What Are Headphones, Headsets & Earphones?

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Headphones, Headsets & Earphones: How to Tell the Difference

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Headphones, headsets, earphones: These terms are freely tossed around the internet with little regard for accuracy.

What exactly do they mean, anyway?

First the bad news: There is little (if any) consensus as to precise meanings for these terms.

Now the good news: AudioLinks has unilaterally concocted our own definitions for headphones, headsets and earphones!

Hopefully this will inspire everyone else to follow our lead. (Please don’t thank us, just send money- or at least like our Facebook page).

What’s the Difference Between Headphones, Headsets & Earphones?

Girl Listening To Headphones

Generally speaking, headphones emphasize quality stereo sound for listening to music, movies, or games. Headphones have evolved quite a bit from the head-cramping cans of the seventies and eighties, although the types favored by audiophiles retain their sound-isolating, around-the-ear design.

For the purposes of the AudioLinks website, headsets are ear-worn speakers (or a single speaker) coupled with a microphone for interactive use with telecom systems, intercoms, or computers. But keep in mind that the term “headset” is often used to denote head-worn audio devices of all three types.

Earphones are often a catch-all term for speakers that rest over or inside the ear, or fit directly into the ear canal. For the purpose of the AudioLinks site, earphones specifically refer to the variety that hang over the ear. Earphones (and form-fitting earbuds and canalphones) owe their popularity to personal media players and mobile devices. Because of their portability and convenience, earphones are an ideal choice for travel or exercise.

What do you think about these definitions? How would you define the difference between headphones, headsets and earphones?