Best Products Audio A Complete Guide to the Various Kinds of Headphones Learn about types of earbuds and headsets By Lisa Johnston Writer Lisa Johnston is a former Lifewire writer and an editor who covers computer peripherals and other consumer electronics since 2004. our editorial process LinkedIn Lisa Johnston Updated February 04, 2020 The Ultimate Headphones Buying Guide The Ultimate Headphones Buying Guide Introduction Headphone Basics Types of Headphones What Is the In-Line Mic? Determining Comfort & Fit Measuring Noise-Cancelation Open vs Closed Back Best Headphones by Type Best For Noise-Canceling Best On-Ear Headphones Best Open-Back Headphones Best Closed-Back Headphones Best Over-Ear Headphones Best Bass Headphones Best Bone-Conduction Headphones Best Headphones by Brand Best JBL Headphones Best Sony Headphones Best Audio-Technica Headphones Best Bang & Olufsen Headphones Best Beats Headphones Best Bose Headphones Best AKG Headphones Best JVC Headphones Best Klipsch Headphones Best Koss Headphones Best Plantronics Headphones Best Sennheiser Headphones Best Skullcandy Headphones Best Headphones by Price Best Headphones for Under $50 Best Headphones for Under $200 Best Headphones for Under $100 Best Headphones by Lifestyle Best Headphones for Music Lovers Best DJ Headphones Best Headphones for Sleeping Best Headphones for Gaming Best Headphones for Kids Best Headphones for Mixing Headphone Reviews TaoTronics TT-EP01 Noise Canceling Microsoft Surface Headphones Senso ActivBuds Wireless Jaybird X4 Wireless Sport AUKEY Wireless Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Bose SoundSport Wireless Jabra Elite 65t Sennheiser HD1 Free Sennheiser HD 650 Sennheiser PXC 550 Sony MDR-RF995RK Sony WH-1000XM3 Sony WH-XB900N Bose Soundsport Pulse Westend61/Getty Images Tweet Share Email With a multitude of headphones configurations, it can get pretty confusing when you're trying to decide which kind you want to buy. Learn about the different designs of headphones (and earphones and earbuds) to determine what you might find most appealing. Over-Ear Headphones Over-ear headphones (also called around the ear) feature ear cups, or cushions, that surround your entire ear. The cushions are often made of foam or memory foam and come covered in a variety of materials, including leather or suede. One of the most popular models of over-ear headphones people buy is noise-canceling headphones, which can feature two types of technology: passive and active. Passive noise-canceling refers to the sound that is eliminated by the ear cups themselves. A certain level of sound can be reduced (or muffled) by the ear cups surrounding your ears and blocking out outside noise. Active noise canceling, simply speaking, refers to a sound emitted by the headphones that are meant to block out ambient noise. Active noise-canceling technology usually runs on a battery, and some models will continue to work as regular headphones should this battery die. (However, some headphones will not work at all if the battery for the active noise-canceling dies, so you should find this out before you take that 12-hour flight to Hawaii.) Other types of over-ear headphones include gaming headsets and DJ headphones, which usually have one (or both) ear cups able to swivel away from the headband. If you're looking to communicate with others during gameplay, it is worth purchasing a special headset. Advantages to over-ear headphones include immersive sound and comfort, although some people dislike the heaviness of the headphones. Drawbacks include a lack of portability. While many models fold up or come with a carrying case, they can't be easily tucked into your pocket and many people find them awkward when exercising. On-ear headphones are slightly smaller than over-ear headphones, and their ear cushions are designed to rest directly on the ear. They are often less expensive than their over-ear counterparts, and they usually weigh a bit less. Earphones and Earbuds This category can get a little tricky with its naming because different companies call in-ear headphones (or earphones) different things. In general, earphones and in-ear headphones enter the ear canal. They feature removable tips or flanges that are designed to isolate outside noise. These tips come in several different materials, including silicone, rubber and memory foam. If you are buying earbuds it's important to remember that they do not usually feature removable cushions and are designed to rest on the outer part of the ear canal. (The most commonly found earbuds are the little white ones included with Apple iPods and iPhones.) Earphones and earbuds are often used in athletic settings, and as a result, they can be found in different configurations. Styles include those with ear clips that wrap around the outside of part of the ear or the entire ear or those with bands that are worn around the neck. If you are considering earphones for athletic use, also take a look at cord management systems to prevent getting tangled up while exercising. Wireless Headphones Buying wireless headphones or earphones can be a great purchase because you're trading in the wires for different types of technologies, such as infrared (IR), radio frequency (RF), Bluetooth, or Kleer. Each technology has a different range and a different amount of sound degradation that occurs. In-Line Microphone and Controls Many headphones, especially earphones, now come with an in-line microphone and/or controls to control a portable music player or take calls on a smartphone. However, be sure that your device is supported by the headphones you buy. Some headphones will only support iPhones, for example, which means that the volume controls won't work if you plug them into your Android.