What's the best earbud shape
February 28, 2005 7:52 PM   Subscribe

I've recently broken the cheapass earbuds I use at work to listen to internet radio and am trying to figure out what cheapass replacement I should go look for.

Maybe I'm just too picky. I'm never happy with my earphones. The primary function of the music at work is to keep me from hearing my cubicle neighbors, especially the guy who likes to whistle/drum/play loud religious music. I wear glasses, so the type of earphones with the hooks that go around the back of the ear tend to interfere with my glasses earpieces and become uncomfortable. I have long hair which I wear in upsweeps that can interfere with headbands, and also I do answer the phone and the band-attached style can be hard to quickly pull off of one ear. Earbuds work ok for the comfort/ease-of-removal aspect, but don't feel very secure and the ones I've used don't quite block enough outside noise. I'm not an audiophile - as long as the sound quality's not overwhelmingly bad, I'm fine. Primarily I'm trying to figure out the best combination of comfort/ease-of-removal/stability/sound-coverage. What sort of earphones should I be looking for?
posted by Karmakaze to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I find the big thing is to put the foam pads on the earphones. Do you have them? They increase the staying power quite a bit and provide some isolation.
posted by josh at 8:00 PM on February 28, 2005

Sony MDR-EX71SL Fontopia in-ear headphones. They're cheap ($35), they go pretty deep in your ear, and they block sound very well. Apple has a version of these too, for a few bucks more.
posted by smackfu at 8:02 PM on February 28, 2005

Your mileage may vary, but the Koss "The Plug" headphones appear to be the cheapest earplug-type headphone out there. There are plenty of more expensive ones out there (Shure) if you're an audiophile. There are threads about modifying these for better sound.

These types of earphones are difficult to fit on me because I have a very small ear canal. Makes it a pain to get lots of things to fit. So, try before you buy if you can. I couldn't use any of the included foam earplug surrounds on my "The Plug" and had to make my own as mentioned onthe headwize site. This barely worked.

So, you should be looking for what's referred to as "in-ear" phones or "canalphones". Great isolation--basically a set of earplugs with tubes for sound through them.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:10 PM on February 28, 2005

I have the Sony earbuds that smackfu mentioned. They work well enough and seem to fit your specifications.
posted by reverendX at 8:19 PM on February 28, 2005

I'll third smackfu's suggestion, but stay away from the apple in-ear headphones, as they are reported to be uncomfortable.

Check out ipodlounge for reviews of all sorts of ear-bud headphones (scroll down to Head|Earphones). However, to save you some time, they end up recommending the aforemtioned Sonys for those in a cheaper price range.
posted by thewittyname at 8:22 PM on February 28, 2005

I'll second the iPodLounge, and add that in that community, many people prefer the Sony EX51's, which are cheaper and have a cord that is a more manageable length. Also the EX71's have a different cord configuration that I have heard complaints about.

The EX51's are the same headphones, but with a standard cord length and configuration.
posted by synecdoche at 8:37 PM on February 28, 2005

Apple's in-ear headphones really fucking suck.
posted by subgenius at 8:39 PM on February 28, 2005

I too don't like anything lassooing my ears and I just bought the Sony ones. I thought they would be cheap (since they're the same price as the Apple ones, $40, and I don't especially like Sony), but woah, there were entire instruments missing from my music experience. I bought the lesser version of the buds, the MDR-EX51LP, which just don't compensate for a remote but are otherwise exactly the same. The buds slip right in your ear and block everything out; no need to force these babies to fit right. And they came with three sizes of rubbers.
posted by scazza at 9:05 PM on February 28, 2005

I've recommended ThePlug from Koss before, and I'll second RikiTikiTavi and myself again here. Most consumer electronics stores carry them, but overcharge for them. $19.95 at Best Buy last time I looked. Instead, shop for them at Borders where they tend to be $14.95 or less.
posted by xiojason at 9:43 PM on February 28, 2005

I tried "The Plug" based on a recommendation from here. Wasn't impressed. They weren't that comfortable & they wouldn't stay in. (They come with a hexagonal foam bit for your ear, among other shapes.) I've got the 71SL's now & I love them. They're are the best earbuds I've ever used. I'm not an audiophile, though. And, FWIW, I found the standard earbuds that came with my ipod literally painful. It was the single largest discordant note about the ipod. (The 71SL do have a very strange cord, but the short cord without extension is perfect for use with an arm-mounted player at the gym.)
posted by Wood at 10:01 PM on February 28, 2005

I'd also suggest the Sonys. I've got the 51's, and absolutely love them. When you have them at a normal listening volume, they block out tons of background noise. By turning them up a little more, I can block out the TV that my roommate's watching accross the room. They're really comfy, too. I can wear them for hours, without any problems. They could take a couple days to get really used to them, but now I won't use anything else.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 11:24 PM on February 28, 2005

the EX71's have a different cord configuration that I have heard complaints about

The cord on these is a little different (designed to hang behind your neck) They're easy to get used to and sound very good for the money.
posted by Yukon at 5:59 AM on March 1, 2005

I have the Sony 51's too, and they're awesome.
posted by bshort at 7:07 AM on March 1, 2005

I don't know about comfort, but if you want earbuds that you can just yank out without worrying about breaking them (because you can just buy more), check the local dollar store. I bought a $1 set just for the foam pads (to replace the foam on my phone headset), and they sucked less than you would think.
posted by bh at 11:02 AM on March 1, 2005

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