Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to headphones and earphones. I know plenty of people who love the closed, circum-aural ones, and there are those who prefer the regular buds. My personal favourite is definitely in-ear phones or canal phones. Even since I got my first pair around 4 years ago, I've become a total convert.
I first started using in-ear phones because I loved riding my bike while listening to music. Of course, back then I didn’t know it was a traffic offense to do so. I had to learn the hard way (read: caught by cops). At first I used the regular buds that came with my iPod, but those kept slipping out of my ears, as I had to wear them under my helmet. One of my friends suggested I try in-ear or canal-type earphones and when I did, I realised that these were perfect. They almost never slipped out and everything sounded nice and tight, including the bass. I don’t ride much anymore, and even if do, I don’t wear earphones as I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble (yes, cops again!) with them on. But I still prefer in-ear phones over anything else.
A lot of people may say that in-ear phones can never be compared to circum-aural headphones as the drivers aren’t as big or as powerful. This is definitely true, but there are a lot of advantages that in-ear phones have over the rest. For one, they’re highly portable and also fit into the ear very comfortably for most people. I’ve used them while travelling, working out, sitting at my desk in office and even while lounging around the house. They also block out a lot of ambient noise and some of them even feature noise cancelling abilities. This also allows you to listen to your music at considerably lower levels.
Some in-ear phones are designed specially for better audio quality, as they seal your ears properly, in turn giving better bass response too. I’m not saying they’re all good, as I’ve had some really bad ones in the past like a pair of HCL (yes, I cringe too) in-ear phones I bought when I was massively broke. But if you invest a decent amount of money, you can get a really nice pair. The best value for money in-ear phones I’ve owned are definitely the Sony MDR-EX35PL. They lasted for quite a while and I was devastated when they got ripped to shreds by my friend’s dog! Of course, these are relatively affordable and you can have some really good in-ear phones that cost a ton of money. One example is the Shure SE535, which I recently reviewed. These cost a staggering Rs. 31,000, but they’re definitely one of the best earphones I have ever tested.
The Shure SE535 Earphones
A lot of people (me included) have a bad habit of listening to music at very high levels. In-ear phones have drivers that are really close to your ears and and this can cause significant damage if you aren't careful. Keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to just in-ear phones, but all kinds of headsets. Always mind your levels, or you’ll end up with something nasty like tinnitus, which can get very annoying.
So there you have it. Of course, this is just my opinion and there are plenty of people who have various other preferences. But give me in-ear phones over any other type and I’ll definitely be a happy man!