Almost everyone uses headphones these days. Whether on your daily commute, traveling long distances, or listening alone in a crowded dorm, headphones help us tune into what we love and block out the rest. Depending on your purpose, different types of headphones serve different needs. Check out the five most common types below to figure out what’s best for you.


You typically get these little guys for free with other purchases, or at a bodega if it’s urgent. Earbuds don’t seal you off from your environment, so a lot of ambient noise creeps in. This is actually useful if you’re working out at a gym or moving around in spaces that require some level of interaction with other people. Earbuds fall out if they’re not snug enough, and hurt if they’re too big.

But they’re also cheap and straightforward.



In-ear headphones are often confused with earbuds, but they offer better sound quality and a more comfortable fit. They usually feature cushions made of memory foam or rubber, shaped to lock directly into the concha. While they’re small, in-ear headphones can run anywhere from under 50 to over 1000 dollars. They’re great for travelers and folks with a long public transit commute.


While it varies between models, over-ear headphones tend to offer the best natural noise rejection and consistent sound. For this reason, they’re often touted by ‘serious’ audiophiles. However, over-ear headphones aren’t very portable, and they’re not super comfortable either. That said, if you’re the type of person who knows a lot about headphones, then you probably already own a pair.



On-ear models are a great alternative to over-ear because they’re made with lightweight materials. They’re compact and portable, and provide a more open sound that doesn’t block out your environment. Possibly the biggest boon of on-ear models is comfort. Big over-ear headphones don’t let your skin breath, and you’re likely to sweat through the material with extended use. On-ear, on the other hand, exerts less pressure and covers less of your ear for better breathability.


These are the big guns. Noise-cancelling headphones block out ambient noise with active noise control, unlike over-ear headphones that employ natural noise rejection. They’re big, and usually a little bulky. Nonetheless, if you’re willing to travel with them, they can cancel out noisy vehicles and even airplane chatter. They are sometimes cost prohibitive require recharge, but if you need less noise, then there’s nothing else like them.

noise-cancelling headphones


Make the jump from earbuds! Really, it’s worth it. If you’re worried about price, then a modest pair of in-ear headphones or even on-ear headphones are a safe bet. If you’re looking to move up into ‘serious’ listener territory, then check some noise cancelling Sony or an over-ear from Beyerdynamic.


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