The Great Earbud Challenge

This is a guest blog entry, written by my beloved techie, Jim.

It all started with an article by about great holiday gifts. I trust them with solid tech information, needed to find gifts for the kids, and thought, who doesn’t need earbuds, right? So, I followed the links and looked at the options on (the site that donates to charity, natch’) and pretty quickly became confused about which artful, durable, and light pair was best to buy. The $100 pair? The $200 pair that were newer and had quad drivers? Certainly more expensive, newer, and more drivers would be better, right?

Meanwhile, I also received an email and link from (see image), whose “real” research and products have always been educational and trustworthy, especially before the Internet existed. (I encourage you to read more about founder Drew Alan Kaplan.) The message, in their consistently inimitable style, expounded upon the virtues of their new $20 earbuds. I could even get a pair for free if I just ordered their noise-canceling earbuds that were certainly better than any others available anywhere.

How does the market get away with having so many options? Is it because audio fidelity is such a highly subjective thing?

Assuming yes, I wanted to be sure and decided we’d have a “Great Earbud Challenge” to settle it once and for all. Or at least for the four of us.

I ordered four different pairs – three 1MOREs (see image) and the DAK $20 ones – and we setup a side-by-side sound test to gather our data. The rules were that we each had to:

  • Be blindfolded
  • Not comment until all judging was complete
  • Share a single playback device and platform (iPhone 7 and Spotify)
  • Choose a song based on our individual audio preferences
  • Rate the pairs on a scale from 1 (favorite) to 4 (least favorite)

Earbuds were tested in random order for each tester to avoid any errant clues (the process took a loooong time, so we got a bit punchy). And while we all expected our ratings would be similar, here are the results:

Subjectivity being what it is, our ratings were all over the place, but to our collective surprise, most of us rated the least expensive earbuds as our favorite (column 4), and half of us rated most expensive as the worst (column 1).

The good news, though, is that we were able to sort out fairly easily who got to keep which ones, and we all ended up happy with our new holiday earbuds. I, of course, ended up with the most expensive ones, so whenever I use them, I feel compelled to tell whoever will listen about the reality of their weakness, for maximum ROI, of course.

Is this the first of many such challenges?! We’d like to think so. However, if we don’t continue the tradition, it seems there are others who may…

– Crumster
Holiday Season 2017


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