Connect with us

Ask Arthur

Ask Arthur: Over-ear or on-ear headphones?

A reader wants to know if the design of headphones makes a difference. It’s complicated, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Q: Which is better? Over-ear or on-ear headphones?

A: The choice between on-ear and over-ear designs can be confusing, but it really comes down to personal preference, as both have pros and cons.

On-ear headphones, also known as supra-aural headphones, rest on top of the ears. They are smaller and resemble the shape of your ear. Key considerations include:

  • Comfort and sweat: On-ear headphones are generally comfortable and cause less sweating compared to over-ear models. 
  • Sound leakage: on-ear headphones allow some sound from the surrounding environment to enter and exit.
  • Lighter and Less Pressure: They are lighter than over-ear models, resulting in less pressure on the top band that rests on your head. That can make for a more comfortable listening experience.
  • Sound quality and comfort: On-ear headphones come in various quality levels, but higher-end models deliver great sound quality and comfort. 

Over-ear headphones, or “circumaural headphones” if you want to be too smart, fully encompass the ears within the ear cups. Key considerations include:

  • Sound isolation: Over-ear headphones are best for blocking external sounds and providing noise isolation, creating a more intimate environment between you and your music.
  • Comfort and sweat: With their larger cups and cushioning, over-ear headphones offer comfortable wear, but can cause some sweating due to minimal air circulation.
  • Bulky design: Over-ear headphones are bulkier and may not be ideal if you’re looking to save space.
  • Extended use vs Sound quality: While heavier and potentially causing fatigue during extended wear, over-ear headphones deliver superior sound quality and are preferred by audiophiles, studio professionals, and gamers who want immersive audio experience.

Ultimately, it comes down to what suits your individual preferences.

Subscribe to our free newsletter
To Top