Earbud Articles

12/13/2010
Wireless TV earbuds
photo by tskdesign
If you like to listen to the television late at night, you may want to look at a pair of wireless headphones. They are a great option if you want to listen to the TV quietly, but your spouse wants to sleep. There are plenty of models out there, some being very pricey and costing upwards of $400. But for this review we will be covering a few popular over-the-ear style headsets that can be had for under a hundred bucks.

When buying over-the-ear style of headphones, one major thing to consider is the product's weight. In addition to the requirement of holding the speakers, wireless earbuds must include the electronics for the receiver, volume control, as well a batteries to power the speakers. With additional weight there is additional potential for ear pain. People who get ear pain from regular earbuds should try to get lighter earbuds to help alleviate some of this problem.

For the models reviewed there are two different technologies used to transmit the signal from your audio device to your ears. Most of the listed models are Bluetooth, a wireless technology most commonly used in mobile phones (Note: not for phone calls, but for headsets). The other is infrared which is commonly used in TV remotes. One thing to note about infrared the signal is better when it has line-of-sight, an unobstructed path between the transmitter and receiver.

Here are some of our favorite wireless headphones:

Motorola MOTOROKR S9's

Price: $49
Weight: 1.1 ounces
Signal Type: Bluetooth
Notes: These are the lightest of the wireless earbuds and are a combination over-the-ear with in-ear buds. This combination is good because there are more points where the weight is distributed over your ears which should reduce potential for ear pain.

Koss HB60's

Price: $42
Signal Type: Infrared
Notes: This is an interesting product because it's really an interchangable infrared transmitter and receiver. A set of clip on headphones are included with these, but they are notably uncomfortable. This isn't really an issue though as you can swap them out with a standard pair of wired earbuds or headphones. These are a good option if you don't want to spend too much and already found a pair of earbuds that have good comfort.

Logitech FreePulses

Price: $80
Signal Type: Bluetooth
Notes: Good product with stong build quality. However one drawback is that the unadjustable earclips are very uncomfortable. If you aren't moving around when wearing these, one option is to just remove the plastic ear hooks off of the headphones. They can stay in place without them as long as you are stationary.

Sony DRBT21G/B's

Price: $58
Signal Type: Bluetooth
Notes: These are probably the most popular over-the-ear style headphones as far as favorable reviews go. Similar build quality to the Logitechs but without the awkward ear loop.
10/25/2010
Earbuds for small ears
photo by tanakawho
A lot of earbuds don't fit that well, and this can be especially true if you have small ears. Earbuds like the classic white ones that come with the iPod are not very flexible, and will often incorrectly fit their owner. There is also risk from wearing earbuds that are too large because they can put pressure on the inner ear canal, causing pain during use. However, instead of suffering with this there are a couple of alternatives you can try.

More recent earbuds come with gel tips instead of the older showerhead style plastic ones. Just on their own, this style is a better as the tip of the earbud is more pliable. A lot of earbuds, like these Sonys come with detachable ear tips so you can use the smallest ones they come with. Also, if you want to avoid buying new earbuds, you can look if there are any replacement tips for the model you already own. There are many brand and off-brand options that you can look for at Amazon.

Another option is to buy child versions of earbuds like these Ultimate Ears. Since these are made for kids they are already a small size, so no switching of eartips necessary. However, one thing to be aware of is that they have a noise limiting feature to prevent to volume from going too loud. This could be something you may or may not prefer to have.

Finally you could try avoiding the standard in-ear earphones all together. An over-the-ear style model may be a good alternative. Since the earbuds are held in place with clips, you wont have to shove the earpiece as snugly in you ear which will allow some extra space.
10/18/2010
Long earbuds for giraffes
photo by mape_s
Earbuds are usually good enough for normal use but are not designed for everything. Some of the standard earbuds may come with cables too short for your needs. Maybe you have a roommate who goes to bed earlier than you do and need a longer cord so you can use earbuds when sitting away from the TV. Perhaps you are an abnormally tall person and standard earbuds are just a little short for you.

One option is buying a pair of retractable earphones. The benefit of these is that you'll have less tangles since the cord should be neatly rolled back into the housing after each use. A drawback is the thin cables that allow them to roll-up. They could potentially break from repeated use or improper care. Also, if you are looking for a really long cord these wouldn't be adequate as they usually cap out at 3-6 ft. Be selective when purchasing these, as a lot of the earbuds that come in a retractable style are made by off-brand companies with dubious quality. There are a couple of good pairs made by well-known companies though: Sony-MDR-KX70LW and Sony-MDR-Q68LW

If you don't want to buy a new pair of earbuds, you can just get an audio extension cord. They come in various lengths from three all the way up to 25ft, and are compatible with the standard 3.5mm audio jack. The best thing is that these are cheap and at most should run you ten bucks. Extension cords can also be bought in retractable versions if that is your preference.

Finally, if you aren't keen or extension cords or retractable earbuds, you can just get some with a little longer cords. Two common earbuds with cords that are a little longer are the SONY MDR-EX36V's and the Skullcand Ink'd line that come with cord lengths of 3.9' and 4.25' respectively.
10/11/2010
Rubber duckie earbuds, by DCI
If you are looking for a unique pair of earbuds, you might want to get a pair of funny rubber duckies. These novelty earbuds are from Decor Craft, Inc, a company that offers an array of tchotchkes (I.E sushi magnets and inflatable moose heads). In addition to ducks, these earphones also come in pig, frog, and ladybug varieties. All of these styles as well as a few more intersting ones can be found through resellers at Amazon.

Obviously these earbuds are being bought for the look more than anything so don't expect high sound quality. Expect similar sound to many of the discount models that can be found online.
10/8/2010
Bulk purchase
photo by AndyRob
Earbuds are already pretty inexpensive, but there are still situations where you need them cheaper. Airlines, buses, and other transportation services offer disposable earbuds as a convenience as do offices that have waiting areas like the dentist or the doctor's. Buying them in stores at even the lowest price points could still run you over thousands of dollars if you are offering them to lots of people.

The sites that most commonly offer earphones in bulk are auction style sites. So of course you can find them at the most famous site, eBay. When using the site, search the site for "wholesale earbuds". Use this term when searching other sites as well as this is the most common accepted term for them. Alternatively you can try the following link: Wholesale earbuds at eBay

Another good site is DHGate, which has many options for buying in bulk. When using this site make sure to set up a price filter as there are a lot of more expensive earphones offered in bulk that wouldn't be good as a cheap option. Buy earbuds in bulk at DHGate

AliExpress is a site like DHGate, again remember to sort by price as there are a lot of other more expensive earbuds returned in your search. More bulk earphones at ALiExpress

Liquidation.com is another site offering wholesale items. This site lists the conditions of the earbuds, if there are New, Returns, Salvaged, etc. So make note of the condition before you buy. Also, this site doesn't show price/per unit in your search results, so you have to navigate to the details page to get this information. So a little less user friendly than DHGate or AliExpress, but still worth checking out.

This is just a small set of the vendors online that you can buy wholesale earphones from. If there any other sites you like to use, send a mail to contact@noisereducingearbuds.com to add it to the list.
9/8/2010
Q: Why do my earbuds give me an electric shock?

Lightning Bolt!
photo by Kyle May
A: There are a couple of reasons you can get an electric shock from your earbuds, the most common is from static electricity. When you are moving, the earbud cord will move back and forth against the clothing you are wearing causing static. Wool or fleece tops are especially likely to create static electricity that can discharge through your earbuds.

Although static electricity can happen at any time it is more likely to occur in the winter months. Wearing clothing made from natural fibers instead of synthetics can reduce the chances of static buildup. You can also apply an anti-static spray to clothing to help combat this problem.

Another cause can be from earbud damage. This can be from either water damage, which is most commonly caused by sweat from exercising. Cord wear from improper earbud care can be another reason. If your earbuds look worn, check that the cord is not damaged in any areas. Reduced cord insulation of your earbuds can increase the likelyhood of static buildup and the chance you will get a shock. If your earbuds look heavily damaged it may be a good idea to replace them.

9/3/2010
Sony EX35B
The Sony MDR-EX35B's are inexpensive earbuds that you can find in most retail chains like Best Buy or Target. They come in bright blue and red varieties as well as well as a multi-color version in red and blue. These earbuds are the eartip style which have flexible rubber tips that snap over the earbud speaker.

In general I prefer the rubber eartip style of earbud and think they provide a better fit than older "showerhead" style buds. (For reference, earbuds like the standard white ipod earbuds or the jvc gumy use what I call the showerhead style.) These earbuds come with three different sizes of eartips (S/M/L) so it is more likely that you will get a snug fit. The silicone material used is a thick yet soft, and offers a very comfortable fit. A few times I even forgot I was wearing these earbuds.

The sound quality is on par with other models in the price range, but nothing exceptional. In some cases the sound output seemed a little weaker than I thought it should. I had to adjust the sound up a few notches to get the desired loudness. It was still acceptable though, because when I had the sound up adjusted up higher I didn't get a rattling or tinny sound that earbuds can often make.

One thing to be wary about is that there are a considerable amount of reviews online bringing up concerns about durability. While earbuds in general have problems with durability, the complaints for these seemed a bit higher than usual.

Overall I still think these offer good performance for their price tier, but the durability complaints have me worried about longevity. (I haven't owned these long enough to comment on the durability so I will write back once I do). These are usually found for thirty dollars, which I think is a little high though. If you look around you can likely find these for twenty which I think is a more reasonable price.


Pros:
- Good bass for the price
- Great comfort
- Good for people who like bright colors

Cons:
- Questionable durability
- Limited color options
- Low sound levels
7/24/2010

photo by ellenm1
If you are tired of the styling of traditional earbuds and would like to mix it up, there are a bunch of wooden versions available. Wooden electronics bring back the old styling of the past and harken from a time when electronics weren't changing so rapidly. Old clock radios and record players were often made out of oak and cherry and this conveyed a more durable good.

While I doubt adding wood will improve the durability much, these wooden earbuds do carry a more timeless look than the traditional variety. One possible benefit is that being made to look like a product that lasts longer might subconciously make you keep better care of it. Here are some reviews of the more popular wooden earbuds around:



Skullcandy Holua
[via boingboing]

JVC Victor
[via engadget]

iFrogz Timbre
[via macnewsworld]

EcoMation earbuds
[via treehugger]

Woodees IESW100B
[via cnet]


7/18/2010
Earbuds are a convenient piece of electronics. They are compact, fit into your pocket, and provide hours of great music from your media player. However, leaving them in your ears too long can have some downsides, often leading to ear pain. Here are five ways to reduce pain from earbuds and to allow a better listening experience.

1 - Keep your earbuds clean.
Unlike headphones, earbuds come into direct contact with your ear canal. This can cause germs to build up on the speakers and lead to potential painful infection. To help prevent this, make sure to clean off your earbuds regularly. If you are using foam covers, make sure to replace them every so often to prevent germ build-up.

2 – Make sure you are wearing earbuds that are the correct size.
If you have smaller ears some of the larger earbud models might not be right for you. Earbuds that are too large for your ear can cause pain by adding too much pressure to your ear canal. Make sure you purchase earbuds that fit properly in your ears. Look for models of earbuds with assorted eartips of different sizes to help with correct fitting.

3 – If you are exercising, use sport earbuds.
Although convenient, not all earbuds were made for rigorous athletic activies. When running, earbuds can bounce around in you ears which can lead to pain. Also, contantly putting earbuds back in your ears after they fall out can cause irritation after a while. There are a couple varieties of sport earbuds on the market that stay in place during sports.

The most common is the over-the-ear version of sport earbuds. These work by having a solid piece of plastic that goes over your ears and back behind your head. (Like wearing a pair of sunglasses backwards). The benefit of this design is that is prevents pain because no weight is being applied to your inner ear.

Another method that is found on the Sennheiser MX75's as well as other models is "Twist to fit". This uses an adjuster knob to lock the earbuds in place. These may take a while to get adjusted correctly so just be patient when fitting them to your ears.

4 – Turn the volume down.
Since earbuds don't cover your ears like traditional headphones, you can still hear a lot of noise in the surrounding environment. You may be tempted to turn the volume up to drown out the outside noise, but don't do this. Turning your volume up too high can lead to ear pain and potentially hearing loss. If you are concerned by hearing outside noises you may want to look at pairs of earbuds that offer noise isolation. These types of earbuds fit snugly into your ears ad reduce the amount of ambient sound that passes through.

5 – Take a break.
If you have a long flight, it may be tempting to leave your earbuds in the whole time. But earbuds cause constant pressure on your ears which can turn to pain if left in long enough. Take breaks when you are plan on wearing earbuds for long durations.

7/5/2010
Q: Why is one earbud cord longer than the other?

A: On some earbuds you'll notice the length of cord is longer on one side than the other. This is by design and serves a couple of functions. Having different lengths makes it easier to wrap the longer cord behind your neck. Wearing the earbuds like this keeps the slack away from your face when moving around.

Also, uneven cords are better when you are carrying around your mp3 player in your pocket. If you keep the mp3 player in the pocket on the same side as the shorter cord, your earbuds will hang more evenly. When you have earbuds with an even amount of cord on both sides, the earbud on the opposite side of the mp3 player will have additional strain on it. This is because the it is being pulled across your body instead of directly down like when there are uneven cords.

7/4/2010
Standard earbuds, like the ones that come with your iPod, stay put by resting in your ear canal. This works fine when just sitting around the house but doesn't work while exercising. Any activity more demanding than walking can have you continually stopping your workout to adjust them. Having earbuds that don't stay put is annoying and ruins the flow of your exercise.

Here are two solutions for earbuds falling out

Exercise Adapters

These adapters add an over-the-ear clip to your white iPod earbuds. This makes them much more stable and alleviates the need for the earbuds to have a perfect fit in your ear. Beyond exercising, these can also be a good solution if you get ear pain when wearing standard earbuds. There is more area over the tops of your ears so the weight of the earbuds can be distributed more evenly.

Price: About $10


Sport earbuds

If your are willing to buy an new set of earbuds there are a lot of sports versions that are custom made for use while running. Two earbuds that are recommended are the Sony MDR-J10 h and the Sennheiser MX85 Sport Series II's.

The Sony's are a great value option and can be had for under ten dollars. This is a good pick if you are worried that you will still break a few pairs when working out. These are at a price point where replacing them won't be too costly. The Sony's stay in place using an over-the-ear clip like the earbud adapters mentioned earlier.

Price: About $10




The Sennheiser MX85 Sport Series II's are another popular model of sport earbuds. This pair has “twist to fit” which uses adjustable stoppers that press against the outer ear to lock them in place. This is a good pick if you want earbuds that are less bulky than the over-the-ear variety. Finding the correct fit on these earbuds is key and it may take a bit of tweaking with the sizing knob to get a fit that stays in your ears.

Price: About $30
7/3/2010
Sometimes it seems like earbud cords are designed to make the greatest amount of tangles possible. When taking earbuds out of our bags or pockets the minutes long ritual of untangling cords can get very frustrating. A few resourceful people have thought of some home-grown ways to prevent your earbuds from getting into a tangled mess.

Paracord earbud sleeve

By wrapping your earbuds in a reinforced sleeve, it reduces the bendability of your cords, thereby preventing tangles. This hack requires cutting your earbud cords and soldering them back together. So you must be comfortable with a soldering iron and possibly sacrificing some sound quality.

paracord sleeves [via instructables]

Foam caddy

Using salvaged foam, fashion yourself a homemade earbud caddy using your ingenuity and a pair of scissors. A couple of different cut-out patterns are offered. A great way to save from buying one of these in the store.

foam caddy [via wonderhowto]

Credit card caddy

Another neat homemade caddy idea using old credit cards. Although not mentioned in the linked article, it may be smarter to use a extra super market card or a gift card that didnt have any value put on it. That way you aren't walking around with something you'd be worried about losing. Also, if using this idea make sure not to wrap the cords too tightly. Wrapping earbud cords around the sharp edges of a plastic card could cause accelerated wear.

credit card caddy [via instructables]

Cord wrapping

Just taking the time to wrap your earbud cords before putting them away can prevent a mess. Here is one easy way to wrap them.

cord wrapping technique [via lifehacker]

6/15/2010
If you look at a traditional home stereo speaker you can see that it's made of multiple speakers of differing sizes. On the bottom is the largest speaker, the subwoofer which is responsible for bass. The subwoofer is the largest because to handle lower frequency sounds the speaker must be sturdier as well as more durable. Since earbuds are so small, it impacts their ability to produce a quality bass sound. When listening to music with heavy bass you may notice a crackling or muffled sound with standard earbuds.

However, there are some earbuds on the market that produce a better range of sound and are designed to better handle bass. If you look at these types of earbuds, one thing you'll notice is that they are slightly larger in size. Besides the obvious advantage of producing better bass, they are a bit more durable. If you are regularly having trouble with your earbuds breaking, you may want to consider buying a set of bass earbuds.

Here are some popular models of bass earbuds ordered by price. Most are under $50 and all are under $100.

V-MODA Bass Freq Earbuds

Out of all the pairs of bass earbuds these are the lowest priced. The V-Moda's offer noise isolation an are available in several different colors.

Price: About $20

Sennheiser CX 300 II

The Sennheiser CX 300 II's offer excellent bass and sound quality for a low price point. These pair of earbuds are our value pick.

Price: About $30

Sony MDR-XB40EX

The Sony MDR-XB40EX's are a pair of value bass earbuds and offer good performance for a reasonable price. Also, they are bulkier so if you are looking for more durable earbuds you should consider these.

Price: About $40

Klipsch IMAGE S4

Although a lot pricier than the other models of bass earbuds, we had to include the Klipsch Image S4's. These offer a premium bass sound and perform equal to earbuds priced well over $100.

Price: About $80
6/9/2010
Although not as expensive as our mp3 players, earbuds are still pricey electronics accessories. Care for them is often overlooked and leads to them getting scratched, damaged, or broken prematurely.  Replacing earbuds over time can be costly. So much so that for some people, buying replacement earbuds can exceed the total cost of their media devices.

Since earbuds dont have the benefit of the over-the-head band that traditional headphones have, they must be small and lightweight. This is to both prevent ear strain when hanging in your ears, as well as to be small enough to fit within the ear canal of all people who buy them. Having small earbuds makes them nice and portable, but it is also the reason for their poor durability. 


Here are some ways to increase earbud durability and get a longer life out of them:

Make sure to always clean out your pockets before doing the laundry. It is very easy to leave your earbuds in your pockets and wash them. Obviously, water damage is very bad for electronics. Even though there is a chance the they will still work, it is likely that you broke them or at the very least reduced their longevity.

Consider buying a soft carrying case. When transporting your earbuds they are frequently the smallest item in your bag. A small case can prevent them from being hit full force by the other objects moving around in your backpack.  The added bonus is that a carry case restricts the movement of the earbud cords and can reduce the amount of tangles you get.

Don't blast your earbuds at full volume. The speakers are not made to be used at this level and it will cause them to quickly degrade and burn out.  Aside from earbud care it is also important not to do this to preserve your hearing.

Check the plug for any residue or dirt and clean it off if you find any. The contacts require a nice fit for information to travel from your media player to your earbuds.  It will also prevent any residue from getting into your media player's audio jack which is much more difficult to clean out.

Don't wrap you earbud cords too tightly when storing them. Wrapping the cords too tightly can stretch them out and weaken them. This is often the reason why the sound will become lower in one earbud or the sound doesn't come out at all.

When not listening to your mp3 player, remove the plug from it. If you leave it plugged in when in your pocket it can cause it to get bent as well as loosen the connection on your media player jack. This is a common cause for when you only get sound coming out of a single earbud.

Hopefully this short post has given some helpful tips preventing the most common ways earbuds break.  If you have any of your own methods for earbud care, please feel free to mail them to contact@noisereducingearbuds.com
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