Think of the tiny ear buds stuffed into your head, with the other end of the cable plugged into your mp3 player. Many people call this a “headset.” And they will use the same term for ear buds with a microphone embedded in the cord (for phone calls). And the over-the-head units that cover your ears (with or without a microphone)… they call those “headsets” too.

In the Pro Audio and Broadcasting world, we are pretty precise with our terminology, so let’s sort this out… it’s really not too complicated.

hd280– If there’s a strap going over or behind your head, connecting the two ear pieces, it’s a “headphone“. This is the most basic type.



– Add a microphone on a small boom arm, and it’s a “headset“. (The two pieces together… headphone and microphone… make a “set”.)


senn ie4– A small unit that fits inside the ear canal is an “earphone“.

– Some “earphones” have a small microphone embedded in the cord, for making telephone calls. (We don’t carry this type, as it’s not used in Pro Audio.)


Small ear buds are most often used for on-stage monitoring by a performer. Or as an intercom for a newscaster.

Full-size headphones are commonly used by performers in recording studios to hear the full mix of the recording they are creating. And in radio stations, headphones allow the talent to hear the program material with no risk of acoustic feedback.

Full-size headsets may have broadcast-quality microphones (for speaking on the air), or narrow-bandwidth intercom-grade microphones (for technicians, coaches, producers, etc.), or noise-cancelling microphones (for sports broadcasting in noisy surroundings.)

Determine the type that best matches your application. Then choose from our large selection. Give us a call… we’ll be glad to help you select the right item for your needs.


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