Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Surprisingly Simple Fix for Imbalanced Volume From Apple In-Ear Headphones

I’ve tried a lot of headphones and earbuds, but I’ve been unabashedly impressed with Apple’s in-ear headphones since I bought my first pair in 2011. Apple’s standard headphones are mediocre, but the combination of rich bass and crisp highs in the in-ears is worthy of comparison to headphones that cost three times as much.

The left channel of the first pair seemed to crap out in February 2012, but the headphones were replaced under warranty. You can imagine my surprise, then, when the left channel of my replacement pair apparently died yesterday. The sound was barely audible out of the one channel.

Since I take very good care of them, I figured it must be either a build defect with the headphones, or something must be stuck inside. I disassembled both earbuds to find nothing wrong, did a basic Q-Tip cleaning, and reassembled them. But now the sound was inaudible from the right channel. What gives?

It seems that the tiniest bit of lint on the mesh caps is sufficient to almost completely block the sound from the tiny buds. I found that it was easy enough to clean the mesh caps by dropping them in a glass jar half-full of water, screwing the cap on, and shaking gently for about 30 seconds. Apple recommends letting them sit in hot water with a drop of dish soap for 30 minutes, but my method is quicker and should be just as effective if your mesh caps aren’t completely disgusting.

Now I’m doubting that my 2011 earbuds were broken. It could have just been lint.