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A Music Lover’s Take on the Headphone Debate

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

A good pair of headphones is a necessity for a student. From noisy buses to doing work outside of a private space, they have many uses. Over the years, I have used each main category of headphones: wired, wireless earbuds, and over-the-ear headphones. I love music, so the sound quality and bass of a pair of headphones is especially important to me. It can be difficult to decide which ones are the right fit, so I want to detail my experience with each kind of listening device and see which one comes out on top.

Wired earbuds

These are the first kind of headphones I ever used; they were my ride-or-die for a long time. These are cheap, often available for under $15,  and very easy to replace. For years, they did the job for me in a pinch. They were not bulky and did not need to be charged, which were positive features for my younger self at the time. My biggest issues with these were sound quality and durability. Even higher-quality wired headphones can sound tinny at times and often do not have good bass. They are also not noise canceling. Additionally, my wired headphones would always eventually go out in one ear and then the other, with the sound quality dramatically shifting before that. I would have to replace these earbuds frequently. Another smaller issue I encountered was with the wire itself. It would get tangled, snag on things, and tether me to my phone. Overall, these are useful in emergencies, but they are not what I would reach for given the choice.

Wireless earbuds

I have used a few varieties of wireless earbuds over time, but the ones I will be referencing the most here are my AirPods. These are an upgrade from wireless headphones on many fronts. They are much more expensive, selling for about $180. For one, they are obviously not connected by a wire, and therefore, they are not bulky and cannot get tangled. The downside to this is that they do need to be charged, and the Bluetooth connection can drain the battery from my devices. The battery life on them is good, and the charging case makes portable charging easy. When it comes to sound quality, AirPods do not sound tinny, and the songs come through clearly. Additionally, the bass on AirPods is better than one would expect from a device so small. Though their size makes them easy to sleep with, the same quality also makes them difficult to find at times. My other major gripe with AirPods is that they often cause ear pain for me after extended use. My AirPods provide a positive listening experience for me and are an upgrade from wired headphones.

Over-the-ear headphones

I acquired over-the-ear headphones fairly recently and can already attest to their quality. Mine run for about $200 and sound like it. The bass is one of my favorite features; I can feel it through my skull sometimes. The sound quality overall is superb. I don’t have to turn the headphones up too loud to be able to enjoy my music over the noise of a loud bus. My headphones are not noise canceling, but they are still able to block out a significant amount of outside noise with the foam padding. I have used other noise-canceling over-the-ear headphones and have loved them. This ends up being very relaxing in loud spaces and when commuting. It is this same padding that makes my pair of over-the-ear headphones very comfortable – the only part I had to get used to was how they squeezed my head, but I eventually got used to it. One unfortunate downside of this is that over-the-ear headphones are difficult for me to sleep in. In terms of battery life, my headphones have a multi-day battery life, and I can sometimes go a week without having to charge them, which is better than I have experienced with wireless headphones. My short experience with my over-the-ear headphones have solidified them as a staple in my day-to-day life. 

As the headphone debate goes, my clear winner is the over-the-ear headphone. I value some factors, like sound quality and the ability to block out noise, over others like size and battery life. Each type of headphone has unique characteristics that make it fit for certain situations, and over-the-ear headphones happen to fit my personal needs!

Ashley Morgan is a staff writer for Her Campus at MSU. This is her first year writing for the publication. Morgan is a freshman at Michigan State University majoring in journalism; she is still deciding on a concentration. Morgan wrote for her high school's newspaper her senior year, which solidified her love for the craft. She is also involved with MSU's student-run radio station, Impact89, where she writes for the Entertainment team and is on the Music Review team. Aside from writing, Morgan enjoys going to local music shows, leisurely kayaking, playing bass, reading, playing TTRPGs, and collecting various trinkets to display in her dorm.