In response to my complaints by letter and phone, as well as sending back the broken old pair, Sony sent me a new set of MDR-EX71SL Fontopia earbuds (Â£25.67 on Amazon). While this is welcome, I would have preferred to have them send me a refund. On past form, the new pair will only last about three months before completely falling apart due to cheap materials and shoddy construction. My earlier complaint about them is here. To anyone considering buying Sony Fontopia earbuds: don’t. They are no longer the nice-sounding, solid things they were back in 2000 or so. Now, they are made of plastic so soft, you can literally peel it off the wires gently with your fingers. It is less tough than the brand-new shoestring licorices that you are surprised to bite into and not find toughened by months of exposure to 7-11 air and fluorescent lighting.
Rather than put the refund towards new Sony headphones, I would probably have gone with either the Shure E2Cs (Â£51.49) or Etymotic ER6Is (Â£68.51), which many people have told me are more durable and have better sound. They need to be earbuds, because I want to be able to wear them under a bike helmet and carry them virtually everywhere. While big ear-covering headphones would be great for my room, they hardly work with bikes and iPod Shuffles.
Since the replacement EX71s are new and in the original packaging, I could try selling them online somewhere, thereby generating some funds to put towards a better set. Of course, that would mean at least another couple of weeks with ear canals aching from button-shaped and unyielding hard white generic Apple headphones. What do cost-conscious audiophiles suggest?