In search of the perfect headphones

Posted: July 2, 2013 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hope you’re in the mood for some first-world problems. Because I’ve got a doozy.

To be clear: I’m not asking for the creation of a House subcommittee or anything. But if we can land on the moon and tightrope across the Grand Canyon, shouldn’t we – meaning science and technology experts – be able to create smart and dependable headphones? Yes. The answer is yes.

The time is now because headphones/earbuds are everywhere – at least in my world. I use them at the gym, when doing menial tasks around the house (or in the car), for watching movies when my family is sleeping and to put out the leave-me-alone vibe. (#AntisocialTendencies.) A low estimate on how many hours a day something is stuffed into my ear holes: Three.

Plus, there aren’t that many parts involved – creating the perfect listening experience should be attainable. While acknowledging that’s subjective, here is my reasonable wish list interspersed with complaints about several current sets:

* Cord: Ideally, there wouldn’t be any. Klout sent me (for free, thank you very much) a new Sony model that consists of two earbuds connected by a plastic wire that wraps around the back of my head. An 8GB MP3 player is built in. It would be perfect if not for some sweat-related slippage on my right side and the fact that it’s not WiFi capable – I have to download stuff by hand. Yes, I’m saying that I have the energy to exercise, but not to drag and drop a couple of files. Hey – I said we were striving for perfection. At the moment, that means a corded headphone hooked up to my iPhone.
On that front, the cord needs only to be the right length – long enough to reach a pocket and/or the tray on the front of the treadmill and short enough to not hook onto my hands when running – and sturdy enough not to fray over time. It’s astounding how many models wear out in less than a year.

* Ear piece: I’m flexible on this, too, having tried and liked several kinds. Philips makes sports-based buds that stay in the ear really well even in sweaty conditions. It’s just that the accompanying in-cord mic is clumsy. More on that later.
I have a pair from Skullcandy that hang on the ear – probably my favorites right now. Plus, the company has a lifetime guarantee as proved to me a couple times with different models. Again, I’d prefer not to have a cord and think that earbuds sound better, but I’m desperate enough to settle for durability and a quality fit.

* Mic: In a perfect world, I’d have one set of headphones that serves each of three primary purposes: workouts, general listening and interviews. That will require a built-in mic. However, I’ve yet to find a mic that doesn’t hop oddly and trigger my OCD tendencies when worn during a run.
Actually, the stock iPhone set has a light mic, but the buds don’t stick the way I’d like.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem: Most headphones seem to leave something to desire – many have multiple issues. Or maybe I’m missing something – a Bluetooth version? Perhaps I need to shell out $200 for some Beats by Dre like LeBron James. It’s just that I’ve had so many unimpressive pairs – there are four in my rotation – that it seems hard to justify spending more. I’m anticipating failure. It’s not all that different from buying a pair of cheap sunglasses – a good pair is bound to get lost or broken, anyway.

And so I’ll wait – wait for someone with as much passion about this and more smarts to invent the perfect headphones.

  1. shawnfury says:

    Again, as with many other issues in your life, stop running and it will solve a lot of problems.

    Don’t use earbuds but my own little headphone complaint: These cordless things I tried to use at work. You set up a little contraption for the signal and you’re not supposed to need the cord. Except with two pairs, it works for 1 day, then never. But you can get some static-y radio stations that go in and out. By the second day I’m simply using the cord that comes with it, which sort of defeats the whole point.

  2. Jeff says:

    Have you tried EarPods, as opposed to the old stock Apple earphones?

  3. Jeff says:

    I think they’re worthwhile. The old stock earphones hurt my ears and didn’t stay in well but the EarPods fit in my ears really well and I haven’t had an issue with movement jarring them loose or them slipping. They’re ten dollars cheaper than the Yurbuds that have microphones, but the Yurbuds are water and sweat resistant. I don’t have any experience with the Yurbud microphone, but the EarPod microphone works great, especially with Apple devices.

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