Remember that morning a few years ago you decided to start jogging again. You laced up your shoes, threw on your headphones, got the 90’s r&b playlist queued, and started out the door. Your blood was pumping for about a minute, and then it happened.
Before you could get to the first stop sign, one earbud began cutting out. With each step, the cut worsened until you had to almost glide and hold your head perfectly still to keep it going. And then there was a crackling sound, and then it was gone. Eventually, you took the one earbud out, dangling it on your shoulder, the vibe completely killed.
The bottom line is, If you’ve ever used a pair of headphones, you’ve experienced something like this. You’ve had them break. That’s because the nature of the headphones and small technology once meant making them durable was a chore. I’m here to tell you, though, there’s a new way, and there are now new, more durable headphones than ever.
By taking your time and selecting the right pair for your needs (check this article if you need headphones for mowing the lawn), you can make a headphone purchase that will stand the test of time. Even if your music choices don’t.
How To Choose Durable Headphones and Earbuds
There are a few things you’ll want to pay attention to when purchasing any headphones and a few particular things to look for when choosing the most durable headphones you can find.
When looking at durability in headphones, for manufacturers, style plays a considerable part. That is mainly because style is often influenced by or included in the consideration of things like size, cable versus no cable, removable aux cable versus fixed, Bluetooth versus wired. Possibly the most significant factor is the all-encompassing choice of earbuds versus over the ear, or on the ear headphones. These things all affect headphone durability.
Now, for the earbud crowd, the truth is that even basic over the ear or on the ear headphones up to working-class over the ear headphones (think gaming-specific, dual driver, studio, DJ, and more premium on or over the ear headphones) are generally going to be more durable than their in-ear counterparts. The size of an over-the-ear headphone affords manufacturers the ability to work with a broader range of materials and also reinforce problematic areas. Some over-the-ear headphones even have extra parts like drivers available for when the originals go out.
The obvious downside to over-the-ear headphones is their large size and sometimes isolating effects. And they can be hot. Although there are many over-the-ear headphones specifically made for working out, many people on the go prefer earbuds. If you’re someone who is looking for a durable earbud, don’t fret. There are also plenty of in-ear options out there for you.
Whether opting for in-ear or over-the-ear headphones, the material is something you’ll undoubtedly want to look at.
If choosing over or on the ear, consider headphones with a stainless steel headband. Many less durable over-the-ear headphones come with plastic headbands that are sure to give out with heavy use.
You’ll also want to consider the material over that band. Leather may be a bit on the hot side if you plan on working out in your headphones, but it’s a material well known for its durability.
The material over the ear cups is another area to focus on. Again, you’ll want to look for leather or a durable synthetic covered ear cup to hold up to the continued motion of placing and removing your headphones. And speaking of the ear cup itself, a memory foam interior will hold its shape longer than a lesser quality shaped foam.
Finally, when choosing earbuds or in-ear headphones, although there are premium metal options, you’re mostly looking at a plastic or silicone-covered outer with a tip of either foam, plastic, or silicone. Foam isolates sound a bit better than silicone, but if you’re looking for durability and affordability, silicone is the way to go.
Wired Versus Wireless
Any audiophile (see also best audiophile headphones for gaming) will tell you, without blinking an eye, that wired headphones deliver better sound than their wireless counterparts. Ironically, wired headphones even cost less. The problem, though, with wired headphones is the wire itself.
Headphones cable are weak points in the durability of wired headphones. The solders on headphones are small, and the wires are thin. As a result, even a little too much bend can leave you with no sound in one ear or both. Add to that the fact that by their nature, the cord is hanging from your ears, making them always in the way, and you have a recipe for durability disaster.
If you choose your headphone durability based on the wire or cable, the clear durability winner is the wireless headphone.
If you’re looking for great sound or longer battery life or the need for no batteries at all, you’re probably looking at wired headphones. Wired headphones can be over the ear, on the ear, earbuds, and even wireless but connected. The key to these headphones and their strengths and weaknesses are found in their wires.
Whether high-end cables make a difference in sound quality is up for debate, but a high-end cable is a no-brainer when considering durability. Wires are weak. If you prefer the wired headphone and you’re on a budget, try and find one with a removable cable that you can change when it wears out. If you’re choosing a headphone with a wired cable and looking for the cream of the crop, choose ones with the most robust cable build and a quality design.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t wind the cable into knots if you want it to last. And when you unplug your headphones, pull the plug, not the cord.
Durability is all about your headphones’ lasting. To keep it simple, batteries don’t. From the moment you first use and charge a battery, it grows weaker for the rest of its life. If you want a pair of wired headphones to last, opt for a wired set with the best quality cable you can find.
If you want a pair of wireless headphones to last, choose the ones with the largest battery or longest battery life. Even if the battery wears down over time, you shouldn’t notice much with a long life. If you own or want to purchase Bluetooth headphones, it is also beneficial if you know how to fix Bluetooth headphone charging issues.
If you plan on using your headphones while working out or outside, consider using a sweat and waterproof pair. At minimum, you’ll want something water-resistant. Every water-resistant pair of headphones and most, in general, will come with an IP rating. The second number in the IP rating lets you know how water-resistant the headphones are. A rating of IPX0 means not at all. A rating of IPX8 means they can be continuously submerged. If you’re looking for a pair of headphones to swim with, look for an 8.
At the end of the day, even the highest quality headphones can only take so much. If you’re as tough on your headphones as I am and a company offers a warranty, it’s an absolute no-brainer to get one.
As with most things, often, you get what you pay for. Although, if properly cared for, there are budget headphones that will last, usually a higher price means more r and d behind the headphones. That r and d leads to more features and ultimately to a greater durability to protect those features.
Not every pair of headphones are good for the task at hand. For example, maybe you are here cause your teenager broke their headphones again. If so, we have an article about headphones for teens specifically.