For starters, the term Headphones is used as a generic term for all the different types of such devices available on the market. Headphones refer to all the different types of “ear speakers” you’re aware of (including Earphones, Earbuds, etc.)
So, instead of asking the difference between “a Headset and Headphones”, the correct question to ask is What is the difference between headsets and the other types of headphones?
Headphones are your regular audio-listening devices whereas a Headset is a type of headphone with a built-in external microphone (you can see the mic near your mouth).
The major difference, as already stated, is the external microphone feature that a headset has while the other headphones may have built-in microphones but those are internally fixed.
There are certain other aspects like audio quality, comfort, portability, etc. in which a headset differs from the other types of headphones. Let’s find out.
Headset and Headphones: What is the Difference?
1. Audio Quality
Headphones have superior audio quality in comparison to a Headset.
Headset’s primary job is to offer two-way communication with high-quality sound output. Whereas Headphones’ primary job is to produce high-quality sound for listening purposes only, hence, they are specialized in that department and have superior audio quality.
However, a headset isn’t all that bad in this department. There are headsets with high-quality sound but they can be pretty expensive. You can get a good pair of headphones with superior audio quality at a much lesser price.
Headphones are classified into 4 different “headband-like headphones” and small In-Ear headphones, each having its unique fitting design.
- On-Ear Headphones have smaller ear cups that rest on your ears and not inside them which makes them perfect for running activities.
- Over-Ear Headphones have larger ear cups that fit around your ears which makes them perfect for a long-running listening session.
- Closed-back Headphones have completely sealed ear cups that cancel out all the ambient noise. It is perfect if you want to disconnect from the world during your music session.
- Open-back headphones cancel out ambient noise to the extent that you will enjoy high-quality sound and will not be disconnected from the world. It is perfect for gamers or streamers who need to communicate while enjoying the good sound.
- In-Ear Headphones fit inside your ears and are known as Earphones or Earbuds. Their small size makes them very convenient to carry around.
- A Headset has the same design as the other “headband-like headphones” but with the addition of an external microphone.
Note: Earphones or Earbuds may have internal microphones (you can’t see them as they’re built inside the device) but they aren’t as of supreme quality as that of a headset.
There is no preference here. Headsets and Headphones can be very comfortable depending on the brand. But for the sake of argument, Headphones are more comfortable to walk around with than a headset because of their varying designs (ex: Earbuds are small and easily portable).
Nonetheless, it really depends on the quality and the type of headphones you get.
4. Convenience and Portability
Again, there is no preference here. It totally depends on the user’s needs.
If you need a high-quality microphone, a Headset is much more convenient for you. But if you need high-quality audio, Headphones are the best choice.
However, there are Earphones/Earbuds with high-quality audio along with decent built-in microphones. So, it’s really a matter of choice.
Regarding portability, Headphones are more convenient to carry around than a Headset, especially wireless earbuds.
Generally, we find gamers or streamers using headsets because of the external microphone it comes with that offers “two-way communication” with clarity. Also, the high-end headsets offer high-quality sound as well which is crucial for gamers. People may even use it for video conferences.
Looking for the best headsets for streaming? Check out this list: 7 Best Headsets for Streaming in 2023
On the other hand, headphones are used for listening to music or for playing audiobooks or podcasts because of its superior audio quality and noise-canceling feature.
Headset and Headphones: Quick Comparison
|Headband-like design with big, round ear speakers and an external microphone
|Varying designs; Big ear-speakers to small, portable earphones/earbuds
|Audio Quality (Speakers)
|Inferior sound quality
|Superior sound quality
|Audio Output (Microphone)
|Superior; preferable for two-way communication (ex: gaming or streaming)
|Inferior mic quality; not for professional use
|Relatively less convenient in terms of mobility and comfort
|More convenient in terms of mobility and comfort
|High-end headsets are expensive
|Good quality headphones are available at cheap prices
|Gaming or Streaming or video conferencing
|Music listening or playing audiobooks/podcasts
Headset and Headphones: Which One Should You Get?
Depends on your purpose:-
- For regular/casual use- Bluetooth Headphones of decent audio quality and comfortable fit
- For Professional/Business use involving constant communication- High-quality Headset (Wired if it’s an at-desk job; wireless if you can afford it)
- For Gamers/Streamers/Podcasters- Expensive pair of Headset with Noise-canceling feature
- For audiophiles- The best-quality Headphones you can afford!
Headset and Headphones: Which is Better?
The debate has been long going on. Yes, they do differ in some aspects as already described above. They both have their strong and weak points. But which is better overall is completely subjective.
Don’t fall for the ads that claim to offer you the best of technology or any such crap! No matter how many cool features the device offers, in the end, you need it for a specific purpose.
Compare the two devices for that specific purpose and simply get the one that is up to the job.
Our Top Picks
Here are some of the trendy Headphones and Headsets that you can try out:
If you want to completely mute the world and immerse in your own imagination, Sony WH-1000XM4 is a hit due to its top-notch noise-canceling system. And if you don’t compromise your music-listening experience, the Sennheiser HD 560s is the one for you.
Here are the best long-lasting headphones: 9 Best Long-Lasting Headphones in 2023
For the best gaming experience, Razer BlackShark V2 is the one to beat but if you are on a budget, you can find the Razer Kraken X headset for under $50. Corsair HS80 RGB is a top-quality gaming headset for spatial audio.
To know more about gaming headsets check out: 7 Best Noise-Canceling Gaming Headsets
Is gaming headset audio quality better than headphones?
No, a gaming headset does not beat the audio quality of headphones. Gaming headset mainly focuses on surround sound and bass.
What is the difference between microphones and headphones?
Microphones are devices that capture your sound and transmit it to the other party. Headphones are headband-like ear speakers we use for listening to music. The headphones with microphones are called Headsets.
Why are headphones better than headsets and earbuds?
The headband-like headphones have better audio quality than headsets or earbuds. The reason is that when it comes to headphones, manufacturers can focus only on the audio quality and not on things like microphones and other smart technology.
We hope you got your answer to the question: What is the difference between a headset and headphones? You may even get confused between headphones and earphones at times. Read this article to clear out your confusion once and for all: Headphones Vs Earphones: Which is Best?