What types of headphones are in the market and how they categorized is a very popular question. The answer is, Headphones can be categorized based on different characteristics, often creating a mix of different terms at the end of the ride. That doesn’t make it any easier to understand what a salesperson is actually talking about, when he points out those beautiful ‘on-ear Bluetooth headphones with active noise canceling’ that were in the folder.
The most common format refers to the wearing method: the way the headphones sit on your head. A distinction is made between ‘over-ear’ (the ear pads are around your ears, fig 1), ‘on-ear’ (the ear pads are on your ears, fig 2), ‘in-ear’ (the tips of the headphones are in your ears, fig 3) and ‘earbuds’ (earbuds with ends resting on the edge of your ear, fig 4).
A second popular division refers to the construction of the headphone case: open or closed. The housing refers to the room in which the driver (speaker) of the headphones is mounted. With closed headphones, this room is completely closed – sound can only escape through the openings that face the ear. With open headphones, this room is not completely closed, but openings in the room allow sound to escape to the outside world.
Closed headphones are by far the most popular for mobile applications: they leak little sound to the outside world, isolate the listener well from ambient noise and often produce a deep bass that is slightly emphasized. Open headphones are by far the most popular for critical listening in the living room. They barely isolate outside sounds and can also be heard a few meters away, but on the other hand they also produce a lighter and more spacious sound.
What types of headphones are there?
Earbuds / In-ear headphones
The big advantage of earplugs is of course that they are nice and compact. So you can take your earplugs with you everywhere and easily store them in your bag. There is also a lot of supply in this category in the lower price segment. There is also a distinction to be made between earplugs that you place in the auditory shell and the so-called earbuds that are placed a little deeper in the ear canal. Because every ear is different, earplugs may be a little less comfortable to wear for some people.
In-ear headphones are arguably one of the most common among the different types of headphones out there, and almost every major electronics manufacturer has one. Like the over-ear and on-ear headphones, there are different classifications for in-ear headphones, but a common feature is that almost all of them give a nice suction power into the ear canal, allowing the sound to pass without the surrounding noise.
Headphones over ear
With headphones that are worn over the ear, the ear cushions completely encircle the ear. Other names for these headphones are over-ear, circum-aural or around ear headphones. This design offers two advantages. Firstly, you hear the music much better because ambient noise is excluded. In addition, over-ear headphones are often very comfortable. The disadvantage is that they are quite large and therefore less convenient to take with you.
Headphones on ear
The headphones are slightly more compact, where the ear pads are worn on the ear. These models are also known as on-ear or supra-aural headphones. Because the headphones do not completely enclose the ear, you are still aware of ambient noise, which is safe in traffic, for example. Often you also have the choice between an open or a closed sound box, the latter of which ensures that your environment does not hear your music. The compact design also makes on-ear headphones a bit more practical to take with you than over-ear headphones.
These are headphones that completely cover the back of the headphones, allowing for better suction and noise isolation. Closed-back headphones are usually sold in over-ear or over-ear variants, so this is an area where different types of headphones overlap.
As you might expect, closed-back headphones usually do a great job of ensuring that the music you’re listening to remains private. Because sound isolation depends on the type of attenuation the earcups provide, this is not always guaranteed with closed headphones.
Open back headphones
This is self-explanatory and is considered the opposite of closed-back headphones. These types of headphones usually come with the back part of the ear cups open or slightly vented for airflow. Needless to say, these types of headphones normally sound very different from conventional closed-back headphones. What this also means is that it creates a lighter sound that spreads to those around you.
This isn’t ideal in all settings, but open-back headphones are great if you want to enjoy your music while knowing what’s going on around you. These types of headphones are mainly used in mixing music and studio environments to generate a flat sound. As you can probably imagine, open-back headphones don’t offer much in the way of privacy, since the music or podcast you listen to is also heard by those around you.
Bluetooth headphones come in many shapes and sizes. As you’ve probably guessed, today’s most popular headphones are categorized under Bluetooth headphones. These are excellent alternatives to wired headphones as they allow customers to enjoy music without worrying about cables.
However, these headphones are somewhat limited in terms of range. This means that you must always be close to the source device to receive unfiltered music playback. Bluetooth headphones can come with open back, closed back, over the ear, on the ear and in the ear.
True wireless earbuds
These are a lot like Bluetooth headphones, but with an emphasis on being completely wireless. This classification is necessary because some wireless headphones come with wires. The concept was kicked off by Apple with the launch of the AirPods, although it was later perfected by other manufacturers who also added features such as noise cancellation.
These headphones fit precisely in the ear canal and are therefore expected to deliver high quality sound directly and without obstacles. The sound quality of truly wireless earbuds is generally considered to be one of the best thanks to the presence of newer and advanced features.
Noise canceling headphones
These types of headphones come with something known as active noise cancellation or ANC technology built in. These generate a specific sound to minimize outside noise and thus provide the listener with complete solitude. There are different types of noise canceling headphones, but the most popular are from manufacturers such as Bose, Sennheiser, and so on.
It’s worth noting that while most noise canceling headphones are wireless, there are a few products that provide a wired noise canceling experience. Customers should also know that noise canceling headphones are available in both in-ear and over-the-ear.
We have seen many developments in the field of headphones in recent years. However, the near future will bring even more new technologies. For example, there are already many experiments with applications in the field of virtual reality. This is of course largely about images, but lifelike sound can greatly improve this effect.
Also interesting is the technology where you no longer place the headphones on or in your ears, but on your skull. These are also called bone conduction headphones. The sound is transmitted directly to the inner ear via vibrations. The sound quality remains high, while your ears are free to hear what is happening around you.
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