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Choosing Between Earbuds and Headphones

Most people seem torn between choosing a good pair of earbuds or opting for a premium set of headphones to get the ultimate music experience. This Buzzle article pits the two against each other and tells you which one would suit you better.
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Comparison of earbuds and headphones
The Grandad of Headphones
The first headphones were used by telephone operators way back in 1881. It was a single earpiece that weighed about 5 kg and rested on the operator's shoulder.
They say, music soothes the soul. To really soothe your soul, you would need more than just a wonderful track, you would need an equally impressive instrument to enable the unadulterated music to truly touch your soul. No matter how good a track may be, it is no good if it doesn't sound good to your ears. No wonder then, a lot of research these days goes into designing earphones which deliver the ultimate music experience.

Earphones are mainly available in two types―earbuds and headphones. Depending on your preference and choice of music, you can opt for either one of these. Here's a look at the good and the not-so-good features of these earphones, to help you decide which of these would best suit you.

Earbuds Vs. Headphones: Comfort
Earbuds fit snugly in the ear and are rather comfortable to wear. They are also rather inconspicuous as compared to headphones. This comfort though does come at a price. As earbuds enter further into the ear cavity, they can be very uncomfortable when used for an extended period of time, especially at a high volume. Prolonged use can also cause hearing loss. Also, there are instances where the earbuds simply refuse to stay put in your ear even though most earbuds ship with different-sized eartips. Headphones may be rather large in comparison, but since they either sit on the ear or cover the entire ear, they are more comfortable for prolonged use. Although listening to music at high volumes is ill-advised whichever device you use.

Earbuds Vs. Headphones: Audio quality
There is no clear winner when it comes to audio quality, as both earphones and headphones have their own set of pros and cons. Earbuds usually have a mediocre bass output, although a particular doctor might not quite agree with you on that (Dr. Dre). To compensate for this, they usually have a higher volume output and the treble usually is cranked up. On the good side though, they offer superior noise cancellation. Headphones on the other hand can have real impressive bass output but tend to be on the softer side when it comes to overall output. They are, however, closer to having a more natural sound output. High-quality headphones that cover the entire ear also offer great ambient noise-cancellation features, but these usually aren't as impressive as those offered by earbuds.

Earbuds Vs. Headphones: Portability
This is a no-brainer really. Earbuds are tiny little speakers that hide in your ear, and the only thing that betrays them are the cables connecting them that give them away. Headphones usually are rather large and can be quite an eyesore too. Having said that though, there a number of foldable headphone models available in the market today that are easy to store. Earbuds win this round hands down.

Earbuds Vs. Headphones: Durability
Although most high-end earbuds and headphones are made from very durable materials, earbuds hold an edge over headphones mainly because of their smaller size. Earbuds are a lot easier to store and have lesser movable parts. There are also a lot of waterproof earbuds available in the market today. These make for the perfect gym companion. Headphones are more susceptible to damage mainly around the cushioning of the speakers. Their larger size makes storage a little more challenging.

Earbuds Vs. Headphones: Price
Headphones mostly are costlier than earbuds. Some high-fidelity earbuds though, can cost a lot more than many top-end headphones out there.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to individual preference. While a large section of audiophiles would swear by the unmatched audio quality of headphones, another section argues that earbuds make for a complete music-listening experience. Whatever school of thought you belong to, there are plenty of choices available in the market for earbuds and headphones. Pick up the one that tickles your fancy, plug it into you music player, and let the music take over. Cheers.
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Published: March 17, 2014
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