ear, Over-ear – Which Headphones Are Best For You?

There’s now a bewildering array of headphones on the market, meaning it can be hard to know which are right for you. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to invest in the best versions you can afford. After all, the quality of these items can have a massive impact on your listening experience. However, how do you know what qualifies as ‘the best’ these days?

The fact is, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. You simply have to find products that suit your personal needs and preferences. Everything from the shape and size of the items to the materials they are made from will affect the way they sound and feel. Even the audio cables you team the products up with can influence your listening experiences. This brief guide will talk you through three of the most common headphone styles and detail some of their pros and cons.


Also known as earbuds, in-ear headphones can be ideal if you’re looking for small, highly portable products. Ultra lightweight and compact, they can easily be tucked away in pockets or bags when not in use. The tiny earpieces fit inside the ear canal, helping to minimise sound leakage. Some models include clips to help keep them in place and it’s also possible to buy custom molded versions to achieve the perfect fit.

However, bear in mind that while these products can be highly practical and they are often inexpensive, they tend to offer a poorer sound quality than their larger in and on-ear cousins, especially at the base end.


As you’d expect from their name, on-ear headphones rest on the ears and they typically feature leatherette or foam pads for added comfort. Also known as supra-aural headphones, these products focus sound directly into the ear canal and most of the items have a closed-back design, meaning the sound is channelled inwards. Some are foldable, which helps to make them more portable.

These products can produce an impressive sound quality. However, bear in mind that some people find they become uncomfortable after prolonged use because the pads press on the outer ears.


Over-ear, or circumaural, headphones feature cups that completely enclose the ears. Many audiophiles consider these products to represent the apex of headphone design. Because of their larger size, the drivers are positioned further away from the ears. In turn, this creates a more natural and expansive listening experience. Many of these products feature an open-back design, adding to this sense of openness.  

Over-ear headphones can be comfortable to wear for long periods of time too. However, they are the least portable of all the headphone styles.

Take your time

The important thing when you’re perusing the array of headphones now available is to take your time and do plenty of research. What’s right for you will depend on a host of factors, including whether you want to use the items on the move. A decent pair of headphones will stand the test of time and could dramatically enhance your listening pleasure, so it’s important not to rush the decision making process.

Leave a Comment