Best Buds

Kinivo BTE40 Bluetooth Headphones/Stereo Receiver and Skullcandy Ink’d Earbuds. Photo by Robert Roth/Jetspace

Alright, its confession time. Your confession, specifically. You love you iPhones, and you love your Beats by Dre. I get it, they’re shiny, popular, and severely overpriced. What’s not to love about surrendering that last paycheck to something you’re going to cry over as the newer version comes out 6 months later? Is it really worth it?

Apple has always had an interesting relationship with your music. iTunes debuted in 2001, starting life as SoundJam MP in 1998, only to be acquired by Apple in 2000. 2001 saw the 2.0 update in 2001, alongside the release of the very first iPod.

Since then, iTunes has become the primary name associated with music, the same way as Starbucks is to coffee and Kleenex is to facial tissue. But Apple has always had a somewhat estranged relationship with Bluetooth connectivity and compatibility. I’m sorry, devout Apple fans, but you can’t tell me it’s in favor of a wired connection to provide the best possible sound, as you know those stock earpods have always sucked. You’re not Bose, Apple.

It’s surprising, though, since current rumors are leading everyone to believe that Apple is doing away with the 3.5 mm headphone jack, possibly in favor of yet another proprietary connection using their Lightning connector, or possibly a Type-C USB connector (though Apple has never wanted to share connectors with anyone) all in favor of making a slimmer iPhone7.

Using cabled headphones to listen to music always seems to result in one problem: the yanking and tugging of your audio cord, whether it be the earbuds from your head, or your phone from your pocket to the comfy concrete down below. What a pain.

Some avoid using Bluetooth in fear of a compromised audio quality, but it’s 2016, and that simply isn’t the case anymore. While cabled connections will still give you the best quality, that is only true when accompanied by a powered amplifier, like your home stereo and speakers.

What becomes important is the type of driver in your headphone or earbud. That is where the stock apple earpods fall short, as do most earbuds that come with our phones or devices.

I had gotten tired of these problems, so I sought out a better solution in the form of the Kinivo BTE40 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones/Receiver and Skullcandy Ink’d Ear Buds. Yes, sometimes I buy something new, but I still bargain hunt to find the best bang for my buck!

This time around it brought me to Amazon, everyone’s favorite online retailer. After some research, I found what I was looking for: a Kinivo BTE40 Bluetooth receiver with a 3.5mm female connector, micro USB charging port, music, volume, and call controls ($39.99); and Skullcandy Ink’d Ear Buds with 11mm drivers with neodymium magnets for full range sound, and a snug in ear design and fit which allows for great passive noise isolation ($13.09). Mix in some creative adaptations involving a mini binder clip, heat shrink tubing, and a gasket, and I MacGyver’ed the best sound quality and tangle free solution out there.

Sure, I could spend a little more and get pre-assembled Bluetooth earbud setups, but they lack one thing: adaptability. When those run out of juice it’s a hassle to charge them, let alone wear them and use them while charging. And forget about using them as a wired connection, ever.

My setup allows me to take them apart and use them separately as I see fit. I can use my receiver on a larger set of external speakers via line-in to make an older home entertainment system wireless, and even use my earbuds as their normal wired connection when needed.

My assembled earbuds have been my best companion when it comes to anything audio. I’ve even adapted its integrated clip with magnets that you’d get off the back of your name badge at work. This allows me to attach a receiver that wasn’t originally made to be clipped.

So for roughly $55.00 I’ve made something that cannot be bought or easily duplicated. I’ve even had requests to duplicate this setup for others. The best thing about this is that it’s universal. I can use it for any device that supports Bluetooth, no matter the manufacturer. Try using that LG Tone headset or your Beats by Dre to transmit audio from your phone to your car stereo! (Yes my car is older and does not have conventional Bluetooth connectivity.)

Just know that the next time you are fumbling and untangling your sub par earbuds to plug into your phone, there is a better way.