If you are researching to purchase a new set of headphones, the chances are high that you have run into new terms and names during this process. Circumaural and supra-aural are two terms that are often thrown around by experts and manufacturers, but most consumers aren’t aware of them or don’t fully understand them.
It’s not as complicated as it sounds as these terms only refer to the different “styles” of headphones available. Of course, if you are purchasing equipment for studio use, you should understand what circumaural headphones and supra-aural headphones mean and which is preferred for your application.
Supra-aural headphones (also known as earpad headphones, on-ear headphones, open-back headphones and closed-back headphones) refer to headphones that are designed to rest on your ear without completely enclosing or enveloping it. On the other hand, circumaural headphones completely cover the ears. This is the major difference in the form factor of these two models of headphones.
Supra-aural headphones make a good choice for several reasons. You can easily get them for low prices, and they are more portable-friendly. They lack the weight and size of circumaural headphones, but they also lack the noise cancellation feature usually found in circumaural headphones.
These headphones are much more comfortable to wear as they rest on the outer ears, but that also leads to sound leaking out. Furthermore, the sound isolation or cancellation isn’t ideal, especially when compared to circumaural headphones.
However, for this very reason, supra-aural headphones are preferred in several applications where it is necessary to have a fair idea of what’s going around you such as in office environments or when sprinting, jogging or working out in the gym. In these situations, it’s preferable to let external sounds in.
To conclude: For supra-aural headphones, the positives are that these headphones are more comfortable and lightweight, less prone to overheating the ears, and easily portable as most models are foldable. The downsides include less effective noise cancellation or isolation, less powerful bass, and sound leakage.
Circumaural headphones (also known as over-ear headphones and earcup headphones) are designed to enclose the ears entirely. Due to their size and perfect acoustic isolation, circumaural headphones are considered to be better suited to studio use. They offer much better noise isolation to give a clear and refined listening experience.
These headphones offer powerful bass and can handle maximum sound levels easily. Sound leakage is also minimum, and when it comes to creating surround-sound effect, no other headphones come close to this design.
In short, circumaural headphones will seal the music in, keep the noise out, and provide the treble and bass as well. However, this experience usually comes at a good price, which is why these headphones are expensive as compared to their supra-aural counterparts.
The downsides of using circumaural headphones are that they are not portable, and their weight and size often get uncomfortable. These headphones enclose the ears which overheat them, while the wide headband can be annoying.
While circumaural headphones may not be as comfortable or cheap as the supra-aural ones, that’s not the priority when it comes to studio headphones, which is why circumaural headphones are the preferred choice.
Not only do these headphones offer perfect noise isolation, but they also prevent sound leakage. Any high-quality circumaural pair of headphones can provide a crystal clear and accurate listening experience, which is of paramount importance in studio