Earphones and earbuds can be prone to falling out due to a poor fit. Despite many that may come packaged with several sizes (usually 3 or 4) to fit everyone, they just don’t always work out. Everyone has a differently shaped external ear canal and concha, and unless you’re willing to shell out a lot of money for custom fit phones, compromises may have to be made. That’s not to say a proper fit from off the shelf models can’t be had, (some models will also come with Comply foam earpieces) but if you’ve always had trouble with earphones or earplugs fitting your ears properly, then you understand the struggle.
Headphones have the advantage that their cups can be made of a variety of materials, from purely functional, no frills foam pads, to cloth, or even velour and exotic leathers. Many mid and upper tier brands have options for different types of pads, whether they are packaged with the headphones themselves, or sold separately.
Earphones usually just give you the silicon ear tips, maybe in a few sizes and possibly the Comply brand foam tips as well. These are a great option for people with “funny shaped ear canals” if the standard tips won’t fit, or are too u comfortable. The downsides are that they can get dirty quickly and cannot be cleaned; you’ll have to order more tips.
Headphones can be closed back or open back, which can greatly alter the way they sound. By design, closed back headphones trap the sound may have a bit better bass reproduction and better noise isolation, but the sound can appear to emit from “inside your head”, with a very narrow sound stage. Aside from a basic stereo effect, instruments and vocals may seem a bit crammed together, instead of spread apart as they would be in a concert arena, jazz club or opera house. Bass reproduction can be acceptable, especially on models that are designed with extra bass in mind. The bass can be EQ’d if it’s overwhelming. Better to have it and not need it. Closed back phones may also get a bit warm around your ears, with no ventilation, so that’s another issue to consider.
In Ear Monitors can deliver some exceptionally point by point highs and mids, supported by the way that they are intended to sit in the outside bit of your ear extcanals. Bass generation can be great on the off chance that they are appropriately embedded, since they have the advantage of bone conduction, so your very own head turns into an expansion of the sound walled in area.
Open back headphones allow the sound to escape, so everyone around you can hear what you’re listening to. Their design allows for a more realistic sound, providing a wider Soundstage, better imaging, and an overall open, airy sound that you simply cannot get from closed back designs. The sound leakage can annoy anyone within earshot, so you don’t want to use these in an area where others would be disturbed, such as an airplane, library, study hall, or office space. Some of the best sounding phones on the planet are open back designs, but that fact will matter little to your housemates or others near you during listening sessions. Open back phones, by their design, will tend to keep your ears a bit cooler than closed back designs.
In Ear Monitors can produce some very detailed highs and mids, aided by the fact that they are designed to sit in the external portion of your ear extcanals. Bass reproduction can be very good if they are properly inserted, since they have the benefit of bone conduction, so your own head becomes an extension of the sound enclosure. However, they can also sound a bit constricted, so again, the sound may seem to be “inside your head”. Another issue with IEMs is that the type of cable attached to them may conduct noise alone their wires and right into your ear canals. It’s commonly referred to as the stethoscope effect. It’s very loud and very annoying because any movement can cause this. It’s important to ensure that the cables on your headphones don’t do this, and reviews will certainly inform you if this is the case.