On-ear vs ear buds: Which headphones are best for you this summer?
09.12.2021

On-ear vs ear buds: Which headphones are best for you this summer?

How you enjoy music is how you enjoy life, but with incredible technological advancements, it’s no longer as simple as bigger is better.

If you’re looking for the perfect pair of wireless headphones this summer, Audio Technica have two new beauties that both offer a similar array of nifty features at a great price point, but come in a very different package.

On-ear headphones and ear buds now represent the best of both worlds. Their ability to balance portability and excellent sound makes them the most popular options among mainstream consumers, so it’s about time someone put them to a direct test.

Both headphones are readily accessible ; the ATH-S220BT On-Ear Wireless Headphones RRP for $99 and the ATH-SQ1TW True Wireless Ear Buds RRP for $129, so we’ll be comparing each’s strengths and weaknesses based on the general criteria in which they were designed.

  • Lifestyle
  • Sound quality
  • Noise cancellation
  • Portability
  • Comfort

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Lifestyle

If you’re looking to buy a pair of headphones, your first consideration has to be your lifestyle, and what you’ll really want them for. On the surface, if you’re looking for a great pair to take travelling, listen to music through and to take phone calls, it seems there’s no competition.

The ear buds are tiny, with a striking little square design that virtually disappears within your ears, and an equally diminutive carry case that disappears into your pocket.

The on-ear headphones are obviously much larger and don’t fold, so a backpack is essentially necessary. What’s more, the ear buds have flexible dual or single earbud usability built into the design, further enhancing their flexibility for a range of situations.

But it’s in the battery capacity that the on-ears really come into their own.

The ear buds offer 6.5 hours of continuous playback off a single charge, with a further 13 hours of charging capacity from the carry case, creating up to 19.5 hours of extended use in total. Meanwhile, the on-ears offer up to a whopping 60 hours of continuous use on a full charge, plus up to 3.5 hours of use on a 10-minute rapid charge via the USB-C cable.

That means even heavy users will only have to charge them once per week, but the real kicker is if you forget, or you’re travelling, you can just plug in the wire. Viola, the sound is not only improved, but they’re powering off your phone or laptop.

Other than that, both pairs have the full range of touch controls on the sets themselves, while the on-ears also add Siri and Google Assistant through the in-built microphone. The on-ears do have a higher quality in-line microphone when corded, so if that’s important to you, keep that in mind.

They also both have Google Fast Pair functionality, but the on-ears have another slight advantage, adding a multipoint pairing function, so you can be connected to your laptop and phone simultaneously, and effortlessly switch between the two.

Sound quality

Both headphones create phenomenal sound for the price point, with the on-ears slightly weightier in the tech department, but it’s not as simple as glancing at the spec sheet.

In the real world, one of the most impressive features is that both pairs have a low-latency mode, which significantly improves the listening experience when streaming and gaming, and offers the Audio Technica ear buds a point of difference among direct competitors in the ear bud market.

It still doesn’t allow them to compare to the on-ears through a wired connection, though. If you’re looking for substantial bass, the fact that Audio Technica’s on-ear headphones have the ability to be connected via a wired connection, when you really want to rock out, is the major deciding factor. If you really care about achieving the best possible sound quality, that capacity is a game-changer.

Noise cancellation and leakage

The closed-back design of the ATH-S220BT on-ear headphones allows less outside noise to enter the ear and interfere with the sound. If you’re buying headphones for noisy situations, like a packed commute or a buzzing office, then the on-ears will prove effective at blocking the outside world.

But the ATH-SQ1TW ear buds also do a fantastic job of isolating your ear canal, and very impressively, they don’t leak sound, so you don’t have to worry about people hearing your music on the train.

They also offer a ‘hear-through’ function, which allows you to activate or deactivate air passageways to allow a certain level of ambient background noise. Activating this feature’s useful when you’re walking in traffic, or communicating sporadically in an office, or waiting for an external phone call.

The ear buds are also impressively durable, with Audio Technica designing the ear buds to be IPX4-equivalent rain and water splashproof. While not waterproof enough to take into the steam baths, this means, in their words, “there’s no harmful effect even if water is splashed from all directions.”

Comfort

Last but not least, the on-ears overcome some of the traditional discomfort felt with their form by including synthetic leather ear pads, a padded headband, and adjustable ear cups.

They’re light, don’t trap heat, and sit comfortably around the neck, a series of reasons why they’re proving more popular than over-ear headphones among most people.

The ear buds are so lightweight however, that you can honestly forget you’re wearing them, which is the ultimate validation.

Check out the ATH-S220BT On-Ear Wireless Headphones here. Check out the ATH-SQ1TW True Wireless Ear Buds here.