Circumaural vs Supra Aural Headphone: Which One Should You Get?

Circumaural vs Supra Aural Headphone
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Whether you are a music enthusiast or not, no one spends their life with a single pair of headphones (it is unheard of). So when you are in the market or browsing online to look for a new pair of headphones to buy, it is expected to get confused.

There are tons of different styles and designs of headphones to choose from. People usually stick to the style of headphones they are the most comfortable with. But that does not mean you should not explore. You may end up finding something unexpected but pleasant. How will you determine if a certain style of headphones is right for you or not if you do not know about them?

Circumaural vs. Supra Aural Headphone: Which One Should You Get?

At first glance, circumaural and supra-aural headphones might seem somewhat identical. They are both over-ear headphones with headbands that go over your head. Even though the basic structure is similar, there are some noticeable differences between both headphones.

Because of these differences, each one of these headphones offers something unique to the user. Unless you understand their features, you would have a hard time noting the differences.

Let us discuss circumaural and supra-aural headphones to help you determine if they are something you would consider using.

Circumaural Headphone

Circumaural vs Supra Aural Headphone

When you hold a pair of circumaural headphones in your hand, you will instantly notice how large they actually are. These headphones are also known as full-size headphones. Circumaural means something that covers the ear. In this case, it can be said that it means covering the outer or external part of an ear.

Circumaural headphones have large earcups that are lined with foam. The padded foam blocks out any external noise from entering your ears. Even with minimal knowledge about headphones, you have probably heard the term ‘noise-canceling’.

Noise-canceling headphones are the ones that have excellent sound isolation. Once you put on these headphones, all you will hear are the sound coming from the speakers of the headphones themselves. The purpose of these headphones is to prevent outer noise from getting into your ears once you have put them on. Circumaural headphones are mostly noise-canceling headphones.

The large ear cups of these headphones cover the entire area of your outer ear. Because of the large and padded earcups, circumaural headphones are quite heavy. They are not the most portable. In most cases, a good-quality pair of circumaural headphones are quite expensive.

But the crisp audio quality and excellent sound isolation make up for the other inconveniences.

Supra Aural Headphone

Circumaural vs Supra Aural Headphone


Supra-aural headphones are a style of on-ear headphones. Instead of going over the ears like the circumaural headphones, the supra-aural headphones merely rest on the ear.

Supra-aural headphones also have earcups that are lined with foam. But they are much lighter and do not cover the entire outer area of an ear. Since the earcups do not cover the entire outer portion of the ear, the noise cancelation is not up to par if you compare it with circumaural headphones.

Supra-aural headphones are not capable of blocking out outside noise completely. Because of the design, no matter how high-quality headphones you get, there will be sound leakage with supra-aural headphones. Thanks to the smaller earcups, they are much lighter. Supra-aural headphones are travel-friendly since they are more portable compared to any circumaural headphones.

Supra-aural headphones are much more affordable. They are lightweight and do not claim to offer any noise-canceling benefits.

Which One Should You Get?

Now the ultimate question is, which one should you get? That is something only the user can answer. We would suggest everyone have different styles of headphones for different uses. But that is not always possible. So you should consider your lifestyle and what you are looking for in a pair of headphones before locking onto a particular style.

Let us point out some characteristics of each style of headphones to help you decide.

Design and Quality

Circumaural headphones have a particular noise-canceling design that offers commendable sound isolation. They often have great build quality. But these qualities also come with downsides since the extra padding and heavier drivers make the headphones feel very bulky.

Supra-aural headphones have sound leakage since they do not cover the ears entirely. Their build quality makes them feel light and compact. The drivers in supra-aural headphones are smaller than the ones in circumaural headphones. Bigger drivers mean more frequency range, which works in favor of the circumaural headphones.


If you are looking for a good pair of circumaural headphones from a reputable brand, you need to have a big budget. High-end circumaural headphones can cost well over $50,000. While there are some super expensive supra-aural headphones that can cost you nearly as much, you can get a pretty good pair of headphones at an affordable price.


Circumaural headphones are best-suited for studio production. The better build quality and the sound isolation design make it perfect for studio use. You can also use it for home office work where you need to block outside noise to focus on your work. Musicians prefer circumaural headphones because they want to pick up on just the sounds they hear from the headphone speakers.

As for supra-aural headphones, they are good for any casual user. Whether you are an athlete who needs a pair of headphones to listen to music during a workout or someone who wants to listen to music while traveling, supra-aural headphones will suit you just fine.

In the end, there really is no right answer for which pair of headphones is the best. It all comes down to who is using the headphones and how they are going to be using them. One pair of them offers you something that the other cannot.

If you want high-fidelity audio with high bass, circumaural headphones are perfect for you. But if you want a pair of compact headphones to accompany you in your daily commute, then supra-aural is what you need. So choose according to your needs.

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