I’m terrible with headphones. I always wind up either breaking them after a few months of regular use, or I’ll lose them entirely and never find them again. The cables snap, the plastic around the ears crack, or one of the ears will stop working. I think I’m cursed, and don’t want to invest in a nice pair because I’m scared I’ll break them! How can I stop?
Dear Headphone Wrecker,
I used to be like you, always buying super-cheap headphones and earbuds because you knew you’d inevitably lose them. That’s not a huge problem if you buy good cheap headphones, like our favorites, the $ 10 Monoprice 8320s, or the sub-$ 50 Koss PortaPros, one of your favorite headphones. Still, if you want better quality from your music, you’re going to spend more, and even a $ 10 investment should last you as long as possible. Here are some ways to protect your headphones, keep them in good condition, and stop losing them on the commute home.
Learn to Coil Your Headphone Cables So They Don’t Break
I used to go through earbuds pretty frequently too. Every few months, one of the ears would stop working or start crackling and work sporadically. I figured out pretty quickly that I had been routinely damaging the audio cable or the connection to the driver inside the headphones, so even if the outside looked fine, it wasn’t working properly. Once I learned how to coil my headphone cables properly, that all stopped pretty quickly.
We have more than a few methods to coil your headphone cables without losing your mind (along with video so you can see how it’s done) and without damaging your cables in the process. Part of it depends on you, though. Remember: the tighter you coil them, the more chance they have of breaking, so don’t go overboard. My issue was that I caught myself wrapping them too tightly around my phone or my media player, and then letting the earbuds or headphones dangle, putting undue stress on the connection between the driver and the cable. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, it’s easy to fix, and once you stop coiling them that way, you’ll instantly get more life from your headphones.
Reinforce Your Headphones with Sugru or Heat-Shrink Tubing
If the problem you run into with your headphones or earbuds is that the cables keep fraying all the way through, you may be able to shore up your cables with a little Sugru or some heat shrink tubing. Both accomplish similar goals: adding a little protective material around some of the most flexible parts of your headphones where there’s more likely to be stress and bending. Even if your problem is cracking plastic around the earcups of your on or over-ear headphones, a little Sugru (or a squirt of Plasti-Dip) will fix you right up.
We’ve shown you how to repair earbuds with Sugru before, and it works like a charm. While you’re at it, a little Sugru can also help you customize the fit on your earbuds so they’re more comfortable to wear. If you prefer heat-shrink tubing, we have a guide for that, too.
Get Headphones with Removable Cables, or Hack Your Own
If you’re the DIY type, you can hack a good pair of headphones so they have audio cables you can unplug when the headphones aren’t in use. Alternatively, the solution for you might be to buy headphones where the audio cable can be easily disconnected and coiled up away from the headphones themselves. If your problem is that you frequently damage the headphones themselves, this may not help, but the ability to swap out audio cables whenever one stops working is a nice bonus, and not too difficult to find.
Store Your Headphones Properly
This should go without saying, but if you’re still tossing your headphones at the bottom of your bag or coiling up your earbuds and shoving them in a side pocket, you can do better. Get a headphone case for your earbuds or your full-size headphones (they’re available in all shapes and sizes at Amazon) and keep them in there. A good case will protect your investment, even if you have cheap headphones, and will also make sure you don’t lose them—assuming you make it a habit of putting your headphones in their case when you’re finished using them.
Similarly, you can kill two birds with one stone with a simple binder clip. Not only can you use the binder clip to attach your headphones to your shirt, bag, or pocket, but you can also use it to properly wrap your cables for easy storage.
Stop Buying Disposable Headphones
Now, “cheap” is not the same as “disposable” here, but there is a certain “you get what you pay for” element with headphones. If you’re buying throwaway headphones, you’re not going to get build quality that’s designed or expected to last for a long time. You can take good care of your headphones and they’ll last longer, but that will only prolong the life of your headphones for so long. We have some great headphone suggestions and in-ear recommendations, most of which are budget-friendly, offer great sound, and have sturdy, long-lasting build quality as long as you take good care of them. Even the $ 8 Monoprice 8320s are built well enough that they’ll stand the test of time, and the enthusiast crowd at Head-Fi have some great ways to extend their life with DIY mods. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get long-lasting headphones, but you do need to make sure build quality is one of the things you look for when you shop around.
Hopefully these tips will help you buy better headphones or repair the ones you have. I know what it’s like to spend $ 15-$ 20 repeatedly every couple of months on what you hope are headphones that will last a long time, only to be disappointed when they start acting up after regular use. You’re not cursed, we promise!
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