Difference Between Headphones, Headset And Earphones

As technology continues to innovate, more and more devices that can play music directly into our ears are popping up on the market every day. This means that for most English speakers, most of these personal sound devices get lumped into the same category and may be called by the same name.

In this article, our aim is to help you understand the main differences between a headset, an headphone and an earphone. They are mostly all called headsets or headphones, but there are parts of each that separate them from the rest. Here are the correct definitions to keep in mind.

Before we start that though, let’s define each device officially as it is known. The proper definition will already shed some light on the main functions of each of these devices which we will expand on in the differences section below.

What is a headset?

A headphone is a device that comes with one or two loudspeakers on each side of a band and usually includes a microphone that is mostly placed on an adjustable boom. The microphone can be placed right beside the speaker’s mouth or retracted back to the side of the headband when not needed. Originally intended for the telecommunications and service sectors, these devices allow their users to converse with people on the phone while being able to type on their keyboards and take notes — due to their hands being free from holding a phone.

What is a headphone?

A headphone is a device that consists of one or two loudspeakers on a band that can be worn on, over or around the head to provide sound directly to the ears of the wearer.

What is an earphone device?

Earphones are very small headphones that can be fitted right into the wearer’s ear. They sit in the outer ear and can deliver sound directly into the ear canal. When they isolate the ear canal from the outside, they can provide an immersive sound experience.

What is the main difference between a headphone, a headset and an earphone?

Now that we have defined all three devices above, let’s check some of the distinguishing features and functions that differentiate these devices from each other. The table below simplifies all the main metrics of differentiation.

FeaturesHeadsetsHeadphonesEarphones
MicrophoneHeadsets come with big microphones attached to a boom. Can provide relatively clear good quality voice recordings and calls.Headphones generally don’t come with microphones though some come with small tiny microphones inside one of the loudspeaker housing.Earphones generally don’t come with microphones except those that come with an in-line cable microphone in the button console.
Size & WeightHeadsets can range from slim skeletal to big and bulky gamer headsets. Weight can go from relatively light for the skeletal versions to quite heavy like for gamer headsets.Headphones can range from mid-sized to big heavy headphones. They are also some of the heaviest head-worn speaker devices.Earphones are typically much smaller and very light.
Sound qualityHeadsets are middle of the range when it comes to sound production. They are more geared towards back-and-forth communication.Headphones are the superior sound players. They are dedicated to this task with the big speaker drivers.Earphones can be quite teeny in sound, except if they are noise cancelling and professionally tuned.
PriceHeadsets price ranges from cheap to quite expensive, depending on the use case.Headphones are generally middle to high priced, especially those geared towards gamers or DJs.earphones also are cheap to mid-price range. There are however very expensive wireless ones.
WirelessWireless headsets are generally not that common. They can be quite expensive as they also need a receiver module that is plugged into a computer device or other receiving device.Wireless headphones are the most popular and readily available.Wireless earbuds are also very readily available and popular, but they can be quite expensive, especially for those from reputable brands with long battery life.
ComfortRegular comfort. Some find the mic boom a bit disturbing to the mouth for eating or drinking.Usually heavy and causing the ears to heat up after long periods of use.Small and light, though some may consider them uncomfortable when deep in the ear.

Which sounds better between headphones, headsets and earphones?

Headphones typically are the best sounding of all three. Headphones are dedicated to the task of playing music without any added need for a microphone boom and recording functionality. There is good competition from headsets that are geared towards gamers though. They also come with big speaker drivers and that puts them in the running.

Earphones, due to the small size of the speaker drivers, are typically the weakest when it comes to sound quality. There are however some noise-cancelling earphones that come with silicon boards that isolate the ear canal from outside. Those are typically able to pump out even more sound, especially when they are tuned by professionals like AKG.

Who is each product made for? Who uses headphones, headsets and earphones?

Who are headsets for?

Headsets are typically used by those who have a lot of speaking to do while also listening. For example, those who have to take calls or make voice recordings. Headsets typically come with a microphone that is attached at the end of the boom which can be placed right beside the speaker’s mouth to keep a constant distance from the mouth throughout its use.

It can then be retracted upwards and away from the mouth when not in use. This makes it the perfect tool for professionals like call centre workers, gamers who have to also speak, streamers, YouTubers, voice-over artists, podcasters and the list goes on.

The vocal quality of the recordings by headset microphones are not of the highest quality. For this reason, it’s not really used by those who need professional-grade voice recording. It suffices for those who want to make basic calls and mic recordings while also having headphones on their ears.

Who are headphones for?

Headphones are for those who want a higher quality of sound and don’t really need the functionality of an additional large microphone. These devices can generate high bass and loudness enough to keep music aficionados happy. For example, Beats by Dre popularised bass-laden sound and this spread out to other producers as well.

Who are earphones for?

Earphones are very small and light compared to headsets and headphones. They are usually best for those who don’t want to bother with the weight and bulk of headphones or headsets. The sound they emit is usually tinnier due to the small speaker drivers they contain, but if well isolated with silicon earbuds, it can also be quite powerful.

Wrapping it all up

There you have it. This brings our comparison of the main differences between headphones, headsets and earphones to an end. We hope you are now armed with the knowledge needed to know the differences and are able to point each of these devices out confidently and correctly. Thanks for making it to the end of the article. All the best!