Ask LH: How Can I Stop My Earphone Buds From Breaking?

Ask LH: How Can I Stop My Earphone Buds From Breaking?
Image: Headphone

Dear Lifehacker, After going through my third pair of earphones for my mobile in recent times, I was wondering if there is a “preferred” way to keep the phone in your pocket? Do you have the lead facing upwards from the outside of the pocket, or down towards the groin? I’m sick of my earphones not lasting a year before the connection becomes sketchy. Thanks, Pointed Question

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Dear PQ,

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t be keeping your earbuds in your pocket at all. Earphones contain tiny, delicate components which are notoriously easy to break – especially if the build quality was cheap to begin with. In other words, jamming them in your jeans pocket is just asking for trouble.

With that said, we realise it’s not always practical to carry your music player around in your hand. To cut down on wear and tear, we’d suggest pointing up is better, as there’s no bend near the connector that way. You should also handle them with more care – avoid grabbing the actual buds and be careful how you fold the cable.

The below Lifehacker video offers some wrapping techniques that could extend the lifespan of your headphones:

Another approach is to wrap tape around the cable joins for extra protection. This doesn’t look particularly attractive but at least your earphones will last longer. You can achieve the same effect with Sugru, rubber coating, heat-shrink tubing or liquid electrical tape for a slightly more elegant look.

An alternative strategy is to invest in a Bluetooth headset. Removing the cable from the equation should lead to less breakages and also removes the hassle of tangles. Just be aware that this will run down your battery faster.

If any readers have their own headphone maintenance tips, let PQ know in the comments sections below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Buy a relatively cheap pair that gives you decent quality sound but will break within 9-12 months. They’ll be replaceable under warranty within the first year, and if you get 1.5-2yrs out of a cheap pair of headphones replaced once, you’re doing alright with value for money.

    Stop thinking of these as anything other than a disposable item, and adjust your expectations on dollar-per-year value for them accordingly.

  • My headphones never last more than a few months. Buy a decent pair from Dick Smith, maybe a minimum $60 pair and get the insurance (usually about 10-15 bucks) so you’ve spent about $75 total. When they die get a new pair replaced for free and just spend the 10 -15 bucks again for insurance on the new pair.
    Great way to keep a $60 pair of headphones running for the occasional cost of a cheap pair. And if they last a year and the store insurance runs out… Well that was $75 well spent I reckon.

  • Get a decent pair that come with a case and use the case…. Even if you HAVE to put them in your pocket, at least the case will minimize the damage….

  • What i have found is try to get a pair of headphones with a 90 degree bend at the connector tends to cut down of wire yanking on that side. While also get a clip (to attach to your clothing while in use) for your headphones if you want to decrease yanking at the earbuds. For folding i find loose wrapping around the fingers is suffice.Don’t scrunch them . Been using the same pair of earphones for 3 years now.

  • Headphones are designed to break. They know how people use them and they deliberately don’t make changes to the design in order to make them more robust.

    All but the cheapest should be braided for extra strength. However now it’s extremely hard to find any which are.

  • Invest in some decent headphones, like the Shure SE215, can get them for around $100. They come with a soft case, so keep them in that, even if its in your pocket. The leads are strong but they’re also replaceable (can be detached from the ear drivers) so if they break at least you don’t have to fork out another $100. And they’re sound-isolating, excellent on planes and trains. Well worth the money.

    • This. I used to buy $50 earphones and break one or two pairs a year. Then one year my mum bought me a $200 set of Sony earphones for my birthday. Not only did they sound so much better, those bad boys lasted me 7 years. In the long run, the better quality ones cost less money because they last so much longer.

  • I don’t think the article and the comments above have answered the OPs question, which isn’t about keeping headphones in your pocket, but listening to headphones with your phone in your pocket.

    I’m lucky to get more than 6 months out of a pair of ~$60 headphones because the connector on the 3.5mm plug dies. That’s just from listening while walking with phone in front jeans pocket – not jogging or anything strenuous. Best I’ve found are a-Jays One+, but I’m not sure they still make them.

  • If you must have wired headphones for your phone in your pocket then get some with a right-angled plug. As for whether to have the cable from top or bottom, I’d go top (if for no other reason than a cable snagged on something is going to get ripped out of the socket a little easier).
    Another option is to find trousers with deeper pockets. The pocket depth variance between different brands/styles is quite marked.
    But the best option is to go wireless. OP should bear in mind the trend towards ditching the 3.5mm jack on new phones and get on board the wireless train.

  • Other desirables:
    * a detachable cable. Both my desk headphone and my on-the-go earbuds have detachable cables, so if the cables break, I can replace them.
    * braided cabling or tangle-free cabling, which reduces the amount of torsional stress (twisting), which is often what kills audio cables.

    * I find whether right-angled jacks or straight jacks work better entirely depends on the length of your phone and where the body of the jack sits in your pocket. Because I have a longer Samsung Galaxy S8, a straight jack sit right underneath the hem of the pocket, which is where all the pressure is applied, whereas as 90° jack sits entirely within the pocket.

    Another hack:
    There’s a neat thing you can do with the spring from inside a garden variety pen to reinforce the connection to the jack.

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