After reach­ing out to the ILX hive­mind for sug­ges­tions on buy­ing a new pair of head­phones, I end­ed up get­ting a pair of Ety­mot­ic Research ER6i Iso­la­tor In-ear Ear­phones, against the advice of for­mer Sty­lus col­league and renowned audio­phile Nick Southall. This, I real­ize now, was my first mis­take.

In my haste to find a suit­able replace­ment for my old AKG K 26 P’s, I set­tled for a pair of in-ear ear­phones. They were near­ly twice as expen­sive as the AKG’s, but based on what I read online, they’d be much gen­tler on my pre­cious eardrums because I wouldn’t have to play them as loud­ly to drown out ambi­ent noise. Since I want to pre­serve my hear­ing at least until I have teenaged chil­dren, this sound­ed like a good idea.

It wasn’t.

When I first used them, it was a rev­e­la­tion. I bare­ly had to turn the vol­ume on my iPod on and I got amaz­ing sound, and, despite what you might read on Amazon.com, decent bass response. But imag­ine my sur­prise when I dis­cov­ered that the right cone blew out while I lis­tened to R.E.M’s “Liv­ing Well Is the Best Revenge” some­time this past spring.

No wor­ries, I assured myself, con­fi­dent that their cus­tomer ser­vice would be able to deal with my issue in a fair and time­ly man­ner. I mailed my faulty ear­phones back, had them repaired, and they were returned with­in a few weeks. If there’s one good thing to be said for Ety­mot­ic Research, it’s that they have fine cus­tomer ser­vice.

Every­thing was back to nor­mal. They sound­ed great and were very com­fort­able, despite the fact that they need to be insert­ed pret­ty deeply into the ear canal to prop­er­ly iso­late the music. I was in love with them all over again. That is, at least until yes­ter­day. They’re bro­ken again, and this time it’s the left cone.

I’ve writ­ten cus­tomer ser­vice again, but this time I was far less under­stand­ing. I don’t feel the need to pla­cate any­one. They’re charg­ing a decent chunk of change for a prod­uct so frag­ile I don’t it think can be used in real life set­tings. I plan on get­ting this pair fixed or replaced and then keep­ing them at work, nev­er to be used out­doors again. They’re so bad they make me wish I’d read an Ama­zon review before buy­ing them. They’ve been a major dis­ap­point­ment and I wouldn’t rec­om­mend them to any­one look­ing to replace Apple’s hor­ren­dous ear­buds.

It’s back to the draw­ing board then. What ear­phones or head­phones do you use? Where and how do you use them? I need your sug­ges­tions!