Over-Ear vs On-Ear vs In-Ear Headphones?

If you're part of the audiophile community, or aspire to be, you're aware that there are few things as personal as the choice of headphones. With over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear varieties available, the options can be overwhelming. So, let's break it down.

Meze Audio 109 Pro Headphone

Over-Ear Headphones

Over-ear headphones, also known as around-ear or circumaural headphones, fully enclose the ears with their large, cushioned ear cups. Their size often allows for a larger driver, which can provide a richer, more resonant sound.

When it comes to comfort, many users appreciate the soft pads resting against their head rather than pressing on their ears. However, their bulk can make them less portable than smaller models and potentially uncomfortable to wear for prolonged periods, especially in warmer environments.

Their design naturally lends itself to noise isolation, with the ear cups acting as physical barriers against external noise. For even better sound isolation, you might want to consider models with active noise cancellation technology.

Audio Technica On-ear Headphones

On-Ear Headphones

On-ear, or supra-aural headphones, are a step down in size. They rest on the ears rather than around them. For those who find over-ear headphones too bulky, on-ears can be a more comfortable option.

However, pressing directly on the ears can sometimes lead to discomfort over time. Their smaller size often means smaller drivers, which can affect sound quality, but this isn't always the case, and many on-ear models deliver exceptional audio.

While on-ear headphones don't naturally isolate noise as well as over-ears, there are models with active noise cancellation to help overcome this.

final IEMs

In-Ear Headphones

In-ear headphones, also known as in-ear monitors (IEMs) or earbuds, are the smallest and most portable of the bunch. They sit in or just outside the ear canal, making them ideal for use on the move or during physical activities.

While their size might imply lesser sound quality, don't be fooled. Many IEMs deliver fantastic sound, and the snug fit in the ear canal can provide excellent passive noise isolation.

Comfort can be a hit-or-miss with in-ears. Everyone's ears are different, and what fits perfectly for one person might be uncomfortable for another. Many models come with different-sized ear tips to help you find the best fit.

Headphone Comparison

While all three types of headphones have their strengths, the best one for you depends on several factors:

  • Sound Quality: Over-ear headphones often take the lead here due to larger drivers, but high-quality on-ear and in-ear models can also deliver excellent sound.
  • Comfort and Fit: This is largely subjective and depends on personal preference and how long you'll be wearing them.
  • Portability: In-ear headphones are the most portable, followed by on-ear headphones. Over-ear headphones are usually bulkier and less suited to mobile use.
  • Noise Isolation: Both over-ear and in-ear headphones can provide good passive noise isolation due to their design. Some models of all types also offer active noise cancellation.
  • Price: There's a wide range of prices within each category. While over-ear headphones can be more expensive due to their larger size and often higher-quality components, there are affordable options in every category.

In the end, it's about finding the right balance between these factors to meet your individual needs and preferences. To explore more, don't forget to check out our Apos Audio specials and Apos certified collections.


Whether you prefer the encompassing experience of over-ear headphones, the compact size of on-ear models, or the portability of in-ears, there's no wrong answer. It's a personal journey defined by your specific needs and desires.

Remember, the right headphones for you are the ones that bring you the most satisfaction, not just in terms of sound, but also comfort, convenience, and style. It's all about what resonates with your lifestyle and listening habits.

The audiophile community is here to support you in your audio adventures. We're excited to help guide you along your path to finding the perfect pair. Don't hesitate to reach out to our knowledgeable team at Apos Audio with any questions, or to share your own experiences and recommendations.

Apos Audio offers a range of products from brands like Hifiman, Topping, and Kanto, with options to satisfy everyone from headphone newcomers to seasoned audiophiles. We're dedicated to providing the best service, with a price match guarantee, a one-year transferable warranty, and free shipping.