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In-Ear Headphones Buying Guide


I live my life rather care free, I work from home, I set my own schedule for the most part and I try not to let much in life bother me at all. There is one thing that has always bothered me though, just really irks me is the the fact that people spend an excessive amount of money on a music player or even a phone and then use the stock, cheap ear buds that come with them. I guess there are two types of people out there, those that buy music players to enjoy their music and those that buy them to be trendy and have the latest and greatest tech gadget. I personally fall into the first category, I enjoy my music and I like it to sound good so I pretty much refuse to use the headphones that come with them, the stock just don’t sound good and to me they’re usually not comfortable. Some people like them, and I don’t know why.

Anyway I thought I would share some of my insights with you on what to look for in a set of earphones. The list isn’t in any particular order, I think everything should be taken into account if you’re serious about good sound.

Price is probably the biggest issue for most people. I’ve come to learn that price isn’t everything, but it can play a big part in determining what headphones are better than others. I’m sure many people out there can’t afford to pay hundreds of dollars for a set of headphones, and that could be the reason they settle for the stock ones that are included. You’d be very much surprised that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get decent quality sound and comfort. There are many decent sets out there that can be had for right around $100, but there are also many that aren’t that good. Being a reviewer I’ve had the chance to test earphones ranging in price from $15 up to $300 in price and yes I can say there is a difference between, in fact there are many differences between them and not just the price. What you buy will depend on your budget, but expect to spend between $75 and $150 for a very good set of ear buds that will offer decent noise cancelling and good sound.

Cord Length is something that many people I’m sure don’t even think about when it comes to purchasing earphones. I’ve come to realize that there is no standard length for them at all, some are too long, some are too short and some are just right. The proper length is what would be useful to you, meaning it will reach wherever you need it to whenever and whatever you’re doing. Let’s say you might wear it on your belt, is it going to reach? People are different heights so the length you need will vary from person to person. Some earphones out there come with a nice average length cable, if there is such a thing, but they’ll also come with an extension cable to make them longer if need be. The extension cables have pros and cons. They can be useful of course to lengthen but they could possibly come undone during vigorous exercise and things will be silent for you.

Comfort is another thing to take into consideration, but that’s a hard one to judge without actually wearing them. Now you could spend the money and get custom made ear buds for you, but most people can’t afford that. Higher quality earphones come with several choices of sizes and styles of the actual buds that go into your ear, that way they’ll fit everyone and you’ve got choices. There are usually three types of buds that you’ll find available, mushroom, baffle and foam. Good sets of earphones will come with all three for you to choose from. I personally prefer the baffle style, then the foam and then lastly the mushroom. I’ve learned that the baffle style fits better and they actually seem to help keep the noise out more. The foam styles fit very, very well as you crush them down then insert them into your ear, they expand to fit you personally and they also do a decent job of keeping ambient noises out. The last are the mushroom style, probably the most common you’ll see and these vary in comfort and ability to keep noise out. I’ve also found they vary greatly in size as well; many times I’ve had them where they didn’t really fit in my ears properly.

Accessories are another small thing to consider when purchasing earphones. I say small because I don’t think it should be a deal breaker as to purchase or not. Many higher end sets do come with a carrying case which comes in very handy to not only carry the earphones themselves but to carry the extra buds too. If the inclusion of a case is a major factor in your buying decision then I would look for one that’s well made and tough, in that I mean solid and stiff, not able to be crushed easily. One of my sets actually comes with a little cleaning wire to clean earwax out of the earbuds, it happens, yes it sounds gross but it’s a fact of life. The little tool can come in handy.

Noise reduction should play a big factor in your purchasing decision. This one though is rather hard to determine without actually putting them on and using them like you would normally. The best thing to do would be to look for headphone reviews and see what professionals and other consumers like you say about their noise reduction capabilities and hope they’ll do what you need them to.

Build quality is another important thing to think about. I mean the overall quality and not just the speakers themselves. One thing I look at when reviewing earphones are the wires themselves, are they thick? Are they flexible? Could they possibly break easy? Would I be worried about breaking the cords if I was doing a vigorous activity and it possibly got snagged on something? There are a lot of things to think of when it comes to the cables. The quality of the earphones themselves is important too. You can get them made of metal, plastic of even wood. The material they’re made of can actually affect the sound quality. For example wooden housings have a more soft or natural sound to them.

Sound Quality is the last thing on my list, but most certainly not the least. This one is subjective, or maybe objective, it all depends on you. What kind of music do you listen to? Is it heavy in bass or lows? Is it heavy is treble or highs? Do you like a mix of music? A lot of earphones out there now are made for certain types of music and they’ll tell you right on the box what they’re for. You’ll want to look for full sounding earphones, and ones that are loud. You might think that volume is controlled by your media player, it is to an extent, but I’ve learned that some earphones do offer lower or higher volume levels. Sound quality related things are another you can’t test, or know until you actually get them in your ears, so here again you’ll have to depend on reviews to get an idea of actual sound quality.

So I hope I’ve helped someone out there make a better buying decision, and please, if you like your music, get rid of those stock earphones and get a decent pair.

This is a guest post from Kristofer Brozio at TestFreaks is the world’s largest review comparison site with over 10 million reviews, including lenses, projectors, tvs, mobile phones. 

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