If you’re looking for a new way to listen to your music, we imagine that you’re probably faced with the dilemma of whether to invest in a pair of the new truly wireless earbuds or get another set of the good old trusted earphones.
But before we dive into which product is best for you, it may be good to get an idea of what all the definitions mean. Since so many are used interchangeably, knowing the difference and what product you’re actually looking at can be pretty confusing. So let’s dive into what it all means.
Headphones: Can be wired or wireless. These are designed to go on the outside of your ear and are usually worn on or around the head.
Earbuds: Can be wired or wireless. Earbuds tend to sit in the concha (the outer part of the ear canal) and usually have a rounded end rather than a long tip. Howver a lot of brands are using the term ‘earbud’ to describe truly wirless earphone which is why it gets confusing.
Earphones: Can be wired or wireless. Earphones are designed to fit into your ear canal and usually have a long pointed tip.
The second thing to note when comparing earbuds and earphones is that not all products are created equally. While we try to give a general comparison, the products vary so much within their own category. There are some excellent options out there for both choices, and then there are earbuds and earphones that have merely been created to jump on the hype rather than to deliver a quality product.
If you take the time to research products and see other customers’ experience, you won’t make a bad purchase. And since you’re here, you’re already on your way to making an informed purchase. So, let’s dive into the pros and cons of each product!
Pros of Earphones:
You can pick up wired earphones (that plug into your phone) from big brands like Sony, Skullcandy and JVC for less than £10. Having a cheaper option often means you’ll have less anxiety about taking them out because you won’t be worried about damaging or losing the product. And with many of the big trusted brand, you’re still getting great sound quality for less money.
Less likely to fall out and get lost
It’s really easy to put a tiny earbud down and lose it, but if your earphones are attached to your phone, then it’s difficult to lose them. Even the wireless earphones hang around your neck, making them safer. Because at the end of the day, the bud itself is attached to something.
Some say the sound quality is much better in earphones
Because earbuds sit in the concha rather than the ear canal, some sound is lost to the outside ambience. However, with the technology of active noise cancellation and the work that goes into the sound quality of some truly wireless earbuds, it’s becoming less clear which provides better sound. If sound quality is really important to you, then we recommend the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds.
You don’t have to worry about battery life
Not only do earbuds have a battery life that means you usually have to charge them after a few hours, but consumers have also actually found the actual real-time battery life to be lower than what is advertised with the majority of earbuds. And while many truly wireless earbuds have impressive active noise cancellation, this technology drains the battery so much that you often have to turn it off anyway. This will never be a problem with wired earphones.
Cons of earphones:
No matter what you do the wires get tangled
The main reason people want truly wireless earbuds is that they’ll finally be free of any kind of wire. While the wireless earphones are a little better since you can rest them around your neck, they can still catch on things like your glasses, a shirt collar or a hat. And dare we mention the dreaded knots that occur with wired earphones? No matter what you do with wired earphones, they find a way to tie themselves in loops.
They don’t have the same level of technology that earbuds have
A lot of earbuds now allow you to control your sound with one touch. So if you want to listen to an announcement while playing your music, truly wireless earbuds have a transparency mode that allows that sound in with just one touch.
The Bose Quiet Comfort earbuds also make calls crisper as they’re designed to pick up on your voice specifically within a call and drown out the noise around you. The Google Pixel Buds allow you to get real-time translations as well as send messages with Google Assist.
Pros of Earbuds:
They’re stylish and progressive
New technology excites people; it’s the way it’s always been and having something current, and the best technology can offer will always have a draw and a pull. Not to mention, a lot of truly wireless earbuds are sleek, minimal and aesthetically pleasing. Take the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, for example, their ergonomic design, mystic colours and glossy finish make them undeniably pretty.
Truly Wireless Earbuds tend to have other features
As mentioned above, not only do some earbuds have impressive active noise-cancellation, but they also come with other great features like transparency mode, Spotify integration, Google Assist, real-time translations, and the ability to send messages – making them more like a PA rather than a transmitter of sound.
They’re much more manageable than wired earphones
While there is the option to have wireless earphones now, the buds are still technically connected to a wire even if they’re not connected to your phone. Truly wireless earbuds give you complete freedom to move around. They’re better for exercising, and if you need to block out noises at night time, they’re a much better fit for sleep.
This complete ease of use will always be the biggest draw to earbuds.
Cons of Wireless Earbuds:
The connection can be temperamental
There have been quite a few complaints made against truly wireless earbuds having an unreliable connection. From Bose to Apple, even the big giants using quality Bluetooth chips are still finding problems within their products. This is because the Bluetooth range is quite low, and other devices using Bluetooth interfere with your connection. Not only this, but Bluetooth transfers data much slower than WiFi.
While you can still get around this connection problem, it’s never an issue you’re going to have with traditional plug-in earphones.
They’re more likely to get lost or fall out
When it comes to earbuds, the tip’s comfort and fit is so much more important than earphones because not only is a tight seel better for the sound quality but it’s also essential for the earbud to stay put. While some earbuds like the Airpods offer an app to locate your missing earbud, you may only realise you’ve lost your earbud once you return home and going back to the place where it was last located may prove tricky if it’s crowded or the building is closed for the day.
Not only this, but earbuds like the Apple Airpods only log the last known location when the AirPods were connected to the phone. So if yours weren’t connected when you lost them, it’s not going to give you an accurate location.
Even when your AirPods are online, the location is still very general, so while earbuds have attempted to appease consumers fears of losing something so expensive so easily, they’ve still not given a complete solution.
In one sitting, you’re going to get about 4.5 hours battery life in a pair of AirPods Pro and consumers have claimed this battery life to go down over the time of ownership. There are also other factors at play; the better the active noise cancellation and Bluetooth connection, the more it will drain your battery. With wired earphones, battery life isn’t even a concern, and with wireless earphones, you can find products that provide up to 16 hours play without active noise cancellation on the whole time.
If you love new innovations, want the feeling of complete freedom with no kind of wire, and you’re looking for a product that delivers other cool features as well, then wireless earbuds are probably better for you, and it might be a good time to check out our line up of the best wireless earbuds on the market right now.
If you want a product that still delivers great sound but is simple to use and you don’t need to worry about losing them, the connection or battery life, then you should probably get yourself a great pair of wired earphones.
And if you’re still unsure which way to go, then there are a lot of hybrid options under the name of wireless earphones that deliver great sound and a good amount of flexibility. These wireless earphones are just attached to a wire that loops around your head rather than connecting to a phone, so you get some security of the earbud but plenty of freedom from long wires. While these still run on Bluetooth, a lot of them have much better battery life, so you could be getting the best of both worlds.