What causes wired earphones to fail?
One of the most common failure points in wired earphones is the cable.
Most of the time, the part that turns signals into sound (the drivers) are still working perfectly when the earphones stop working on one side.
However, the copper strands inside the cables are pulled apart over time as the earphones are bundled into pockets or coiled. Eventually, they lose connection altogether and the earphones go dead.
We can check if this is the case by wiggling and squeezing the cable between our fingers at common failure points, at the end near the 3.5mm plug and along the cable. If this creates a crackling noise, pops, or the audio returns at certain points, then the problem is the cable.
What can we do about it?
We can simply buy earphones with detachable cables, so cables can be replaced independently of the earphones when they inevitably fail.
Simply Google "earphones with detachable cables". Often, detachable cables is a feature that the manufacturer will tout on their website as well, shown below.
Where do I get replacement cables?
Replacement cables can usually be purchased from the manufacturer's service centre or website.
They are usually around $20-25, which is much less than the cost of a new pair of earphones.
If this is not an option, check out sites like AliExpress, Taobao or eBay. They will often have 3rd party (non-manufacturer) replacement cables for sale for fairly cheap.
What earphones should I buy to get started?
In-Ear Monitors: Shure SE215 / Westone UM1
On-Ear: Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear
Over-Ear: Audio Technica ATH-M50x
What if my existing earphones don't have detachable cables?
If your earphones can be opened up easily, it is often fairly straightforward to open them up to replace the cable with a tiny bit of soldering, which most Makers can do.
Some headphone stores also offer this repair. If you have steady enough hands, you can also attempt this yourself. All you will need is a soldering iron, which costs as little as $8.
Larger form-factor headphones like on-ear or over-ear headphones tend to be easier to open up to perform this repair.
However, in many cases, the cost of doing so can be pretty high depending on how involved the repair is. This unfortunately means that the only financially prudent solution may be to recycle them and buy repairable earphones.
Shopping for repairable wireless earphones? Check out our page.