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in ear vs over ear vs on ear sound quality

  1. Broese
    What is the difference in sound quality between the three types of headphones of similar value?
  2. Mooses9
    they are all different. how much are we talking 100.00-1,000.00?
    between the iem and the on ear for instance. sound quality depends greatly on
    for iem, drivers, are they dynamic? balanced armature? do they have a single driver or 8 balanced armatures? are they universal or custom fit do they have a high or low ohm impedance?
    for over ear, are they 32ohm,250ohm,600ohm? open back,closed back,semi open?
    everything i mentioned is going to effect the sound quality of on ear over ears or iem.
    even in the same price ranges for instance if you have a 1,000.00 iem its possible to drive it by a source alone and have great sound quality.
    where as if you have a 1,000.00 over ear, its possible it would need another 1,000.00 amp just to drive it depending on its impedance to get exceptional sound quality and volume.
    there are alot of variables to take into consideration when comparing over, on and in ear monitors.
  3. Broese
    So if you were to spend say $100.00  on an iem setup, $100.00 on an over ear setup, and $100 on an on ear setup which could get you the best sound quality for your money?
  4. albertnam
    I think the best bang for the buck-purely with regard to sound quality-would come from a relatively low impedance set of efficient around-ear cans. The ~$100 tier for IEMs never really impressed me.
  5. Broese
    As a specific example what would you expect the difference in sound quality  between a klipsch s4 senn hd280 and your favorite $100 on ear with and without say a fio e6 amp or something like that?
  6. vinnievidi
    I think focusing on the word "value" in the original post has led the conversation astray.  Forget about $100 vs. $1000, it's not that helpful to someone trying to learn the basics.  Remember your Econ basics: Ceteris Paribus--all other things being equal--how do you determine the difference between on-ear and around the ear headphones?  
    My guess would be if someone could post their experience with a pair of Grados using both flat pads and bowls.  This way the same headphone can be used as a basis to begin explaining the difference between on-ear and around the ear wearing.  (It doesn't have to be Grados... just the first thing that came to mind)
    While this won't' help for IEMs, this will start to narrow down the problem and help the OP with his initial question.
  7. asdfghjkzxcvbnm
    But aren't on-ears and over-ears really the same thing? It's just the different size pad affecting the sound a little..
  8. Techno Kid
    I think if you spend say $200 for 1 pair of each type (in ear, on ear and over ear) that the IEM will have better sound quality and better detail over the headphones especially with balanced armatures.  Now I know that might not be the case in all situations but over all I feel you get better detail and clarity with an IEM that cost the same as a pair of headphones.  Now not when you start to get in the $1000 and up because that's when headphones start to sound very good.
    Anyways that's just my opinion and I know people will disagree but that's what I think when talking about SQ of all 3 types of headphones/earphones.
  9. money4me247 Contributor
    I was actually wondering the same thing myself. I feel like OP's post is simply asking what are the most noticeable differences between on-ear vs. over-ear vs. IEM. I know cnet isn't really an "audiophile" website, but this article may be helpful: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13645_3-57460620-47/does-size-matter-over-the-ear-vs-in-ear-headphones/
    According to cnet, IEM you lose the directional cues (aka sound stage) as the drivers are already inside your ear canals. This makes sense and I am wondering if anyone who has done side-by-side comparisons noticed that.
    The difference between on-ears (supraaural) vs over-ears (circumaural) I think is really just comfort and size difference. On-ears are usually smaller than over-ears. On-ears/Supraaural are often thought to be less comfortable (in my personal opinion) compared to over-ears as the clamping force is on your ear rather than your skull. Over-ears/Circumaural can cause the ears to get a bit warmer since they are fully enclosed. However, headphone comfort is very individual based on the wearer and the particular headphones.
    Hypothetically, over-ears/circumaural may have a better soundstage or more natural sound as the sound hits all parts of your ears & outer ears compared to on-ears/supraaural which the sound waves cannot hit all parts of your outer ear as the earpads will be covering parts of your outer ear. However, I don't know if this hypothetical difference is distinguishable sonically or how severe the difference may be.
    Finally, the most end-high ($1,000+) headphones are usually over-ear (circumaural) rather than on-ear (supraaural). High-end IEMs can reach $500+ and if you get custom-molded ones the price can go even higher.
    Also, what Moose said about the various different types of IEMs and over-ear headphones (open vs closed) also causes a lot of changes in the sound quality.  I believe the difference between an open over-ear and a closed over-ear would be more apparent than the difference between on-ear or over-ear.
    I think when deciding between these classes, you should consider your budget and your usage (portable, exercise, only at home, noise isolation, ect...). There are portable, closed overears, but would you actually wear them? I personally found that for working out, in-ears are most comfortable for me.

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