Ear buds are perhaps the most common type of headphone on the market today. The tiny profile and portability ear buds makes them a popular free perk when packaged with portable media devices. But for all of the convenience and style of an ear buds, ear buds do have some significant drawbacks. Consider the following the next time you jam out with your headphones.
Pro : Portability
Ear bud headphones consist of little more than a thin cord, an audio jack and two half-inch ear buds. This makes them easy to stash in a pocket or wrap around an iPod. They are lightweight enough to stand up to the knocks and tussles of on-the-go portability and surreptitious enough to wear out in public without looking like an air traffic controller on the tarmac.
Pro: Style and Color
The Apple iPod brought the white pair of ear buds into vogue, but you can take it one step further with other brilliantly colored ear buds. For now, ear buds are an easy fashion statement—though there’s no guarantee that the style won’t be lampooned in retrospect 20 years from now, just like 80s style is today. But for now, ear buds are fairly cool.
Ear buds are cheap. There isn’t a whole lot of material to them and you can get a pretty decent pair for under $50. The same can’t usually be said for over-the-ear headphones.
Con: No Sound Isolation
Ear buds sit right outside your ear canal, meaning they don’t filter out external noise very well. If there’s lots of background noise, you may have difficult hearing through your ear buds.
Con: Hearing Loss
Some studies warn that ear buds contribute to hearing loss more than other headphones. That’s because you have to crank the volume higher, since there’s no noise cancellation.
Con: Poor Bass Response
It’s hard to get big sound out of a little device, and that’s particularly true with ear buds. Whereas in-ear headphones, which sit directly in your ear canal, can get a decent bass response, ear buds leak most what little oomph they have right out. For audio purists, ear buds may not deliver.
Ear buds are designed as a one size fits all solution, but depending on the shape of your ear, they may be uncomfortable. If the ear bud doesn’t conform well to your ear, it may fall out. Ear buds also may accumulate ear wax and dust, making them less hygienic and a bit unsavory, if you’ll be sharing.
Overall, ear buds are quintessentially portable and convenient. Their low profile makes them perfect for wearing them out in public or stashing them in your pocket. But in terms of audio quality, ergonomics and the long term effects on your hearing, you may be better off with a standard set of headphones. Your best bet: keep a pair of ear buds on hand for convenience, but use speakers or high quality over the ear headphones when you’re at home.