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Types Of In Ear Headphones

In ear headphones are also known as earphones or Inter Aural headphones. Considering design of housings, there are 2 kinds of in ear headphones: Earbuds and Canal phones. They fit differently into your ears.

Earbuds and In ear Canalphones
Budget in ear headphones: Sennheiser MX 365 and Panasonic RPHJE120K

Canalphones refer to in ear monitors (IEMs), in ear cannalphones, ear canalphones, or even called ear canal headphones. Those in ear headphones featuring eartips with universal sizes that will be directly inserted in the ear canal, as results the noise isolating performance will be better than earbuds. Deep or shallow insertion will decide whether you have a comfortable fit. The canalphones are called IEM when they are used by artists, audiophiles or audio engineers, being a part of IEM system.

Earbuds, also known as earbuds headphones are some sort of the same as canal phones in terms of design, but since earbuds don’t feature eartips and nozzle, which in turn they don’t enter ear canals and don’t isolate noise as good as canal phones. While the tight seal plays a crucial role on how the bass is reproduced, earbuds will never perform better bass than canaphones.

Two types of in ear headphones, earbuds and canal phones:

Sennheiser MX585 Power Up Your Music In-Ear Headphones
Sennheiser MX 985 called earbuds
Sony XBA-40/S Silver | Quad Balanced Armature In-Ear Headphones (Japanese Import)
Sony XBA-4 Called canal phones


Earbuds and Canalphones are quite distinct from one another. The way each one fits over your ear is different. There are also some headphones that are a hybrid of both the earbud and canalphone design.

You’re Wrong About Earbuds

The word “earbuds” is used to refer to in-ear headphones, which are the most portable choice for all audiophiles or casual listeners. Some people also like to call all types of in-ear headphones as ‘ear-buds’. Wearing a pair of earbuds is not the same as putting on over-the-ear headphones or on-ear headphones; earbuds are placed slightly outside the ear canals.

Try putting your little finger in your ear – that is what wearing earbuds is like. According to CNET and Head-Fi, the term earbuds can be used interchangeably with earphones, and it is also searched on Google more than 40,000 times per month. Other similar terms are searched more than 200,000 times monthly.

Nowadays, it is quite rare to see earbuds unless you are using Apple, Sennheiser or Amazon earbuds. The rest are usually canalphones that have adopted the earbud style. However, there has been a lot of confusion with theses terms, and so today it is generally acceptable to refer to earbuds as Canalphones and vice-versa.

Amazon and Apple Earpods
Amazon Premium and Apple earbuds

For what it’s worth, most people who know the exact differences between earbuds and the other types of earphones might not be interested in reading this article. For purposes of simplicity, I have taken the liberty of using the term “earbuds” to refer to in-ear headphones, earphones, canalphones, and IEMs within this article, as well as the entire website—wearableinear.com. This will help avoid confusion with all the different terms being used.

Based the one connectivity we can break earbuds/in ear headphones into 2 types, wired/wireless

Bluetooth earbuds will connect wirelessly with your device. There are also 2 types of Bluetooth earbuds: Totally wireless earbuds and Bluetooth earbuds with a short cable. The latter has been on market for years, begining with Jaybirds and their popular wireless headset, Jaybird BlueX. Though, they are not completely wireless – there is a short cord attached to 2 earbuds. That’s why the totally wireless earbusd come in, it’s much better without a cord.

Today Bluetooth earbuds don’t stand alone for music cand calls, they are built with extra features for fitness like tracking HR, Oxygen consumption, distance and more. Those earbuds are often called wearables or smart earbuds. Big companies like Samsung and Apple developes their own products, their latest releases are Gear IconX and Apple Airpods. With the imrprovement in Bluetooth audio and non-headphone jack Iphone 7, we are expected to see the boost in sales of Bluetooth earbuds.


Everything you know about earbuds is wrong CNET by Steve Guttenberg

Basic guide to In ear canalphones Head-fi

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