On-Ear vs Over-Ear Headphones: Which is Best For you?

On-Ear Headphones vs Over-Ear Headphones

There are different types of Headphones on the market but if you want to get the “big, fat Headphones”, you got these two options- On-Ear Headphones and Over-Ear Headphones.

Which one you should use?

The answer to this question completely depends on your convenience and comfort.

Before you decide which of the two suits you best, first you should know:

What are On-Ear Headphones?

Woman wearing on-ear headphones

The On-Ear Headphones (or in technical terms, supra-aural) are those types of headphones that have smaller earcups that sit on your ears (as the name suggests) but do not encompass the whole ear. The cups are designed to press onto your ears, more like squishing, to block out the ambient noise to a certain extent.

On-Ear vs Over-Ear: What are Over-Ear Headphones

Woman wearing over-ear headphones

The Over-Ear Headphones (or circum-aural) are those types of headphones with larger ear cups that surround your ears, fully covering them. This design leads to a high degree of noise-isolation, almost to the extent that all external noise is blocked out. This type of headphones also has multiple drivers with the widest range of frequencies that produce clearly defined music.

Which is better?

The matter is subjective because it depends on the user’s needs and preferences. However, both have some pros and cons which we shall discuss here.

On-Ear Headphones

Man enjoying on-ear headphones


  1. They are lightweight and portable. They are compact in size so it’s very convenient to carry them around.
  2. Because they are light and small, they are great for sports. Their design enables them to stay secured on your head.
  3. They are comparatively cheaper.


  1. The small earcups tend to squish your ears which can be uncomfortable, especially after long listening sessions.
  2. Their noise-isolation feature is weaker as the cups do not seal your ears completely. The ambient noise can still be audible to some extent.
  3. The on-ear placement can also affect the bass response.
  4. Their battery life is not as good (can last up to 6 hours on a single charge).

Over-Ear Headphones

woman enjoying over-ear headphones


  1. They surround your ears, fully encompassing them. This design is more comfortable as the cups sit over your ears and do not squish them. They also come with extra cushioning for greater comfort.
  2. Since they cover your ears completely, they block out almost all ambient noise and prevent sound leakage, making your listening experience all the more pleasant.
  3. They have a better Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) feature.
  4. They can be used for long durations without any discomfort.
  5. They have better battery life (can last up to 20 hours on a single charge).


  1. They can be heavy and bulky due to the amount of hardware inside them so it’s difficult to carry them around.
  2. Due to their weight, they can be unstable over your head (may not fit properly).
  3. The large earcups do not appeal to people with small ears.
  4. They are generally more expensive.
  5. They can make you sweaty.

For whom are they made?

Man and woman wearing headphones

Over-Ear Headphones

  1. For people who want to completely block out the external world and immerse in their world of music.
  2. For the ones who love listening to music for long hours.
  3. For the ones who care about the sound quality above anything else.
  4. For gamers and audiophiles.

On-Ear Headphones

  1. For people who enjoy listening to music during sports or other physical activities.
  2. For people who do not want to mute the world completely.
  3. For people who love to travel with their headphones on.
  4. For people who are on a budget but also want a decent sound quality.


What is the difference between Headphones and Over-Ear Headphones?

“Headphones” is the common term for all types of such devices. But, in reality, Headphones generally refer to the On-Ear Headphones which sit on your ears whereas the Over-Ear Headphones surround your ears.

What is the difference between Over-Ear and Compact Earbuds?

The compact earbuds are much smaller in size and, therefore, easier to carry. You can fit them in your purse or pocket unlike the Over-Ear headphones with bigger counterparts.

Are Over-Ear Headphones good for gaming?

Yes, Over-Ear headphones are perfect for long, grinding gaming sessions. They are very comfortable to use for long durations and they also have a high-quality sound that offers the best gaming experience.

Final Verdict

Based on their pros and cons, you probably concluded that Over-Ear Headphones are better than On-Ear headphones.

Theoretically, the statement stands true. Over-Ear headphones have superior audio quality with better ANC and noise isolation. They also have better battery life and are more comfortable to wear for long listening sessions (ideal for audiophiles).

But in reality, some people find the On-Ear headphones more comfortable than the Over-Ear ones.

They are easier to carry around. The audio quality is good enough, it’s just not as superior as Over-Ear ones but not everybody wants such high-quality audio. Not everybody wants to disconnect from the world completely. It’s perfect if you want a pleasant music experience combined with the ability to have conversations with people around you.

The On-Ear ones are also relatively cheaper. If you find the right size and the right brand, you are unlikely to face any issues.

Therefore, which is best for you really depends on your convenience and comfort.