10 Best Earbuds | December 2016
- almost no cable movement noise
- exceptional build quality
- bass sounds a bit anemic
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
- sound pressure level up to 103 db
- produce tight and punchy bass
- have a long burn-in period
|Rating||3.6 / 5.0|
- rugged ergonomic housing
- no distortion at high volume levels
- can be difficult to get a good fit
|Rating||3.6 / 5.0|
- accurate sound reproduction
- tactile in-line remote control
- produce a lot of cable noise
|Brand||B&O PLAY by Bang & Oluf|
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
- ergonomic angled ear fittings
- well-balanced audio reproduction
- come with a travel case
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
- provide good noise isolation
- durable stainless steel construction
- good for all genres of music
|Rating||4.4 / 5.0|
- bluetooth and nfc connectivity
- well balanced sound at any volume
- provide battery level voice alerts
|Rating||4.3 / 5.0|
- produce powerful controlled bass
- very natural acoustics
- stay put securely in most ears
|Brand||Bowers & Wilkins|
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
- passive noise isolation
- sweat and water resistant
- very warm sounding bass
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
- conform to hi-res audio standards
- over-ear hooks are moldable
- comes with 6 sets of ear tips
|Rating||5.0 / 5.0|
Climb Inside Your Ears
There are some catchy tunes out there. It's not always the case that your ability to remember a song is based in some mathematical formula the likes of which Rivers Cuomo is known to use.
In a certain sense, no matter how catchy a song is, as long as you use in-ear buds to listen to it, it's guaranteed to get in your head (see what I did there?)
That's because in-ear headphones utilize a couple of very interesting technologies to execute their specific sound patterns deep inside your noggin.
The one you see pictured here is called bone induction, which works much the way that a tuning fork does.
Sidenote: If you ever want to check whether a bone is broken without the use of expensive x-rays, bang a tuning fork on something and hold the bottom end of it against the area of the suspected fracture.
If the tuning fork's vibration causes you immense pain, your bone is probably broken. If not, you're in the clear. Either way, I just saved you and the healthcare industry hundreds of dollars. You're welcome, America.
Essentially, the vibrations in the buds caused by the low end frequencies translate to the sensitive bones of your aural system, enhancing low end and engrossing you more deeply in the sound.
The other cool thing in-ear buds use are little tapered stoppers on the earpiece, often made of rubber, silicone, or foam. These not only help hold the earbud in place, they do a bang-up job at cancelling noise. They also have a tendency to pull some wax out with them when you take them out, so keep 'em clean.
The Problem Of Glasses
When evaluating the potential performance of a pair of earbuds, it's crucial that you know the environment in which you plan to use them.
If your primary use for these things is going to be out jogging or hitting the gym, you might want something that's designed for a little extra stability in the face of movement.
Even the most expensive, best designed earbuds on the planet can't be guaranteed to stay in your skull while you bounce up and down on a treadmill.
It's not to disparage them; there are just too many variables in play. No two sets of ears are created equal, after all, and designers have to synthesize a ton of data to get their designs to run as far down the middle of the road as they can.
Where does that leave you if you have oddly shaped ears? Well, that's where cord design can make a difference. Some earbuds work like the agent's in the picture; they wrap around the ear from behind for extra security.
If, however, you're a glasses wearer, these get uncomfortable fast.
So, since the odds of you taking your $500 headphones for a run are slim to none, you might be well taken care of by a simple, dangling set of buds with the best sound quality for your sitting and relaxing at home or traveling.
A Budding Industry
Although the history of headphones evolved from sporadic military use alongside the growth of the telephone industry in the late 1800s, it would be a century before earbuds as we call them today would make their first appearance.
Those first buds accompanied early generation Walkman music players. I actually think I owned a pair of these at some point, as their terribly uncomfortable, multicolored bands of metal are bringing back hazy memories for me.
Then 2001 came along, and with that year came the madman who I believe was very thoughtfully played by Michael Fassbender is a recent biopic. I'm talking, of course, about Steve Jobs, and the Apple iPod, the ease of use and iconic white earbuds of which changed the way we listen to music for the foreseeable future.
Since then, audiophiles around the world have demanded that designers pack the kind of sound quality they expect to exist in the high end markets into an earbud.
The results were hit or miss for a while, but with increases in the nuanced use of bone induction and sound cancellation, the little buds have become big players in the industry.