Decent earphones


Any tips considering a pair of earphones that won’t fall out of your ears while cycling?I’m looking for decent quality for a reasonable price, but the main objective is that they will stay where I need them: in my ears.

Personal choice-Sennheiser OMX70 or newer version.  My OMX70’s are worn at the gym and never come out.  I have also worn them on the road.  For me sound quality is important and these do the job well. I grant there are other brands and types but these have built-in ear loops that are hardly noticeable.  I use IEMs for my race car radios and they are not as easy to use, but are by design somewhat noise cancelling-don’t get this type for cycling.

Hope this helps

Bicycling is problematic because the wind interferes with open-type, but isolation-type in-ear headphones block ambient noise including traffic - which is dangerous.

For offroad cycling, same problem with the wind interfering with open-type, but isolation-type might be ok.

If you get isolation-type, you’ll want some that don’t slip out easily.  In my experience, those are the sort favored by professional musicians, such as Ultimate Ears, Shure, etc., which also happen to have poor fidelity especially at the higher frequencies.  (They usually only extend to about 15-16Khz, well below the 20kHz+ required for good fidelity.  Professional musicians performing live are evidently more concerned with reliable ambient noise blocking and durability, rather than fidelity, in that application.)

The other problem with in-ear isolating headphones that don’t slip out easily is comfort:  Some folks can’t stand them.  I have this problem with Etymotics and others that use the multi “barb” earbud design.

I’ve found that the one’s that come with the Clip+ are the best I’ve ever had for staying in. And very good sound too.

I have an old pair of Shure E2c’s that sound fantastic. The frequency range is 22-17500hz. This is an honest rating, and frankly, I doubt very much you can hear anything beyond that. Fit of the Shure’s is critical to sound, and I’ve found they have to really be put in your ears to get decent bass.

They do block out noise, though, even my lawnmower.

Try the new Klipsch Image S4. These got phenominal reviews and list for 79 dollars. Not sure how they stay in, though. I would NOT recommend in-ear (canal) earphones for biking. Too dangerous.

Like another poster, I find the included Sansa earbuds are pretty decent. I was suprised. Good thing I didn’t throw them out or give them away (like I usually do with included earbuds)!

@mikem132 wrote:

I have an old pair of Shure E2c’s that sound fantastic. The frequency range is 22-17500hz. This is an honest rating, and frankly, I doubt very much you can hear anything beyond that.<snip>

Rule of thumb for human hearing is 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.  This is an “average” range of hearing; many people can hear even higher (and lower) frequencies.

Personally, I can hear well above 20,000 Hz (20kHz), so earphones like Shure, UE, Etymotics, etc. that extend only to 17kHz or so sound obviously inferior to headphones that extend above 20kHz.  (Shure and the others would like you to think that most people can’t hear anything above 17kHz but that is not true.  Headphones and speakers that extend only to 17kHz sound flat/dead compared to those that extend above 20kHz.)

Best way to decide is to audit several headphones.  (Buy them somewhere with a “satisfaction guaranteed” return policy.)  If possible, compare them to each other and also to a really good audio system with high fidelity standalone speakers.  That’s what I did, and found the Audio-Technica ATH-CK7 were the best compared to the Shure, UE, etc. that I tried.  (But not all Audio-Technica are as good…and the ATH-CK7 are isolation type, not suitable for road cycling.)

Raw frequency range specs are a good place to narrow down your search, but not the last word.  I know that headphones rated to only 17kHz cannot possibly sound very good to me, but given two headphones rated say 12Hz to 24kHz, one may sound only mediocre yet the other may sound really good (e.g. the ATH-CK7).   There’s a lot of things affecting sound quality besides just max frequency response range.

Too bad Circuit City went out of business - that was a good way to try headphones by ordering online and returning to local store for full refund if you didn’t like them.  B.Buy also allows online purchases to be returned to local store for full refund (including shipping, last time I tried it), but their prices are usually somewhat higher.

Message Edited by Sandclip on 04-20-2010 04:19 AM

Well, I know I can’t hear anywhere near that level of high frequency. A CD will not record it, either, nor will any digital file contain it. 22khz is the cutoff for CD in theory (actually closer to 20khz). SACD claims frequency response up to 100kHZ, but they also provide the disclaimer that this cannot be heard “only sensed”. Whatever…the sound on a SACD is better than a CD, but I believe this is due primarily (probably exclusively) to the vastly higher sampling rate of the audible spectrum.

An adult male typically cannot hear much of anything about 13khz, by the way.Most are considerably under that number.  Young people are better as are women. To maintain high frequency hearing you have to live a life without any sustained loud noises, particularly high frequency (such as wind noise, etc.). This is why most lose high frequency hearing pretty early. Personally, I think this is one of the reasons mp3 files are so popular and have largely replaced CD purchasing by the public…the quality difference that is there is of no consequence to most people (either because they can’t detect it, their equipment can’t render it, or they have not taken the time to compare it). You are lucky to have retained so much of your hearing. My son has, too, but he is a musician and has a home recording studio and is paranoid about this. He wears “Mickey Mouse Ears” when he does anything with a lot of noise and always has.

The only reason I point this out is that there are many variables to what makes sound perception. Frequency response of a speaker or earphone is only one item in a long list. It pays to try a bunch using existing equipment to see which sounds best on the player, music type, encoding format, etc…

@mikem132 wrote:


An adult male typically cannot hear much of anything about 13khz, by the way.Most are considerably under that number.<snip>

I wonder why the universally-accepted rule of thumb is 20-20kHz, then?  Do you have references for 13kHz upper limit?

My hearing is actually quite damaged, BTW.  I have tinnitus, probably from a lifetime of excessive noise and damaging noise events including a number of rock concerts, so my high-frequency hearing perception is relatively impaired.  But I can still hear the difference between inferior vs. better fidelity headphones and other audio stuff.  And Shure headphones sound inferior, from what I’ve heard.  (Shure’s in-ear headphones main claim to fame is with professional performers, who place higher value on durable and reliable in-ear headphones with high attenuation of ambient noise, as opposed to audio fidelity per se.)


I play some test tones at home and can barely hear 10khz. I think it is from age, extensive exposure to wind noise. loud sounds, etc… It is interesting to read some of the papers on SACD to see why they claim a 100khz signal is important to overall sound, even though humans can’t hear anything anywhere near that range. In my younger days, they used to explain 10-22khz frequency response of stereos and speakers as extending dynamic range so the middle (audible) stuff had a flatter response instead of a strong dropoff at either end (most have this, but if the dropoff occurs outside audible range, who cares?). The 13K “upper limit” is just something typical of middle-aged and older men from testing. Some are better, some (me) are worse.

Shure phones have always pursued perfectly flat response (until some of their recent models). These are preferred by pros as they add or subtract nothing from the actual sound. They are dead flat. Most people are used to stronger bass and treble in music and find Shure earphones lacking at both ends because of their pure response. Shure has introduced new earphones recently which emphasize either end of the sprectrum more (as many other higher-end earphones have in the past), so their earphones have more “mass appeal”. Shure, in my experience, is a fantastic company. Their warranty is great, service is great, you can buy extra tips, their cables are far stronger than others, etc… I’ll bet it is the flat response you don’t like. On high-end music I often hear details that I can’t hear at all (harmonics, etc) on the Shures that I do no on Sony, etc…

I recommend jvc air cushions. Great sound, price and does not fall out of ears.

Try comparing certain music on the different headphones.  You may notice that the music sounds better with the headphones with higher-frequency response, whereas you may not notice much difference in the test tones with those headphones.

My hearing is not very good, but headphones that extend to only around 15-16kHz sound relatively dead to me, flat, missing that crisp shimmer and “airiness” of higher frequencies., especially noticeable with cymbals and other high frequency material.  The “dead” phones I tried include Shure, Ultimate Ears, Etymotic.

I can also hear better vs. inferior on the low-frequency end, not only response but accuracy.  (With my impaired hearing)  Guess it’s just a difference in sensory perception/discernment of me vs. some others.

“Flat” frequency response is not easily reproducible with headphones in different ears, because the response system includes the entire ear structure plus headphone, and people have differences in their ears including both externals and internals.  This ear dependency may be especially pronounced with sealed in-ear headphones.  So when you see a graph of frequency response of headphones, keep in mind that it was produced using a particular physical ear model and the response curve will vary by individual user in reality.

(The frequency response of a freestanding loudspeaker type system also varies depending on the room acoustics - similar phenomena.  But that would a topic for another thread.)

+1 for the Klipsch Image S4. I’m using it for almost half a year now with the clip+ and it works extremely well, even with the equalizer turned on. I wanted a on-ear phone at first because I usually dislike in-ears. However the Klipsch sits very well in the ear and the superior sound quality made me rethink my attitude. I have also tried the IE8 from Sennheiser and liked the sound, but it’s bulky and falls out of my ears when moving.

The Klipsch buds get great reviews, reviewers comparing the sound to phones at 2 or 3 times the cost.  It almost makes me wish I needed another pair right now!