Over-ear Headphones vs IEMs – Find the Better Choice – SoundsightR

When choosing between over-the-ear headphones and in-ear monitors for your personal or professional audio needs, there are many factors to consider. This article briefly covers the basics of the two types of headphones, then compares them, so you can better decide if over-the-ear headphones or in-ear monitors are right for you.

if you haven’t heard of the term “over the ear”. means a set of headphones that covers your ears completely. when one takes a look at the actual physical construction of hearing aids and iems, this is how they are built:

Reading: Iem vs headphone

in-ear monitors do not have earmuffs. its size is smaller than that of over-ear headphones, which affects the dimension of the drivers and the distance between the ear and the drivers. the quality of insulation and comfort is also different. In iems, because the earphones sit inside your ear canal, it creates a tight seal that results in better isolation. the weight difference between iems and full-size on-ear headphones is also huge.

What are over-ear headphones, and who are they best suited for?

This section outlines the main reasons to buy on-ear headphones and what makes one type of on-ear headphone better than another.

over-the-ear headphones: definition

what are over-ear headphones? On-ear or over-the-ear headphones are headphones that sit on top of the head, not around or behind the neck, and wrap around the ears with oversized ear cups. the headphones are connected through a headband with a metal or plastic structure that provides rigidity and resistance.

The supra-aural shape of the earphones is a design that provides high-quality sound and comfort, especially if you wear them for a long time. Due to their size, they are usually bulkier and heavier than iems and include more advanced technologies.

who are over-ear headphones best suited for

To really understand what makes some headphones better than others, you need to know what they’re ideal for. there are a few reasons over-ear headphones are better than iems.

study applications

Headphones designed for long-lasting use: Over-the-ear headphones offer the highest quality sound reproduction in a variety of applications. they provide excellent isolation, which is beneficial when you need to focus on a task that requires your full attention, such as recording or monitoring.

Full-size open-back headphones are better for mastering and mixing as they provide a more balanced, high-fidelity and well-articulated sound without any loss in sound definition. All in all, over-ear, open-back headphones are perfect for musicians who want clear sound without distortion or muddy to add the finishing touches to their tracks.

productivity apps

Comfort is key when listening for an extended period of time, whether it’s editing a video or streaming a game on Twitch. With an over-ear headphone, you can listen comfortably for hours and get the most accurate sound quality too. Over-the-ear headphones generally have better imaging, resolution, and soundstage than iems and provide good bass.

For the most part, over-ear headphones are better for gaming and productivity applications. provide:

  • excellent sound quality.
  • comfort.
  • decent passive sound insulation.
  • a design that allows you to focus on the essentials without any distraction.

travel and office

over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation (anc) are suitable for traveling or exercising due to their noise reduction effectiveness and comfort. Most ANC headphones don’t have the extraordinary sound quality you get with quality mid-range audiophile headphones, but they’re good enough for the casual listener.

The most common ANC headphones are cheap and sacrifice a lot of sound quality, but if you want to get a quality pair at the lowest possible price, choose these and never look back: Anker SoundCore Life Q25. offer the best active and passive noise reduction.

See also: Headphone Amp vs Preamp-Whats The Difference? (Explained!) – stampsound.com

Over-the-ear headphones provide comfort for extended periods of listening to music or podcasts on a train or in the office. A lightweight set of over-the-ear headphones with large ear cushions is comfortable enough that you can wear them virtually all day without any discomfort.

The only problem with over-ear headphones for travel and office use is that they’re not as compact and discreet as a pair of in-ear headphones. Most people don’t like to be seen in public with their headphones on, giving you the option of wearing wireless in-ear headphones to stay inconspicuous. While ANC headphones are generally good, some IEMs offer better sound isolation through passive sound attenuation alone. plus, you don’t need batteries for them.

What are IEMs, and how are they different from over-ear headphones?

This section explains what in-ear headphones are, the main differences between iems and over-ear headphones, and what makes some people prefer one over the other.


what is an in ear monitor (iem)? In-ear monitors or in-ear headphones are headphones that are placed inside the ear. they’re professionally tuned for studio monitoring applications that come in various designs, from earphones to custom-fit headphones, both in-ear and around-ear. they have a unique, compact design that helps them provide excellent sound isolation and noise cancellation.

over-the-ear headphones and in-ear monitors: main differences

The debate between in-ear and over-ear headphones isn’t as clear-cut as it seems, especially when it comes to listening to music on mobile devices. the main differences between these types of headphones and how they can affect your enjoyment are discussed below:

listening duration

If you plan to use your headphones for professional work or gaming, it’s best to opt for an over-the-ear pair of headphones, unless you have a specific iem need, such as high noise isolation or portability. ear protectors are more comfortable to wear and you can enjoy longer listening times in terms of hours.

On-ear headphones are also healthier since they don’t stick to your ears and the drivers are further away than in-ear monitors.

high cost

if you’re looking for the kind of high-quality sound you’d expect from an audiophile device, a pair of iems is more expensive than a pair of headphones that sound just as good. Although some people have repeatedly tried to question this, the fact is that most often associate hearing aids with low quality products or just for amateur use, which is not true at all.

portability and versatility

on the other hand, over-the-ear headphones have a trade-off for their volume and lack of portability or connectivity when it comes to sound quality. items are more portable and versatile; therefore, they come with connectors that work with mobile devices and don’t require a lot of power, even for high-end items, unlike many professional studio headphones.

Whether you’re heading out for a run or heading to work, the last thing you want to worry about is the weight of your headphones. Over-the-ear headphones are more durable than in-ear headphones and are designed not to put pressure on your ears during physical activity. but most aren’t waterproof or sweatproof and don’t stay securely in place on your head while you’re on the go.

monitoring and critical listening

In-ear monitors can also be used for critical listening, which requires a more neutral sound response. Drummers, DJs and musicians find in-ear monitors excellent tools for on-stage monitoring. That said, iems are no slouch, especially the higher-end models that use pro-grade technology and components.

advantages of in-ear headphones (iems) compared to over-ear headphones

By opting for in-ear headphones instead of over-ear headphones, you can enjoy some things that would otherwise be hard to appreciate with over-ear headphones:

  • Dynamic Sound: Balanced Armature (ba) in-ear monitors or hybrid driver in-ear monitors give you dynamic sound that reveals the details of the music. some cheap in-ear monitors may work better than regular headphones. but only up to a certain point, as the difference is not always present and having multiple drivers can affect sound quality through channel imbalance or missing frequencies, as reported in old threads on hi-fi.org https: //www.head-fi .org/threads/multi-drivers-iem-suck.685723/.
  • noise reduction: in-ear headphones offer exceptional sound reduction . it is well known that in-ear headphones are the best at attenuating outside noise as they sit deep in the ears and provide a good seal.
  • loud volume: have a spl high (sound pressure level) is one of the advantages of in-ear headphones. they’re no better for listening to loud music than on-ear headphones, but they’re not as likely to need a headphone amp, since in-ear headphones don’t need as much power to play.
  • portability : In-ear headphones usually have a small and light body, so you can take them with you.
  • Audio Accuracy: It’s rare for someone who doesn’t like the character that comes from a spacious soundstage, like that of over-the-ear headphones. but let’s say you like sonic details and subtle notes. in that case, because the in-ear headphones have limited headroom to produce a nice, well-developed soundstage with good depth, they make up for it with their precision, which is where it becomes easy to feel the grain of the music and the subtle notes. of instruments.

Are there other factors to consider buying an IEM or over-ear headphones?

Both types of headphones come with their own pros and cons, but there are still other factors to consider when choosing between them.

See also: Headphone Jack and Plugs: Everything You Need to Know – Headphonesty

here is a list of the most important factors:


Headphones are much more comfortable and convenient if you move around a lot, while over-the-ear headphones can provide a more secure and better fit if you’re traveling on public transportation or listening to music at home.

both have different levels of comfort; however, for people who are unable to wear a pair of over-ears for a prolonged period due to the strain caused by pressure applied to the skull. in this case, iems have an advantage over over-the-ear ones because they are lighter and can be worn longer without feeling like they will fall off.

frequency range

The frequency range of the sound produced by the headphone drivers determines the range of reproducible sounds. A wide frequency range is more often found in open-back headphones, while closed-backs and IEMs have a smaller range. a wide frequency range can give the impression of a wide soundstage and add more depth to music, especially if sub-bass is emphasized.

If you like to listen to music with clear and precise voices, an iem may not be the best option for you because it may lack in this regard. but an open-back on-ear headphone can produce good results for most people.


Although IEMs tend to be more expensive than over-the-ear headphones, the total price can vary greatly depending on the quality and materials used in their construction. earphones are typically much cheaper to produce than on-ear headphones because they’re smaller and don’t require a lot of padding, but small drivers do limit overall sound quality.

If you want to buy good sounding items, make sure the drivers are larger than 5-6mm and make sure it has a wide, balanced frequency response curve and is made of materials high quality . Neodymium magnets and copper core drivers, as well as high quality silicone or foam tips are strongly recommended for best sound isolation and comfort.


Hearing aids are more portable than over-the-ear hearing aids because they can be carried in pockets and small bags, while the reverse is not true. one of the main factors determining the overall value of an iem rather than its over-ear sibling.

with over-ear headphones, a foldable design is vital. a carrying case is also a must. when in the same price range, items have trouble competing with ears with a foldable design. however, wired iems have sound quality advantages over closed wireless earphones with anc.

When the only thing that matters is the sound, over-ear headphones are ideal. For example, Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II wireless noise-canceling headphones are twice as expensive as a pair of in-ear monitors like the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ or Shure SE215CL, and they don’t sound as good. If you’re willing to sacrifice flexibility for better sound quality, wired devices are worth considering.

pros and cons of each headphone style (over-ear vs. iems)

over-ear headphones:

  • more comfortable in the long run
  • much larger drivers that offer better bass reproduction
  • generally have better treble and overall sound quality.
  • more hygienic as they don’t sit inside the ears
  • provide a wider soundstage with instrument separation due to their large drivers.
  • heavier construction

ear monitors:

  • smaller construction; therefore more convenient to carry. also can be inserted into pockets.
  • smaller conductors; weaker treble response
  • most have closed designs with small vents for good bass
  • can provide water and sweat resistant properties
  • many are multifunctional in that you can use them for music, phone calls, sports and even gaming or studio monitoring
  • doesn’t sit on your head and; thus they become tiring unlike heavy over-the-ear headphones
  • they can filter out external noise much better than full-size closed-back headphones (see etymotic er4xr) since that fit comfortably inside the ear canal (better isolation)
  • suffer from wired microphones


In conclusion, if you’re looking to buy your first set of headphones or your next upgrade, be sure to consider over-the-ear headphones, as they’re often considered more comfortable and better sounding than cheaper iems. low. Keep in mind though, if you want fantastic sound isolation in a versatile, portable pair of headphones, iems are the way to go.

I hope you found this insightful and valuable. If you have any questions about the difference between over-ear headphones and in-ear monitors or have suggestions to improve this article, feel free to leave a comment below.

If you liked this article, be sure to read Closed and Open Headphones: What’s the Difference? a popular article that explains the differences between closed and open. open headphones. link here

See also: Wired vs Wireless Headphones: Which Is Better? – Headphonesty

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