Just Buy the Cheaper One

My simple trick for making a headphone choice

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Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

I’ve seen it so many times. And it’s always the same.

Someone has done their headphone research. They’ve picked the two best-reviewed models in their personal price range, but because every headphone is a unique flower, or a different flavor of cereal… they can’t quite pull the trigger.

So they ask me for help.

I don’t have some secret formula or mystical intuition for helping you buy a pair of headphones, or any other consumer technology. It’s flattering that people trust me to help them out, but I always follow the same basic ethos.

Assuming the two products you’ve asked me about are indeed within the same ballpark, the answer I’ll give you is simple:

Buy the cheaper one.

Value is highly subjective, and human brains are fickle. We’re constantly on the lookout for the next new shiny thing.

However, we tend to enjoy things more if we feel like we got a good deal on them, and we tend to be incredibly loss averse.

Making the less-expensive choice solves both of these brain challenges in one instant.

Unfortunately, technology marketing plays into human behavior, and our tendency to perceive more value in things that are more expensive, even if that’s objectively untrue or at least questionable.

Let’s take the recent release of the Bose 700 headphones, for example. They’re a long-awaited refresh of the classic QuietComfort series. They add minimal improvements to sound, better phone call quality, and a whole new inexplicably heavier industrial design. All this for the low, low price of…50 additional dollars.

Bose knows that the higher price will make the average customer immediately think they’re inherently worth more money, even though the cheaper model they’re succeeding was truly exceptional.

Fortunately for consumers, Sony has a competing model on the market that they’ve been heavily discounting of late, and I sincerely doubt they’ll let Bose get away with a price increase on the entire market segment once they release new models this fall.

I could be wrong though. Maybe $400 is the new $350. And in the meantime, Bose gets to cash-in on all the early adopters who fell for their gambit.

This is the elaborate game of trying to buy headphones in a capitalist system, and all consumer technology, really.

As long as you’ve done your research and narrowed it down to some well-reviewed products you think you’ll enjoy, you’ll always go right psychologically by just buying the cheapest one.

You’ll may have to squelch down those instincts that the more expensive one is somehow just naturally better, and focus instead on the good deal you got and the positive aspects of saving money.

I do this all the time. It’s how I make every single personal buying decision when I’m stumped by a couple of different options. I’ll admit that it’s tempting to just “put it all on black” and buy something crazy every now and then, but then I know I’ll just feel the loss of that money far more than any magical value I somehow found.

I’m not saying that people should buy $5 headphones instead of $200 headphones. This trick only helps when you’re trying to pick between two similar options.

If the prices are identical, you could always try flipping a coin. Or you could just ignore me and pull out a third option none of us had known was on your mind.

And hey, return policies do exist. Don’t be afraid to use them.

Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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