I Hate Earbuds

For years I have been using Sennheiser PX 100 headphones with my iPods. (They no longer exist, and have been replaced by the Sennheiser PX 100-II.) Yesterday, my headphones finally died. There had been a drop in volume on the right channel for a while, and I realized it was the cable breaking, just at the point where it comes out of the reinforcement around the jack. Last night it broke, and the right channel died.

I’m replacing them with the newer PX 100 II-i, which is essentially the same, with the addition of an inline remote and volume button, designed to work with the iPod and iPhone. But in the meantime, until they are delivered, I have to use my Apple earbuds.

I hate earbuds. They don’t stay in my ears, and I have to constantly move them around to get balanced sound. If I lie down, they fall out. And while the sound is not necessarily bad, it’s not as good as over-ear headphones. (I hate in-ear and in-canal buds even more; I hear my breathing far too much to enjoy listening to anything.) I guess some people have ears that work better with earbuds, and some don’t mind if the balance isn’t ideal. But I hate them. I just thought I’d share this.

Does anyone else feel this way?

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16 replies
  1. Peter Cohen says:

    Me too. In 10 years, I have never found a pair that fit right. Like you, I generally opt for cans that fit over the ears instead. They don’t work out well for all situations, however.

    So I was at a gamer show recently (PAX East) and a new custom earbud company was there called Zombie EarGear. I’ve heard Jim Dalrymple and others rave about having custom earbuds for years, but have always been put off by the extraordinary price (top-end Ultimate Ears inserts, aimed at pro musicians, cost $1000). But for $150 I figured I’d give them a chance.

    Anyway, fast forward to yesterday, my Zombie OneBites showed up, finally. They’re quite comfortable and it’s remarkable to have earbuds that fit, for once.

    Looking at them, it’s no wonder that earbuds never fit me right: each side is radically differently shaped and my auditory canal is also peculiarly narrow.

    Anyway, I realize they’re a real extravagance, but if ever get the opportunity, custom earbuds might be worth looking into.

    Reply
    • kirk says:

      Peter, I actually have a set of Ultimate Ears in-ear monitors that I got from the company many years ago. They fit perfectly, but I find that the sound comes too close to my eardrums, and they fatigue me very quickly. It’s a shame, because they’re expensive, and, as they’re molded, they only work on my ears.

      I might want to try something that is molded but doesn’t go into the canal. Do yours go far in?

      Reply
      • Peter Cohen says:

        They fit far enough in to make the first “turn” into my auditory canal, which keeps them very snugly fit. I haven’t worn them for a long enough stretch yet to judge them on fatigue, in fairness.

        Reply
  2. G. Beurlen says:

    I have some earbuds too, those from Apple, and some others from Sony, and yes, I have the same problems with them. Now I mostly use the SennHeiser PX 100-II like you.

    Reply
  3. R. SYRE says:

    You can throw those earbuds (aka earbads) into the ocean. With my iPods (original and now iTouch) I used my AKG K340′s for shear sound enjoyment…but only for an hour or so because of their weight. Now I use the Grado SR 80′s and pretty good sound but VERY comfortable.

    You’re right about our age taking it’s toll on listening enjoyment. Evaluations on any products should be personal and not general since we’re ALL experiencing hearing loss to some degree.

    Reply
  4. Aaron Meurer says:

    You’d think earbuds would be better for lying down, because you could at least sort of lay on your ears.

    Reply
  5. mark turik says:

    i love my ear BUD. yes that right, i listen to audio books every night when i go to bed. Basil Sands now – incredible series of books! highly recommend. well, anyway since i sleep on my side i use only one ear bud. its mono anyway! head phones are the best for music but for me one ear BUD is king!

    mark turik

    Reply
  6. Russell Higham says:

    I have just ordered a pair of Sennheiser HD-201′s for £13 (about $20) on Amazon after reading all the positive reviews. I hate ear-buds too and suffer from a susceptibility to ear infections which means that I should try to avoid them.
    Out of interest, Kirk: I’m interested to know which iPod variant (classic, touch, nano, etc.) you use mainly. I have recently bought a MacBook Pro (switched from PC) and am amazed to find true all the comments I’d heard (including yours on a recent MacWorld podcast) about iTunes being a “different animal completely” on a Mac, as opposed to a PC!
    Keep up the good work; I really enjoy your blog :)

    Reply
    • kirk says:

      I have all the current iPods – part of my job to know about them – but the one I find myself using most often is the iPod touch.

      Reply
        • Russell Higham says:

          Actually, I already have an iTouch and iPhone. I was thinking of getting an iPod Classic as am attracted by the 80/160GB storage allowing me to take my entire music library with me when I travel. Although, if Apple release a 64GB iPhone 5, that could sway it for me.

          Reply
  7. Stephen Mackenzie says:

    If they don’t work with your ears, then it’s just not going to happen. I, happily, have the correctly shaped ears, and very much enjoy my Sennheiser earbuds. They’re surprisingly well balanced, let in about the right amount of ambient noise, and can be stuffed into a pocket without folding.

    But then again, I’m very fond of my PXC-250s (the closed back ones with the noise cancelling) for trains and planes.

    I think this one is very much a case of YMMV.

    Reply
  8. gary says:

    it might take some effort to find tips or whatever they’re called that will fit. With what you spent on your recent noise canceling headphones, you could have gotten much much much better sounding in-ear monitors. :)

    Reply
    • kirk says:

      I have a top-of-the-line pair of ear monitors, and find them uncomfortable. In general, in-canal buds and monitors hurt my ears, even when I lower the volume. I just don’t like listening like that.

      Reply

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