We have all gone through the frustration of our headphones breaking. The dread of not being able to fix it and possibly having to replace them, sucks. But, let’s face it, I haven’t seen any headphones that won’t break… eventually.
So, why do headphones break? Well, sometimes, they’ve just come to the end of their road. They’ve given you a good few years, and it was just their time. Like your dad’s old car when you were younger. However, when it’s happened to you a few times, you start to wonder…
Are headphones designed to break?
Eventually, your headphones will break. They’re made up of many delicate components that wear out, eventually leading to a malfunction. Letting them fall or wearing out the cables will also shorten their lifespan. If you look after your headphones, clean them and keep them protected, they’ll last longer.
Every electronic device has a lifespan, there’s no getting around it. But, by looking after your headphones, this can and will give you a few more years of use.
Here are 16 surefire ways on how to keep headphones from breaking.
1. Avoid Clamping the Cable
Often when your headphones just stop working, you think something serious must be wrong with them. Don’t throw them in the bin just yet, though.
Often the most common reason why your headphones have stopped working can be because you have been mistreating your cable.
Even the slightest bend could potentially have an effect on the sound quality… So, be sure to look after it!
Now, if this is a hardwired cable, it might be the end for your headphones. Unless you have some mechanical skills, a whole lot of patients, and hopefully a friend who knows how to solder.
Cable damage isn’t always visible. Your cable could be torn or damaged on the inside. You can prevent this by not bending it at 90-degree angles, especially right where it is plugged in.
So, when winding it up, avoid tying it up with its own end. Rather use a velcro cable tie. As your cable gets older, you’ll just have to be more careful.
Luckily, there are models on the market that have replaceable cables. Thank you, smart tech people. Why didn’t they think of this sooner? Or opt for a Bluetooth Headphone set. Just make sure the box says “unpluggable cable”.
Prevention, though, is better than cure. The best thing is to understand why your cable keeps on breaking, and how you can prevent it. From what I’ve noticed, it often happens at one of the connection points. Either right by the earcups or at the jack.
2. Don’t Let Your Headphone’s Cord Dangle
Letting your headphone cord dangle off the edge of a desk, at the side of your neck, or anywhere your cat can get to it, is a bad idea. Dangling your cord can cause more and more stress on the connection or on the bend that forms over an edge, eventually causing it to break.
You’re also creating a trip hazard, or cat toy, where your headphones can get pulled to the floor, breaking them. Or, your cable can tear at one of its ends. None of these scenarios will be pretty (no punishing the cat!).
3. Never Wind Your Headphone’s Cord into a Knot
For whatever reason, you would feel the need to wind your cord into a knot (ok, so maybe I’ve done it once or twice with my earphones), just know that this isn’t natural for cables, and it puts severe stress on the knotted bits.
You’re going to ruin your headphones. So fair enough, I know you could be doing this out of habit, or maybe it’s just too long and all over the place, but there are safer ways to solve your problem.
When you first get your headphones, just notice how the cable is rolled up. Then, when your cable is in the way and you have to roll it up, it’s a good idea to just revert to the default.
If you’re wondering, why do headphones deteriorate over time, this would be one way for it, at least if you continue to put strain on the cable.
4. Don’t Forget You’re Wearing Them
I’m a gamer, three hours in I forget everything and think I’m in Azeroth. It’s happened to me so many times that I want to take a quick break, jump up and bam; my head goes nowhere.
While I’m sure this jerking motion was hilarious for my friend sitting next to me, my first reaction was to check my cable! Ripping your cable out can seriously damage your headphones.
Every time you do this, your cord gets closer to its end. The sudden jerk causes the internal wires to become weaker, eventually snapping, resulting in those connection points malfunctioning. Needless to say, let’s all try to focus a bit more.
5. Pull the Headphone Jack Not the Cord
We’re all guilty of this… I just want it out, and why not just pull the cable? I’ll give you one reason – you’re soon going to leave your jack behind. Trust me, not a fun moment.
Continuous tension, like pulling, is the most common reason for cords to break. So, doing this is literally the biggest no-no! Once a weak point is made, every time you pull on the cable, that is where all the tension goes. Eventually, the wires will break on the inside.
My friend’s headphones keep on breaking, and I told him to stop pulling on the cord and do the following:
Rather firmly take hold of the jack, pulling it from there. Maybe the one way of forcing yourself out of this habit is by using a cord that has an L-shaped jack like the one on my wife’s Audio-Technica ATH-SR9 (Amazon link). The design of this cord literally doesn’t allow you to unplug it by pulling on it – genius.
6. Unplug Your Headphones When Not in Use
You’re just looking for trouble leaving your headphones lying around, plugged in, when you’re not actually using them.
There are literally a thousand things that can happen, all with a not so happy ending for your headphones. For one, other people in your house might not know that they are there.
I used to do this, till my wife tripped on my cable. As she ripped them out my keyboard, a beautiful Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2, and my headphones went flying.
Also, there is the dreaded risk of a drink being spilled on them. Not all headphones are water-resistant, and spills happen fast. Just keep them safe and somewhere out of reach or danger when you’re not using them.
7. Don’t Drop Your Headphones
It happens. We’ve all dropped our headphones. In a blink of an eye, they’re on the floor, and sometimes, that one drop, is all it takes for things to never sound the same again. Trust me; I’ve been there.
Your headphones have many tiny components, and fragile electronics inside that can get damaged with the slightest bump of even just a light fall. Of course, that also means that if it’s a serious, hard-knock you could damage them permanently.
When your headphones are too loose on your head, they can easily fall off. Especially when you’re jogging, so make sure that they are fitted securely when putting them on.
There are some cool designs out there that allow you to customize the headband. I like this because one size doesn’t always fit all – ask me and my Frankenstein head.
8. Know the IP Rating of Your Headphones
This is a little trade secret that manufacturers like to keep under wraps. Firstly, IP stands for Ingress Protection.
This is the rating of all ratings. Forget water-proof and water-resistant, think IP. It defines the level of sealing effectiveness on the inside of your headphones. The protection it has against dust, water, moisture, anything really.
The most important thing to look out for is the IP rating. Two little numbers that tell you everything you need to know.
The first digit indicates the protection against solids (dust, dirt, and even yourself (yes, Mac’s IP is people proof). 0 – 6, 0, meaning no protection and 6 total protection.
If you find an x there, the manufacturer didn’t particularly test against solids. They’re basically just assuming that there would be some level of protection, but they can’t be blamed or sued if that was not the case – these sneaky manufacturers.
The second digit will tell you how protected you are against water damage. Again, the lowest being the worst and the highest the best.
The score goes from 0 – 8 this time. An 8 basically means you can wear them in the pool, and it’s ok to fall off your pool noodle… even take a dip under when it’s too hot (just not more than a meter).
You won’t need to worry about a downpour either… so, go on, have your “dancing in the rain” moment. But, next time you’re caught in the rain, or at the gym (and need to clean them after), keep your IP in mind. Making sure you have headphones with an IP rating of at least IPX7 or IPX8, will be your safest bet.
9. Don’t Leave Your Headphones Lying Around
I can’t even count how many times I used to just throw my bag (headphones god knows where) to the side of the room as I rush to get ready for work after the gym — completely forgetting that my headphones were in there.
If they are on top of everything, they might be safe. But if they are on the side of your bag, you might just bash them into the wall.
Ideally, you want to have a case that either came with your headphones or that you bought to keep them safe when you are not using them.
This will also look after your cable. A lot of these cases are super safe and convenient, seeing as they are mostly semi-hard and circular. Pretty much the perfect solution for how to keep headphones from breaking.
The biggest thing here is getting into the habit, I used to be equally bad, just chucking them anywhere… but after I bought my first Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (Amazon link) I totally changed my way of doing things. Now they go straight on the headphones stand when I’m not using them.
10. Pets Are NOT Your Headphones’ Best Friends
I’ve had headphones destroyed by both cats and dogs. That’s what you get for leaving them lying around.
For dogs, the soft ear cushions can easily be mistaken for a fluffy chew toy (the thought makes me cringe). And trust me, they won’t stop there. And, kittens will play and nibble on just about anything with those razor-sharp teeth.
The obvious solution here is to look after them. No reason your studio headphones should be lying around anyway.
The safest option when you have pets though, is to always make sure they are safely tucked away. Cats are curious creatures; if your headphones are lying around, they could quickly become their new plaything.
11. Avoid Sleeping with Your Headphones On
There are actually headphones you can sleep with, so let’s not sleep with our gaming headphones. The difference in design and overall comfort makes them a much better option as I’ve mentioned in another post.
There are many options that can still allow you to safely listen to your music while you sleep. I also have the Amazon Echo (Amazon link) for days when I don’t want to use my sleep headphones. It’s conveniently voice-activated, allowing me to turn the music on or off without having to get out of bed.
If your partner doesn’t feel the same about sleeping with music though, opt for a pair of wireless earbuds.
12. Lower the Volume
I know, kind of defeating the purpose of headphones, right? I love having my music pumping. But still, blasting your music puts your drivers at risk. I will say that the risk isn’t so much the volume your ears can naturally handle.
But, it’s possible that you could have accidentally blasted higher volumes than usual into them — I’ve done this while having the Bluetooth still connected in another room with my phone… I just kept increasing the volume without realizing it’s actually blasting in the other room.
So, if the sound is suddenly distorting without it being on a high volume, you might have blown your headphone’s drivers.
You will most likely pick this up when your bass is all scratchy and when even songs without bass are seriously distorted.
And, again, the output from your phone won’t easily damage your headphone’s drivers, but the output from professional stereo gear or other studio equipment is much stronger and can push your headphone’s drivers further than they can handle.
A very simple way to avoid this is to just play it safe and lower the volume. On the upside, you’ll be protecting your ears as high volumes can cause serious damage to your hearing.
13. Adjust the Volume before Plugging in Your Headphones
I can kick myself when I put on my headphones, but forgot to check the volume, and the sound suddenly blasts into my ears.
For some reason, this happens all the time, even with my car radio. I have, in fact, blown my car speakers once, and the same can happen with your headphones.
Try to get into the habit of turning down the volume before you switch off. For instance, if you watched a video with your girlfriend, on your phone at full volume, just turn it down again before you start listening to music.
14. Avoid Boosting the Bass
I have to admit, I love those heavy bass songs, and I do boost it a bit with the settings. Until I learned how badly this could damage my speakers.
So, I’ve had to compromise a bit by turning down the bass on the level mixer for my speakers’ sake. I also had to make sure that I actively disable the Bass Boost option.
Because our delicate headphone drivers are not made for the low-frequency sounds that bass pushes through (well, some really great headphones are, but any basic headphones aren’t going to appreciate Aron Chupa’s “I’m an Albatraoz” at full bass), this can put a lot of stress on them .
15. Know the Impedance of Your Headphones
A friend of mine works with high-end stereo equipment. When I visited him, I was dying to plug my own headphones into his system, but he warned me that they wouldn’t be able to handle the sound output. He uses high impedance headphones – the sound was insane!
However, if you’re just plugging your headphones into your phone or computer, you won’t have this issue. But, before you switch over to a more powerful setup, make sure that you have checked the specs.
When your headphones are not made to support the ohms output, you will easily blow the drivers.
16. Invest in High-Quality Headphones
Personally, I have gone through a few sets of headphones since my younger days. I got used to having to replace them within a year or so (I didn’t even care that much as they were so affordable).
Until the day, I decided to finally invest in good quality headphones. I had tried a friend’s, and there was just no comparison in the sound. I was hooked. This has two benefits, the quality was great, and I took better care of them.
The lower the price, the lower the grade of material used in the design. So, when you are comparing headphones, opt for quality. Even then, follow the safety rules and don’t be careless (but you won’t, believe me).
No electronics will last forever. However, a good pair of headphones, made from higher quality materials and components, will definitely outlast a budget product.
The bottom line here is to handle your headphones with care. If they’re really great headphones, you owe them that!
Don’t put them just anywhere, protect your cable, and keep the volume moderate. Follow these simple rules, and you’ll be using them for years.