Headphones are an interesting slice of the technology market, where companies build products that are as much gadget as they are art. Design, style, and personal taste in sound quality and tuning are just as important as the more technical aspects of a pair of headphones. And there have never been more choices: from cheap, sweat-proof headphones for working out, to $300 pairs of cans for blocking out the sounds of your delayed commute, to $55,000 headphones that can probably re-create the voice of god with some accuracy.
Despite this, I’ve proven through long years of history, that I’m definitely not responsible enough for “real” headphones. So instead, my go-to headphone of choice have been these: the HTC Stereo Headphones, Part Number 39H00014-00M, more commonly known as “the headphones that came in the box with the original HTC One (M7).” I found the first pair lying around the house when I was in a rush and needed some headphones, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
To be clear: objectively speaking, these are not traditionally “good” headphones. They are free pack-ins from a smartphone that was released in 2013. They have a fairly major design flaw where the left earbud tends to just arbitrarily fail anywhere between a few weeks to a few months into use. The build quality is poor, the mic / play-pause button is extremely hesitant to work with iOS for answering calls or pausing music, and I’m almost certain that they’re not waterproof.
But that’s exactly the point. Because I can (and do) buy them in bulk off eBay for around $7 a pair, I can (and do) go through about four or five pairs a year. So it’s not as big a deal if I lose a pair on a bus or a plane (done that), forget them in my jeans pocket when doing laundry (also yes, although those still kind of work), or tear them in half because they got caught on a door (again, this is a thing I have done). I can wear them when it rains without fear, or worry about losing them in a snowdrift when I’m shoveling out my driveway in the winter. And at $7, it’s no real loss if I accidentally drop them on a crowded subway car to work and get them crushed by someone walking, since they’re practically disposable.
Plus, for headphones that cost the price of a fancy Starbucks drink, there are a few nice features. Sound quality isn’t awful, although having used plenty of nicer headphones, they certainly aren’t winning any awards either.
Most importantly, they have a flat cord made out of what seems to be the perfect matte rubber material, so they (almost) never, ever tangle. That means that I can casually crumple them up into a ball, stuff them in a sweatshirt pocket or bag, and watch as they magically tumble out knot-free when I need them. Unlike Apple’s EarPods, which tend to fall out of my ears in seconds, the HTC headphones actually stay in my ears relatively well. Additionally, having used the HTC headphones for years, I’ve gone through enough pairs that I have a nice supply of spare earbuds lying around for when I inevitably manage to lose those as well.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to upgrade to some lambskin-cushioned Master and Dynamic cans or a perfectly-tuned pair of B&O Play headphones without worrying about losing, destroying, or breaking them within seconds. Until then, I’ll be sticking with (and destroying) my red HTC earbuds until I run out of random eBay storefronts to buy them off.