Headphones come in two major categories: those which sit on top of the ear and those which surround the ear. On-ear headphones are routinely more compact when folded up and take up less space in a bag or purse.
Some customers prefer the aesthetics of on-ear headphones as over-the-ear headphones are often bigger and bulkier. On-ear tend to isolate less sound and most people find them less comfortable, but this will vary based on the build materials.
Over-the-ear headphones have a big advantage in the sound they put out. This is largely due having larger drivers which can put out better and louder sound. While over-the-ear headphones are bigger and bulkier, they’re often more comfortable; they sit around the ear, instead of compressing the ear.
How you plan to use in-earbuds will tell you a lot about the style you need to look for. If you’re just lounging around the house or at work with your earbuds plugged into your phone, any old pair will do. You can generally find no frills earbuds with quality sound for cheap.
Where you may want to step up your purchase is if you want to use your earbuds while exercising. Any runner will tell you that having your earbuds pull out of your ear due to cord tension is less than ideal. This can actually endanger your phone due to it being pulled out of whatever secure location you have it in and falling to the ground. No-one wants that. Bluetooth earbuds are the best option here to avoid any conflicts.
Another feature you’ll need to look for is water resistance or waterproofing. Since you’ll be sweating during your workout (hopefully), you need to make sure to pick up a pair of earbuds that won’t be ruined by liquids. If you plan to use them while swimming, look for a pair that has at least an IPx7 rating. This should ensure that they won’t be ruined in the pool.
Depending on the model, some earbuds will provide earhooks to help ensure the earbuds do not slip out. Most companies will include multiple tips and hooks of various sizes.
While it may not feel much like a “special” feature, be sure to look out for the inclusion of a microphone on your headphones. A microphone takes your headphones from just a media consumption accessory to a communication device as well.
Another feature to look at must be closed back vs. open back. Open back headphones like the Audio-Technica AUD ATHAD500X provide a bigger sound stage (The area between two speakers or in headphones that appears to the listener to be occupied by sonic images). Closed back headphones, however, leak much less audio but tend to have a more narrow sound stage.
Many headphones, especially the wireless kind, will include inline controls for actions like answering calls, raising and lowering volume, as well as play and pause. Some headphones will house these controls in the cable while others prefer buttons on the sides of the earcups. Some go above and beyond like the BackBeat PRO and will automatically play and pause music when it senses you taking the headphones on or off.
Also, be sure to check out what accessories come with your headphones. Does it come with a hard carrying case? A protective bag to put the headphones in during transport? Does it come with any additional cables? All of these things can be important to you getting the total package. Not all circumstances call for a 6-foot long cable so maybe it comes with a 3-foot coiled cable too. These little details can be the difference between a satisfactory or unsatisfactory experience.