We at 64 Audio frequently hear many different terms when customers refer to their personal listening equipment. Headphones, earphones, in-ear monitors, earbuds… they are all the same right? Although all are popular pieces of audio gear, they are actually very different from each other. But what exactly are the differences between each of these devices? Let’s dive in and give you a better understanding.

Earphones & In-Ear Monitors

In-ear monitors, also called earphones or in-ear headphones, are rapidly gaining popularity in the music industry. Like headphones, they also seal the ear to eliminate ambient noise and retain bass. Rather than sealing off the entire ear, in-ears accomplish a seal with a component that extends into the ear canal. In universal-fit pairs of earphones, this is often fitted with foam or silicone cushions for retention and comfort. In custom-fit models, the protrusion is custom molded to the ear canal of the user. Technical innovations in earphones continue to improve their quality and versatility.

64 Audio N8 in-ear monitors with redwood burl wood faceplates on a black background


These devices, nicknamed “cans,” are speakers attached to a headband. They are often equipped with serious noise-canceling properties that enhance the listening experience by eliminating ambient sound. Headphones can either rest on top of the ears (supra-aural) or around the ears (circumaural) of the wearer. Due to their size, headphones can house larger, more powerful drivers that tend to outcompete earphones, primarily in bass-frequency response. Their size also means the least portability, though, and they can interfere with glasses, earrings, or high physical activity.

Photo by Blaz Photo on Unsplash
Photo by Blaz Photo on Unsplash


Earbuds are open earphones. They are similar in size to earphones but do not sit within the ear canal. Instead, they are held in place by the outer structures of the ear, primarily the concha. Some models have extra wings and support structures to aid in retention. Because they do not seal the ear, earbuds allow for much more ambient sound. This is less than ideal for professionals and audiophiles, but for those listening to music while jogging, the extra awareness of their surroundings can be an important feature. These tend to be the least expensive option but also the lowest quality.

Photo by rupixen on Unsplash
Photo by rupixen on Unsplash

Which Style Is Right For You?

Whenever comparing different types of personal listening gear, an important feature is always quality. Low-grade headphones, for example, are unlikely to outperform high-grade in-ear monitors, and vice versa. With both headphones and earphones, the seal is a key factor in the quality of the sound. Even if the speakers themselves are excellent, the sound will suffer if the seal is weak. Additionally, it is up to you, the listener, to determine which is better suited for your usage and listening habits.

We at 64 Audio, currently specialize in custom in-ear monitors and universal-fit earphones. If you have any questions on the technical specs or features of our earphones/IEMs, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 833-64AUDIO, email us at info@64audio.com, or check out each product individually in our store. We even have an awesome comparison tool to help you see the differences in models.

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