In-ear, On-ear, Over-Ear: What Are The Best Headphones?

5/5 - (2 votes)

Headphones come in various shapes, sizes, and styles. The type appears to be the most apparent difference to notice. In-ear, on-ear, over-ear, which is the best?

Each type of headset has benefits and drawbacks that influence how well they operate in certain settings and situations. The type of headset that will produce positive outcomes for you depends on your habits and interests.

If you are still looking for a pair of headphones that suit you best, keep on reading! This article will give you a side-by-side comparison of your finest decision. 

In-ear vs. On-ear vs. Over-Ear 

The most prevalent headphone kind on the marketplace is in-ear, often called earbuds. They sit into the ear canal and usually have silicone or foam ear tips to make a seal.

Over-ear headphones, also known as circumaural headsets or around-ear headsets, have significantly bigger ear cups that cover your entire ear. 

They’re often bulkier than on-ear models. These devices are most famous for listening at home or in studios.

On-ear headphones lie on the outside of the ears. They include a combination between in-ear headphones’ comfort and convenience with over-ear headphones’ outstanding sound production.

You can distinguish these headphones by looking at them. Aside from the appearance, they also differ in portability, comfort, leakage, noise-canceling, and sound quality. 


The ability of a headset to offer a physically pleasurable listening experience that does not create pain and distress over time is comfort.

The comfort depends on the user’s ability to have a desired fit for the headphone. 

Generally, over-ear headphones are by far the most comfortable options. They’re comfortable to put on, typically have plenty of cushioning, and don’t put as much pressure on your head like the way the on-ear versions do.

The in-ear headphones, on the other hand, exert pressure straight to your ear canal. This form may be a highly unpleasant listening experience.

On-ear headphones are easy to place on and relatively secure, but they put pressure on your ears to hold them in place. When compared to over-ear ear cups, this option can be irritating and create hearing fatigue more quickly.

The winner in this round is the over-ear headphones. They will give you comfort even when you wear them for hours. The second choice should be the on-ear ones. 

Over-ear headphones are the most comfortable

Over-ear headphones are the most comfortable


The idea of the headphones’ mobility refers to how easy they are to carry. It also implies the space the ear cups take up when folded and the transport methods provided. 

Portability doesn’t include pouches and cases. They are contingent on the headphone maker.

First, three options can all be Bluetooth headphones. It means that using them may be very convenient when you choose this feature. 

The most compact headphones are in-ears. They are convenient to put in bags or pockets due to their tiny size. 

On the other hand, over-ear headsets are much bigger and take up more space than other forms, although some versions can fold up for easy carrying. 

On-ear headphones come in a variety of dimensions. They are smaller and simpler to travel with than the over-ear headsets.

If portability is important to you, in-ears should always be in your bags. If they are Bluetooth headphones, you will enjoy your songs at ease. 

Some people choose to put on-ear and over-ear headphones on their shoulders. However, if you move so much, your headphones may fall off.  

In-ear headphones have the most compact size

In-ear headphones have the most compact size

Noise isolation

Noise isolation is the ability of headphones to insulate you from outside by canceling or blocking ambient noise that sneaks into your music. 

The efficacy of active noise cancelling is entirely dependent on the supplier. As a result, we just focus on the passive noise isolation in this round.

In-ear headphones, according to certain testing, give the best noise canceling. The in-ear construction offers an appropriate seal for suppressing high-frequency sound. 

The fit, on the other hand, may be hard to obtain.

Over-the-ear models are the second-best choice for passive isolation. They can block a great deal of ambient noise without the use of active noise cancellation.

On-ear headphones do not function as well when it comes to isolation. Generally, smaller ear cups sit on the ears. They do not always provide an ideal seal. 

Since they have a greater surface area, they are generally greater than earbuds but not as effective as over-ear and in-ear headphones.

On-ear headphones sitting on your ears

On-ear headphones sitting on your ears

If you want to immerse yourself in your own favorite music, the in-ears may be your best sidekick. 


The sound that exits the barrier of the ear cushions is leakage. At extreme decibels, loud leaking can be annoying to others around you.

The least susceptible to leaks are the in-ear headphones. Because of their tiny size, the small drivers sit directly in your ear canal and use less power to generate the same loudness. 

If the seal is ideal, very little sound can leak.

Over-the-ear headphones feature powerful drivers that may produce a lot of noise.

They will readily drain a broader spectrum of frequencies than any other variety of headphones if, indeed, the seal is not sufficient. With the open-back versions, leakage is even worse. 

On-ear headsets leak less than the over-ear models but more than the in-ears because of wider drivers and poor seal.

In terms of leakage, in-ear headphones are the ultimate choice. They allow you to enjoy your music while not disturbing anyone around. 

In-ear headphones are the best when it comes to leakage

In-ear headphones are the best when it comes to leakage

See more:

Sound quality

The style of headphones doesn’t imply the sound quality they produce. The sound depends on the model you select rather than the headphone type.

While there is no direct relationship between headphone construction and audio quality, some sound elements, such as frequency response, soundstage, and harmonic distortion, still have some room to improve. 

Larger drivers often generate more bass. 

Big open-back headphones also provide a broader soundstage. The amount of harmonic currents depends on the driver size. However, like with the other sound elements, it is heavily reliant on the model you pick.

So, in this round, there is no real winner. The technology that manufacturers apply to produce their products determines the sound quality. 

We have compared some factors of in-ear vs. on-ear vs. over-ear headphones. You can learn more about the differences between these headphones via this video.

Now, let’s sum up and look at this ranking table.

In-ear vs. On-ear vs. Over-Ear Headphones
In-ear On-ear Over-ear
Comfort ★★ ★★★
Portability  ★★★ ★★
Noise cancellation ★★★ ★★
Leakage  ★★★ ★★
Sound quality Depending on the model

Pros And Cons Of In-ear vs. On-ear vs. Over-Ear Headphones 

Each option has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Let’s see what is there in in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear headphones.

In-ear headphones

This design is the most compact out of the three headphones. Thanks to the size, in-ears offer many benefits in terms of transport. 


  • Lightweight.
  • The best option for working out.
  • Extremely portable.
  • Generally the least expensive.


  • Excellent noise isolation.
  • Lack of comfort when wearing. 

On-ear headphones

On-ear headphones may not be the best in some criteria. However, while the other competitors fight the most and the least, this model stays between. As a result, it is an optimal option. 


  • Compact design.
  • Large driver.
  • Good for overall.


  • Possibility to cause ear discomfort.

Over-ear headphones

These headphones are popular. They produce decent sound in their most varieties. However, due to the size and technology, this option is also the most pricey. 


  • Comfortable.
  • The good sound quality in most models.
  • Good noise cancellation.


  • Costly.
  • Leakage. 

Which Headphones Should You Choose?

As you can see, each option brings you both pros and cons. We will recommend some cases where you should use what.

Over-ear headphones

If you want comfy headsets but don’t mind the bigger frame, over-ear models are the way to go. They generally filter a significant amount of external noise. 

Yet, they may drop more than other types, causing inconvenience to those around.

On-ear headphones

On-ear headphones are perfect for users who seek the same degree of comfort as over-ear headphones but in a much more convenient design. 

Nevertheless, they are typically ineffective in filtering noise and sometimes leak a substantial amount of sound.

In-ear headphones

In-ear headphones are perfect for customers who need a lightweight design and a tight fit in their ears. They absorb a lot of background noise and don’t let much noise through.

Final Thoughts 

Each type of headset has its own different advantages and disadvantages in this comparison. Each one has its own market niche. 

There’s a case for having a pair of each kind to meet all of your listening demands. You should have a pair of in-ears for working out and traveling, a pair of on-ears for traveling, and a pair of over-ears for resting on your favorite couch.

If possible, choose wireless headphones. All three models can be wireless headphones if you opt for the right models. 

Hopefully, you will find your best headphones. If you need any further information, please feel free to ask. Thank you for reading!


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x