When choosing a pair of earbuds, most consumers look only at the earbud specs and the style. While these two things are very important, many consumers overlook one of the most important things in an earbud –the cable. The importance of the cable is twofold. The cable must be strong enough not to break (most common place for a cable to break is near the connector) and also not fall under the effect of microphonics.
Microphonics is defined as the transmittance of mechanical vibrations through an electrical component. Basically, microphonics is the basically the annoying rustling sound you get when your earbud cable rubs along a surface. No matter how good your earbuds may sound, when you start actively using them, the microphonics will take away all the pleasure.
The most common way, earbud manufacturers reduce annoying microphonics is to add a little clip at the earbud cord. This way, you attach the clip to your clothes, and your earbud cable will only come in contact with air, thus reducing microphonics. The Nuforce NE7M use this method for preventing microphonics, while good in theory, it is rather annoying to attach the earbud clip every time you want to use your earbuds. Luckily, the Nuforce NE7M has a very strong rubber cord, which brings me to the next point
Make sure your earbuds come with an insulated rubber cord, none of the cheap nylon trash. While an insulated rubber cord will not remove all microphonics, it will eliminate the majority of the effect. There are earbud manufacturers that put a netlike rubber coating over their nylon cord earbuds. While this may reduce microphonics, they will still be present and extremely annoying. The best cord is a rubber one, the thicker the better. However, keep in mind if the cord is too thick, it might pull down, forcing the earbuds out of your ears. Balance is key.
Another way to reduce microphonics is the placement of earbuds. Most people face the cord downwards, so it’s pointing straight towards the ground. If you wrap the earbud cord upwards, around your ear and then let it point to the ground, the ear will absorb some of the microphonics (over the ear placement). Here is an example with the Ultimate Ears SuperFi 5 Pro:
Please note that you will have to experiment with this technique. Every ear is different, some people might be comfortable with this technique, and others may not. Think of this technique as a backup plan; only use it if you cannot reduce microphonics even further.Microphonics is a serious issue that many earbud enthusiasts overlook. Your earbuds might sound good at the beginning, but if you have a poor cord that sound isn’t worth squat. When buying a pair of earbuds pay close attention to the cord. Make sure it is strong and preferably made from rubber. If it has a clip, then that is a nice bonus, but don’t rely on it too much.