Designs & Styles

  • Over-ear
    Also known as "around-ear" or "full-size" headphones. Characterized by ear cushions that enclose the ears entirely. Usually considered best for overall fidelity, and most models do a good job of isolating the user from outside sounds (also called "passive noise reduction").

  • On-ear
    Similar in design to over-ear models, but rather than enclosing the ears, the cushions sit on the outer ear and are held in place by the elasticity of the headband. Generally deliver high fidelity, but with less bass response than over-ear models. Users can hear outside sounds, and others nearby may hear the music.

  • In-ear
    Properly called in-ear monitors (or IEMs), these headphones fit snugly inside each ear canal. The majority of sports headphones fall into this category. Most models come with foam or rubber nubs in several sizes for a custom fit. Excellent for passive noise isolation, and higher-end models deliver fidelity rivaling that of larger headphones. They are able to achieve better noise isolation and in most cases, more accurate sound due to the more efficient transfer of sonic energy into the ear canal.

  • Earbuds
    Feature small drivers that sit loosely in the ear. Usually deliver lesser fidelity and isolation than other types, but at a highly affordable price. These are the headphones that come with many portable music devices; higher-quality earbuds or in-ear monitors make for an inexpensive upgrade.
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