5 Worst Mistakes in Buying Earbuds & Headphones
Unfortunately, earbuds are more of a disposable resource than an unending fountain of audio quality and euphoria. Only a few months go by, and they bust, forcing you to either risk a sketchy surgery operation which reduces quality, or go out and shop for a new pair which you’ll never be sure was worth the money in the first place.
Furthermore, a depressing number of people can hardly tell the difference between an audiophile tier product and $15 Best Buy earbuds. This guide will help you avoid the most objectionable mistakes that audiophiles know and avoid to ensure they get the most satisfaction out of the product possible.
1.) Fashion over function mentality
We’ve all been there. I know you have, and I know I have. What I’m talking about is that dirty situation we all find ourselves in when you’re taking a long flight that departs in 15 minutes, and you realize that your most prized possession ever- your earbuds- have been left unremembered on the top of your bedroom dresser at home.
Panic rushes through your veins, and suddenly images of crying babies and snoring geezers flood your mind- how are you ever going to survive the 4 hour flight to Somewhereville without noise-isolating earbuds? How are you going to watch the movie on your phone or tablet will kill over half the transit time? How are you going to survive a weekend with your distant family members without a reasonable social excuse to block out their noisy mouth noises?
You have an idea! There’s an iffy electronics store only 10m away, and better yet, you can keep one eye on the information desk to ensure a crowd of people doesn’t rush to the forefront before you can get a chance to claim your position within the awkward pre-line-up expectation crowd. You’ll just pop in there, shell out 15 dollars for the most pretty looking earbuds, then get out of there before things get too crazy at the departure gate.
The earbuds last over 5 months, and you start to like them. Afterwards, you head to Best Buy and get the same ones that you had as before.
You just purchased the most over-priced electronics in audiophile history.
- Sure they look pretty, but the fashion of them makes the cost-to-benefit ratio absolutely terrible
- Name brand electronics like SkullCandy and Sony come with the expectation that they’re better, but really you’re paying for the brand and advertising
- It is widely accepted that they’re not marketing to anybody who has a professional opinion on the matter- they mostly market to teenagers
- Lastly, you’re paying for the middleman- the retail store, its employees, its marketing, and the electricity used to run it
Okay, we’ve all been there. However, from this point forward you should start shopping off the internet, and make every effort to find the most unreasonably over-delivered audiophile product out there! From now on, there’s no excuse for buying anything big brand labeled. Period.
2.) Noise Cancelling Capability
Sounds awesome, right?
We’ve all seen the advertisements of a middle-class business man inculcated in the pure bliss of listening to the tranquil sounds of a Brazilian river bed while not being bothered by so much of a whisper of that screaming baby in the seat next to him. I’m going to tell you straight up: this is purely marketing- that is, unless you’re actually willing to shell out an enormous amount of money for the capability, which you shouldn’t be.
In general, don’t be fooled into thinking that noise cancellation is anything worth paying attention to. There are several reasons for this:
- Unless you pay around $300, it will never block out all noise.
In concept, it’s an awesome idea. Broadcast the opposing frequency to cancel things out. This idea basically only works well for low, continuous noises, like engine rumbling and jet noises. Don’t expect it to block out loud conversations and obnoxious baby screaming.
- There’s often a high-pitched squealing noise when they’re on
It’s true, and there’s really no way to get rid of it. Even the high end systems have this!
- The luxury of the fact is more than it is worth
The fact is, if you just simply go for some amazing noise-isolation earbuds, you can truly get away with just turning the noise up a bit. If you just spend equally as much on an actually quality system, then you won’t be bothered by the noises anyway, because the noise isolation ability at that level of product is absolutely spectacular most of the time.
3.) Surround Sound is ludicrous
I’m going to be as blunt as possible- being able to hear the footsteps of the enemy in Call of Duty or whatever doesn’t constitute spending $70 extra for an otherwise useless feature in headphone technology. Having surround sound vastly reduces the quality in comparison, because instead of 2 high performance drivers, there’s 7 useless drivers. You generally won’t find any respectable audiophile product producing company selling these- generally only pretentiously oversold name brand companies like Turtle Beach or Logitech.
Secondly, getting the exact positioning isn’t as helpful as the concept implies.
Stereophonic sound is more than enough for your brain to fill in the gaps as to the exact positioning of the matter. Don’t believe me? Look up the barbershop video on YouTube (linked) to see how powerful your brain really is.
4.) Including a microphone is even more ludicrous
Based on the same reasoning above, you should by no means look to include a terrible inclusive microphone to your headphone system. Just slapping it on and labeling it a “gamer headset” has fooled hundreds of thousands into spending twice as much for a feature that can be picked up separately on Amazon for $3. The only exception might be when you’re looking for something that will work on an iPhone or similar technology, which has only 1 port.
5.) If you can, avoid specifics
Some people will look for specific things, such as a long cord, or whether or not it has a certain style, like white or black. Most quality earbuds will be black. Aesthetics are important, but going after something like that will cost you. Likely you can just browse through the top rated headphones and find the one that looks the best!
If you just avoid these basic mistakes that you learned in less than 10 minutes, I’m confident that every product you do decide to go after will be twice as cost efficient. Go for something from JVC for low end, but their high end is so-so. Research anything above $40. This site has some great recommendations, too.
This guest post is by Chad Bourke, an experienced audiophile who says he has been taking things apart since he was 8 years old. He loves writing about technology and audio equipment, and has written authoritative articles for prominent sites across the web.
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