Why Do You Need To Clean Earphones
In-ear headphones, also known as canalphone, ear-canalphone, have become the most popular choice for portable mp3 use, and for good reason, they provide excellent passive noise cancellation, so you can rock out without worrying about the disturbance of sounds around you. In-ear headphones are often confused with Earbuds as they too insert into the ears. However, unlike in-ear headphones, earbuds do not go all the way into the ear canal and do not form a seal with the ear. This means that earbuds lack much of the noise canceling that ear-canalphones provide.
Passive Noise Cancellation
The Passive noise cancellation canalphones provide often rivals the amount of noise blocked by active noise cancellation headphones, but without sacrificing sound quality. I should also point out that active noise canceling headphones can get pretty expensive and except for a limited number of specific applications, I don't recommend them. So, if you want the highest level of noise reduction without the price to go with it, I'd invest in good pair of In-ear canalphones.
They don't sacrifice sound quality because unlike active noise canceling headphones, the only sound coming from in ear headphones is what's being produced by your audio source device. In-ear headphones accomplish the noise cancellation with tips that insert into your ear canal and form a seal that blocks out noise very effectively. The amount of noise reduction varies from pair to pair, but you can expect somewhere in the order of 50% of ambient noise isolated on average. The Etymotic ER-4P are among the best at blocking out outside noise from coming in.
Thankfully, this helps out with the dangers of hearing loss as well because you can listen at lower volumes and still hear all the little details you've been missing out on. Make sure you are properly inserting your earphones or sound quality and noise cancellation will be lost, check out How To Properly Insert Your Canalphones . It's a video, a nice little break from all this text.
The tips are very important and can affect everything from sound quality, to the amount of noise cancelation, to the level of comfort. Different headphone companies take different approaches to the tips, but Sony and Bose in-ear headphones have tips that are either made of plastic or foam. It comes down to preference which ones you like.
One of the biggest contributors to ruining your headphones is not maintaining them well. It is my recommendation that in addition to cleaning your tips, the nozzle which attaches to the tip needs to be cleaned as well. I know its easier to just clean the tips because its the only nasty part you happen to see and the part that you are actually placing in your ear.
However,the nozzle build up reduces the volume and sound quality in the near term and reduces the headphones overall longevity. Fortunately, many in ear headphones come with a tool to remove the wax build up, a feature to keep an eye out for.You may also want to make sure your canalphones come with nozzle filter replacements as that helps reduce how much build up gets into the inner workings.
HOW TO CLEAN
Once you have used the supplied tool to remove the bulk of the build up and replaced/cleaned the nozzle filter... Just gently wipe the outside of the canalphone and the cable with the water/soap saturated tissue and let it dry. Replaceable cables come in handy here as well because if you manage to keep your headphones for a long time the cable will eventually become brittle. Replacing just the cord is much less expensive and another little feature to keep an eye on. The less expensive models feature dynamic transducers ( Denon AH-C452k ) while the more expensive models feature balanced transducers....generally.
Balanced transducers don't always directly mean better sound, they are just smaller so you can get more into a single headphone...which does often mean better sound. Dynamic transducer based headphones do have their advantages of being better at reproducing bass ( Etymotic HF5 )(more air movement) and being less expensive.
If you have ever read a headphone review or two then you may have heard people refer to "burn in", transducers are what are affected by burn in. Dynamic transducer based in ear headphones can benefit from burn in while balanced generally do not. After 50 hours or so, dynamic transducers loosen up a bit and start to recreate the sound as it was designed to do. What you should take from this is if you buy a dynamic based headphone, keep in mind that it may sound better after a little use.