Not too long ago, at the end of the inaugural post for my reoccurring Q&A feature, MP3 Mailbox Monday, I threw in a little tip about how to store your headphones while not using them with your MP3 player. To reiterate: you should avoid wrapping your earphones around your device while leaving the plug in the jack, because it puts stress on the cable and can cause damage to the wires inside. Perhaps it seemed that this tip was just some good advice from someone who has your best interests at heart (me, of course), or maybe it came off as preachy, or maybe you just thought: "well, duh."
If you were in this last camp, you hit the nail on the head. The reason I chose that moment to bestow this little tidbit upon Crave readers is due to the fact that I'd recently pulled out my Creative Zen V Plus, unwound my Shure SE310s, and discovered, much to my dismay, that there was a crack in the cable next to the plug and the wires inside were exposed and in danger of fraying. Ouch. Not that I wasn't aware of the fact that this was not the best way to be storing my $300 headphones. After all, Shure doesn't include that nice hardshell case for decoration. Still, with a cable as thick as that found attached to Shure earphones, damage to the cord was the least of my concern. I was much more worried about what might befall the 'buds being bashed around in my bag, although even that did not inspire me to use the included case on a regular basis.
You may rightfully wonder at this point why I wouldn't make use of such a handy accessory. Well, first of all, I'm lazy. That's right. I said it. And before you go condemning me for readily admitting to my indulgence in one of the seven deadly sins, I'd like a show of hands from the people who store their headphones in the way that I've mentioned above. That's what I thought. OK, I can't actually see you. But I would guess at least half of MP3 player users employ the cable-wrap method, which, by the way, is not as bad if you actually unplug the headphones first. But I also have trouble with this seemingly effortless step--even though I have experienced first-hand the damage that may be inflicted. What it really boils down to is habit: I have to train myself to store my earphones in a way more conducive to their health.
If you share this habit, it's probably a good idea to break it--broken headphones do not a happy music listener make. And if this can happen to a top-of-the-line pair of earphones, it's a risk for many sets out there. Yes, it would be nice if the cables offered better stress relief close to the plug, but the fact is many of them don't, and the damage is easy to avoid with a little foresight. Luckily for me, the break on my Shure SE310s is actually on the extender cable, rather than the Y cable connected directly to the earbuds, so it's easy (and cheap) enough to replace. Good thing, too, because although Shure earphones come with a pretty great two-year warranty, this type of damage falls under "user error," and it's up to the company's discretion whether or not they replace it. Not that you couldn't fib a little about how the break came about, but a discerning manufacturer will probably call you out on it. Or maybe--just maybe--if the customer service rep is feeling extra-generous, you might get a nice, new pair of headphones.