12 Different Types of Headphones Explained

12 Different Types of Headphones Explained

Posted by House of Marley on Jul 13th 2023

When it comes to enjoying music and audio in general, there's no denying having the right pair of headphones is important in being able to enjoy the experience. They are not just an accessory but a gateway to a rich auditory experience. 

With advancements in technology, headphones have evolved over time, offering various types to cater to different needs and preferences. So today, we will explore in detail the different types of headphones that are available in the market today and what makes each unique over the other.

From over-ear headphones to earbuds, wireless to noise-canceling, House of Marley has a diverse range of options that combine exceptional sound quality, sustainability, and style.

The Evolution of Headphones

Before delving into the specific types, let's take a moment to appreciate the journey of headphones.

One of the first predecessors to headphones emerged in the early 1880s. As telephone operators needed a speaker that could be used hands-free while taking and transferring calls, a speaker was developed which could be worn on the shoulder. Unfortunately, due to the limitation in technology in those days, these prototype headphones were large and clunky and weighed several pounds [1].

Headphone technology took a significant step forward when French engineer Ernest Mercadier developed a pair of in-ear headphones a little under a decade later in 1891. His creation resembled the earbuds of today, only, of course, bigger. Unlike the large speakers/first headphones from a decade prior, Mercadier’s featured two speakers that were much lighter [2].

Like with any technological advancement in the early to mid-1900’s, headphones also had a chapter in military use. In 1910, inventor Nathaniel Baldwin developed a pair of on-ear speakers to have the U.S. Navy to test out. Impressed by Baldwin's headphones, the Navy agreed to enter into business with him and from that point, used the Baldwin-developed headphones for communication [3].

Headphones eventually began seeing increased use in entertainment and multimedia. In 1957, record label EMI pioneered stereo recordings, and the first commercial stereo headphones were created a year later by musician and entrepreneur John Koss, founder of the Koss Corporation [2].

In the 1980s, the advent of Sony’s Walkman marked a significant shift, making headphones a popular accessory for personal music listening [4]. Today, headphones have become an integral part of our lives, enhancing our audio experiences wherever we go.

Understanding the Different Types of Headphones

1. Over-Ear Headphones (Circumaural)

Let's start with one of the most recognizable types: over-ear headphones, or circumaural headphones. As the name suggests, these headphones feature large ear cups that enclose the ears fully. House of Marley offers a range of over-ear headphones, which provide exceptional comfort, thanks to their cushioned ear cups and adjustable headbands. With their immersive sound and noise isolation capabilities, over-ear headphones are perfect for enjoying music in a private setting or immersing yourself in your favorite games.

2. On-Ear Headphones (Supra-aural)

On-ear headphones, or Supra-aural headphones, provide a middle ground between the over-ear and earbud style. They rest comfortably on the outer ear, providing a comfortable fit without fully enclosing the ear. This design offers a balanced, natural sound quality while maintaining a relatively compact size. House of Marley's on-the-ear headphones are a shining example of this style. Crafted with superior materials and offering crystal-clear sound, these headphones ensure you stay connected to your favorite tunes without compromising on comfort. Their design is versatile enough for daily use, whether you're working, studying, or just relaxing. The on-ear design offers the benefit of ambient awareness, making them a safe choice for outdoor activities where you need to stay aware of your surroundings. With their combination of comfort, sound quality, and practicality, on-ear headphones are a popular choice for many music enthusiasts.

3. Earbuds

Earbuds are the go-to choice for many individuals seeking portability and convenience. They are compact, lightweight, and easy to carry around. House of Marley's Champion True Wireless Earbuds offer the perfect blend of style and functionality. These TWS earbuds provide a seamless listening experience with their Bluetooth connectivity and deliver high-quality sound. With their ergonomic design and customizable fit, they stay comfortably in your ears, making them suitable for workouts, commuting, or simply enjoying music on the go.

4. In-Ear Monitors

Often utilized by musicians and audio engineers, in-ear monitors (IEMs) provide a tailored and immersive listening experience. These headphones, with their compact and secure design, are inserted directly into the ear canal. The tight seal they form effectively blocks out external noise, creating an intimate and high-fidelity audio environment. If you're seeking a more personalized and controlled audio experience, in-ear monitors could be a suitable choice for you. They can deliver an unmatchable combination of sound quality, noise isolation, and secure fit, making them perfect for on-stage performances or critical listening sessions.

5. Wireless (Bluetooth) Headphones

The freedom of movement offered by wireless headphones is unmatched. Bluetooth technology has revolutionized the way we experience audio. House of Marley's Bluetooth headphones embody this wireless convenience with a sustainable twist. These headphones seamlessly connect your devices without the constraints of cables and wires. Equipped with a long battery life and providing impressive sound quality, wireless headphones are the perfect match for people who are always on the go but also like to enjoy their music along the way.

6. Noise-Canceling Headphones

In a world filled with constant noise, noise-canceling headphones provide a sanctuary for audio enthusiasts. By actively reducing external sounds, these headphones allow you to focus on the music without distractions. House of Marley's ANC headphones combine the benefits of noise cancellation with sustainable craftsmanship. They feature advanced active noise-canceling technology that lets you escape into your own world of sound. Whether you're traveling, working in a noisy environment, or simply seeking tranquility, noise-canceling headphones offer an unparalleled listening experience.

7. Bone Conduction Headphones

Bone conduction headphones offer a unique listening experience by bypassing the eardrums and transmitting sound vibrations directly to the inner ear through bone conduction technology. These innovative headphones deserve a mention for their intriguing functionality, particularly because they are specifically beneficial to individuals with hearing impairments or those who want to keep their ears open to external sounds.

8. Closed-Back Headphones

Closed-back headphones feature sealed ear cups that prevent sound from escaping or entering the headphones. This design creates a more immersive and isolated listening experience. They are ideal for personal listening sessions, recording studios, or any situation where you want to minimize sound leakage. House of Marley offers closed-back options like the Positive Vibration 2 Wireless Headphones, which combine excellent sound with sustainable design.

9. Open-Back Headphones

On the other end of the spectrum, open-back headphones have ear cups with perforations or grilles that allow sound to escape and external sound to enter. This design creates a more natural and spacious soundstage, making them popular among audiophiles and music producers.

10. Semi-Open Headphones

Semi-open headphones strike a balance between the isolation of closed-back headphones and the openness of open-back headphones. They provide a more natural sound reproduction while still offering some degree of sound isolation. Semi-open headphones are worth considering if you desire a blend of immersive audio and ambient sound awareness.

11. Waterproof Headphones

For those with an active lifestyle or who enjoy listening to music while swimming or engaging in water sports, waterproof headphones are a game-changer. Buyers should, however, remember to take into consideration if the headphones they are purchasing are indeed waterproof, or if they are merely water-resistant. The latter, while also good for physical activity, is often only splash proof, and often does not withstand heavy currents or being completely submerged under water.

12. DJ Headphones

Designed for professional DJs and music enthusiasts, DJ headphones prioritize durability, sound quality, and functionality. While House of Marley does not currently offer DJ-specific headphones, their range of over-ear and on-ear headphones, such as the Positive Vibration XL ANC Wireless Headphones and the Rebel Bluetooth On-Ear Headphones, can cater to the needs of DJs with their sturdy construction, powerful sound, and comfortable design.

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Headphones vs Earbuds: What's the Difference?

Now that we have explored the various types of headphones, let's compare them to earbuds. While both serve the purpose of delivering audio directly to your ears, there are some key differences to consider when comparing earbuds vs headphones.

Headphones, particularly over-ear and on-ear variants, provide a more immersive and encompassing listening experience. They often offer better sound quality and a wider soundstage, making them suitable for critical listening and audio enthusiasts. Headphones also tend to provide superior noise isolation, blocking out external sounds more effectively.

On the other hand, earbuds are compact, lightweight, and highly portable. They are convenient for everyday use, whether it's commuting, exercising, or simply enjoying music on the go. Earbuds are less obtrusive and allow you to maintain awareness of your surroundings. While they may not match the audio fidelity of headphones, advancements in technology have led to significant improvements in earbud sound quality.

Choosing the Best Headphones for Your Needs

With so many options available, choosing the best headphones for your needs can be a daunting task. Here are a few factors to consider:

1. Sound Quality: Look for headphones that offer a balanced sound signature, clear and detailed audio reproduction, and good bass response. House of Marley's range of headphones provides excellent sound quality across different models, ensuring a captivating listening experience.

2. Comfort: Consider the design and ergonomics of the headphones. Look for adjustable headbands, cushioned ear cups, and lightweight construction. House of Marley headphones prioritize both style and comfort, allowing you to enjoy extended listening sessions without discomfort.

3. Wireless or Wired: Decide whether you prefer the freedom of wireless headphones or the reliability of wired connectivity. House of Marley offers both wireless and wired options to suit your preference. Read about the benefits of wireless earbuds and headphones to learn more.

4. Noise-Canceling: If you frequently find yourself in noisy environments or desire immersive audio, consider headphones with active noise-canceling (ANC) technology. What is ANC? It’s a technology used by headphones and earphones to reduce unwanted ambient noise by creating an opposite sound wave to cancel out the external sound waves. House of Marley's Redemption ANC 2 True Wireless Earbuds provide excellent noise isolation capabilities.

5. Sustainability: If environmental consciousness is important to you, opt for headphones from brands that prioritize sustainability. House of Marley's commitment to eco-friendly materials and practices makes them a great choice for conscious consumers.

6. Warranty: A great-sounding and long-lasting pair of headphones doesn’t come cheap, so you’ll definitely want to protect your investment with a warranty. House of Marley offers products with the intent that each are free of defects in manufacturing and workmanship for a period of two years from the date of original purchase.

Finding Your Perfect Sound with House of Marley

The world of headphones indeed offers a wide array of options to cater to different needs and preferences. From over-ear headphones to earbuds, wireless to noise-canceling, House of Marley's range of sustainable headphones combines exceptional sound quality, sustainability, and style. 

Whether you're an audiophile seeking immersive sound, a fitness enthusiast in need of portable audio, or a conscious consumer supporting eco-friendly brands, House of Marley has the perfect headphones for you. Explore the different types, consider your priorities, and embark on a journey of audio excellence with House of Marley.

Remember, the right headphones can transform your music listening experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the power of sound. Choose wisely, and let the rhythm guide you on your musical adventures.


  1. Brown, Arthur. 2021. “The History of Headphones.” MUO. August 6, 2021. https://www.makeuseof.com/the-history-of-headphones/
  2. Stamp, Jimmy. 2013. “A Partial History of Headphones.” Smithsonian. Smithsonian.com. March 19, 2013. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-partial-history-of-headphones-4693742/
  3. The New York Times. 2011. “The Argument against Headphones,” January 7, 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/magazine/09FOB-medium-t.html
  4. Guttenberg, Steve. 2019. “40 Years Ago Sony’s Walkman Changed the Way We Listened to Music.” CNET. July 6, 2019. https://www.cnet.com/tech/mobile/the-sony-walkman-changed-the-way-we-listened-to-music-40-years-ago/