It is the era of wireless gadgets and electronics where most people want to go hands-free to whatever extent possible. One of the biggest spaces that are booming in this wire-free generation is the headphones market, advancing at an extremely high pace while keeping up with the latest technology. Earbuds, or rather, wireless earbuds are among those revolutionary audio accessories that people of all generations are championing today because of several reasons. Before we head over to our ‘How to Choose Earbuds’ section, let us first understand what they actually are and who they are meant for.
What Are Earbuds?
Earbuds are Bluetooth-supported earpieces that are worn into each ear by pushing slightly inside the ear canal. Once you fit them, they sit in the ears comfortably. Unlike the over-ear or on-ear headphones they do not cover the entire ears, neither are they big. In fact, some earbuds are so small they can hardly be seen when worn. Their compactness is one of the main reasons why people love these audio gears so much.
For those who have already used earbuds before, have you ever wondered how these tiny gears are constructed? Well, even though their size is scaled down, there is a lot that goes into the making of these buds.
How Are Earbuds Made?
The manufacturer first decides on the design or the structure of the earbuds. The design is a crucial factor in an earphone as it is directly related to the level of comfort the user prefers. The design engineer ensures that the earbuds are ergonomically designed for various kinds of needs like fitness, swimming, running, work, etc.
Once the design is decided, the manufacturer works on the various types of materials that are going to be used in the construction of the earbuds. Earbuds are made up of a combination of different materials that make them sturdy and at the same time suitable for different types of ears and skin. Because they go deep into the ear canal, it is especially important to ensure that they use skin-friendly materials that are anti-allergic in nature. Some of the materials that are used in their construction are- high-quality plastic, metals like aluminum, copper, titanium, etc., silicone, foam, and rubber.
High-quality plastic polymer and other carbon elements are used to make the outer body of the earbuds which is responsible for the durability and lightweightness of the headphone. Different types of metals are used to make the internal components like the transducer, the voice coil, etc. The manufacturer also uses them in the wiring which is then coated with a non-conductive coating to prevent shocks. You will generally see silicone or foam being used in the eartips or the plugs for extra comfort and good sealing. The rubber is often found as an addition to the speakers for enhanced comfort.
Sometimes the manufacturer directly purchases some parts of the earbuds like the eartips or the cables from another supplier which helps them speed up the manufacturing process.
Sound engineering or making the internal components is the crucial stage in the entire manufacturing process of the earbuds. This will determine how the earbuds will sound. In this stage, the manufacturer decides on what the size of the drivers will be, what the voice coil will be made of, the wiring system, what type of drivers are going to be used, etc. While this may sound pretty simple on paper, the actual process is quite complicated. This becomes even more complex if a higher quality of the audio is needed. Depending on how the bass, mids, and treble should sound, sometimes two voice coils, or two drivers may be used. The size of the driver also plays an important role in determining how the earbud is going to sound.
The controls of the earbuds are set after this. While some earbuds have tactile buttons, some come with touch-sensitive controls. Some wireless earbuds that are neckband style have the control buttons on the dedicated control panel on the band. We will cover more on the controls and other features on ‘how to choose earbuds’ in the next section.
Currently, the market is saturated with hundreds of different earbud options having different features, and under a wide range of price range. They also come in different types and styles which cater to different kinds of needs and lifestyles. Speaking of styles, you will see two different ones when it comes to wireless earbuds. One is truly wireless earbuds that have absolutely no cord or cable connected anywhere. They are just two individual pieces of earbuds that are worn separately. The other is just wireless earbuds that are connected to each other with a cord or a band that often goes around the neck for extra support.
We are going to discuss more the various aspects of earbuds in the comprehensive guide for buying earbuds in the next section, where you will know what to look for in earbuds or how to choose earbuds, and more. But before hitting that, here’s a quick insight on what are the different benefits that you can have when using one of these audio gears.
What Are Earbuds Used for?
The earbuds have been around for quite a while now and have been hugely beneficial in our day-to-day life in many different ways. Here are some pointers that answers ‘what are earbuds used for’:
- You do not need to waste time untangling the wires any more. The wireless design offers an obstruction-free use.
- Enables you to stay hands free and cable free which means that you do not need to take your smartphone out of your pocket if you have to answer or reject a call.
- You can walk around freely while talking over the phone without having to carry the mobile device around. This adds to a lot of conveniences.
- Allows you to do multitasking while you are on a call or listening to the music. For example, you can cook, wash, workout, play sports or carry out any daily chores while the earbuds do their job.
- Amazing travel-friendly option, that is easy to pack and go. Their compact size makes it extremely easy to just slide into any pocket when you do not want them in your ears.
- They come with good battery backup. Additionally, their charging case carries backup charge allowing you to quickly charge the earbuds without having to reach for an actual electrical point.
Not Convinced? Here Are a Few More Pointers to Make You Believe in Earbuds
- Don’t get misguided by their size when it comes to the sound performance. They sound really great.
- Earbuds allow you to take important calls from work or other easily while you are driving.
- They stay put and are very comfortable to wear and use. This makes these audio gears a great choice for those who do not prefer to wear the full sized over-ear or on-ear headphones.
- Equipped with multiple different features, the earbuds make a great ear gear that fulfils the expectations and needs of the users in a modern day situation.
- You can even pair the earbuds easily with a tablet or laptop to watch movies or shows online.
- Some earbuds are designed to help you sleep better. They have different features and functionalities like noise cancelling technology, ergonomic design that helps with a quieter environment helping you to fall asleep even if your surroundings are noisy or busy.
- Last but not the least, earbuds are a great way to enhance your style statement. It can easily gel with any type of personality and suit any look.
Now that you know ‘what are earbuds used for’ and how they can offer conveniences in so many ways, have you already started looking for one for yourself? Well, in that case, let’s quickly move on to the next part to see what to look for in earbuds when you are shopping for one.
How to Choose Earbuds – a Comprehensive Buying Guide
With numerous headphone brands mushrooming in the market, the options of products are wide- which is definitely good- but it also makes picking an ideal pair more challenging. Also, with our mobile phones not just being meant for calling anymore, but as a platform for entertainment, work, and a lot of other things, buying earbuds these days has become a necessity rather than leisure.
You will see a lot of options out there. However, the different kinds of advanced features and various technologies available these days may make you wonder what to look for in earbuds. The very first thing that probably comes to everyone’s mind is what brand it is. It is quite normal to think that the big brands have better products. The truth is, at times bigger brands often fail to live up to the expectations of the consumers, and smaller company’s offer extraordinary products or maybe not.
With the expansion of easy-to-adopt technologies in the headphones sector, many brands (big or small) have started integrating them into their headphones. This way you can get a pair of earbuds with a lot of cutting-edge features at a reasonably lower price. Another thing is every brand adds something unique to its products that makes them stand out in the crowd. Makes it even more confusing about which product to go for right?
This is exactly why we come in and give you a complete guide for buying earbuds that will take you through the process of how to choose earbuds the right way.
What Are the Things You Need to Look for When Buying Earbuds?
What Do You Need It for?
Different types of earbuds have different uses- while one is designed for casual use, one is more geared towards gaming, the other might be more suitable for sports and fitness. The key is to prioritize your needs- what are you mostly going to use your headphones for?
This is an extremely important factor to start with when buying earbuds because the rest of the elements and features are going to be based on what type of earbud you need. For example, if you are looking for a good pair of earbuds for sports, your focus is going to be more on the earbud’s ability to hold up against water and its functionalities underwater. Similarly, an earbud required for studio work is going to have its sound system designed specifically for that need and so on.
What Type of Earbuds Are You Looking for?
So once you figure out what you are going to be needing the earbuds the most for, the next step in ‘how to choose earbuds’ is to pick a style that suits your preference and personality the most. As mentioned earlier in this article, you will see two different styles of earbuds- True Wireless earbuds, Wireless or neckband style earbuds.
If you want to go completely wireless or cable-free, then truly wireless earbuds are going to be the best choice for you. They are easy to deal with and can be slid easily into any sized pocket.
However, if you are someone who keeps losing the buds, or it keeps falling off for several reasons, then buying earbuds with a short cord holding them together or the neckband style headphones is going to be your best bet. These earbuds are great for runners or fitness enthusiasts who often tend to lose focus trying to manage the buds from not sliding off. With this style, you will also not easily lose track of these minuscule things because even if they fall off your ears, they are going to remain hanging around your neck.
Design and Comfort
No matter how expensive or premium they are, buying earbuds that have an awkward design with low-level comfort is only going to get your money wasted. Whether you use it for a few minutes or for hours during the day, design plays an important role in your buying decision.
Speaking of design, the earbuds come in different shapes and sizes to suit different anatomical structures of the face and the ears. This means that you need to understand what is best for your ears and pick up a pair that is either small, medium, or large. Go for the ones that are ergonomically designed for extra comfort. Also, remember that the comfort goes hand-in-hand with the size of the eartips.
Now, if you want to know how to choose earbuds the correct way in the design department, then another point to note here is the ear tip material used. Plastic ear tips like in the case of Apple AirPods are often painful and tend to fall off if your ear canal is too small. In that case, you need to go for silicon or foam-made tips that stay put and form a tight seal inside the canal preventing it from sliding off. UE fits is one of the many examples of earbuds for small ears.
Earbuds these days are designed to meet the specific needs and lifestyle of an individual. So, while some buds have finned eartips, some come with around-the-ear hooks that help keep these audio gears in place. Some eartips are tree-shaped to form a perfect seal blocking all the sound from the outside or even water. Therefore, buying earbuds with the right type of eartips is an extremely important element when considering the overall design of the earbuds.
You certainly don’t want the earbuds to get damaged only with a few uses, which is why checking their build quality is critical when buying earbuds. You might find many cheaper headphones in the market that give neck-to-neck competition with several premium ones in terms of features. But, when a price cut is involved, there is a trade-off somewhere and in most cases, it is the quality of the build. So, before buying earbuds, think of what earbuds are used for, and to what extent they are going to be used. It is also recommended to read the users’ and expert reviews and ratings that help you get information about the earbuds from first-hand experiences. Depending on that go for one that has a sturdy build.
Sound Performance and Call Quality
One of the main things that can completely turn your mood off is a bad quality sound. What is the point of having all the advanced features, if your earbuds do not give you a good listening experience? Therefore, the quality of the sound and the overall earbuds’ performance makes up for one of the most important elements of what to look for in earbuds.
So how will you determine the sound quality of an earbud? Well, obviously testing them before buying is the best thing you can do, but when buying online that is not possible. So here are some technical tips on how to choose earbuds based on the sound quality-
- Look for the size of the drivers- the bigger the driver size the better is it.
- Ensure that earbuds you are buying offer a full range frequency response, meaning at least 20 Hz to 20 kHz. In most cases there will be an extension on the lower and the upper end for better sound accuracy.
- Bluetooth and Codec support is an important factor to keep in mind when buying earbuds. If you want to have seamless audio or video streaming, you should look for earbuds with AAC, LDAC 900, Aptx, AptX HD and Low Latency codec support. These are advanced codecs that offer low latency ensuring better and high resolution sound quality. Similarly, having the latest Bluetooth options like 5.0 and later offers better connectivity which ensures the quality.
- Check the microphone’s reception quality for better call quality. The microphone quality is especially significant if your main intention of buying earbuds is for work purposes, Zoom calls, or even gaming.
Controls and Special Features
Controls with a simple user interface can add to a lot of conveniences. This adds to the list of what to look for in earbuds- easy-to-use controls. All the control buttons are situated on the earbuds, so it is pretty important that they are clear and smooth functioning.
Some other additional features that the earbuds might have been the Active noise-canceling feature, smart gesture controls, smart voice assistant feature, one-tap pairing, etc. Speaking of noise-canceling, you might want to check our noise cancellation headphone buying guide from here.
Out of these, ANC or active noise canceling feature has become one of the necessities these days in most cases. They help in a better sound and call quality by blocking the ambient noise. In case you are thinking about what to look for in earbuds in order to use them in a noise surrounding, do keep in mind about it having the ANC feature for sure.
Battery Life and Charging Case
While buying earbuds, you need to take into account the battery performance which is an important factor to consider. You do not want to land up with your headphones turning off when you are in the middle of a significant meeting or in the gym getting powered up for more exercises. Well, clearly the higher the battery capacity, the more time they are going to last. On average, the earbuds should have a battery life of 7 to 8 hours on a single charge. While some have it, some are lower or higher than this. Remember that the life of a battery also depends on the number of advanced features you have on your headphone. Features like ANC, Bluetooth connectivity tend to consume a lot of charge.
Additionally, many people often ignore the importance of the charging case when buying earbuds. Ensure that the charging case has a high capacity because the more the battery backup, the more times you can charge the earbuds when they drain out. This is especially critical if you are looking at buying earbuds for traveling or for long hours of calling.
Brand and Cost
Brand credibility can definitely give you confidence and contribute a lot to your earbuds selection process. Going with a well-known brand assures a proper warranty, ensures quality, replacement options, etc. Sometimes the products from top brands may cost you a little higher than the others, but at the end of the day, you are getting what is worth the money.
In case you want to go with the inexpensive options, then there are many other options in the market. Just make sure to read the reviews and check all the factors we have listed here in “how to choose earbuds” to make sure that you are picking up the right product.
The price varies depending on the features that the earbuds carry. The higher and advanced the features, the more is the price you pay. If you are on a fixed budget, then it is crucial to first list out what features are essential for you and which ones are not important for you. This will not only help you narrow down your search but will also bring down the price tag a little. On a budget note, you might want to check out our best noise cancelling headphones under $200 from here.
With all these points listed above, hopefully, you are well-equipped with some technical terms and know what to look for in earbuds. That said, let’s move on to see a bit about how these earbuds work.
How Do Earbuds Work? What Are Some Different Types of Earbuds Technology That You Should Know of?
Earbuds can produce incredibly good sound despite their compact size that is hardly one inch which makes people often wonder how they really work. Well, the functioning of the earbuds is nothing but a few interesting concepts of physics. In order to know that, let’s first understand the various components/ technologies involved in an earbud:
One of the most important components of the earbud is the driver. Drivers come in five different types- balanced armature, dynamic, electrostatic, Planar magnetic, and bone conduction. In the case of the earbuds, the most commonly used driver is the balanced armature because they are small and easy to fit into the earbud. The engineer or the manufacturer can easily tune these drivers to the desired frequency for maximum sound quality.
The function of the transducer is to transform one form of energy into another. In the case of the earbuds, the transducer takes the electrical energy from the sound source and converts it into the sound signal that you can hear through the speakers of the earbuds. Like the drivers, transducers come in different types like dynamic, electrostatic, electromagnetic, etc.
This is how the earbud is connected to the audio source. It can either be wired or wireless connectivity through Bluetooth. While wired earbuds are known for better audio quality because of their analog signal transmission, wireless ones add a lot of other conveniences. These days with advanced codecs and the latest Bluetooth technology, the audio quality of wireless earbuds have also drastically improved.
The mic plays an important role in picking up the voice clearly when you are on call. That is why having a good quality mic is significant. There are two types of microphones- one being the external mic that is mainly useful while gaming or for calling, and the other, the voice tube that is built inside and is usually omnidirectional. Earbuds may be integrated with two different mics internally where one mic is for calling and the other mic is placed in the reverse direction for the noise-canceling function.
All these components listed above work together inside the earbuds to form sound waves that come out of the speakers. In the case of wireless earbuds, Bluetooth connects both the devices (the earbud and the source) together creating a communication medium through the antenna that uses radiofrequency waves to send and receive the signal. The sound signal travels from the audio source to the earbuds with the help of the RF waves which when it hits the drivers gets converted into electrical energy. With the help of the voice coils and the transducer, the electrical energy is converted to sound energy that gets amplified and comes out of the speakers.
In the case of wired earphones, the speakers are connected to the audio source through a cable. The signal travels through that cable and magnet in the driver, the voice coil and cone together work to convert the electrical energy to sound.
What Is the Difference Between Earphones and Earbuds? – How to Choose Earbuds?
Earbuds and earphones are most of the time given the same definition by the companies or manufacturers to fit into their sales strategy, but there is quite a bit of difference between the two. Theoretically, if you see, earbuds are the ones that rest outside the ear canal while the earphones go deeper into the canal which is why the latter is termed as in-ear headphones.
Owing to their design, the earbuds are usually easy to clean, but their audio performance is not as good as the earphones because of their positioning in the outer ears (Concha region) rather than into the canal. Their fitting is also less secure than the in-ear ones and often tends to slip off the ears. Earphones on the other hand are less durable than earbuds.
These days, however, the earbuds come with eartips and the design is similar to the in-ears that stay secure into the ears except that they are wireless. With the cutting-edge technology that the earbuds are adopting, they come with exceptional sound quality and many other advanced features that make them more expensive and convenient than the in-ear headphones.
You will find earbuds in abundance with a lot of options to choose from, and it is pretty easy to buy them online on various e-commerce websites these days. Now that you know how to choose earbuds, hope shortlisting them and picking up the appropriate ones gets easier. This article has listed out some key things about what to look for in earbuds which will guide you to pick up the best product that caters to your needs. Before finalizing and buying earbuds, do not forget to check the accessories that come along, the warranty, return policy, and replacement terms. The warranty determines the quality of the product and the manufacturer’s confidence in its durability. In case, the earbud needs to be replaced, knowing the return or replacement policy from beforehand always helps! You might also want to check out our JBL 500 headphones review from here.
How to Choose Earbuds? – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Yes, the earbuds with ANC or active noise-canceling features usually cost more. This is a premium feature and is typically found in mid to high-range earbuds. The cost however may vary depending on the level of ANC the headphone has.
Earbuds can be extremely beneficial, but they also have some disadvantages. Because of their tiny size, they can easily be lost, and it can be quite a challenging task to track them down. Their battery may deteriorate as time passes and with use. You need to keep a track of its charge and keep them charging on a regular basis.