7 Typical Problems With Cheap Headphones & Earbuds

Are you thinking of going for budget-level headphones?

Since these are cheaper than the popular ones, you should know what to expect. That said, some cheaper headphones are quite durable. We have an article here on cheap headphones and durability.

That said, here are some of the problems you may encounter with cheap headphones:

1. Headphones Lack Bass or the Sound is too Hollow

One problem with cheap headphones is the exaggerated lack of frequencies.

In some cases, the bass is lacking, while other headphones would have this hollow sound.

Because cheaper headphones may equate to not having the best drivers loaded into the headphones, the frequencies may not be as pronounced.

How to Fix This?

One of the things you can do to even out frequencies is to adjust the equalizer on your music player of choice.

These equalizers, often depicted as sliders on your screen, adjust each frequency in the spectrum. These frequencies start with the bass side on the left and move to the right towards the treble side.

Some equalizers offer presets that you may use to help you “sculpt” the sound in your headphones. Once you tweak them to your liking, you can save them as a preset.

Another option to consider if your music player app of choice does not have an equalizer feature is to get a headphone amp.

Headphone amps have this feature to improve frequencies, such as bass, which results in better sound quality.

For the more complex ones, they even offer individual controls for these frequencies, so you can dial in a sound that can compensate for your headphones.

2. Headphones Won’t Pair Via Bluetooth

Here’s a common problem you may encounter with headphones, whether they’re cheap or not.

Pairing your Bluetooth headphones is a walk in the park, for the most part.

But there are times that you couldn’t pair them on the first try.

You may encounter an error message, or the pairing takes longer than usual.

How do you Work Around this Problem?

The first thing you need to do is unpair any other Bluetooth connections that you don’t need.

If you have other Bluetooth headphones and speakers paired to your computer or smartphone, not all can switch between audio devices.

Should that not work, try restarting your headphones and device.

Also, consider the possibility of interference that can affect the pairing of your phone or computer and your headphones.

Devices such as the Wi-Fi router, baby monitors, and even the microwave use radio frequencies like Bluetooth.

Ideally, you would want to stay clear of these devices, especially for cheap Bluetooth headphones, which may not have the best hardware to deal with this interference.

3. My Phone or Computer Can’t Find my Headphones

This problem is another common issue for many headphones and is not limited to the cheap ones.

If you bought a pair of cheap headphones with Bluetooth, the first step to using them is to pair them.

But sometimes, the scan doesn’t show your device in the list, despite having them beside each other.

To solve this problem, there are two things to look into:

  1. Make sure that your headphones are turned on, as many users fail to consider this, and;
  2. Make sure you have the name of your headphones correct in the list.
    • You can find the name of your Bluetooth headphones in the manual.
    • In some cases, it can be self-explanatory.

The next thing to check is the operating system of your phone or computer.

For the most part, the more recent operating systems should be good. But if you’re having doubts, your phone should at least be running Android 4.3 or iOS 7, both old operating systems.

Windows 8 should be good enough for computers, and the older Mac OS X, such as Sierra, should do fine.  

The next thing to check is the distance between devices.

Although, if you’re pairing the devices yourself, chances are you’re holding your headphones and phone.

Some manufacturers also have a particular way of pairing Bluetooth headphones. You may want to look at your manual to check. This can help make your headphones discoverable by your phone or computer.

The next thing to do is restart both devices.

A reboot could refresh the memory of your phone to enable pairing.

To ensure there are no conflicts, keep your headphones and device away from other Bluetooth-enabled devices. Your audio source might be seeing another device instead of your headphones.

And last, move away from the Wi-Fi router. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth use similar radio waves, which may cause conflict when trying to discover your headphones.

4. Only One Side has Sound on Headphones

You’ve probably encountered this, too, whether on Bluetooth or wired headphones.

And the thing is, there are different reasons as to why this happens.

To help you identify where the problem is, you need to eliminate the possible causes.

For Bluetooth Headphones

For those using Bluetooth headphones, the first thing to do is reset your headphones.

If that does not work, make sure that your device isn’t set to mono:

  • You can dig into the Sound settings to check if they are set to Mono or phone for mobile phones.
  • For computers, you can check the sound output and set the balance to the middle.
  • For those using Beats headphones, go to the Preferences of the Beats app, and set the Balance for both sides.

If this solution does not work, the problem is likely with the hardware. The only way to check is by opening up the headphones and check for anything unusual.

Often, the damage would be the wires that lead to the speakers. You can try fixing it, or you can go for a replacement.

For Wired Headphones  

Make sure that your device is not set to mono.

You can do the same troubleshooting for Bluetooth headphones when it comes to setting to stereo.

Use the same steps for smartphones or computers for Beats headphones, as the app won’t work.

If the problem isn’t solved yet, the next thing to look at is your cable connection.

Make sure that the cable fits snuggly in the jack of your phone or computer. If your headphones have a detachable cable, make sure it’s plugged properly into the headphones.

You can try shaking the plug itself to check while listening to music. If you notice the sound is coming back, the problem is likely with the cable’s plug. Do the same also on the side of the headphones.

If the problem is still there, check the cable itself. If you have another cable, try swapping it out.

If that does not work, the problem is likely hardware-related.

You may need to open the headphones and check for any damage.

If you have another pair of headphones, try connecting them and check if the problem is still there.

There’s still that possibility of the jack of the phone or computer being damaged.

5. Headphones Keep Disconnecting

Another common problem, especially with cheap Bluetooth headphones, is the stability of the connection.

This is an annoying problem, especially if you’re in the middle of a call or just enjoying the music.

What’s the Fix for This?

First of all, you need to make sure that your Bluetooth headphones are within range.

Not all Bluetooth headphones have the same range, which is why it’s best to stay within 10 feet.

The next thing to look at is the power. The more battery life available, the better the connection quality of your Bluetooth headphones.

But don’t use your Bluetooth headphones while plugged for power as a safety precaution.

After that, unpair and re-pair your Bluetooth headphones. Consider restarting both devices if re-pairing doesn’t work.

If you have other Bluetooth devices, try pairing to check if the issue is still there.

If the issue is still there, you may need to check for firmware updates. You can contact the customer service of your device for additional support.

6. There’s Static in my Headphones

This is another issue you may encounter with cheap headphones, often with the wired version.

Again, there are different causes to this.

Here are some of them.

Disconnected Wires:

Like the headphones with one side only, static is also caused by a disconnection in the cable.

Possibly, the headphone cable might be cut inside and touch another connection. You get static as you move around as the wires inside the cable hit other connections.

If you think the damage is on the plugs, you can solder yourself new ones. Otherwise, you can try replacing the cable.

Port Issues:

There’s likely a loose connection in the jack or ports that your headphone cable connects to.

Try using another headphone to check if the problem is on the side of the music playing device.

For problems on the side of the headphone’s jack, try swapping out cables.

If the problem is on the side of the phone or computer, you need to have it checked by a qualified technician.

Static on Bluetooth Headphones

In this case, you won’t be dealing with headphone cables but rather checking the signal’s integrity.

Static is often rooted in objects that can interfere between the headphones and your computer or phone.

You can prevent this by keeping metal objects away from your headphones and phone or computer.

7. Earpads of Headphones are Flaking

You may notice non-metal or non-plastic materials flaking off your headphones.

These could be the foam or the faux leather used to house the earpads or headband of your headphones.

Flaking happens as a result of wear and tear.

It’s bound to happen, but you can do something to slow down the effects.

At the very least, you should wipe the flaking, often the faux leather, with a dry cloth.

Then apply a leather conditioner, which surprisingly works with faux leather too.

If you’re trying to fix any flaking, you can try applying leather paint that matches the material’s color.

General Pros and Cons of Cheap Headphones:

They’re more Affordable:

You need not spend an arm and a leg to be an audiophile in your own right.

Just a good music player and a pair of headphones, and you will get to appreciate your music library.

Remember that not all headphones worth more than a hundred dollars are good.

You can find some good ones below $100, such as the Audio Technica M30X, which is an excellent choice for those who want headphones with a fairly neutral sound.

There are Some Diamonds in the Rough:

Cheap need not be bad. You can get some good headphones for a fraction of what you’ll spend on buying a Sony MDR7506.

For less than $85, you can get yourself the Takstar Pro 82, which is a good pair of headphones for its price. It’s got a fairly balanced voicing that you can enjoy.

It even has a bass boost if you need more oomph.

They Can be Easily Replaced:

Broke your headphones or lost them after a trip?

Don’t worry about them. You can easily replace them with just a few bucks.

It won’t be a big loss compared to losing a pair of Grado headphones.

Disadvantages of Cheap Headphones:

  • There’s a risk of breaking easily.
  • They can be a hit or miss with sound quality.
  • You don’t get many features.


Why Do I Hear Static in my Headphones: Quick Fixes for Different Devices

Five common headphone problems and solutions to fix them

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