Rumble box: Headphones vs earbuds


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In this week's Rumble Box, Leon Lee and Kevin Kung are engaged in an argument about headphones and earbuds suggested by reader Tiffany Yip.


Before Dr Dre and his beats headphones became the must-have music accessory, almost everyone used earbuds. While the bigger headphones might look more chic and are great if they match the colour of your outfit, you use them to listen to music, don't you? It's not a fashion accessory!

Earbuds are worn inside the ear so you can really enjoy the music while completely blocking out any outside noise. This is particularly useful if you want to focus on something or you just want to get into your tunes. And while some headphones can offer the same thing, they can make the wearer seem intimidating and unapproachable because of their size.

Speaking of size, who wants to be lugging around a pair of ginormous headphones anyway? It's all about being portable for Hong Kong's on-the-go teenagers. You can fit earbuds in anywhere from a jeans or jacket pocket to a handbag, or just hang them around your neck. They're also great when you go for a jog because you don't have to worry about them falling off or you getting sweaty from having both your ears covered, like with headphones.

Also, for those "trend-setters" who wear hats with a brim, like a fedora, headphones are not a practical fashion accessory. No matter how big the headphones are, they just can't fit around the brim to cover the ears, leaving the wearer without their music. Oh the horror!

Also headphones are expensive. Sure there are cheap ones, but then the music quality suffers. The prices of earbuds, on the other hand, suit a student's budget and their quality is acceptable.

All right Kevin, you got me; I do use headphones to listen to music on my way to work - but only when I have a bag to carry them in. Otherwise, I'll use my trusty, portable earbuds. You didn't know that, did you K-Dawg?

Leon Lee


Leon, headphones are definitely the better pick this time. It was chilly on Christmas day, but with my headphones on, it was like wearing earmuffs and I felt so warm.

Headphones can also protect you from external noise. For example, when travelling on the MTR or bus, they can take you away from a noisy place to a world of music.

Leon, youngsters need to be chic right? There are many designs for both headphones and earbuds, but you simply cannot compare the two. The designs on earbuds are too small to be seen, and there's little variety. In fact, headphones look more professional and eye-catching.

Manufacturers can just add a microphone to headphones to turn them into a headset. Trained translators use headsets, rather than earbuds, for interpreting.

In terms of comfort, headphones win again. The tiny buds can cause pain after some time, but headphones are more flexible on your head.

Doctors advise us not to listen to loud music for a long time as it can affect our hearing. The sound transmitted from headphones enters the ear canal in a less direct way than through earbuds. Headphones can give us better protection if we like listening to music for several hours. Be smart and make the healthier choice!

After all, Leon, what do you use to listen to music every day on your way to work? As I remember, you use headphones!

Kevin Kung

We hope you enjoyed the rumble. If you have an idea for a fun topic, e-mail us at [email protected] with "Rumble Box" in the subject line and we could be wrangling your topic idea next week

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