In need of cheap-ish, wired, decent-ish sounding earbuds, with some sort of ambient sound pass-through (passive or active) and some sort of ear hook

spudmunkey

SS.org Regular
Joined
Mar 7, 2010
Messages
7,402
Reaction score
12,363
Location
Near San Francisco
I think I need to figure out how to Google for earphone reviews from 2005, because every article these days is all about wireless. Even adding "wired" to my search terms just gives me articles shitting on olf-fashioned wired before getting to their wireless reviews, or reviews of wireless earbuds on wired.com 😅

So, I've been exercising regularly for the last 2 months, and I've decided I've earned the right to spend a money on new earphones/buds. I have some requirements though:

1) I need something that either hooks behind my ears, or where the wire goes over/behind them like many hearing aids. I've yet to find ANY other earphone design that stays in my ears. Hilariously the only ones I have that *kinda* stay in, out of 11 sets hanging around the house, are a tiny set that came with the 1st get Roku, but they sound like a Gameboy in a solo cup under a blanket.

2) I need to hear my surroundings. This either means a passive "port" for sound to leak in, or involving some sort of active "ambient" mode.

3) wired. I don't want yet another thing to keep charged or be dead when I want to use them. Plus, I'm convinced a $30 set of ear buds will out perform any sub $100 wireless anyway, and the cord is a compromise I'm willing to make.

Ideally the budget would be $40 or lower, but I could stretch to $50 is they sound really good.
 

wheresthefbomb

SS.org Regular
Joined
Jul 30, 2013
Messages
3,756
Reaction score
5,870
Location
Fairbanks, AK
Wired? Good luck. I have two jealously-guarded pairs of wired iphone earbuds that came with my last two iphones. I have to use a small binder clip to secure them to me shirt collar to keep them from popping out of my ears.

Bluetooth can suck an entire fuck.
 

spudmunkey

SS.org Regular
Joined
Mar 7, 2010
Messages
7,402
Reaction score
12,363
Location
Near San Francisco
Wired? Good luck. I have two jealously-guarded pairs of wired iphone earbuds that came with my last two iphones. I have to use a small binder clip to secure them to me shirt collar to keep them from popping out of my ears.

Bluetooth can suck an entire fuck.
Yeah, I've tried two different Samsung buds that came with phonte, apple's original earpods, and nothing stays in place the moment I take my fingers off. Even using the shirt clip, the earbuds still pop out.

This afternoon I tried the newest Samsung phone pack-in earbuds, putting them in the opposite ears, upside-down, looping the cable over my ear. The "trying hard to look like apple" stems were a bit too long and they still popped out a few times, but it was a little better. The down-side is that the moment I take my fingers off, they loosen up enough to lose all bass and half the volume.
 

StevenC

Javier Strat 7 2024
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
7,824
Reaction score
9,477
Location
Northern Ireland
Have you tried in ears? I've never been able to get regular buds to fit, but in ears actually do stay in for me.

Also, wireless earphones should be illegal.
 

spudmunkey

SS.org Regular
Joined
Mar 7, 2010
Messages
7,402
Reaction score
12,363
Location
Near San Francisco
Have you tried in ears? I've never been able to get regular buds to fit, but in ears actually do stay in for me.
I haven't. I've always heard that IEMs are like studio monitors: flat, and can be fatiguing because they are so flat and maybe not as pleasant for casual listening for music and podcasts/audiobooks. Also, most seem to be specifically designed to not allow much pass-through of any ambient sounds. I'm open to be schooled otherwise, though, as I've not looked into them beyond what "I've heard..."
Also, wireless earphones should be illegal.
Eh, I need to sleep with something that both blocks and masks outside noise, and cables are...not fun when sleeping as I'm a "toss and turn"-er. But other than that, I would say that wired is better in every way. Cheaper, performance per dollar, weight, power for the phones, the headphone jack draws less power from your phone than broadcasting Bluetooth, the cable-mounted microphones always sound better than the earbud-mounted, etc etc...the advantages are legion.

With aaaaall of that said...I've gone for a curveball.

My top two priorities are staying-in-my-seemingly-impossible-to-fit-securely ears, and being able to hear my surroundings as I walk in an urban environment. Below that is cost, below that is sounding good. So with those considerations in place, The Curveball:

Sony Link Buds
1663114558459.png

That ring is a literal hole to let in ambient sound. Every review mentions that it works well, to the point where it may be a poor choice for some because it does it TOO well (not as immersive/isolating, too wide of a soundstage, not enough bass because it's not creating a resonating chamber inside your ear canal).

It's also a form factor unlike any other earbud I've ever tried, and it at least *seems* like it should hold pretty well given my ear's geometry. At least better than all the various ones I've tried.

The price. So, every review I've seen for them says they sound suprisingly great, but maybe a bit shy of their $180 price tag, since they don't have ANC. But I found some refurbished for sale on eBay for $60. This is indeed a bit over my budget, but other than cheaping out on some $10-15 like these (below), I figured they may hit the two main prioroties better, and I could re-sell them for a small loss if they didn't work out, so worth the risk.
1663114938217.png
 

spudmunkey

SS.org Regular
Joined
Mar 7, 2010
Messages
7,402
Reaction score
12,363
Location
Near San Francisco
So far, so good.

The good:
1) They sound pretty good. They don't have that deep thumpy bass of some earbuds, for sure. They start thin, but there's an EQ to play with that can bring back some lows, to an acceptable level for what I use these for. I'm not looking to recreate a club or concert venue here.

2) They feel like they are a little bit loose, but unlike the other eabuds I've been using, they didn't actually fall out, and the sound didn't really change like most earbuds do when they get slightly dislodged. Also, while I did touch them to re-seat them a couple times on my ~45 minute walk, they didn't seem to move much, so I'm not sure I actually needed to. At first, I was using the largest retention wing/loop thing, but found that was possibly forcing the buds out of my ears a bit, so I switched to the second largest and that seems to have solved the issue. I'm a bit more like the left:
1663386306913.png


3) The audio pass-through is excellent. I could see it working even better for people who have a less pronounced tragus (google it) or a different shape canal entrance like on the right in the imageabove. Mine mostly covers the canal, but I can still hear a lot of my surroundings. It's weird taking a phone call with them, in a crowd, when you can hear some of the people around you, while the phonecall seems to be in your own head, like the voice of God or something. It's weird. Not at all like a speaker that simply close to your head.

4) The app has the two functions I'd expect (some flexibility with the touch controls, and an EQ or some sort), and some additional functions like showing the charge % of each earbud, and the case.

5) The "Wide area tap" function is awesome. I hate controls on most earbuds, because either tapping on them is annoying, or you have to press on them it's uncomfortable. With these, I don't even need to touch the bud itself...you can tap your sideburns area, and it works perfectly. I only had it fail to register my tap once, and I was testing how far forward I could be from my hear before it would cut off. being able to tape this larger area in front of my ears is way way easier to do while walking than tryting to hit the earbud.

6) The bluetooth has a priority switch, for quality or connection, which seems handy. (see "the bad #6", though)



The bad:
1) The case: the charging case doesn't have wireless charging, but for $60, I can't complain about that. The lid on the case is flimsy. The button to open it is hard to push, and the lid doesn't pop or stay open itself, to manipulating the tiny case is a little bit cumbersome.

2) They aren't very loud...but "enough". Right at the level I set them to listen to something "cranked", it's right at the "warning: extended listening at this volume could cause hearing damage" level., which is totally appropriate...though for some audio sources, like some quiet YouTube videos, I have to crank it higher, and it doesn't get loud enough.

3) No way would these be worth their $180 MSRP. Get them on sale, or refurbished if you can, like I did, for $59 through an ebay-approved refurbushed seller so you get a 2-year warranty, and I'm incredibly impressed.

4) Design-wise, they don't look high-end when you're wearing them, if you're looking for something that looks "nice" or "fashionable". They look like they are made from the recycled plastic that they are.

5) The touch controls are limited. Only 2 and 3 taps, individuallly for each ear. No single tap, no tap-and-hold, no swipe. This means you have 4 controls. And for each earbud, you're given a drop-down selection of pairs of controls. you can't individually select what each individual command is. So for me, I have the right earbut be 2=volume up, 3=volume down, and then my left is 2=play/pause and 3/skip track. I don't use digital assistants so this scheme should work find for me. Though I need to look if I can answer a call with these settings. I might not. Maybe there's a "2=play/pause/3=answer/end call" pairing...

6) Even though I had the bluetooth set to "prioritize connection over quality", I still get suttering/skipping when the phone is in my pants pocket. I get the same thing with my Mifo 05 earbuds, which is annoying. It's only sometimes, and it's only sporadic and seeming for about a minute, but I feel like a Note 9 should be modern enough to not have connection issues from my pants pocket.
 

spudmunkey

SS.org Regular
Joined
Mar 7, 2010
Messages
7,402
Reaction score
12,363
Location
Near San Francisco
5) The touch controls are limited. Only 2 and 3 taps, individuallly for each ear. No single tap, no tap-and-hold, no swipe. This means you have 4 controls. And for each earbud, you're given a drop-down selection of pairs of controls. you can't individually select what each individual command is. So for me, I have the right earbut be 2=volume up, 3=volume down, and then my left is 2=play/pause and 3/skip track. I don't use digital assistants so this scheme should work find for me. Though I need to look if I can answer a call with these settings. I might not. Maybe there's a "2=play/pause/3=answer/end call" pairing...
I looked it up. No matter what your selected controls are, a double-tap will answer an incoming call. That makes sense.

There's also a handy feature: the moment you start talking, the music pauses and resumes 15 seconds after you've stopped talking (unless you speak again). It's not affected by ambient noise, only your voice. A part of the setup process is training it to your voice, and this seems to work very well.
 

CanserDYI

Yeah, No, Definitely.
Joined
Sep 23, 2020
Messages
4,857
Reaction score
6,992
Location
419
I have actually completely switched to all true wireless headphones and didn't look back frankly. The awesomeness of setting your phone across the room and having a single ear bud in without a dangling wire or other bud is awesome. For work it's amazing.

Why do people not like wireless headphones? The charging aspect? Actual question, here.
 

spudmunkey

SS.org Regular
Joined
Mar 7, 2010
Messages
7,402
Reaction score
12,363
Location
Near San Francisco
Why do people not like wireless headphones? The charging aspect? Actual question, here
They have some advantages, of course,, however:

1) having yet another thing to charge is annoying, when for decades, they have been powered by the device right in my pocket anyway.

2) Bluetooth drains phone battery faster. A tiny bit, but still.

3) In the case of earbuds, I hadn't found any that stay in my ears other than ones that hook on to the outside of my ears, which means if one pops out, it's hitting the ground, with a high likelihood of getting lost, broken, or stepped on. When connected to a cable, one is much more likely able to catch it.

4) higher cost for equivalent sound quality

5) similar to "charging", but specific enough to warrant it's own line: running out of juice right in the middle of something, and not being able to use them until you can charge them again. Really sucks when you're on a call with work or with your doctor, or out-and-about and without a charger. Think of how annoying the Apple magic mouse is, how you can't use it while itxs charging, so you scramble to charge it for 2 minutes, hoping itxs enough to get you through the end of what you were doing without running out again, then having to charge it again, longer, to get through to the end of the day.

6) if the earphones don't have multipoint, it's so much slower to switch devices.

7) intermittent signal loss, even as rare as it is, isn't a thing with wired.

If these same earbuds were availble in an identical wired version, I would have bought them instead.
 

StevenC

Javier Strat 7 2024
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
7,824
Reaction score
9,477
Location
Northern Ireland
I have actually completely switched to all true wireless headphones and didn't look back frankly. The awesomeness of setting your phone across the room and having a single ear bud in without a dangling wire or other bud is awesome. For work it's amazing.

Why do people not like wireless headphones? The charging aspect? Actual question, here.
Bluetooth is inherently lossy and it's easier to fit a good DAC and amp in a phone than something that has to sit in one's ear.
 


Top