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Why these Chi-Fi wired headphones are my favorite 2024 accessory

Key Takeaways

  • After years of relying on Bluetooth headphones, using wired earbuds changed the way I listen to music for the better.
  • Wired earbuds like the KZ ZSN Pro X offer superb sound quality and a more immersive, focused listening experience.
  • Wired headphones have advantages like reliable connections, no battery limitations, and better comfort, making them worth considering alongside Bluetooth options.


Over the last few years, listening to music has changed significantly. Many things contributed to that change, but one of the most significant developments was the meteoric rise of Bluetooth headphones. With Apple’s still-controversial decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 came an avalanche of new products, and most of the competition followed suit and removed the port as well.

This decision was not at all popular at first, but most people quite quickly warmed up to the idea of using Bluetooth headphones and adapters. Nothing beats convenience, and they certainly are easy to use in every situation.

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But it’s not too late — not even the biggest companies on the planet can destroy a 140-year old port.

After years of using Bluetooth headphones, I was a bit tired of them. So, while getting myself an MP3 player, I also picked up a pair of wired earbuds to use with it. Both choices changed the way I listen to music for the better.


Sony NW-A45 MP3 standing

Adrian Sobolewski-Kiwerski/ Pocket-lint 


Why did I ditch Bluetooth headphones?

I neither hate Bluetooth headphones nor did I stop using them altogether. My Galaxy Buds 2 are still with me and not going anywhere, but for now, they’re relegated to my spare pair — or just something that I use when talking on the phone when moving around.

My problems with Bluetooth headphones started a while ago, but they can be neatly condensed into: overuse. I felt like I was always using them — listening to music, watching YouTube videos or simply keeping them in my ears out of habit.

Of course, this must mean that I was watching much more YouTube, and listening to a lot more music — but was I really? I didn’t really listen to either of those, they were just background filler for other activities that I was doing in the meantime.


Finally, I felt like something should change. I spent hours listening to things that I got nothing out of, all because the things that let me do it were too convenient and too easy to use. So, I decided to make this convenience disappear with the hope my other problems would vanish along with it.

I got myself wired earbuds — KZ ZSN Pro X

Having decided to switch from smartphone to MP3 player as a listening medium, I realized I also needed a pair of budget-friendly, but quality wired earbuds. I knew I had to go for the so-called “Chi-Fi” — or Chinese Hi-Fi. In general, these are extremely capable audio equipment that costs a fraction of what well-known brands charge for their gear, while doing 95% of the work.

I knew I had to go for the so-called “Chi-Fi” — or Chinese Hi-Fi. In general, these are extremely capable audio equipment that costs a fraction of what well-known brands charge for their gear, while doing 95% of the work.


I landed on the KZ ZSN Pro X. They are IEMs (in-ear monitors) that provide superb sound, great build quality and an overall amazing experience for less than $30. You get everything a non-audiophile would want here: the sound is quite neutral, but it’s not as flat as with studio headphones, you get removable cables and a comfortable fit, and even an interesting, see-through design. Plus, they won’t break a bank if you decide to ditch the wired lifestyle after a while.

KZ ZSN Pro X

KZ ZSN Pro X

KZ ZSN Pro X is an incredible budget IEM. For an extremely reasonable price, it gets you marvelous, detailed sound with a surprising soundstage, great fit and finish, and a detachable cable to top it all off. Even though the competition on the “Chi-Fi” market is fierce, the KZ still shines.

KZ ZSN Pro X wired headphones

Why I love my wired earbuds

After some days with my wired headphones, I can’t stress enough how happy I am to take that plunge and switch to a pair of wired earbuds. All that I was hoping for did happen and then some. I could perhaps get the same lifestyle results by simply restraining myself, but where’s the fun in that? This way, I not only turned my habits for the better, but I also got some cool tech out of it.


But, how do they sound?

Before going into detail about the more important (for me) part, which is the experience of using wired headphones, let’s get into the sound. I have to say, I was floored by how good the KZ ZSN Pro X sounded together with my Sony NW-A45.

I was sure the $30 earbuds would be no match for my $150 Galaxy Buds 2 when it comes to the sound quality, but I was pleasantly proved wrong.

I was sure the $30 earbuds would be no match for my $150 Galaxy Buds 2 when it comes to the sound quality, but I was pleasantly proved wrong.

The Chi-Fi buds sound magnificent, especially when paired with a solid player or a DAC. They provide a really enjoyable soundstage considering they are earbuds, and also offer a nice sound curve, with a bit of a boost to the bass and treble, but without going overboard — it’s great for amateur audiophile ears.


Additionally, the detail in those headphones is amazing. When listening to orchestral recordings, live recordings, or anything with a bit more varied instrumentation like the afro-jazz record Your Queen is a Reptile, by Sons of Kemet, all the instruments sound great and are very distinct. Even something a bit heavier, like You Won’t Get What You Want, by Daughters plays really well on these earbuds, without any distortion or muddying up the heavier instrumentation.

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The experience of going back to wires

I have to admit that the sound was not my primary concern when switching to wired headphones — it was rather a welcome surprise. Somewhat ironically, I aimed to detach myself from my phone and all the content. To do that, I attached myself to my MP3 player with wired headphones, and happily found success.

Ever since I started using wired headphones, the way I listen to music has changed dramatically. I’ve always been an album guy, listening from start to finish to my favorite records, but the convenience of Tidal and its playlists and mixes changed that.


I have to admit that the sound was not my primary concern when switching to wired headphones — it was rather a welcome surprise. Somewhat ironically, I aimed to detach myself from my phone and all the content.

I feel like I was missing out on the stories that the artists want to tell in their albums. I was missing out because I was listening to the hottest singles without any context, but also because I was listening when I was distracted.

Bluetooth headphones let you do other things when listening — cleaning the bathroom, washing the dishes or folding laundry. On the one hand, it’s great if you need the distraction from the mundane, but what you’re losing out on is the music, the lyrics, the story and the artistry.

Getting attached to an MP3 player again, with the pesky wires getting in the way, was really a blessing. I stopped listening in distraction when moving around, because I don’t like the cables getting in my way. But instead of feeling like I’m missing out on my music, I feel like I’m finally getting it back. I, once again, just sit down with a cup of tea to listen to an album or two, without doing anything else. I’m once again experiencing music, instead of using it as background noise.


Wired headphones, the pros and cons

Going back to the portable convenience of Bluetooth headphones, with all the hype surrounding this tech, I think we’ve forgotten about some of the great advantages that wires have in comparison.

Related

7 reasons why wired headphones are my personal audio choice

Getting rid of the cables seems to be the way of the future, but keeping your cords attached still has considerable advantages.

My wife loves to sometimes borrow my Galaxy Buds when her AirPods run out of battery. This results in low or no battery from time to time, so no listening or taking a call when I pick them back up.

Pros: Convenience and comfort

Wired earphones do not have a battery problem. If you connect them to a source, they work and they work well. The same is true when it comes to connection issues. Bluetooth is great, but it’s certainly not perfect. Sometimes you hear a crack when listening, sometimes the connection breaks, sometimes you cannot, for whatever reason, connect to the smartphone you’ve connected to hundreds of times before.

Comfort is the last major convenience wired headphones offer. Even though my Galaxy Buds fit just fine, they are quite bulky as they do have to have a battery inside. This makes wearing them rather uncomfortable after some time. Contrast this with the KZ’s fit. They are also quite big, and they are made partially of metal.


Not only is their fit much more ergonomic, as if molded to the shape of the inner ear, but the wire also goes over your ears and is equipped with a special silicon mold to fit there well. It takes the weight off your ear canal, making the earbuds comfortable even for much longer listening sessions.

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Going back to wired headphones offered more convenience and quality listening than I thought, but wireless buds still do one thing better.

Cons: Cables that get too attached

However enthusiastic I am about my new wired headphones, there are some quirks that you have to get used to once again, after having used Bluetooth headphones.

The cable, with its many advantages, is also just a bit of a pain. It gets in a way, it gets stuck in a zipper, especially now in winter, and always seems to be in the wrong place when moving around. It also tends to tangle a lot, which is ultimately frustrating, but really harmless.

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Ultimately, the biggest problem I faced is that the headphones require being physically attached to something else to work. If I run around in shorts without pockets, I can barely use my earbuds as there is no place to put my MP3 player. I cannot leave it somewhere else and just listen without anything else on me.


Fortunately, you ultimately can do both. I didn’t get rid of my Galaxy Buds 2. I just use them only for calls now, be it talking on the phone or conferencing on Google Meet.

My wired earbuds are more of a stationary listening mode now. When I want to listen to music, I put them on and go through an album or two. They, along with a dedicated MP3 player, made my listening an activity in itself, instead of a background filler.

Sony NW-A45 MP3 and KZ ZSN Pro X

Is 2024 the year to return to wired headphones?

My journey to more conscious, active listening led me to use an MP3 player and wired headphones, and I love it. It changed my habits a lot and helped me eliminate distractions I felt were making me lose my time and spend it thoughtlessly. So I would personally recommend going back to this old tech, even just to see the difference.


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However, I realize this is neither a problem everyone has nor their wish. Ultimately, modern conveniences are great, and there are also different ways to enjoy your music. There’s nothing wrong with using it as a background filler — it’s just something I didn’t want to do personally.

If you’re still curious, giving wired headphones a try isn’t something that would break the bank. You can get an awesome set of earbuds for under $30, and almost everyone has an old MP3 player or a phone with a headphone jack still lying around somewhere. Grab them and give them a go, and maybe you’ll fall in love with the older way of doing things as well. If you don’t, there are plenty of awesome Bluetooth headphones to pick from.

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