The Non-Longevity of Consumer Headphones

A response to a question and a tangent about the way audio companies see their products

Hey, thanks for telling me about the Cloud Mix Sale! I’m going to go back to Best Buy and get some money back on the unit I bought recently due to their price match guarantee. :) That’s a pretty good price for it if you need all of its features, and it’s the smallest of all the pairs you’ve brought up so far.

I’m not a huge fan of the Cloud II dongle, to be honest. It doesn’t accept 7.1 channel input, and simply upmixes a stereo signal into a fake surround field. I guess it’s not horrible for what it’s doing, but Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos, and the free Razer Surround will all take the actual 7.1 surround data from your games and render it into a sound field that’s more accurate to what you’d get on a surround speaker setup, to my ears.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t like it, but it’s not at all to my personal tastes! Just so you know where I’m coming from.

Sound is subjective at pretty much any price point. Past $99 or so, you’re paying for features/build quality/the sort of stuff that’s meant to appeal more to personal tastes than raw audio reproduction.

I’ve used the Custom Game’s cousin, the Custom One Pro, and it’s nicely built. Beyerdynamic also offers a decent warranty, and all of their parts are user-replaceable, so if something breaks outside the warranty it can still be repaired.

I think the popularity of Beats has done a fair bit to damage longevity in the headphone industry. They’re notoriously un-reparable. Even Apple’s service department “repairs” them by giving you a new pair after you pay the replacement fee.

Most consumer headphones are treated as ephemeral products with an expiration date. They kind of want you to buy one every few years, instead of having one last you a decade. That’s why you typically see 1 year warranties at most, with 2 year warranties a rarity you still find once in a great while.

Studio headphones are built for longer-term use, because a lot of the customers in that space are professionals that want consistent tools. You will get “better” build quality there, but they’re still mass produced items that have a very small chance to break even when new.

On the rare occasions where I’ve had a pair break before I’ve sold it to a friend or given it away, I’m usually more than ready for a new one. I know that’s me enabling the worst practices of the industry, and maybe we should all expect more out of sub $100 products…but it would take a pretty big consumer shift for companies to worry about stuff lasting more than 2 or 3 years.

Sorry I got off on a tangent! Every headset/headphone you’ve mentioned so far is a good buy for its price (Except the Cloud Mix when not on sale, hahaha). If you have the opportunity to buy from Amazon, they have a 30 day return window if you loathe something. You’ll have to pay a small restocking fee if the item isn’t broken, and they watch for people who abuse it, but I enjoy the piece of mind that comes with that and I’ve only done it once. Best Buy also has a good return policy and they’ve helped me out when headsets have been too small for my big melon.

Thanks for reading.

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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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