Best Earbuds?
May 13, 2005 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I need to get earbuds for my morning ferry ride to use with my laptop. Which ones are best?

These Sony MDR-EX71SL are what I'm considering at the moment. Anyone have a review or any reccomendations?
posted by Four Flavors to Technology (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't like them, personally. What's your budget?
posted by Jairus at 10:24 AM on May 13, 2005

I use those Sony ones all the time, and I really get on with them...I know there are more expensive and high spec ones - but these do for me and I can own 2/3 pairs for different bags/places etc...
posted by mattr at 10:35 AM on May 13, 2005

Honestly, the only way you're going to get a pair you really like is to try them. I have a pair of Sennheiser buds that came with my player and I like them, but I can find a million reviews that say they suck serious wang. It's not only that they feel different for everyone (some people will find earbuds of a certain make very uncomfortable, while others like them fine) but how they fit is going to have a noticeable effect on how they sound to you.

If you can find a way to try before you buy (or buy at a place with a no-questions return) then do that. Being in Canada, I'd go with Future Shop since they'll take pretty much anything back in the first two weeks without question. I don't know if the US chains do that, however.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:47 AM on May 13, 2005

I use the Sony ones that you are describing. I love them.

I think the sound quality is just fine, but I use them only for listing to stuff on my iPod.
posted by luneray at 10:48 AM on May 13, 2005

oops, *listening*
posted by luneray at 10:48 AM on May 13, 2005

They're ridiculously expensive ($330.00 US dollars), but I bought these from ETYMOTIC and I think they're the best if "best" is really what you're looking for. They really do block out all surrounding sound. The only sound that can't be blocked is the sound of your own breathing, swallowing and hearbeat that you'll hear once the CD stops or you turn off the radio with the ear piece still in your ear.
posted by marsha56 at 10:52 AM on May 13, 2005

To follow up on marsha56's recommendation, Etymotic makes a lower-cost pair of earbuds for travelling, the ER-6.

These are undoubtedly the best earbuds you can buy for listening to digital music on a ferry.
posted by Jairus at 10:59 AM on May 13, 2005

(For under $150, that is)
posted by Jairus at 11:00 AM on May 13, 2005

Response by poster: My budget is under $100.
I'll be primarily using them to listen to video game music/SFX from MAME or other games, so they don't need to be OMG High Fidelity.

I don't know of any stores that will let you try earbuds before you buy (mostly because they always come in those crappy blister-packs), so I guess I'll give these a shot and just send them back to Amazon if they are uncomfortable.

Feel free to post other recommendations though, in case these end up getting returned.
posted by Four Flavors at 11:01 AM on May 13, 2005

I looked at those when I was searching for a little bit better quality earbud (I was using some $3 ones I bought at Fry's). I decided to get the Song MDR EX51LP instead, mostly because I'd read some negative reviews of the 71's due to the extension part of the cord. If you search for the 51 model on Amazon, you'll find that the price varies a few dollars based on the color you buy -- for this reason, I bought pink ones (though they aren't like Hello Kitty pink or anything).

I use them with my ipod and find them to be more comfortable than the earbuds that came with the ipod. They do a decent job of eliminating background noise: our office is in the basement of a wood-floored building with a popular fast food burrito restaurant above us, and the headphones do a good job of removing the footsteps and chairs scooting across the floor from my daily soundtrack.

I'm certainly no headphone expert (as compared to a co-worker with Sennheiser cans and a headphone amp), but the EX51LP's suit me fine.
posted by LeiaS at 11:02 AM on May 13, 2005

Four Flavors, the earphones you mention rule. I have very similar ones. The bass is incredible. I've tried a lot of headphones, and those beat all of them. Well, besides big, huge, fancy headphones, of course.

The earphones have the added bonus of functioning as decent earplugs.

The only thing I don't like about them is that the sounds of my own head while I eat with them on are disgusting.

I haven't gotten to try any of the other in-ear headphones out there. It seems that the only real way to try them out is to find friends that have them.

Also, either the current or last issue of Wired magazine reviews three different models in that style, each by a different manufacturer.
posted by redteam at 11:05 AM on May 13, 2005

I use the EX71SL's as well - bought them on my boyfriend's recommendation. I HAD to get them in white (because, omg, if i got them in black, people might think i was listening to some off-brand mp3 player, or worse, a cd player!) so I paid a few extra bucks, but the sound quality blows away the standard-issue ipod headphones, and it blocks out exterior noise pretty well. My only gripe is that the silicon bud part comes off too easily - I lost one a few months back and had to order a replacement one for about 10 bucks. I now keep my earbuds in the little plastic case that came with them, which makes it a bit of a pain in the ass to get them out and put them away, but overall they are good headphones at a decent price.
posted by salad spork at 11:11 AM on May 13, 2005

Not to be one of those guys--but there are about a zillion AskMe threads about earphones--you should google and find them, they have a lot of advice / comparisons. I personally have asked about earphones in the past.

Short answer: if you have less than $100, buy the Sonys, or, if you want to spend more, the Etys or the Shure E2c. I have the Shures and they're great. But search the archive, there's more.
posted by josh at 11:12 AM on May 13, 2005

Amazon has the ER-6 for $99.99 right here.

I've heard them, and they're nice. I have the ER-4Ps and they're amazing. Dangerous as hell, though, so I rarely where them in public. You can't hear ANYTHING with them in.
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 11:18 AM on May 13, 2005

posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 11:20 AM on May 13, 2005

I like the EX71s, I also have a pair of Shure E2Cs that I was given for christmas that I use when I'm not in situations that may require me to hear outside noises (the E2Cs effectively block out a good amount of my hearing outside of the music).

The main factor for enjoyment with canalphones and earbuds is placement, placement, placement. Make sure you follow the directions they give for getting the 'phone in your earhole. It may feel a bit uncomfy at first, but you'll reap the benefits of much better sound and you'll get used to the feeling (the "pop" of removing them.... that's another thing altogether). I recommend the technique of using your opposite arm, reaching around your head, and pulling up on your ear as you place in the 'phone. Once you choose the right silicone sleeves (the EX71s actually have really nice ones), and you place them in your head correctly, the ex71s are pretty nice considering they are on sale for like $31 at

Some people swear by these type of headphones for all sorts of listening, but if I'm at home, I'd much rather strap on my big old comfy AKGs (circumaural) if I'm doing some critical listening.

Also, if you get serious about your headphones, consider a headphone amp to pull out the missing detail.
posted by GreenTentacle at 11:23 AM on May 13, 2005

I asked a similar question. Based on the commentary, I wound up with the Sony EX51's and I've been happy with them.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:35 AM on May 13, 2005

I have the Sony 71s you mention and while the sound quality and outside-noise-blocking factor is great, the cord is awful. It comes with an extension cord, but to get anything done, I *have* to use the extension part. Without the extension, I'd have to carry my mp3 player on my shoulder or something.

Unfortunately, the jack on the extension cord is a little to heavy so it ends up pulling one of the buds out of my ear. I've remedied this by taking one of those cell-phone head-set clips and attaching that onto the cord and clipping it onto my shirt. Works great!

You might not have noticed, but these earphones are the type that you wear with the cord at the back of your neck instead of in front. It doesn't actual affect audio quality, but I know some people have a preference for the standard (iPod type) cord.
posted by nakedsushi at 11:47 AM on May 13, 2005

I use Etymotic ER-6's and love them. You can get them for $99 from this eBay seller. I love them because I can't hear anything except the music I'm listening to when I have them in. They do a great job of blocking outside sound.
posted by dobbs at 11:52 AM on May 13, 2005

Fontopias, Fontopias, Fontopias! Yes, these are basically what you're looking at. The cord is kinda lame, but I've never had a problem.. besides they're so cheap you can go through a pair a year and it doesn't matter. My current ones have lasted about three years so far, however. My first ones died when I drowned them.. :) They are absolutely amazing. I love them.
posted by wackybrit at 5:55 PM on May 13, 2005

Here's another vote for the Shure e2c. But like the previous posters have said, don't wear 'em some place that you'll need to hear anything. They're enough to drown out airplane noise without any music going through.

Oh, I've seen that some of the Sonys have a funny shaped cord...I'm not sure if the one's you're looking at are afflicted, though.
posted by esch at 5:58 PM on May 13, 2005

I am happy with the Shure E2C. I think the primary reason stores won't let you try them is that they are, as a co-worker pointed out, "not for sharing." They go in pretty deep and will come out coated with a little ear canal candy.

They're an order of magnitude better than the crappy white earbuds that the iPod ships with, and I can actually listen to subtle music while walking over the freeway overpass at rush hour.

They will probably feel uncomfortable the first couple of wearings, so don't despair when you first get them.
posted by jimfl at 5:48 PM on May 14, 2005

« Older Liabilities for loaning/renting out a car   |   Ever interviewed for a job with the AFL-CIO? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.