What Are Headphones, Headsets & Earphones?

By AudioMan Updated on Thursday, May 4, 2017

Headphones, Headsets & Earphones: How to Tell the Difference

Call Center

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?

Category: Earbuds, Headphones, Noise Cancelling Headphones, Pro Audio, Recording, tech tipsTags: , , , , , ,


  1. N.S.Rajan Says:
  2. Excellent. This has resolved my basic problem without any gobbledygook explanation necessitating another search. Thank you.

  3. AudioMan Says:
  4. Thanks! We are glad you found this useful!

  5. Prince Says:
  6. I’m still confused. Let me summarize and tell me if I got it right.

    Earphones – the small thing that can fit inside the ears.

    Headphones – those with huge circular speakers that cover both ears when worn. No microphone. For listening only.

    Headsets – same with headphones but has microphone.

  7. AudioMan Says:
  8. Yes, that is the basic categorization we use at AudioLink. Let us know if you would like more clarification!