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Headphone vs. Handsfree — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on November 3, 2023
Headphones are audio devices worn on the ears for listening, while handsfree refers to any equipment that can be used without hands, often for calls.
Headphone vs. Handsfree — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Headphone and Handsfree


Key Differences

Headphones are audio devices designed to be placed over or in the ears to listen to audio without disturbing others. They come in various styles, including over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear. Handsfree devices enable the user to perform tasks without the use of hands, typically through Bluetooth technology, including earpieces for calls and voice-activated systems.
Headphones often provide high-quality sound for music and are popular for personal entertainment. Handsfree devices are essential for multitasking, allowing for conversations or voice commands while the user's hands are occupied, such as when driving or typing.
While headphones can be part of a handsfree setup if they include a microphone and support wireless technology, not all headphones are handsfree, as many require manual operation and physical connection. Handsfree equipment, conversely, is designed specifically to avoid manual handling, often featuring voice control or one-touch operation.
In the context of mobile phone accessories, headphones may refer to wired or wireless devices used for listening to audio content. Handsfree, in this context, refers to kits that often include a microphone and speaker that enable calls without holding the phone, and may also include headphones for a complete audio experience.
Headphones are primarily chosen for their sound quality and comfort for prolonged listening. Handsfree devices are chosen for convenience and functionality, allowing the user to maintain productivity and communication without interrupting other activities.

Comparison Chart

Primary Function

For listening to audio content.
For conducting calls or commands without using hands.


Can be over-ear, on-ear, in-ear.
Often single-ear, especially for Bluetooth earpieces.


Can be wired or wireless.
Usually wireless, but can include wired options.

Inclusion of Microphone

Optional, not all headphones have microphones.
Almost always includes a microphone.

Typical Use

Music, gaming, private listening.
Phone calls, voice commands, legally using phones in cars.

Compare with Definitions


His new headphones have superior bass quality.


Ease of Use.
The new car comes with a built-in handsfree system.


He connected his headphones to the keyboard to practice silently.


No Hand Operation.
She installed a handsfree soap dispenser in the bathroom.


She bought noise-canceling headphones for the flight.


Convenient Accessory.
He uses handsfree earbuds to listen to music while working out.


I use wireless headphones when I go jogging.


Wireless Communication.
He answered the call using his handsfree device.


She prefers over-ear headphones for studio work.


Multitasking Tool.
With a handsfree, she could take notes while on the call.


A small speaker that is worn over or in the ear, often as one of a pair connected by a wire attached to a band running over the head


Handsfree is an adjective describing equipment that can be used without the use of hands (for example via voice commands) or, in a wider sense, equipment which needs only limited use of hands, or for which the controls are positioned so that the hands are able to occupy themselves with another task (such as driving) without needing to hunt far afield for the controls.Devices that are typically used for handsfree communication use Bluetooth as its wireless technology. They still require a smartphone or other device to initiate a call.


A cushioned speaker placed on, over, or inside the ear, normally used in left/right pairs.
Some joggers wear only one headphone in their ears, to enjoy music while paying attention to their environment.


That can be used without using the hands, hands-free.
A handsfree phone


Electro-acoustic transducer for converting electric signals into sounds; it is held over or inserted into the ear;
It was not the typing but the earphones that she disliked


A handsfree phone.

Common Curiosities

What are headphones?

Headphones are a pair of small speakers worn over or in the ears for private listening.

What does handsfree mean?

Handsfree refers to equipment that can be used without the need to use your hands.

Are all handsfree devices wireless?

Most are, but some can be wired, like car kits.

Do headphones always have microphones?

Not always, microphones are optional in some models.

Can headphones connect to multiple devices?

Some modern headphones can pair with multiple devices.

How does a handsfree device help in multitasking?

It allows you to take calls or issue voice commands without using your hands.

Do headphones offer better sound quality than handsfree devices?

Generally, headphones prioritize audio quality more than handsfree devices.

Can headphones be used handsfree?

Yes, if they are wireless and have controls for calls and music.

Is handsfree required by law for driving?

Many jurisdictions require handsfree devices for calls while driving.

Are handsfree devices more expensive than headphones?

Price varies based on functionality, brand, and quality for both.

Do all handsfree devices have voice recognition?

Many do, but it’s not a universal feature.

Can handsfree devices play music?

Yes, many can play music as well as manage calls.

Can headphones be used for gaming?

Yes, especially models with built-in microphones and surround sound capabilities.

Are there health concerns with using headphones or handsfree devices?

Prolonged high-volume use can affect hearing; wireless devices raise concerns about radiation.

How do I pair my headphones to my phone?

Via Bluetooth settings or a physical connection, depending on the headphones.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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