I was disappointed that Apple discontinued the headphone jack on its iPhones in 2016. Don’t get me wrong—the airy, cordless freedom of my Bluetooth earbuds will always be one of my favorite things about using them for activities like running, working, and lounging around the home. The fact that I still enjoy using wired headphones makes it all the more annoying that I have to dig around for my 3.5 mm Lightning converter.
It seems my preference for wired earbuds is shared by many. I can understand why that might be appealing. In the same way that your favorite sweater never goes out of style, wired headphones will never go out of style. In comparison to wireless headphones, wired earbuds have many advantages, including convenience, superior sound quality, lower energy consumption, and a longer lifespan.
Many popular TikTok artists use these in-line directional microphones since they are compact, easy to transport, and require no pre-planning or -adjustment. In addition, nothing says “I’m busy” like a cable dangling from your ears, which is perhaps why they’ve become so common on “hot chick walks,” as described by Teen Vogue. The use of wired earbuds is one of the few recent trends that represents a break from the norm while still being a (usually) more affordable alternative.
You may be hesitant to get “committed to the wire,” as the founder of the Instagram account Wired It Girls put it in an interview with Teen Vogue, however, if you have painful memories of money wasted on ill-advised fads that were not a good match long-term like I do (I’m looking at you, velour tracksuits). Fortunately, I’ve tried many different models of headphones, so I can guarantee you that whether you’re shopping for environmental, functional, or aesthetic reasons, you can find a pair of earbuds that you’ll love for years to come, regardless of what’s in style.
Tips on Choosing the Right Wired Earbuds
The appropriate size is crucial. The fit of your earphones has an impact on both their comfort and their acoustic quality. Although no one pair of earbuds can possibly suit everyone, we search for models that include a wide range of tip sizes and ensure a comfortable fit for all of our testers. If the earphone tips that came with your set aren’t comfy for you, you can try a different set before shelling out cash for a whole new set. If you’re not getting the results you want, maybe it’s time to try a new pair of tips.
To make and receive calls and record movies in everyday life, a remote with a microphone is essential. We put our top choices through rigorous testing to ensure they deliver crystal-clear audio without any distortion or cracking. If you normally record videos by holding a microphone to your mouth, try shifting the position of the mike so that it is 4 inches from your face and slightly off to one side. This reduces ambient noise without introducing unwanted distortions like the proximity effect or popping sounds made by some microphones when they encounter certain plosive sounds like “b” or “p.”
The Earphones Must Have Quality Sound
The purpose of using headphones is to take pleasure in one’s listening experience. Specifically, the bassline shouldn’t be too dominant over the lead guitar, and the vocals shouldn’t contain consonants that are too gratingly, and ear-splittingly harsh. Notes played in the bass range need to have pitch and shape, not just go “whump whump whump.” Notes in rapid succession shouldn’t blend into one another but be clearly distinguishable.
Premium Headphones for Your Ears Should Be Made to Last at Least a Few Years.
The headphones’ manufacturer must also have a good reputation. Nothing ever goes wrong in a perfect world, but when it does, you should have access to reliable customer support that can fix the problem quickly and to your satisfaction.
If You Want to Listen to Music with Your Primary Devices, Your Earphones Should Be Compatible with Those Devices
Lightning-cable earphones are convenient for use with Apple’s iOS devices, but they can’t be used with any other devices. Although 3.5 mm to Lightning adapters do exist, including some that support charging and playback, a Lightning input to 3.5 mm output adapter is not readily available.
If you wish to switch to a laptop or a different operating system, it’s inconvenient to have earbuds that work just with your current computer. The 3.5 mm jack is the most common connector, followed by the USB-C port. When I’m not using my earplugs, I keep them in a small pill bottle on my keychain and attach the adaptor to my 3.5 mm earphones with a hair tie.
As with any audio device, you can always upgrade if you want to go for the wired experience, and you can find a lot of earbuds (or in-ear monitors, as the audiophile set calls them) that sound genuinely wonderful. However, for your first pair, you should look for something inexpensive but functional. If you want to learn more, have a look at our manual on earphones that plug into a wall outlet.
A Few of Our Favorites
Panasonic’s RP-TCM125 ErgoFit wired earbuds are the best option if you want to obtain the best sound for the smallest investment. The sound of the RP-TCM125 is well-balanced, with clear, smooth highs and a solid but not overpowering low end. Unlike most competitors in the sub-$30 category, these headphones have a balanced sound across the frequency spectrum, making them suitable for a wide variety of musical genres.
The RP-TCM125 set isn’t quite as good as the Marshall Mode pair (read about them below) in terms of depth of field (the perception that music comes from performers located at different locations in a given space, rather than a flat wall of sound) or bass quality, but it’s still a fantastic deal for the money. The earbuds may be purchased in a selection of colors, and some models even have a mic and control that can be activated with a single button on the wire.
The Marshall Mode set has a versatile sound that works well with a variety of genres, but rock and pop are particularly well-suited to its clean sound. Although the bass is slightly amplified, the notes don’t slam or sound muddy, and the highs are crystal clear without the roughness that plagues many earbuds under $100. The earbuds are not bulky or dangling from the ear, making them more pleasant to use. The cable’s single-button universal remote controls playing and activating the digital assistant, and the cable’s separate microphone is positioned higher up so you don’t have to put it to your mouth to speak.
The Strauss & Wagner EM205 set is more expensive than the Panasonic RP-TCM125 ErgoFit, but it offers track and volume controls that work with most devices that have headphone ports, making it a good option if you’re looking for an affordable wired pair with a remote and mic. The sound and microphone quality is on par with the Panasonic pair, but with a touch more bass and a spike in the highs; this can give strings a metallic edge and make piano-key depressions seem a bit clicky.
These headphones have a pleasant sound, but they don’t justify their higher price tag when compared to, say, a $15 set of Panasonic headphones or the immersive soundstage provided by the Marshall headphones. (Strauss & Wagner also offers the EM8C, which features a USB-C connector rather than a 3.5 mm jack, but retails for about $10 extra.) A word of caution, though: Strauss & Wagner is very new, so it doesn’t yet have a proven record of excellent customer service. However, with earphones available for less than $50, that may not be a concern for many.
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