Different Types of Earbuds: Which is Better and Why?

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Nowadays, earbuds are evidently all the go. It seems like everybody has got a pair.

However, there’s a lot of confusion around the different types of earbuds. There’s even uncertainty surrounding the terminology. Are earbuds the same as headphones? Are they a subtype?

In this article, I’ll attempt to clarify some of the misconceptions as well as explain the variations between the different types of earbuds.

What’s the Difference Between Earbuds and Headphones?

The word “headphone” is a broad term, describing any sort of around-ear device used to listen to music or take calls. Headphones can be classified into over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear. The latter can be further classified into canalphones and earbuds.

All other types aside, earbuds refer to lightweight, portable in-ear headphones. They’re easily inserted just outside the ear canal. They’re also pretty stable, staying in place for hours on end.

Basic Features of Earbuds

There are a few features that allow you to better understand which earbuds work best. Some of them are quite technical, while others are accessible for the layman.

With my basic knowledge of high school physics, I’ll attempt to decipher some of the terms here.


Impedance is the amount of energy required to power the earbuds. Ideally, earbuds should have an impedance of 500 Ohms. This eliminates the need for additional amplification to run the earbuds.

Frequency Response

Frequency response goes hand in hand with audio quality, which is practically the most important feature in your earbuds. The bigger the frequency response, the better the quality of sound.

Humans have an audible range of 20 to 20,000 Hz. Therefore, most earbuds offer frequency response in that range.

While earbuds with a high range offer great quality, those with a lower range also have something to offer. They provide excellent bass quality.

Gym goer with headphones on

Weight and Comfort

The premise of the creation of the earbuds is their minimalistic design and light weight. This is what makes weight particularly crucial.

Earbuds’ weight is closely intertwined with your comfort as well as your overall listening experience.

There are now several super light earbuds available on the market. Those are ideal for sports or vigorous exercise.

Stereo vs. Mono

While most of the earbuds on the market are stereo, there are still others with the mono setting. Stereo vs. mono mostly has to do with volume adjustment through separate audio channels.

Earbuds with the stereo setting allow you to adjust the volume of each earbud using a separate audio channel. This provides better quality, a sense of directionality, and overall superior sound experience.

However, in mono earbuds, this feature isn’t available, which significantly reduces audio quality. It’s usually found in designs with only one earbud though, hence the name.

Wireless vs. Wired

With the introduction of the new voguish wireless earbuds, it has been the greatest thing since sliced bread. However, wired earbuds have their strengths, too.

Evidently, wireless earbuds offer you a truly handsfree experience with no tangling or wire damage. Plus, the connection and quality are usually top-notch, especially if you’re using Bluetooth 4.0 or higher.

On the other hand, wireless earbuds fall short in some aspects, including range and battery life. Wireless earbuds typically have a short battery life which can be quite limiting.

Moreover, they often can’t be used outside a certain range, which isn’t the range you’d hope it to cover. They can also easily fall and get lost.

Types of Earbuds

When it comes to technology and electronics, there’s something for everyone.

Are you buying the earbuds for exercise or do you need it for work? Are you buying it for an adult or a child?

For an Adult

Whether you’re buying earbuds for yourself or a friend, they’re worth it. It’s important to determine your purpose beforehand though.

Mountain Biker Jumping


For sports or vigorous exercise, you want to look for headphones that are a good fit. Most earbuds already offer this feature though. They won’t fall out or get dislodged no matter how high you jump or how fast you sprint.

Wireless earbuds are specially made for this. Their unique handsfree experience allows you to give your all to your training.

Moreover, you should look for earbuds that are waterproof and sweatproof. This feature is of utmost importance for both long-term durability and short-term functionality. You don’t want a light rain to ruin your jog, do you?

Another feature that often comes in handy is active noise-cancellation. Sometimes you just want to shut everything out and focus on your rep count.


Taking calls all day is exhausting, no surprise here. However, having good quality earbuds certainly helps alleviate some of the stress.

Earbuds with microphones are specifically designed for this purpose, whether you’re at the office or during your commute. Along with noise-cancellation, you can make your call as quiet and private as possible, with excellent audio quality on both sides of the call.

For a Child

So you want to treat your child to earbuds for their birthday, an exceptional choice, I must say. However, consider these factors first.

Children are small reckless creatures that want to smash basically anything in their way. Understandable. Don’t we all?

Regardless, to overcome this problem, you should look for affordable earbuds with on-par durability. They’re not so hard to find. You can pay around 25-30 dollars for a pair of earbuds that are comparable with those that cost hundreds of dollars.

Additionally, a child’s ears are fragile. It wouldn’t always withstand sounds that adults listen to on a daily basis. Look for earbuds with a safe audio limit of 70 to 80 decibels.


Earbuds aren’t only here to stay, but also to take over. Their popularity is growing like wildfire, and for a good reason, too. After all, they’re minimalistic, functional, and fab.

With the different types of earbuds, figuring out which one you need or want has been a challenge, though. However, learning some basic technical information as well as determining your purpose can easily do the trick.

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