Ever since the days of the Walkman, our headphones have been a staple of our backpacks. Here our top 10 hacks for increasing their sound quality, making them more comfortable, and carrying them around hassle-free.
Choose the Right Pair
Getting the most out of your headphones starts with buying the right pair– and that doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive. Whatever your price range, there are a lot of different headphones out there, and you’ll want to look at a few before picking. For best results, make sure you know whether you want closed or open headphones before buying, and make sure to try new headphones with old music to accurately test their quality.
Tech-loving web site Tested breaks down the two basic headphone types– open and closed– and offers tips on choosing the type that best fits your needs.
In an age when you can carry your entire music library in your pocket, a good pair of headphones is a must. As Tested puts it, the main issues to consider when choosing between the two headphone types are pretty basic:
Closed headphones isolate you from outside sounds (potentially good), but the closed nature often results in distortion or poor sound quality. Conversely, open headphones let sound and air flow through the headphones; this is generally better for the sound, but it doesn’t isolate you from outside noises. It also means the outside world can sometimes hear what’s going on in your headphones.
How do you decide what’s right for you? At the end of the day it’s a subjective decision, but the folks at Tested had this to say:
If you’re looking for the best sounding headphones with the ultimate in quality, an open model design will probably do you best. If you’re concerned about sound leakage or other distractions, closed may be the better choice.
Keep Them Clean
It’s gross to think about, but the fact of the matter is your headphones (especially the in-ear variety) can get pretty dirty with all that earwax and oil you expose them to. You’ll want to make sure your headphones stay clean, for both sound quality and hygeine purposes. There are a few different ways you can keep your headphones clean, whether it’s something simple like wiping them down with some gentle soap or actually taking a toothbrush to the metal part, if it’s especially dirty.
Turn them Into Noise-Isolating Headphones
Whether you’re on a noisy airplane or just want to spare the rest of the world from your music, you don’t need to shell out tons of cash for a pair of noise isolating headphones. If you have a pair of in-ears, you can just use some foam earplugs to isolate the noise, though if you have an open pair of headphones you can use some industrial earmuffs instead.
After extended use your earbuds get pretty dirty– both on the microscopic and the visible “that came out of my ear?” level. This simple guide will help you defunk your earbuds to keep your eyes happy and the tunes clear.
Earbuds can get dirty surprisingly fast, especially if you use in-ear earbuds– the sealed design increases the heat in the ear canal and leads to more ear wax and oils accumulating on the bud. You can’t just dunk them in water and shake them around however, especially if you spend big bucks on them to please your audiophile ears.
Over at the technology-centric blog GeekSugar they highlight several ways you can clean your ear buds:
Use a gentle cleaner, like soap and warm water. No need to go too heavy-duty here; try a mix of dishwashing detergent and water. Ed Note: To wipe!
Use a gentle cloth with just a small amount of the soap mixture. Too much soap could leave a residue on your earbuds, and too much water, well that goes without saying.
Try brushing them with a dry toothbrush to dislodge the dust if there’s a lot of dirt or dust in the metal part of your earbuds.
Use Paracord to Keep Them Tangle-Free
One of the world’s universal annoyances is that your headphones always seem to tangle themselves into a bird nest of cords. One clever solution is to run them through some paracord. You’ll have to bust out some DIY chops for this, and you may experience some quality loss, but it’s a pretty great solution to keep a cheap pair of earbuds travel-friendly.
Turn Them Into Speakers with a Few Paper Cups
Every once in a while, you find yourself in a situation where you want to listen to music from a pair of speakers, but all you have are your earbuds. All you need is a few paper cups, some tootpicks, and a bit of tape. It won’t exactly turn your headphones into a pair of Boston Acoustics, but it will make your music a bit more audible in a pinch.
Make them Exercise Friendly with DIY Over-Ear Wraps
You probably like to listen to music when you jog if you’re a runner. The problem is, earbud-style headphones don’t exactly like to stay in your ear as you bounce up and down. You can fix this problem by fashioning a few over-the-ear wraps to keep them steady if you’ve got a few cable ties handy.
Splice Your iPhone Headset with Quality Earphones
You can actually splice the remote with a pair of high-quality earbuds instead if you like the inline remote that comes with the iPhone headphones but don’t like the headphones themselves. You can also make your own inline volume control for any pair of headphones yourself.
Turn Your Cables into a Zipper Case
This remarkably clever method is another great alternative if the above paracord method doesn’t sound ideal to you. With just a long zipper from some clothing and some sewing chops, you can wrap your cables in the zipper so that they not only stay tangle-free, but actually turn into a small case for your phone or MP3 player.
Get the Best Sound by Putting Them In Your Ears Correctly
No matter how nice your headphones are, they can sometimes take a little wrangling to get the best sound out of them. Make sure you’re using the right size earbud, and make sure to use the “lobe tug” method of putting them in your ears for the best fit. If you’re using the crappy iPod earbuds, there’s a special insertion method to help you make the best of that, too.
Learn to Wrap Them Without Creating Tangles
When carrying around our headphones is them constantly getting tangled up in our pockets, the biggest annoyance we all have to deal with. We’ve shared more cord-wrapping methods than we can count here at Lifehacker, but most of us are fans of the devil horns method, the over-under method, and the MP3 player method. You can get a little help by making your own cable shortener out of some foam, an old gift card, or even craft a retractable version.
For best results, make sure you know whether you want closed or open headphones before buying, and make sure to try new headphones with old music to accurately test their quality.
Closed headphones isolate you from outside sounds (potentially good), but the closed nature often results in distortion or poor sound quality. Conversely, open headphones let sound and air flow through the headphones; this is generally better for the sound, but it doesn’t isolate you from outside noises. If you’re looking for the best sounding headphones with the ultimate in quality, an open model design will probably do you best. You’ll want to make sure your headphones stay clean, for both sound quality and hygeine purposes.