Headphones vs Headset– What’s The Difference Between The Two?

For a lot of people, headphones and headsets are thought to be interchangeable terms. There’s usually no problem with that, except for when it’s time to decide which of the two you want to get.

In fact, there are some critical differences between the two that could make or break your experience, whether you use them to listen to music while working out, make conference calls or communicate with your teammates in an online video game.

Below, we’ll highlight some of the main differences between the two devices, as well as help you decide which one you should go for if you’re torn between choosing headphones or headsets.

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What’s The Difference Between Headphones & Headset?

1. Microphones

What’s The Difference Between The Two?

The most significant and noticeable difference between headsets and headphones is that the former has an attached microphone, while the latter doesn’t. Headphones could also contain a microphone, but it’s rather integrated within the body of the device rather than attached to it like in headsets.

The microphones that come with headsets can either be a boom microphone, which, in most cases, can be detached if you wish to remove it, or an inline microphone that connects your headset to another device such as a PlayStation, Xbox, or PC.

The absence of an attached microphone in headphones makes them often smaller in size, and so they’re easier to use outdoors if you’re going on a run or simply want to listen to music or take some calls while outside. 

Of course, the quality of the microphones in headsets is often better than that in headphones, but headphones can still do the job just fine.

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2. Audio Quality

When it comes to sound quality, headphones have long been praised for being better than headsets in that category. In the low and mid-range, headphones outperform headsets by producing clearer audio with better quality.

More recently, gaming headsets have made the competition between the two devices closer in terms of audio quality. 

Gaming headsets have recently evolved in quality to produce crisp sounds with boosted bass to better immerse gamers into their gaming world.

Still, one key difference remains between headsets and headphones: some headphones offer noise cancellation to help block out background noise. This feature is lacking in headsets. 

With that being said, a good-quality pair of headphones will most likely surpass a headset when it comes to audio quality. That’s mainly due to the wider frequency range and the fact that headphones mostly have to focus on one thing, which is producing good sounds.

3. Comfort and Usage

Although both headphones and headsets can be used for practically the same thing, there are still some differences between them that make each device more efficient for certain uses.

Some of these key differences are in the build of the two devices. For example, headphones are lighter than headsets, as they come without the attached mic boom. They provide a comfortable ear grip and can be found in smaller sizes that are more portable and suitable for outdoor use. 

There’s also the option to get wireless headphones, which are even more portable and make for easier outdoor usage.

There’s one setback when it comes to headphones that headsets were able to avoid. Since the microphone quality of headphones is on the lower side compared to that of headphones, you might need to buy a separate microphone for your headphones, especially if you often make conference calls or need your headphones for online gaming.

Headsets, however, mostly come with a good quality microphone, which makes them the better option for gamers and anyone whose priority is making voice/video calls.

Headphones vs Headsets – Which One to Pick?

Now that you know the critical differences between headphones and headsets, it can still be challenging to decide which device would be the right pick for you. That’s why we’ll further illustrate some reasons to pick each.

1. Why Pick Headsets?

A good quality microphone and crisp, immersive sound quality make headsets optimal for gamers and call centers, as well as anyone who needs their device for voice communication without going outside the comfort of their home or workplace.

For avid gamers, there are headsets designed specifically with their best performance in mind. They offer better sound quality with more powerful bass, as gamers rely on audio clues to communicate their whereabouts to their teammates. They’re also more comfortable and better suited for more extended wear.

Instead of getting headphones and a separate microphone, you could save yourself the hassle and get yourself a headset, especially if portability and audio quality are not your biggest priorities.

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2. Why Pick Headphones?


On the other hand, headphones are lighter, more portable, and better suited for people that want to use them while traveling.

Headphones also often offer the same or even better sound quality than headsets at the same price range, as headsets would include more features involving the attached or integrated microphones that make them pricier than headphones.

So, if you’re not looking for the best microphone quality, but rather something that you can comfortably listen to music with and carry around with you, then headphones are your best choice.

If you know that you might occasionally need to use a good quality microphone, you could get a separate microphone and only attach it to your headphones when necessary.

Final Thoughts

After reviewing the above-mentioned features and after having decided which audio device to opt for, it’s still essential to check the features of the headphones or headset you’re looking to buy to make sure they’re suitable for what you need.

A good quality headset or pair of headphones is an investment that’ll last you a long time, so you won’t need to change them often. That said, make sure to pick carefully from the various models, sizes, and colors available.

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