ok, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve mainly been waiting on migrating off wordpress to Hugo, but that hasn’t happened and I need to collect my thoughts.
If you know me, you know I can be… Picky. I over-obsess about decisions (I have a spreadsheet with 17 apple varieties after finding out that Red Delicious were in fact the least delicious) to the point of absurdity. One of the things I’m most picky about are headphones.
I should point out that this is not a comprehensive list of all of the headphones I’ve owned- I’ve gone through over a dozen headphones over the years, but there are few that meet the “workhorse” requirement. I’m also sticking mainly to headphones I wear when I’m on the move.
Why I’m Picky
I’d started writing about why I preferred earhooks, but realized I needed to step back and explain my situation. My ear canals have a miniscule difference in diameter, so the standard in-ear single-flange eartips never fit consistently; either my left ear hurts or my right earphone keeps falling out. Even foam eartips feel like they’re slowly preparing to pop out.
In addition, I suffer from a broken hyper-awareness that makes it difficult to focus when there’s a lot of noises or crosstalk. If I can hear people speaking, I can’t listen to a podcast.
I also sweat very easily, so over the-the-ear headphones with any exertion cause me to sweat, resulting in slipping and stink. Fine for desk work, but terrible for walks in the sun or yardwork.
First Love- Earhooks
For the longest time, I used wired Phillips Earhooks. There are two main reasons-
- They didn’t violate my ears like the normal rubber-tipped earbuds that are common today, and
- They wouldn’t fall off if I tipped my head.
After these became hard to find, I switched to Skullcandy, which I still occasionally use with my laptop.
The Day the 3.5mm Died
When Apple decided to get rid of 3.5mm and force bluetooth, I ignored it- was an android user and didn’t think google would follow their footsteps. Until they did. Even then, it wasn’t a problem for me until I had a friend give me a deal on a used pixel 2. While I had used bluetooth headphones before, I knew that the conventional earbuds with an earhook weren’t an option.
I took a gamble on the Anker Soundcore Spirit X and found they were actually pretty decent. My only complaint was battery life. The earhooks helped reduce the discomfort of the eartips, but I could only wear them for so long.
For whatever reason, I ended up giving those to my son (who quickly destroyed them), while I switched to the Monoprice ANC headphones I had been using for work. The ANC was great for mowing, but they’d be soggy by the time I was done. Unfortunately the cheap band cracked, and tape could only hold it together for so long.
In Dec. 2020 I ordered a pair of Wyze Headphones as part of their beta program since I’ve had so much luck with their home automation stuff. These had even better ANC (Active nose cancelling) as well as bluetooth 5.1, meaning I could sync to both my phone and my car without having to do the disconnect/reconnect dance.
Unfortunately, one side developed a crack and I had to RMA them. The second pair developed a crack in the same place. In addition, using them while mowing has resulted in an absolutely atrocious stink that won’t come off. This time, I decided to do some research.
Here Comes the Spreadsheet
I went through amazon and google looking for any and all earbuds that I thought wouldn’t suck. My needs were relatively straightforward:
- Reasonable price (under $100)
- Bluetooth 5.1
- 9+ hour charge
- water resistant
- a microphone
- noise cancellation
I also looked at ratings, reviews, total charge (if it came with a charging case), etc. I ended up with 55 candidates:
Long story short, I settled on XLeader SoundAngel Sport3 Pro, which appeared to be the best in class for what I was looking for: BT 5.1, 12 hr charge, IPX7, USB-C, ANC CVC8.0, and 1000+ ratings with a 4.1 average.
Too bad they hurt.
Betrayed by My Ears Again!
It turns out that in addition to missized ear canals, my antitragus (see left), is in the way of the Soundangel Sport3 pro. If you look closely at the picture of the XLeader above, you’ll see a… lump?Burl? lovehandle? -sticking out to the left of the eartip. That little lump is hard plastic, and presses against my antitragus so hard that I couldn’t wear them for more than an hour.
After hours of gathering information, I couldn’t wear them.
Meanwhile, my wife decided to pick up a pair of inducer headphones that work great (though they wouldn’t help with noise cancellation). I’ve decided to go back to the drawing board and cast a wider net.