Earbuds vs. Earphones: What's the Difference?

Earbuds vs. Earphones: What's the Difference?

Shoes and sneakers, sweet potatoes and yams, chef and cook, jam and jelly. These are all words used interchangeably, but they have an ever-so-slight difference in meaning. When it comes to audio, earbuds, and earphones are no exception.

There’s one key difference between earbuds and earphones. Earbuds rest on the concha – the opening outside the ear canal. Earphones – also known as in-ear headphones – are inserted in the ear canal. While this may seem like a minor detail, one is better for comfort, durability, and sound quality. Keep reading to find out which one it is, and why and how Klipsch has cornered the market on it.




Earbuds are usually plastic and one-size-fits-all. Depending on the shape of your ears, these features can have an unstable, uncomfortable fit. For this reason, they can fall out frequently, especially during exercise.

Since earbuds rest on the outside of your ear canal, they let in more ambient noise. This can be a pro, depending on your lifestyle. If you commute downtown and walk through the streets, earbuds allow you to be more mindful of your surroundings. However, if sound quality is your priority, earbuds aren’t the best choice because the ambient noise causes weaker bass. You also have to play your music loud enough to overcome the outside noise.


Earphones go past your concha and extend into your ear canal, thanks to silicone tips attached to the earphones themselves. This design creates optimal noise isolation, allowing you to enjoy your music more clearly and at a lower volume. It also makes your earphones less likely to fall out of your ears compared to earbuds. Plus, most earphone packages offer different size tips to ensure you get the best, most comfortable fit possible.


Both earbuds and earphones both have a few of the same advantages. They’re portable, lightweight, and ideal for the gym. Durability is another advantage, as long as you clean them periodically by removing the buildup of earwax and oils. But when it comes to sound quality and comfort, earphones take the cake.


Klipsch has built 75 years of groundbreaking acoustic technology. In 2007, Klipsch engineers saw the potential for making a headphone that offered the same legendary sound as our speakers. The research began by studying, well, ears. Engineers made molds of various ear canals and reached the same conclusion - ear canals are oval-shaped, not round.

Andrew Doerr, Klipsch’s Engineering Program Director, says the evolution of making in-ear headphones more comfortable began back with the X series. “We now had the smallest ear tips, nozzle, and housing in one product,” he says.

Doerr says his team is always hunting for improvements to make sure the comfort increases every time a new iteration of Klipsch earphones comes to life.

Doerr says, for the T5 II True Wireless Sport McLaren Edition, more upgrades are here.


"We are including three more pairs of eartips, for a total of six," he explains. "We are going to offer in-between sizes as a better sizing option for people," Doerr says the commitment to a better fit also includes all-new snap-fit foam eartips and earwings for a better grip in the ear.

Here are three components that set Klipsch earphones apart:


The comfort begins on the T5 II True Wireless Sport McLaren Edition headphones with the size of the nozzle. “The T5 II nozzle is actually smaller than our first-generation and our competitors,” Doerr says. "An offset acoustic nozzle for a better fit into the ear also prevents it from sticking out too far as well, as well as a shorter nozzle, smaller housing, and better shape enhances overall fit and comfort."

Doerr says other earphones with larger nozzles create pressure on the inside of the ear canal and cause discomfort.

Klipsch earphone drivers are the smallest in the industry. They’re built in the housing, unlike competitor’s drivers, which are built into the nozzle. Doing this allows Klipsch to keep the housing and nozzle small.

“It allows our patented, oval ear tip to fit just about every ear canal.” - Andrew Doerr

Yes, really – you read that right. Klipsch holds a patent on comfortable ear tips. Klipsch already has several speaker-technology patents, so it’s certainly not a stretch to say we innovate with the customer – and your ears – in mind.


Doerr says ear canals are oval-shaped, not round. Ear canals are not one-size-fits-all either.

Unfortunately, many competitors created round earbuds without giving much thought to the actual shape of the human ear canal. Those become uncomfortable in a hurry and no one wants to interrupt their workout to tinker with their earbuds.

Doerr says the Klipsch oval ear tip design means our earphones won’t fall out the way cheap round earbuds do. Plus, Klipsch offers a variety of sizes to fit virtually every human ear canal on Earth.


The third component of our premium comfort is the angle of the nozzle. Doerr says Klipsch T5 and T5 II earphones either use an up angle, coupled with a side angle, or a 360° angle for more flexibility.

Any way you slice it, Klipsch earphones are designed so you can enjoy your music without interruption or having to adjust your earbuds constantly. They offer the best fit on the market.

Andrew Doerr is an Engineering Program Manager with Klipsch. He holds two patents for in-ear headphone acoustic design and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Acoustic Engineering.