Headphones vs Headsets – What’s The Difference?

Headphones vs Headsets

Headphones and headsets are an indispensable part of our daily lives, whether in our work offices, transportation, or even while lazing around on a couch and playing games.

Sure, you’ve heard these words used interchangeably, but the thing is, they mean two different things. You may start searching online for a headset and end up purchasing a pair of headphones just because you’ve got no idea what the difference is.

Read on so that next time you purchase a pair, you’ll sound like a gaming geek or a computer nerd who knows exactly what they want. 

Quick Answer

Technically speaking, headphones and headsets share the same function as sound output devices that allow you to listen to music or watch movies with some privacy.

However, headsets have attached microphones to be used both as speakers and as a means of communication too. Hence, they’re considered the professional form of headphones, essentially used in call centers, offices, and as a part of pro gaming sets.

Headphones vs Headsets

Now, let’s dig in much deeper on the subject and discover the factors that differentiate both devices.

1. Design and Function

A headphone is basically a pair of speakers connected with a band that goes around the user’s head, positioning the speakers close to the ears. The reason behind this design is to deliver the audio’s sound directly to the user and block any other sounds from interference.

It also has a noise cancellation feature that allows you to watch your favorite TV series or listen to loud rock music without bothering the folks around. 

They’re mostly used by athletes who like to run to music beats or travelers looking for a pass-time on planes or buses. It would also be a necessity in your life if you, like me, resort to music in order to stay sane or let loose after a tiring day. 

As for headsets, they share the same headphones’ features, but with the addition of a mic. The mic is either attached to a boom by which it’s moved to be positioned close to your mouth or placed somewhere in the cable connecting the headset to your computer. 

Apart from their function in offices and call centers, they play an important role in the lives of sports referees, pilots, tank operators, reporters, and many other professions. Moreover, they’re used as gaming headsets, which allow players to communicate in multiplayer online games.

It’s worth mentioning that headphones may feature mics as well, but they’re still a step below headsets in functionality and mic quality as per professionals’ opinion. 

2. Sound Quality

As headphones focus primarily on producing sounds rather than performing two functions at once, they usually do it better. In addition to their crispy and detailed sounds, even the low-budget ones have immersive soundstage.

That means you’ll be able to imagine the location of instruments as if you’re sitting in an orchestra hall or feel the position of your avatar’s steps to guarantee an adrenalin-pumping gaming experience. In short, they are capable of emphasizing all sound elements with outstanding quality. 

Moreover, while headsets are only good in mid or high-range sounds, headphones excel in transmitting high sound quality at all frequencies.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that headsets sound terrible, but they’re designed to be more professional for users looking for a feature-loaded device rather than a feature-specific one. Hence, you’ll find that sometimes even low-end headphones outmatch top-notch headsets in sound quality.

So, they’re preferred by pro gamers and studio editors, unless they need a mic, in which case they ante up more money and purchase a separate one. 

3. Convenience

A pair of headset simply means fewer tangles of wires and cables swimming around your workspace when compared to a separate headphone and mic. It also saves you more space on your desk and reduces the number of gadgets you have to carry around if you work on the go.

Furthermore, some top-quality headsets come with detachable mics so that you can use them as standalone headphones or two-in-one devices. 

Last but not least, we all worry about our expensive gadgets being hit or tossed around by our pets, but with a headset, you’ll only have to worry about one device rather than two of your precious belongings.

4. Types

All headphones and headsets can be wired or wireless. Of course, the latter will add extra burden to your pocket in exchange for the freedom to move around while still being able to complete your call or listen to music.

However, each one of them can be broken down into other types. Let’s begin with headphones, which have three main types:

  • Over-ear: These hold the classical form of headphones where two bulky ear cups are connected with a band that goes around the head. Generally, they’re the most comfortable but the least portable of the three.
Sony Wh-1000xM3
  • On-ear: These are a smaller form of the former type, so they tend to be more portable and more stable on the ear.
Skullcandy Riff Wired On-Ear Headphones
  • In-ear: These are the most popular types nowadays, thanks to their tiny sizes and weightless designs. Unlike the other models, they go inside the ear, so they have the best noise isolation and provide better privacy.
1More Stylish True Wireless In-Ear Headphones

Regarding headsets, they can be categorized into two different types:

  • One-ear: Also known as monaural headsets, these consist of one earpiece and a mic. They’re mostly used by people in offices who need to take calls while talking to other people or performing another job.
One-ear Headset
  • Both-ear: Also known as binaural headsets, these have two earpieces and a mic. They are the best for folks whose work focuses solely on taking calls, as they eliminate any external distraction.
Both-ear Headset

5. Price

Both devices are available in all price ranges, so there’s always a headphone or a headset that fits within your budget. However, with headphones, you won’t compromise much as with headsets. 

Headphones are superior in every department and give you the best bang for the buck. 

As we mentioned before, they provide better sound performance per dollar compared to headsets. Also, you can get the best headphones for the same money you’re going to pay for a low-end headset. 

If a microphone is a necessity, you can purchase a standalone mic for less than 10 bucks and combine it with a top-class headphone. 

In Conclusion

At the end of the day, paying extra money for something you’re not going to use isn’t wise behavior. While many people may see that having an extra feature like a microphone is an excellent addition, they sacrifice sound quality and performance. So it’s advisable that you shouldn’t buy a headset unless you’re sure you need it.

Before deciding which one you’re going to purchase, consider what you’re going to use it for and how much money you’re willing to spend. 

Headphones come in an array of shapes and sizes, so if you’re looking for a companion in your travels or like playing music on your daily jogs, opt for a headphone. On the other hand, if you’re a hardcore gamer or need a device to be used in text-to-speech or voice calls, a headset will be your best bet.

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