Earbuds are a comfortable and convenient alternative to bulky “ear warmers” that tend to hurt over time, yet are far more considerate to your neighbors than a boombox.
This comes at a price, however. The pesky products can often get misplaced without hope of being discovered, get damaged from very little, and will die randomly and without warning. You can always save up for a better pair of buds, though how long do they last on average?
Well, that answer is not easily described in a few words. It comes down to the quality of the headphones, whether or not they are wireless and how often you take your frustrations out on them. In this article, we are going to discuss the average lifespan of earbuds (including some well-known products) and what you can do to get more life out of your pair.
How long does a pair of earbuds last?
This will largely come down to how well you treat your earbuds, though all tech will fail on you over a long enough timeline. The biggest way to avoid replacing earbuds constantly is to make sure they are well-treated, typically dry, and of a higher caliber than the awful five-dollar products featured prominently at most gas stations and convenience stores.
Cheap Earbuds ($5 to $20)
Sometimes you need a pair of headphones despite the fact that you are months behind on the rent. Everyone has been in this uncomfortable position and sympathy abounds. With that said, you will be lucky to get more than 1 – 3 weeks out of your earbuds without one side dying on you or the volume beginning to fade at a speed most would consider alarming.
If you keep them incredibly well-maintained and avoid tension, rain, or damage you might be able to get 1 – 3 months out of the cheaper options. Higher volumes will also put a strain on the product, meaning you may have to listen to your songs at a reasonable level or prepare for a trip to the nearest Valero.
A better solution would be saving up a few bucks and opting for a quality pair down the road – cheap headphones can quickly become an expensive fee after a few replacements.
Apple Earpods are a worthwhile choice in this price range if you are strapped for cash.
For a better quality pair of wired earbuds, you can expect anywhere from 90 to 180 days on average. This does not mean you can be harsher with the more expensive options, since earbud wires are notoriously fragile and an impatient tug or infrequent tangle can spell disaster for your audio playback.
Better quality earbuds are able to play music at higher volumes for longer without suffering immediate earbud death – though you should still be mindful of prolonged periods of deafening music.
Better earbuds typically come with an Ingress Protection rating or IP rating. This will help give you a guideline of how wet they can get before they suffer internal damage.
This rating should be followed closely. If it is IP4 or above, you can use them at the gym without having to worry about sweat damaging the insides. Below that, proceed with a good bit of caution.
True Wireless Earbuds
When it comes to lifespan, wireless headphones almost always beat their cabled competitors. Often called “True Wireless” headphones, wireless earbuds refer to products that require no cable connection between the earbuds and the device they are connected to. These will almost always be Bluetooth and while they have a longer lifespan; you will need to charge them daily.
A well-made pair of wireless earbuds will last as long as 2 – 3 years with proper maintenance and care. The biggest breaking point of wired earbuds is the cord itself, so removing that gives the wireless alternative far more longevity. You will still need to look out for moisture, damage, and dust, though you don’t have to worry about twisting them around in your sleep.
The biggest culprits of dead true wireless earbuds are long periods of high volume, excessive use, and a dying battery. To avoid this, try to keep them charged as often as possible and try to limit long jam sessions that will stress out the earbuds speaker. It will also help to avoid leaving them exposed to the elements. Thankfully, almost all true wireless earbuds come with a pretty snug carrying case.
Speaking of batteries, you will need to remember to charge the product. On average, true wireless earbuds have a battery life of about 4 – 6 hours. This varies massively depending on the music you are listening to, how loud the volume is, and which brand of earbuds you are using. Be wary of battery lives listed by manufacturers, as they tend to lean on the optimistic side and don’t always give an honest account of their product.
Popular Earbuds & Their Lifespan
This category focuses more on the most popular type of earbuds, rather than the most worthwhile. There will be some notable omissions that will leave brand loyalists feeling a bit shunned, though we will try to cast as wide a net as possible. This will cover the lifespan and battery life of each product and discuss any environmental protection they may contain.
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Apple may charge a hefty sum for their products, though they maintain one of the top spots in tech for good reason. The Apple AirPods Pro has an average lifespan of around 3 years when well maintained, and the product comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Gym rats can breathe easily as the product offers an IP4 rating, though you should still try to avoid dousing them in liquid effort. While crackling and static are usually signs of a dying product, it is likely a common issue that happens with the product in loud areas or while using call audio.
The expected battery life of Airpods Pro is around 6 hours, though this is shortened considerably with audio features turned on or while on a phone call. With the accompanying charge case, you can expect 30 hours of audio before you need to charge the case again.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Samsung is easily the largest electronics company in South Korea, and its tech justifies the lofty top spot. Galaxy Buds are very proficient headphones that should conservatively last you around 2 years, perhaps more with a careful owner. They come with a one-year warranty should they come defective or die before their expected expiration date.
Galaxy Buds 2 will play music for anywhere from 6 – 8 hours depending on how loud they are and what type of music they are playing. Additional audio features “Active Noise Cancellation” or ANC. They do come with a charging case however, that can give close to 30 hours of playback time when full of juice.
Google Pixel Buds Pro
Pixel Buds Pro are some of the best earbuds on the market and pack a lot under the pleasing exterior. Google has not listed any expected lifespan, though you could (theoretically) get up to 230 days of listening time if they never stopped running.
Realistically, this likely translates to around 18 months to around 3 years, depending on the individual consumer and how well they treat the buds.
The Pixel Buds Pro earbuds come with a one-year warranty and have a listed battery life of up to 11 hours. With the charging case, Google has the total runtime of a charge case battery at around 31 hours. The biggest advantage of the Pixel Buds is that they can play longer without interstitial pauses in music to recharge.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I Make My Earbuds Last Longer?
Proper maintenance, gentle handling, and a fair bit of luck.
If you are pulling at cords, tossing them onto dirty surfaces, or leaving them in the unspeakable depths of your denim jeans, they will likely deteriorate far faster. Equally important, the volume of the music plays a big role in the interior speaker’s longevity. If you are blasting already boisterous music at max volume, it will take a toll on your earbuds.
If you have true wireless earbuds, keep them in their case whenever they aren’t in use to prevent dust and other particles from getting into the speaker grille. You should also try to clean them fairly regularly, with most folks recommending around once a week.
For a more in-depth article, search “Why do my earbuds keep breaking?” in the search bar above.
What Type of Earbud Lasts the Longest?
As far as the type of earbud is concerned, wired earbuds will never have the longevity of the Bluetooth alternative. While thicker earmuff headphones can come with very thick, durable wires – this is not the case with inner-ear headphones. For those utilizing wired headphones, you will always have to be very careful with the cord or risk killing one side, both sides, or the max volume.
When it comes to specific brands, we highly suggest trusting the word of fellow consumers over that of the manufacturer. This isn’t claiming that manufacturers are lying to you, though it’s hard to nail down exactly how long a product will last until it rolls out. A decent way to know is to check the warranty, as that is a good indicator of how long they expect it to last. Typically speaking, good earbuds that are wireless can typically get up to two years with care.
What is a Good Price for “Quality” Earbuds?
If you want a pair of earbuds you can trust but don’t wanna toss $200 at it, you can get in for much cheaper and still get a fair bit of use out of earbuds. While anything under thirty is hard to justify (though they do exist), typically you can get a reliable pair for anywhere from $50 – $100. Be wary of bigger brands, as they have a tendency to bump up the price because of a recognizable logo.
When looking for earbuds, check around to see reviews from websites as well as consumers, which will give you a better idea about common issues, features, and audio ability.
Audio equipment is hard to pin down when it comes to longevity, though earbuds tend to fall on the briefer side of the spectrum. A decent amplifier worth its salt can easily outlive most electronics, animals, and committed relationships. Unfortunately for those that don’t want to take their Fender amp on the subway, this isn’t true of headphones.
Earbuds will almost never make it out of the 3-year mark, which is only reserved for the most well-maintained, high-quality earbuds on the market. A typical pair most people use on their work commute and gym sessions will likely be dead by the time spring hits.