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What are the Different Types of Earphones?

Circumaural earphones.
Canalphones.
Earbuds.
Supra-Aural earphones.
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  • Written By: Kristi Ambrose
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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Earphones come in a wide variety of types and styles, from several different brand names, and with a huge range of applications. Some of the most popular types include circumaural, supra-aural, ear buds, and canalphones.

Circumaural

These earphones are often the ones people see DJs wearing simply because of the way they treat the sound coming out of the phones and into the user's ears. They work almost like a sound proof room: the ear pads that fit around the outside of the ears in a circular design keep all the sounds within the space between the ear pad and ear. They are very effective for filtering out ambient sound, and for this reason are very popular with sound engineers and DJs.

Supra-Aural

This type have ear pads that "sit" on the ears rather than around them. They are connected by an adjustable band that stretches over the top of the head, and the pad between the speaker and the ears usually will consist of some sort of a foam. Many people find them reminiscent of the 1980s Walkman era, but they are still in common use around the world.

Ear Buds

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One of the most convenient and inexpensive earphones available, the ear buds are placed directly outside the ear canal without actually enveloping it. For the most part, they do not have the same crisp sound of a circumaural headphone, but they can be used quite well when relying on volume to block out any surrounding noise.

Canalphones

The name for these particular earphones is pretty self explanatory. They are similar to ear buds, except that they go directly into the ear canal. Not only do canalphones provide great sound but great portability as well, since the ear pads are usually made of silicone rubber or elastomer. A lot of people think that these textiles are used simply for the noise isolation, but the rubber and elastomer are also used to keep them in the ear. This is one of the most commonly used varieties for people who are into athletics or may do a lot of walking around. Not only are they typically quite comfortable, but they stay in the ear, which is important when doing something like running or exercising.

Each of these types of earphones are available in a wide range of aesthetic design, sound quality, durability, and brand names. When shopping for a new pair, consumers should set a budget and read product reviews to make sure the purchase is a wise one.

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Discuss this Article

clintflint
Post 5

It's a really good idea to try and get some noise cancelling earphones if you're going on a plane ride. I always used to rely on the earphones that the airline provides, but recently I tried bringing on some noise cancelling ones and the difference was huge. I could understand the TV and hear the music much more clearly.

Just a tip, especially if you're going on a long flight, the extra money and batteries might be worth it.

croydon
Post 4

@anon94464 - I like the look of Skull Candy headphones but my earphones always stop working within six months, no matter how much I pay, so I usually just get the cheapest in the store, which is generally the generic knockoffs.

One day I hope I'll be able to read the latest earphones review and pick the best earphones on the market, knowing it doesn't really matter if they wear out because I can afford to buy more!

MrsPramm
Post 3

@succulents - I use supra aural as well, since earbuds have never stayed in my ears.

Anyway, my sister is an audiologist and she is very against people wearing earbuds. I didn't realize there was a difference between earbuds and canalphones but they sounds like they'd be even worse for your ears than the earbuds are.

The problem is that when you are wearing the buds, the sound goes directly into your eardrum without any kind of space between, like even the little bit provided by the material that usually covers normal headphones.

So, the eardrum is bombarded by vibrations, which are usually turned up louder than normal, since, as it says in the article, earbuds are also pretty bad at keeping background noise out.

I'd rather keep my hearing as long as possible, so I don't regret not being able to use buds.

anon94464
Post 2

Canalphones are actually very comfortable and not like ear buds. I prefer skullcandy earphones, they're probably the cheapest and best sound quality delivering earphones out there in my opinion. The only problem is, after constant storage of these earphones in your pocket or something, they don't last very long.

succulents
Post 1

I hate earbuds, maybe I've just gotten cruddy ones so far, but they always start to hurt after an hour or so of wearing them. I've never even bothered to try the Canalphones type, I just figured they would be even more uncomfortable than the earbuds.

I probably look like a dork, but I still use the "supra aural" ones.

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