You always hurt the things you love

I've tried all sorts of miniature headphones, and the only ones that I like are the ones that come with my Zune. What makes them special? They fit and don't fall out.

I try not to be too demanding.

But the other day, I was getting out of my car, and due to a badly-stowed Zune, the headphones dangled out of my pocket and got caught in the door. Before I realized what happened, I had taken a few steps away from the car, and the headphones snapped.

You always hurt the things you love, because if you didn't love them, you wouldn't use them all the time and accidentally break them.

(Well, and when you hurt the things you don't love, you don't get all bent out of shape about it.)

It's sort of why most automobile accidents happen close to home: Because you spend most of your time near your home.

When I went about looking for replacement headphones, I was stymied. You can't buy replacement original Zune headphones; you can only buy the fancy premium headphones. But I don't want the premium headphones; I want the boring plain headphones that I fell in love with.

I did come up with a solution eventually: I got a Zune for my brother as a gift, but I snuck the headphones out of the box before giving it to him. (Yes, I told him that I had stolen his headphones; he didn't mind.)

Comments (36)
  1. someone else says:

    But are the premium headphones different or just the same for an outrageous price?

    [Insert slashdotty comment about Microsoft here]

    [I thought this was clear from the seventh paragraph. If they were the same I would have bought them. -Raymond]
  2. JS says:

    I’ve had the same issue, multiple times over, with my preferred headphones (Sennheisers of some sort).

    The first pair got caught on something, I pulled, and they broke.

    The second pair I broke on purpose (not exactly one of my best moments).

    The third pair was stolen along with my iPod.

    The fourth pair suffered a similar fate to the first.

    I’ve had the fifth for over a year now, hopefully this streak is over.

    I keep buying the same kind because they fit comfortably, sound good, and don’t look ridiculous. Simple criteria, but hard to meet.

  3. MichaelGG says:

    Get a nice set like Shure. They come with 9 different pieces to go in your ear, so one will probably work. And if none of them do, they offer a mold that you can get customized to your ear.

    [I don’t want fancy expensive earphones, because that makes them all the more expensive to replace when I inevitably break them. -Raymond]
  4. Matt Newman says:

    I really liked the original Zune headphones too, I found some cheapish Koss earbuds that are alright but just not the same.

    I’m not sure I’m willing to spend the money to give my brother a Zune though… Then again I could buy myself a new Zune. Does the Zune HD come with the old headphones or is it just the older models?

  5. Zambo1 says:

    You probably should have included a preemptive snarky comment about a Zune.

  6. Maytag says:

    Washing machines work at least as well as car doors….

  7. Siebe Tolsma says:

    @Matt Newman: They are very very similar. I loved the original ones (which I too broke), and I love the new ones. I think it’s just a style update to go with the Zune HD look.

  8. David Jones says:

    Gotta wonder – if it was just a car door, would cut & solder have done the trick?

    Or do you have the soldering skills of a thermonuclear device?

  9. BewilderedByTheShell says:

    The Zune headphones are the only ones which always fall out of my ear. Btw is that why MS hurt Windows Explorer after XP?

  10. htd says:

    not allowed to use apple product in M$ campus?

  11. Frymaster says:

    htd: of course they are… apart from anything else, how do you think the people responsible for the mac version of office test it? :P

  12. josh says:

    arg the same thing happened with me, but mine were the earbuds that came with the old Creative Labs Zen. I do’nt remember the exact model name but it was the white 80gb one that used a laptop hard drive inside.

    the earbuds were FANTASTIC, and they were the kind that wrapped behind your head so when you needed to take them off, you could just drape them from your neck instead of stuffing them in your pockets and getting them tangled.

    When they broke I tried EVERYTHING from calling creative to posting on craigslist and various forums to find SOMEBODY who had them.

    alas I never found another set, and to this day I still mourn…

  13. Brian says:

    Sony MDR-J10.  They are tiny little wrap-around earpieces, and the little speaker sits sideways in your ear canal.  No foam pads to wear down after constant ear placement and removal.

    I have gone through probably 15 of these over the past 10 years… because I use them so often.  And around 10 dollars a pop, they’re easy to replace when the inevitable cord snagging happens.

  14. greenlight says:

    I used to go through a paid of earbuds in about 2-3 months. The cable would snag or I’d step on them or something (I’m very clumsy).

    That’s when I went over to A2DP stereo bluetooth. I’ve been so happy ever since. Sony Ericsson make an in-ear set which is just a cable and two earbuds, it’s tiny and you can always just have it resting around your neck.

    This is why I’ve kept away from the iPhone. They added A2DP in the 3G, but it sounds absolutely terrible compared to the A2DP of other brands

  15. keith says:

    A good friend of mine fondly recalls the semi-annual days at defunct e-tailer X when employees could buy armfuls of customer-returned CDs from the returns closet for a buck.  Does Microsoft have a similar mechanism for consumer product returns?  

  16. ari says:

    I gave up on earbuds a long time ago. They never fit well enough to stay put while exercizing. I found the Sennheiser pmx 70s, which are the around the neck type. They’re $20 on amazon and never budge while running.

  17. Nawak says:

    David Jones:

    It depends where it snaps and, anyway, soldering headphone wire is really tricky… and the result is often ugly. I know I have never been satisfied with the result when I tried. If you really want to go that way, here’s a place with advice:

  18. John says:

    *insert joke about squirting here*

  19. Roger says:

    Incidentally your claim for why people have more accidents closer to home is wrong.  Read the book "Traffic" by Tom Vanderbilt for the details.

    In summary it is because people are remarkably bad at seeing things out of the ordinary (you expect "normal") and end up in a bit of a trance.

    We see the same effect with computers where people don’t notice messages etc right in front of them because they are so used to there being no messages or to ignore the messages.

  20. D Stro says:

    I had the same experience with some nice noise-cancelling earbuds.  Earbuds don’t seem to like getting caught in the spokes of your bike tires.  I went through four pairs before I finally decided I had to buy cheaper earbuds.  I found a pair of Skull Candy ones I liked and maybe if I take care of these ones long enough I can justify buying another pair of the nice ones.  ^_^

    Too bad the Zune HD doesn’t work with Mac.  That was the deciding factor when I was looking at my most recent portable purchase.

  21. D Stro says:

    @Roger — like how people respond to "Are you sure you want to do X?"  My Windows Mobile 6.1 phone is terrible with this, I got in the habit of double-clicking the delete softkey because it would always ask me to confirm.  But in some cases, it doesn’t ask me to confirm, and I end up deleting two emails… and I still haven’t figured out how to undelete emails on my phone… Ouch!

  22. Mike Caron says:

    Ha, it’s funny you mention this topic. Back when I got my first smart phone, a Samsung somethingorother, one of its big features was that it played MP3s (and, indeed was better than the MP3 player I was using at the time). To push this feature (presumably so I would use their online store — ha!), they included a Stereo plug-in headset.

    The thing about this headset was that it had the tiny jack common on phone headsets (the one smaller than the 3.5mm stereo jack). So, you couldn’t use regular headphones with it — they didn’t fit!

    It was a decent pair of headphones, but eventually it succumbed to overuse, and started crackling. For months and months, I searched for a replacement pair, but no headsets I found were stereo, and no headphones I found would fit…

    Of course, all this changed when I got a Blackberry Curve, which has a regular stereo jack for its headset — I can use any headphones I want.

    (Coincidentally enough, I’m with Brian. Those Sony headphones are a bit more expensive, but damn, they’re the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever used!)

  23. Will Hughes says:

    I havn’t seen/used a Zune before (that whole ‘Not in the US/UK’ thing) – but I’m somewhat surprised the supplied headphones are actually worth using.

    It always puzzles me why so many manufacturers give you crummy headphones to go with their ‘premium’ media playing devices.  

    Good to see that the Zune doesn’t.

  24. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    >*insert joke about squirting here*

    Raymond was royally squirted off by the loss of the earphones.

    Now serious: Does Zune HD have Blutooth?

  25. Worf says:

    Huh, I thought that I read the second-gen Zunes came with the premiums, but I guess not – they did come with some decent ones though, a change from the traditional "throw away all pack in phones".

    Still, I tend to use a pair of sony cheapies – the quality isn’t there, but for $5 on sale, they work decently. For a few more bucks I get the MDR-E818V with volume control. My very first pair were $20 and were great, and lasted years. Now I go through a pair every year or so. I’d be more upset, but they’re still cheap. And I hate in-ears. Earbuds for me, and volume low enough so I can still maintain some awareness of my surroundings.

    Sound good enough for the environments I use it, and I can still tell the difference between good DACs and lesser ones, oddly. Maybe it’s just the device.

    Never tried the buds on my halo 3 zune, though. And since they’re not sold in Canada anymore…

  26. ArlieD says:

    I have several pairs of Zune headphones, all basically new; my wife and I like the Zunes a lot, but not the earphones.

    Raymond, if you want them (spares?), they’re yours.  Look me up in the GAC and mail me if you want them.

  27. Michael Puff says:

    Well you work at Microsoft. And you have no chance to get the original earphones? I bet if Bill Gates asked for them he would get one pair. ;)

  28. Dale says:

    Know how you feel Raymond.

    My PDA has one of those mini USB plugs, so when I wear out/snap that plug, I’ve got to buy an (expensive) replacement.  Sure, I can use a mini USB to 3.5mm adapter, but they break too.

    (they snap internally from flexing).

    I look forward to a PDA with a regular audio jack.

  29. Someone You Know says:

    @Will Hughes:

    "It always puzzles me why so many manufacturers give you crummy headphones to go with their ‘premium’ media playing devices."

    No mystery there — it’s so they can charge you a bundle for better headphones later. This is why Microsoft only lets you buy the fancy premium headphones, not the boring plain headphones Raymond fell in love with.

  30. Kevin says:

    If you want to stock up before they’re gone forever, these guys seem to sell them:

  31. steveg says:

    @David Jones: soldering headphones.

    Not very easy at all. I’m happy to solder modchips and what not, but headphones are too hard — I took one look at what was required and didn’t even try — the wires are incredibly thin. I’d rather spend the $80 on a new pair.

    YMMV, I’m a software guy.

  32. tsrblke says:

    [I don’t want fancy expensive earphones, because that makes them all the more expensive to replace when I inevitably break them. -Raymond]

    There’s a snarky comment in there about how expensive it was to replace the "cheap" headphones ;).

    Seriously though, I’ve never found a set of Earbuds I liked.  Thusly defeating the Portable Media Player for me.  I hear I’m getting a Zune HD for Christmas though (My fiancee cut me off from buying one prior to that, and so I found out.)  Perhaps I’ll like those.  Until then, Noise Canceling Over the Ear phones FTW!

  33. Sven says:

    I can top any lost headphone stories: I lost my headphones (that I was also quite fond of) at the summit of Mt. Fuji. :)

  34. 640k says:

    Raymond doesn’t have a Zune. No sane person has. He just got paid to write that he has one.

  35. Peter says:

    I used to love my Koss KSC75 because whilst being cheap £12 they have great sound quality for such a low price.  My very first pair broke because I temporarily placed my iPod in a shopping bag on a table whilst getting some fast food and then forgot it was in the bag and when I stood up I pushed the bag off the table whilst holding the bag handle and also still wearing them so there was a great big tug on the right angled jack.  So it was no surprise that one ear was no longer working.

    I then bought some replacements but due to the blasted iPhone they changed the quite sturdy right angled jack for a flimsy straight one.  So all the time I spend rating unrated tracks due to the 7000 I have left to rate means that the wire near the jack gets bent quite often.  The flimsiness means that one of the phones break and I’ve already got a replacement pair from the vendor once before.

    Unfortunately Koss’s representatives in the UK refuse to acknowledge my emails and so I can’t make use of the lifetime guarantee.

    Does spending a lot more provide more resilient audio jack?

    Like Raymond I’m worried about replacement costs if others are likely to go the same way.

  36. Jörn Kottmann says:

    I have tried many different ear plugs, but in the end they never really fit or are annoying to wear after a few hours. Now I have custom made ear plugs where they used an impress of my ear to model the part which is in the ear. They fit perfectly and sound at least twice as good as anythign else I tried. It does not cost that much, so if you wear your ear plugs a lot you want some where the ear piece is made for your ear.

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