Reason Why Your Headphones Keep Breaking

Burning-in headphones. Photo: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED
Burning-in headphones. Photo: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

There’s a difference between headphones breaking and headphones breaking all the time. If your headphones break every three years, you really have nothing to worry about. That’s just entropy in action. But if your headphones are breaking every three months, you’re likely doing something wrong. If that describes you, then here are some red flags you should be looking out for.

Sincerely,
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. 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.

Improper Care & Protection

The first, and most obvious, reason for frequent headphone breakage: not taking care of them. “Just take care of your headphones” might be nothing more than sheer common sense, but you’d be surprised how often we (myself included) overlook the simple fact that we’re abusing our headphones day in and day out. Some headphones may be built for durability, but each headphone still has its own breaking point.

One of my biggest problems with headphones? Forgetting that I have them on. We’ve all been there when someone wants us to come downstairs (or upstairs), or we get up to use the bathroom, only to have the headphone cable snap them off our heads and they crash to the floor. You may accidentally roll over your headphone cable with your wheeled office chair. Or, God forbid, throwing them at your wall in frustration (sound familiar, gamers?).

Headphones are more than just speakers and padding. They contain a good deal of intricate wiring and electronics, like drivers that translate electrical signals into quality sound, so take care of them. Treat them well and they’ll last you a long while.

Poor Storage Methods

why headphones break

This may go in line with “improper care” but I think it’s important enough to warrant its own special section. Even the most expensive headphones will experience general wear and tear over time regardless of how well you work to prevent physical damage. This wear and tear will have an even greater impact on cheaper headphones.

Where does most of this wear and tear occur? The cable. Don’t wind up your cables into a tight loop or a ball. For example, I see a lot of people who wind their earbuds tight around their iPods when they aren’t actively listening. This may be convenient for fitting into your pocket, but the tightness causes undue stress to the internal wiring, which leads to fraying.

Similarly, don’t let your earbuds or headphones dangle. Ever. The dangling causes a lot of stress at one particular point in the cable. Plus, it increases the chance that the cable will be pinched, which can sever the internal wire. Think of it like a staple: if you keep bending it back and forth, it’s eventually going to break.

Learn to Coil Your Headphone Cables So They Don’t Break

Low Quality Construction

why headphones break

At the end of the day, sometimes your headphones break simply because they weren’t constructed well. Ever wondered about the difference between $50 headphones and $500 headphones? Higher quality audio, improved comfort, faster customer service, etc. Of course, there are affordable headphones that aren’t bad, but in general, the durability tends to improve with higher price points.Owning a quality pair of headphones is very important for anyone who wants or needs to listen to music by themselves on a regular basis. In fact, they’re more important than the device actually playing…READ MORE

Stop Buying Disposable Headphones

If you bought $10 earbuds from eBay or any of the eBay alternatives (which I’ve done before without regret) then they’ll probably last you as far as $10 earbuds will take you. So what can you do about it? If you’re taking care of them to the best of your abilities by following the tips outlined above, then there’s little else you can do, in my opinion. Fork out a little more for higher quality materials next time and they should last you quite a bit longer.

10 Most Durable Headphones

Conclusions

Headphones have a reputation for being an electronic piece that warrants regular replacement, but truth be told, that reputation is both unfair and undeserved. If you just take a few extra steps in your care and handling of headphones, you can actually prolong the lifespan by a noticeable amount. I’ve bought numerous headphones and earbuds from $1 to $100 and they’ve all lasted me at least three years thanks to these steps.

Have any other tips or tricks for keeping your headphones alive? Share them with us in the comments! I’m sure all of our headphones will thank you for it.