Earbuds became popular during the 1990’s when Apple released the iPod and shipped a modified headset with the iPod. Instead of the traditional headset which was worn overtop of the head, earbuds were tiny speakers that were inserted into the ear canal.
Over the years, earbuds have been referred to as earphones or earpieces, however the branding and marketing campaign launched by Apple in the 90’s really solidified the term earbuds. Walk into any store and inquire about a pair of earbuds and the sales rep will know exactly what you’re talking about.
Early development of earbuds saw these devices not inserted into the ear canal, but rather held in place by the concha ridge of the outer ear. These were extremely uncomfortable as they were normally a “one size fits all’ type and users ended up with pain and discomfort from the devices due to their ill-fitting nature. These have since changed and now have a small ¼” part that inserts into the ear canal and it’s usually held in place with a foam, rubber, or silicon cushion.
As earbuds are much smaller than headphones and headsets, the speaker size limits the full-spectrum sound that users might expect. However, when they lack in terms of sound quality, they gain in terms of flexibility and price. Earbuds serve a purpose, such as listening to music while your jogging, exercising in the gym, or even listening to meditation music or sleep hypnosis sessions.
Some manufacturers of top-end audio devices like Sennheiser have been able to perfect their earbuds to exceed the audio frequencies of the human ear, but with devices like these, you’ll likely pay a premium for that level of sound quality.