There are two main types of wearable audio-listening devices: earbuds and headphones (headsets if they have a microphone). Each of them comes with its own set of distinct features, upsides and downsides. But it is important to first know the distinction between the two before we get to which one might be the better option for you.
The biggest difference
Both headsets and earbuds feature a speaker on each side. The main difference between headsets vs. earbuds is the size of the speakers and where they sit in relation to your ear.
With earbuds, the tiny speakers in each earbud, wired or wireless, sit the closest to your ear canals. This is especially true if it’s an in-ear design, as found in most earbuds. There are exceptions, however, the most popular being the Apple AirPods (non-Pro). Instead of getting inside your ears they hook onto the notch just outside your ear canal.
Headsets also have different types, the main two being on-ear and over-ear. On-ear headsets are generally smaller and the cups don’t fully cover the ears. Over-ear headsets are larger and are supposed to cup the ear completely to create a seal.
Now that the visual distinctions have been made, let’s take a closer look at how these designs and form factors function differently and what are the pros and cons of each.
There are multiple types of earbuds, mostly having an in-ear design since the silicone tip that blocks the ear canal can manage to cancel out a fair bit of outside noise. This comes at the cost of the earbuds gathering some of the mucus in your ear canal, as well as sometimes being uncomfortable to wear for longer periods of time as the inside of the ear canal can potentially be quite sensitive to continuous pressure on its walls. But as previously stated, they offer a better seal than their non-in-ear counterpart, which can potentially increase the perceived clarity of the audio and can definitely help with delivering more bass.
On the other hand, if comfort is the primary goal for you, there are earbuds without a silicone tip that just dangle off your ear. Note that the distance dangling earbuds have from your ear canal means the amount of bass heard from them is likely lower than that of in-ear earbuds.
It is very difficult to say whether dangling earbuds is a more secure fit than pushing the in-ear earbuds inside the ear canal since ear shapes can vary significantly from person to person. A particular earbud shape may work great for someone but be a total dealbreaker for someone else.
Seal and pressure-point is all there is to know in terms of the difference between on-ear headsets and over-ear ones. While not worlds different, over-ear headsets create a better seal compared to on-ears, allowing the user to hear less of the background noise. On-ears, however, are generally lighter and more portable and because of that, put generally less pressure on your ears.
Great, but which one to pick?
That is a loaded question! The answer very much comes down to use-case scenario and personal preferences. We will make the decision-making process a little easier by looking at each factor that can be more/less important to you. Hopefully, this will help you in determining whether to pick a headset vs. an earbud.
|Portability||Earbuds win this category, hands-down. They are much more compact, especially if they are true wireless earbuds.||Some headsets feature a folding mechanism to take up less space. However, generally speaking, headsets are much less portable than earbuds.|
|Audio quality||While earbuds can compete well with headsets in audio quality, they are usually lacking in bass in comparison to headsets.||If bass is important to you in sound quality, you may prefer a headset over earbuds. This is because bass requires space, and headsets have more of it.|
|Comfort||With earbuds, subjectivity of fit and comfort is an important factor. Dangling earbuds are usually said to be more comfortable than in-ear earbuds, but for long hours of use, neither might be suitably comfortable as they strain the ears and can lead to hygienic problems.||Since most headsets offer a padded headband and earcups, they tend to be comfortable for most people. Many headsets offer leather padding while remaining lightweight, which makes the much more comfortable for using consistently over an entire workday.|
|Hygiene||Earbuds can get really dirty if you don’t clean them regularly as the ear wax can build up over time. Even if you clean your ears regularly, there is a chance that you can face hygienic problems, especially if you have oily skin.||While the sweat can build up on the ear cups and start to wear it down, hygiene is not much of an issue with headsets. You can even lend a headset to someone else after a quick wipe.|
|Control||Earbuds allow for little control over your playback, microphone, and volume. There just isn’t that much space to work with and implement a variety of control options. This is why a lot of the higher end models have a button/gesture to invoke your voice assistant to do those things for you.||Headsets typically offer a wider variety of control buttons in comparison to earbuds. They can have in-line microphones with a gain knob to adjust the microphone volume on the fly, on top of a mute button. They can also have a volume knob right on the cup of the headset (both mostly seen in wired options). With wireless headsets, the same options can be there just implemented through buttons or even in some cases, big touch surfaces on the cups.|
Use-case scenarios for the two main types of earbuds and headsets
With that said and considering how it is almost impossible to give a sweeping statement regarding the fit and audio quality of headsets vs. earbuds, we are going to do exactly that and write our suggestions for use-case scenarios for each type of audio-listening device.
In an office environment, earbuds are easy to carry around because they are the smallest audio-listening medium available. At home, portability is not so much of an issue, but if you are on the move a lot, even in your office, perhaps earbuds are the way to go. True wireless earbuds would be ideal as if you get one that is comfortable to wear, you might really forget you are even wearing one. Let’s look at the two types of earbuds that you can get and see which one is better for you.
In-ear silicone earbuds
If you’re okay with a bit more cleaning after every use, in-ear silicone earbuds offer the best listening experience and can be some of the best earbuds for work because of the natural seal they create, allowing the bass to go directly into the ear canal and punch more instead of being let out in all directions until it finds your eardrums. This type also tends to come in the smallest packages of the bunch because they don’t need to have a stem hanging off your ear.
Hard plastic earbuds
A loose fit that the original AirPod and all other previous Apple earphone designs featured. Perhaps not as serious of a music listening experience as their in-ear counterpart, but they are generally more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time as they aren’t putting pressure on anything.
The fact that these earbuds are hanging right outside your ear, however, means that there is noticeably more audio bleed. A little bit of your music will be directed to the person sitting next to you instead of going straight for your ear drum.
For hybrid work scenarios, headsets, especially wireless ones, might be a better pick than earbuds as they can more easily (and passively) cancel out the noise around you. Headsets are also more universally comfortable to wear.
If you need your headsets to be connected to an under-the-desk PC, headsets with longer cables are much easier to come by and if you tug on the cable a lot, they are more difficult to fall off your head than earbuds. Compatibility-wise, headsets are a better choice than earbuds if you are looking at wired options. This is because some older computers might not feature a combo jack and have their mic-in and audio-out in separate 3.5mm ports, and there are many more headsets that come with separate microphone and audio connectors than earbuds. Now let’s look at the two form factors that they come in.
More compact than their over-ear counterparts, on-ear headsets are generally better suited for outdoors listening because of their portability. They don’t create as strong of a seal on the ear, however, which results in a bit of audio bleeding from the sides.
Generally suited for long hours of listening or gaming, over-ear headsets feature decent padding and can be some of the best headsets for work because they have the potential to be the most comfortable for long listening sessions. Because of the seal they create, they are geared more towards solitary work situations where you are not expected to be too aware of your surroundings. This is why you tend to see mostly on-ear headsets in work environments rather than over-ears. The seal has the potential to give the fullest audio experience, although that is heavily reliant on the manufacturer to properly take advantage of the seal.
Which one do I pick for hybrid work?
We’re going to make it simple for you! If portability is your top priority, going with a pair of true wireless earbuds is the way to go. The type of fit you prefer is entirely subjective so we won’t make any recommendations on that as we’ve discussed what you should be taking into account. If portability isn’t your number one priority, we suggest an over-ear option for solitary workspaces and on-ear headsets if you work in a shared workspace or work outside from time to time to give you better awareness of your surroundings.
Some options to consider
Now that you know what form factor is the best for you, allow us to give you a few options by Logitech, earbuds, and headsets included!
Logitech Zone True Wireless Earbuds
At first glance, this might look like just another pair of true wireless earbuds. But there are a good few features that come with the Zone True Wireless Earbuds (TWE) that immediately makes it stand out from the pack. Setting aside the unique fabric design covering the microphone holes and acting as a wind noise dampener, it is the USB dongle the earbuds come with that gives them the right to be labeled as “distinct.”
There has never been a pair of TWE that has been truly work-focused. But the Zone TWE, through the USB dongle, can communicate with applications like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet in ways that no other TWE has been able to before. The USB interface allows you to open up your video conferencing app of choice with a click on the right earbud and answer or reject calls using the same button. On the left earbud, you also have a touch-sensitive surface that by default turns the active noise cancellation feature on and off.
Those were, however, only the extra features that make the Zone stand out as a fully-functional pair of TWE that can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth but also simultaneously communicate with your computer in case you want to quickly pop into a call without having to disconnect from your phone and go through the tedious process of pairing a Bluetooth device in Windows.
The Zone is the ace up Logitech’s sleeve when it comes to TWEs as it is clearly, distinctly a work-first audio interface, the likes of which simply does not exist on the market, leaving Logitech, once again, with a genre-defining product. The zone is one of the best noise-canceling earbuds on the market and arguably the best earbuds for work.
Logitech H820e Wireless
You can tell from the plain cardboard box that the H820e business Bluetooth headset comes in that it is not designed to be sold to the end user. It is rather an enterprise-focused product, and we can certainly see why. Let us go through the features of this truly fantastic headset in a scenario where it feels at home the most:
It’s 9:30 AM in X call center. Steve has just had his coffee and is ready to start with the cold calls of the day. Before that though, the H820e dock next to his computer lights up to let him know that he has an incoming call. He puts on the headset, adjusts the boom mic and unmutes it with the button right on the mic and listens to his boss talk about the agenda for the day.
Steve then starts his first cold call. It’s with one of those clients who has the microphone inside his mouth. But Steve doesn’t wince at his sound because the H820e already filters out all the crackles and hisses that go beyond 115dBA. He just gently lowers the volume with the controls right on the right ear cup. Janet wants to ask Steve if he could lend her some of his Brazilian coffee, but she hesitates and turns back as she sees the red light at the back of the boom mic on Steve’s H820e, indicating that he’s on a call.
After an hour of cold calling, Steve is feeling a bit cramped so he starts walking upstairs back to the kitchen, all the while not dropping his call because the connection that his headset is making with the dock isn’t limited to 10 meters. Steve can be around 100 meters away from the dock and still not skip a beat in the call!
It is 5 P.M. and Steve just took off the headset for the first time and popped it on the dock to be charged for another day of use tomorrow. He would have been fine to use it for at least another 5 hours!
Logitech Zone Wireless Bluetooth Headset
A true work and entertainment headset that can do one just as well as the other, looking premium all the while. If you want to listen to music, the Zone’s compatibility with the Logitech Tune app that enables a 5-band equalizer over Bluetooth shows its commitment to excellent audio quality and customizability. On the other hand, the flip-to-mute microphone, dedicated Teams button, and integration with other popular video conferencing solutions through the Logitech Unifying receiver display the true power of the Zone headset as the best headset for work.
The thick padded cushions of the Zone make the headset feel as comfortable as it can get. This headset also has the capability to connect to multiple devices over Bluetooth and the Unifying receiver at once, so you wouldn’t skip a beat when switching between your paired devices. The Zone is truly a multi-functional headset with an unprecedented degree of versatility. It can act both as a Bluetooth office headset as well as a headset made for entertainment purposes, such as listening to music while working from home.
The items mentioned above were a dip into the vast pool of products that Logitech has devised for work-oriented users. These options were meant to elevate your audio experience. If you’re looking to up your video conferencing game, then take a look at some of Logitech’s all-in-one video-conferencing solutions in the form of their Rally lineup in this link.
Interested in learning more about Logitech products?
As an official Logitech distributor in the Middle East, Newcom offers a wide range of Logitech products, including the headsets mentioned in this article. The Logitech Zone Wireless Earbuds are yet to be released in the region, so please stay tuned for more information.
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