Understanding Different Headphone Sizes & Shapes

If you’ve ever browsed the headphone section of just about any store, you’ve noticed that there are different headphone sizes. But what do these differences mean? How do they affect your listening experience? Which one of the headphone sizes should you buy? We will help you start answering those questions in this article.

The Pros And Cons of Full Size Headphones

Full size headphones are the largest headphone size. The cushions are large and cup-shaped so that they wrap around your ear. They also tend to be the more expensive options although there are some moderately priced models available. The around the ear fit has many advantages but also some important disadvantages.

White Full Size Headphones
  • Quality - When top quality sound are your absolute top priority, then, you should definitely be looking at full size headphones.
  • Noise isolation - Because they completely wrap around your ear, full size headphones tend to provide the very best noise isolation.

While they tend to be higher quality, they can also get uncomfortable. By wrapping around your ear, they are also trapping in heat which starts to make your ears feel hot after a certain amount of time. They can also start to pinch around the edges of your ear. So comfort is a tradeoff for quality here.

Woman Wearing Full Size Headphones

Full size headphones provide exceptional sound quality but there are some serious drawbacks in terms of comfort and they aren’t the best headphones to use for when you’re on the go. These are really only necessary for professional purposes (like working as a DJ or in a sound studio). Otherwise, you’ll probably want something more comfortable and portable for your everyday needs.

The Pros And Cons of Over the Ear Headphones

Over the ear headphones are a bit smaller than full size headphones. Instead of cupping around the ear, they simply rest on top of it. Prices range pretty widely. You can find super cheap ones (but you definitely sacrifice quality when you opt for these) and you can find super expensive ones (which doesn’t necessarily mean quality).

Brown Over Ear Headphones on Stand
  • Comfortable - Due to their over the ear shape, they allow enough breathability to prevent your ears from heating up and they don’t pinch as much.
  • Portable - They aren’t as portable and compact as earbuds but they still work well as an everyday, on the go set of headphones.
  • Sound Isolation & Cancellation - You still have the option to find over the ear headphones that have noise cancelling technology like some full size headphones. And while the cushions don’t provide quite as much sound isolation as a full size cushion, they still block out a substantial amount of noise.
  • High end technology - You can still find great technology and manufacturing in over the ear headphones even though it’s the full size that tend to be associated with professional, state of the art tech.
Man Holding Over Ear Headphones on Shoulders

The only drawbacks here are that you need to be careful about what you buy. Some brands will try to blind you with sleek design which is just a mask for cheap quality. And just going for the most expensive option isn’t necessarily going to get you the quality you need. Be ready to invest in quality but also be sure to do plenty of research. You can start by checking out options from quality, established brands like Bose or Beats.

These are pretty much the best all-around headphones you could choose. They are a blend of convenience and quality. In other words, they offer many of the same benefits as full size headphones without being as bulky or causing your ears to get hot. If you’re looking for high quality everyday headphones, this is the way to go.

The Pros And Cons of Ear Buds

Ear buds are the smallest headphone size available. Rather than resting around or on top of your ear, they are put inside your ear and held in place by the ear itself. Because they are so small, they are usually the cheapest option but there are some relatively expensive, high end ear buds out there (especially if you start looking at wireless models).

Pair of White Earbuds
  • Super portable - Ear buds are small enough that they can fit in your pocket (although we don’t recommend storing them there). So if this level of portability is one of the most important things for you, ear buds are worth considering.
  • Great for work outs - If you enjoy tunes while you’re working out, ear buds can be a better choice than the larger ones. They don’t trap heat around your ears and they don’t block out as much outside noise so you can still be aware of your surroundings.
  • Very convenient - Weather you get standard or wireless, ear buds are generally the most convenient option you can choose.

The key tradeoff for this convenience and portability is quality. Even the higher end ear bud models aren’t going to provide as high quality sound or noise isolation as an over the ear or full size headphone. So if quality is important to you, you might want to skip past the ear bud section.

Young Girl Wearing Earbuds

These are really only a good choice if your top priorities are convenience and portability to the point that you’re willing to sacrifice on sound quality and noise isolation.

Final Word

Basically, full size headphones are the best option for DJs and other professionals because they provide the best noise isolation. However, you will have to deal with hot, sweaty ears if you wear them for an extended time.

Couple Wearing Full Size Headphones

Ear buds are the best option for someone who needs extra portability and convenience above all else. They’re also good for exercising because they don’t block out too much noise (so you can still be aware of your surroundings).

Over the ear headphones are the best for those who want a blend of convenience and quality. They provide comparable sound quality and noise isolation or even cancellation features s full size headphones but they are more portable and more comfortable.

So choose your headphones based on what you intend to use them for and what your top priorities are.


Leave a comment