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Staggered headphone cables--Ask the Editors

CNET's resident headphone expert answers a question from a reader looking for earbuds with a cable that loops behind the head.

CX 380 Sport Headphones Sennheiser

Have you ever wonder what makes a pair of headphones truly fitness-friendly? One of the most obvious features to come to mind is water-resistance (read: the capability to withstand your excessive sweating). Of course, it's also important that they fit securely and keep any cables at least somewhat out of the way. Design-wise, this means incorporating a neckband, ear-clips, or a staggered cable. It's this last permutation we're addressing today.

Q: I recently went through the earbud and headphone reviews and had a question. I was looking for something just like the noise-canceling earbuds you guys reviewed. My question: are any of the earbuds that you guys tested around the neck style earbuds? You know the ones with one side is longer than the other so it wraps around the back of your neck? I'm sure I made a fool of myself the way I just described that. But I am having the hardest time finding some ear buds that go inside the ear and wrap around the back of the neck. I've about given up hope. But again, were any of the earbuds like that?--runner000012, via direct message.

You don't sound like a fool at all! That's not a particularly easy feature to describe if you don't review them day in and day out. We usually call that a staggered cable design, where one side of the Y cable is longer than the other. (It is also referred to by some as asymmetrical.) There are several models that we have reviewed that use that style of cable. Unfortunately, they're not terribly easy to find since there isn't really a way to sort by that specific spec.

One I remember reviewing recently is the Yamaha EPH-30. This is an in-ear 'bud, which means it will passively block out environmental noise (which is not strictly "noise canceling" but generally does the trick). Better yet, those earphones will only set you back about $40. Also, it's a good idea to look for headphones that are sport style or have the word "sport" in the product name as those tend to offer a staggered cable. One example is the Sennheiser CX 380, which was introduced this year at CES.