What Is The Difference Between A Headset And Headphones?

Not sure whether to choose between a headset or headphones? In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision.

Headphone and headset

For the usual audiophile, the difference between headsets and headphones is pretty well known. However, some people are just getting into audio devices. Even though the difference is quite obvious, it can still be confusing. I thought it would be a good idea to help those who can’t decide between a headset and headphones. So, we’ll be answering: What is the difference between a headset and headphones?

The difference between headsets and headphones is a built-in mic. Headsets, just like headphones, have two cans connected by a band, also, they have a built-in mic. Headsets are used for gaming, and video calls. Headphones are used for listening to music or watching movies.

That’s it basically, but there’s more to it. I don’t think you came here for that so, keep reading.

Headset – Features, And Uses

I think the best way to approach this is to name headset features and how they can be used. That’s where the difference between headsets and headphones lies. Besides, the physical difference, there’s a function difference. We’ll start with headsets and move on to headphones.

Man using a headset at work

Headset Features

We’ve covered the essential feature of the headset. That is two speakers connected by a band with a built-in mic in one of the speakers. Headsets have a variety of features that headphones do not have. Or, a certain feature is better in headsets than in headphones, and vice versa.

Built-in Mic

The built-in mic is what makes a headset. Usually, the mic is attached to one of the speakers. You can adjust the mic to place it close to your mouth.

Newer headset models may not have a visible mic. That doesn’t mean it’s there, it’s just located inside the speaker. Headset users still prefer the mic to be visible because that makes it better.

The average headset has a good mic that you can use but it can’t be compared with the standalone mic. However, some expensive, quality headsets have mics that are just as good as a standalone mic. Special attention is put to the mic, making it less sensitive to ambient noises.

Audio Quality

When I say “audio quality” I mean both the input(mic) and the output(speakers). So, how do headsets perform in terms of audio quality?

With headsets, manufacturers pay more attention to the input rather than the output. Some headsets can have superb sound input quality. Have you watched the streamers? Have you asked yourself how can they sound so clear? Well, headsets are mostly used for talking, so good headsets have a quality mic.

Not that headsets have bad sound output quality. I think you’ll be satisfied with the sound quality on most headsets. It’s nothing special though. Only expensive, quality headsets have superior sound output. Again, I’m not saying headsets have bad sound quality, it’s just that headphones have better sound output.

Funny work call using a headset


For those that don’t know what sensitivity is, it’s the feature that measures how loud the headset is. Headsets are not that loud. The sensitivity of headsets is low. Brands focus more on noise-canceling and there’s a reason for that. You don’t want the headset to be too loud because the mic will start registering those sounds. You want the headset to have noise-canceling.

Wired & Wireless

There are both wired and wireless headset models. Although wireless headsets provide a more comfortable experience, people still opt for wired models. Mostly because people buy headsets for a specific reason, like gaming or talking. With wires, there are fewer problems, and you don’t want to be interrupted while gaming or talking.

Related article – Best Headset For Zoom Meetings

Headset Uses

We’ve already mentioned how headsets are usually used. Nonetheless, we’ll put in a few words about it.

Video Conference

Since headsets have a built-in mic, they are mostly used for talking. To be honest, I can’t imagine someone buying headsets just to listen to music. Some jobs, especially now, require a weekly conference. Headsets are great for that.

You can talk on your phone or laptop but without the headset, the mic will give feedback or echo. Headsets are also great for chatting with relatives that are not close to you.

Gaming & Streaming

Now, expensive, quality headsets are usually bought for gaming or streaming. An expensive headset will not make a difference in your video call but it will make a difference if you’re gaming or streaming.

The same thing we said about “video conference” applies here though. But while gaming you also need superb sound output quality and superb input quality.

Gaming sessions can be quite long sometimes, so comfort is really important here too. There are headsets specifically designed for gaming and streaming. These are really comfortable while providing amazing sound quality.

Interesting read – Can You Use A PS4 Headset On The PS5?

Headphones – Features, And Uses

We talked about headphones a bit when we were covering headset features. It’s going to be the same here. The nature of the question is like that. We can’t talk about one without mentioning the other. Let’s go over the headphones’ features.

Headphones Features

Headphones have two speakers connected by a band. So, headsets are just headphones with a microphone. That is if we are looking at the exterior design. However, headphones differ from headphones in many other features.

Man using headphones on the couch

Sound Quality

When it comes to sound quality, headphones are the best, better than headsets and earbuds. Because there’s no mic, manufacturers can spend time improving the sound. This is done by adding drivers for specific kinds of sounds. The sound quality of high-quality headphones is just too good. Few headsets can compete with the sound quality of good headphones.

Some headphones can play lossless sounds at all frequencies. This is really important if you are an audiophile. Headphones also have superior noise-canceling, both active and passive. All in all, headphones have an amazing sound quality which makes them great for listening to music.


Now, headphones can be really loud, louder than headsets for sure. Some headphones can even go as far as 107 decibels. Loud headphones are not preferred though, that is for the average customer. Most brands focus on noise-canceling because that makes the headphones louder. Nonetheless, it’s worth mentioning that when it comes to loudness, headphones are the big winner.


Most people would say that headphones are just as comfortable as headsets. I beg to differ though. Of course, it all depends on the model but let’s look at it another way. The preferred model among the average customer is headphones.

People use it to listen to music while studying, traveling, etc. In all these cases, comfort is really important. So, headphones tend to be more comfortable than headsets. Especially, models that have nice soft pads.

Related article – How To Wear Headphones Comfortably With Glasses

Eyes closed and using headphones

Wired & Wireless

Recently, more and more people started using wireless headphones. Because you’re not using the headphones for working or something else important, you can deal with the usual connection problems. Bluetooth headphones have come a long way as opposed to Bluetooth headsets. The sound quality is almost as good as with wired headphones.

Wired headphones still hold their place though. Louder headphones are usually wired. These are used by musicians or producers.

Related article – Do You Lose Sound Quality With Wireless Headphones?

Headphones Uses

It’s important to list how headphones are used, this will help you with your decision. We’ve gone over the uses of headsets, now it’s time for headphones.

Listening To Music

Headphones are the go-to device when it comes to listening to music. We’ve talked about this before, and we’ll say it again. Headphones have multiple drivers, each designed specifically for bass or treble, or some specific genre of music.

This makes them great for listening to music. Although headphones were invented to be used by pilots, since commercialized, headphones are primarily used for music.

Related article – Best Cat Ear Headphones – Reviews And Complete Buying Guide

Audiobooks & Podcasts

People like listening to audiobooks and podcasts while falling asleep, traveling, or commuting. Headphones are great for this. In these cases, you want to be able to listen to every word, so sound quality is very important. Earbuds may be better for commuting but the sound quality is not as good as with headphones.

Headphones on books

Recording & Producing

To be quite frank, earbuds have been taking over the market for quite some time now. They are really small and effective, so the average customer opts for earbuds. Some people still prefer headphones because they are big music fans.

Headphones can provide the best music experience. The fact that most producers use headphones is proof enough that headphones are the best device for music.

So, that’s about it. There’s no need to go into specifics here. I think you know what’s the difference between headsets and headphones now.

What Should I Buy Headphones Or A Headset?

This is probably a good note to end on. I guess most of you came here because you’re having trouble deciding between headphones and a headset. Let me help you with that.

When deciding what to buy, ask yourself this: How will I use the device? The answer to that question will lead you to a decision.

If you’re planning on gaming, talking, or conferencing, a headset is a device for you. If you’re planning on listening to your favorite music, watching movies, and listening to yourself play an instrument, buy headphones. I think that’s the best way to approach this.

Now, if you need the device for studying, running, or commuting, I would recommend earbuds. Since comfort and size matter most here, earbuds are the way to go. That’s it, consider these recommendations.

Interesting read – Do Headphones Help With Motion Sickness?