Saturday, April 12, 2008

Audio Guy Mailbag: A Question on Earbuds

This is a perfect follow up to my post about Dr. Kiki.

So earbuds are bad. Are headphones any better than earbuds?

I guess I should clarify. It's not that earbuds themsleves are bad for you, it's how we use them that's the problem.
In the past there has always been a limit to how much we can bombard our ears with directly. A tape would have to be flipped, a cd would be over in under an hour, double A batteries would run out, something would prevent you from being able to saturate your ears for too long. Now with mp3 players (with built in, all day lasting batteries) there's no reason not to soak your ears in sound all day and all night.

Earbuds (the cheap kind that normally come with mp3 players) SUCK for this kind use. They don't create ANY seal around the outside of the ear, so your music is competing with the noise in your environment. The only way to combat that is to turn the volume up higher. The louder the volume, the less time you have before you're doing subtle (but possibly permanent) damage to your hearing.

The alternative is to use ANYTHING with some kind of noise reduction. I like inner-aural earbuds (the kind with rubber or foam that go INSIDE your ear canal), but some people think they're uncomfortable.
You could also check out headphones that have active noise removal (but that might mean keeping some batteries on hand). Regardless, if you can strip out the noise of your surrounding environment, then you can listen to your music at a lower volume, without sacrificing the quality of music (in fact, it'll probably sound better for it), which should give you more listening time before you exhaust your ears.
Right now I use Sennheiser CX300's for listening to music, and Sennheiser HD25-1 II's for recording. I guess I'm just a Sennheiser kinda guy...

At the turn of the millenium, white earbuds were a fashion statement.
Toss em. They're crap.
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