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Difference Between Headphone and Headset [Detailed Guide]

Difference Between Headphone and Headset [Detailed Guide]

Do you often find yourself getting confused between headphones and headsets? Well, you’re not alone! With so many options available in the market, getting lost in the sea of technical jargon and features is easy.

But fear not! In this blog post, we’ll break down the difference between headphones and headsets in a simple way.

We’ll explore each device’s key features, advantages, and disadvantages, and help you determine which is best suited for your needs.

With that said, let’s roll in. 

Key Differences Between Headphones and Headsets

Below is a quick overview of the main differences between headphones and headsets:

DescriptionAudio device worn over the ears for listening to music or other audioAudio device worn over the ears with a built-in microphone for two-way communication
TypesOn-ear, over-ear, in-ear, bone conductionWired, wireless, gaming, business, sports
Use casesMusic listening, watching videos, audiobooks, phone callsGaming, video conferencing, business calls, customer service, aviation, sports
FeaturesNoise cancellation, volume controls, equalizer, sound customizationNoise-canceling microphone, mute button, call controls, compatibility with communication software
Sound qualityGood for music listening, clear soundDesigned for two-way communication, good voice clarity, surround sound
Comfort and fitLightweight, portable, comfortable ear pads, adjustable headbandMay be heavier and bulkier, larger ear cups for better noise isolation, adjustable headband
AdvantagesPortable, lightweight, good for music listeningBuilt-in microphone, good for communication, noise-canceling microphone
DisadvantagesLack of built-in microphone, not suitable for communicationNot as portable as headphones, heavier and bulkier
Price range$10 – $1000+$20 – $500+

Below, we’ll explore the differences between headphones and headsets in detail. 

Design and Features

Difference Between Headphone and Headset [Detailed Guide]

When it comes to design and features, headphones and headsets have some similarities and some key differences.

Let’s take a closer look.

Ear cups and padding

Some headphones have large, over-ear earcups that completely cover your ears, while others have smaller on-ear earcups that rest on top of your ears.

Headsets usually have earcups similar to headphones but with the addition of a microphone.

Many headphones and headsets have padding on the earcups and headbands to help reduce pressure and fatigue.

Some high-end models may have memory foam padding that conforms to your head over time for a personalized fit.

Microphone and control

Now, let’s talk about the microphone and control features. 

Headsets have a built-in microphone, usually located near the earcup, that allows for hands-free communication.

Some headsets may have additional features like noise cancellation or voice activation to enhance the quality of your calls or gaming sessions.

On the other hand, headphones do not typically have a microphone built-in.

However, some models may have a detachable or built-in microphone for gaming or communication purposes. 

Additionally, some headphones may have controls built-in to the earcup for adjusting the volume or skipping tracks. Whereas others may require you to use your device’s controls.

Sound Quality

Another important aspect to consider when choosing between headphones and headsets is sound quality.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two. 

Stereo vs. surround sound

First, let’s talk about stereo vs. surround sound.

Headphones and headsets can both produce stereo sound, which means that the audio is delivered through two channels – one for the left ear and one for the right.

This is the most common type of sound output for both headphones and headsets.

But some headsets also offer surround sound to further improve your gaming or movie-watching experience.

Surround sound headsets typically have multiple drivers in each earcup to produce sound from different angles and distances.

Noise cancellation

Some headphones and headsets have noise-cancellation features that can help block out external sounds.

It can be especially useful in noisy environments.

But note that not all headphones and headsets have noise cancellation.

Also, noise cancellation can be a drain on battery life and may not work as well in all environments.

Comfort and Fit

Difference Between Headphone and Headset [Detailed Guide]

Comfort and fit are also important factors to consider when choosing between headphones and headsets.

Let’s take a closer look below.

Headband and ear cup adjustability

Headsets generally have a more adjustable headband and ear cups, allowing for a more customizable fit.

It’s particularly useful if you’re wearing the headset for long periods of time.

Headphones, on the other hand, may not have as much adjustability in the headband and ear cups. 

Weight and size

Headsets tend to be heavier and bulkier than headphones due to the added microphone and controls.

This can make them less comfortable for some people, especially if they’re wearing them for extended periods of time. 

Whereas headphones are generally lighter and more compact, making them easier to wear for longer periods.

However, they may not provide as secure a fit as headsets, especially during physical activities.

Use Cases

When it comes to different use cases, headphones and headsets can offer different benefits and drawbacks.

Let’s take a look at how they compare in some common scenarios.


Difference Between Headphone and Headset [Detailed Guide]

Headsets can be a better choice for gaming, as they have a built-in microphone for communication with other players.

Headphones can also work well for gaming, but they may not offer the same level of communication or sound customization.

Music listening

When it comes to music listening, both headphones and headsets can offer high-quality sound.

However, headphones may be a better choice if you’re looking for a more portable and compact option.

Headsets, on the other hand, may provide more immersive sound and noise cancellation features.

Phone calls

Headsets can be a great choice for phone calls, as they have a built-in microphone and controls for easy hands-free calling.

Headphones may also work well for phone calls, but they may not offer the same level of convenience and functionality as headsets.

What’s a Headphone?

Difference Between Headphone and Headset [Detailed Guide]

A headphone is an audio device that you wear over your ears to listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, or any other audio content.

It’s essentially a pair of speakers attached to a headband that rests over your head, with ear cups covering your ears. 

Headphones come in different types and styles to suit all user needs.

Moreover, headphones have features like noise cancellation, volume controls, equalizers, and sound customization. 

Noise cancellation helps block out external noise, making it easier to hear your audio content.

Volume controls adjust the volume of your headphones, while equalizers and sound customization let you adjust the sound to your personal preferences.

Types of Headphones

As mentioned, headphones are of different types. These particularly include the following:

  • On-ear headphones: These have ear cups that rest on top of your ears and tend to be lightweight and portable. 
  • Over-ear headphones: These have ear cups that completely cover your ears, providing better noise isolation and bass response. 
  • In-ear headphones: These are designed to fit snugly inside your ear canal and are very portable and lightweight. 
  • Bone conduction headphones: These use vibrations to transmit sound through your cheekbones directly to your inner ear. 

Pros and Cons of Headphones

Here we’ll explore the main advantages and disadvantages of headphones:


  • Portable and lightweight, making them easy to take on the go.
  • Provide an immersive audio experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in your music or video fully.
  • Can provide noise isolation, blocking out external noise and distractions.
  • Great for personal use, such as listening to music or watching movies.


  • May not be comfortable for extended use, causing discomfort or pain.
  • Can cause hearing damage at high volumes, potentially leading to hearing loss over time.
  • May not provide the same sound quality as speakers, especially at lower prices.
  • Can be expensive for high-quality models, requiring a significant investment for the best audio experience.

What’s a Headset?

Difference Between Headphone and Headset [Detailed Guide]

A headset is a type of audio equipment that combines headphones with a microphone.

It’s typically used for communication purposes such as making phone calls or gaming.

Headsets can be wired or wireless and can range in size from small earbuds to large over-ear headphones.

The main advantage of a headset is its ability to provide both audio output and input in one compact package.

It’s particularly useful for activities that require communication.

The microphone lets you speak clearly with others while the headphones provide clear audio for you to hear them.

Types of Headsets

  • On-ear headsets: Similar to on-ear headphones, these headsets have ear cups that rest on top of your ears. Plus, they’re often lightweight and portable. 
  • Over-ear headsets: These headsets have ear cups that completely cover your ears to provide better noise isolation and bass response. 
  • In-ear headsets: These are designed to fit snugly inside your ear canal. Also, they tend to be lightweight. 
  • Convertible headsets: You can wear them in multiple ways, such as over the ear or behind the head, making them versatile for different situations or preferences.

Pros and Cons of Headsets

Here we’ll explore the main advantages and disadvantages of headsets:


  • Provide audio output and input in one device, making them convenient for communication.
  • Can provide better noise isolation and bass response than headphones, especially over-ear models.
  • Some models offer customizable features like sound profiles or noise cancellation.
  • Ideal for hands-free communication while performing other tasks.


  • May not be as comfortable for extended use as headphones, especially in-ear models.
  • Can be bulkier and less portable than headphones, especially over-ear models.
  • The microphone may pick up unwanted background noise.
  • Some models, especially those with advanced features like noise cancellation, can be expensive.

Which One to Choose: Headphones or Headset?

When it comes to choosing between headphones and headsets, there is no one-size-fits-all answer – as the best option for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

Below, we’ll explore the main factors to keep in mind to make an educated decision. 

Things to Consider When Choosing Between Headphones and Headsets

Here are some key factors to consider when deciding between headphones and headsets.

Use case

The first thing to consider when choosing between headphones and headsets is your use case.

If you want to communicate with others while listening to the audio, a headset may be the better choice, thanks to the inclusion of a microphone. 

But if you plan on using your device mainly for music listening or other solo activities, headphones may be a more suitable option.

Sound quality preference 

If you’re an audiophile or prioritize sound quality above all else, you may want to invest in a high-end pair of headphones with superior drivers and soundstage.

But if you’re seeking an immersive gaming or movie-watching experience, a headset with surround sound capabilities may be a better fit.

Comfort and fit

Headsets typically have more padding and adjustability options for a more customized fit, while headphones may be lighter and easier to wear for extended periods.

It’s essential to consider factors such as weight, earcup size, and headband adjustability to ensure you choose a pair that’s comfortable for your needs.

Recommendations for Different Use Cases

Below we’ll dive into headphones vs. headsets for use cases like gaming, music listening, and phone calls. 


If you’re seeking an audio device for gaming, you’ll want to prioritize sound quality and comfort.

A headset with a good microphone and surround sound capabilities will enhance your gaming experience. 

Be sure to consider headsets with large earcups, plush padding, and an adjustable headband to ensure a comfortable fit.

Some popular options include the HyperX Cloud II gaming headset and the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless.

Music listening

If you plan on using your headphones or headset mainly for music listening, go for optimal sound quality and portability.

Look for headphones with high-quality drivers and a wide soundstage to improve your listening experience. 

Over-ear headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort 35 II are great options for their noise-cancellation features, excellent sound quality, and long battery life.

Phone calls

For phone calls, go for a headset with a high-quality microphone and noise-cancellation features.

Look for headsets with a boom mic or noise-canceling earcups to ensure your voice is loud and clear. 

Some great options include the Jabra Evolve 75 and Plantronics Voyager 5200 UC.

Both these are designed for business professionals who require clear communication during calls.

Bottom Line

To summarize, choosing between headphones and headsets comes down to personal preferences and use cases.

While headphones may be better suited for music listening and general use, headsets are ideal for gaming and phone calls. 

Consider the factors outlined in this guide to make an informed decision.

These include sound quality, comfort, and features!