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Headphones vs. Headsets: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 17, 2023
Headphones are devices for listening to audio; headsets are headphones with an added microphone for communication.

Key Differences

Headphones, as a general category, are designed primarily to provide audio output. This allows users to privately listen to music, movies, or any audio without disturbing those around them. Headsets, on the other hand, come equipped not just with speakers but also with a built-in microphone.
This feature facilitates two-way communication, making them ideal for activities like gaming, calls, or professional communication. While headphones are often preferred by audiophiles for their sound quality and immersive experience, headsets cater to those who require a communication aspect along with audio listening.
One might choose headphones for pure music enjoyment or noise isolation. In contrast, headsets are popular among gamers, telecommuters, and call center professionals.
Interestingly, both headphones and headsets can be found in a variety of styles including over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear configurations, with wired or wireless options.

Comparison Chart

Primary Function

Provide audio output.
Provide audio output and input (microphone).


Music, movies, audio listening.
Gaming, calls, professional communication.


Speakers only.
Speakers and a microphone.

Popular Among

Audiophiles, music enthusiasts.
Gamers, telecommuters, call center professionals.

Connectivity Options

Wired or wireless.
Often wired for professional use, but also available wirelessly.

Headphones and Headsets Definitions


Devices designed for private audio listening.
Sarah put on her headphones to drown out the noise.


Tools for two-way communication in audio-rich environments.
Call center agents rely on headsets for clear communication.


Tools for isolating ambient noise.
With noise-cancelling headphones, flights became more peaceful.


Audio devices equipped with both speakers and a microphone.
During the gaming session, he communicated with his team using a headset.


Equipment used to convert electronic signals into sound.
Old vinyl records sounded warm and inviting through quality headphones.


Wearable devices for combined listening and speaking.
Pilots use specialized headsets to communicate over loud engine noise.


Personal audio speakers worn over or in the ears.
The headphones provided crystal clear sound.


Devices allowing hands-free communication.
During her workout, she answered calls using wireless headsets.


Wearable audio output devices.
High-impedance headphones require amplification for optimal sound.


Personal audio equipment designed for interactive tasks.
Virtual meetings became easier with the use of headsets.


A small speaker that is worn over or in the ear, often as one of a pair connected by a wire attached to a band running over the head


A headphone or pair of headphones, usually equipped with a microphone.


A pair of cushioned speakers worn over or in the ears so only the wearer can hear the sound.
Circumaural headphones enclose the ear, supra-aural headphones rest on the ear's surface, and earbuds are placed inside the ear.


Plural of headset


Why do gamers prefer headsets over headphones?

Gamers prefer headsets because they facilitate communication with other players.

Do all headphones come with built-in microphones?

No, only specific models, often referred to as headsets, come with built-in microphones.

Are headsets suitable for music listening?

Yes, many headsets offer good audio quality for music, though they might not match high-end headphones.

Which lasts longer, wireless headphones or wired ones?

While wired headphones don't rely on battery life, the longevity depends on build quality and usage.

How do I maintain my headphones for longevity?

Regular cleaning, careful storage, and avoiding excessive volume can prolong headphone life.

Why do DJs prefer over-ear headphones?

Over-ear headphones provide better sound isolation, crucial for DJs in loud environments.

What's the primary function of headphones?

Headphones are primarily used for listening to audio.

Are headsets with boom microphones better?

Boom microphones often offer clearer voice pickup, but the best choice depends on the specific use-case.

Can headphones be used for calls?

While headphones provide audio output, without a built-in microphone, they can't be used for two-way communication.

Can I use headphones for gaming?

Yes, but without a microphone, you won't be able to communicate with other players.

What sets headsets apart from headphones?

Headsets come with an added microphone for communication.

Are all headphones noise-cancelling?

No, only specific headphones come with noise-cancelling features.

How do wireless headsets connect to devices?

Most wireless headsets connect via Bluetooth or RF (radio frequency).

Can headsets be used for studio recordings?

While some headsets offer good microphone quality, professional studio recordings often require specialized equipment.

Is it necessary for a headset to be connected via a wire for better quality?

Not necessarily; many high-quality wireless headsets offer excellent audio and microphone quality.

What makes headsets ideal for call centers?

Headsets allow hands-free operation and clear two-way communication, vital for call centers.

Why do pilots wear specific headsets?

Pilot headsets are designed to provide clear communication over loud engine noises and often have noise-cancelling features.

Do all headsets come with noise-cancellation?

No, only specific headsets offer noise-cancellation features.

Are headphones generally more expensive than headsets?

Prices vary based on brand, features, and quality; headphones can be either cheaper or pricier than headsets.

Are in-ear headphones better than over-ear ones?

It's subjective; in-ear headphones are more portable, while over-ear ones can offer better sound isolation.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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