RATHER ANNOYINGLY, we find ourselves in the market for some new earphones more often than we'd probably care to admit, whether it's because we left our last pair on the bus, stood on them, put them in the wash by mistake, or because we've managed to dodge all of the above but we've had them for years, and the audio quality has declined over time, something that shouldn't really happen, but it does.
With that, we've taken a look at a number of in-ear headphones, earphones, or earbuds - what ever you prefer to call them - designed for all different walks of life, from the gamer to the more active and from the swimmer to the recluse, to find out which are best for the job, and which ones are worth the investment.
For the recluse: Bose Quietcomfort 20i
Sometimes we just need to get away from the irritating sounds of the outside world. Whether that's the grating sounds of screeching train wheels during a commute, the eardrum-splitting screams of needy children, or the dull buzzing of an airplane's engines. The Bose Quietcomfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones are ideal for those wanting to block everything out and pretend that they live in a cave.
The Bose Quietcomfort 20i use soft silicone rubber tips that both fill in your ears and grip onto the cartilage that rings your ear canal so that they fit snuggly in place without an invasive fit.
Available for £259, silence doesn't come cheap, and you can get higher fidelity sound for the same price elsewhere, but the noise cancellation feature that the Quietcomfort 20i offer is too good to overlook. It's also well matched with the comfort offered by the earphones' fit and sound, which is smooth in that it doesn't favour either treble or bass. They deliver good quality sound reproduction balanced with decent bass depth.
For the tangle-free neat freak: Jabra Rox Wireless
Nothing is quite as irritating as having to untangle your earphone wires every time you listen to your favourite tracks. It's usually the case, too, that once you've succeeded in getting the knots out an hour later, you've got the painful job of managing the swinging cable that connects your music player to your ears in hope you don't accidently yank them out.
The Jabra Rox Wireless solve all these predicaments by simply eliminating the long wire and 3.5mm jack viq Bluetooth to connect to your music player, while offering the same great sound we expect from Jabra, and for under £100. They are a cable-free update to the Jaba Vox that also feature in this round-up for their all-round great value and performance and the ROX are no exception, with good quality and clean sound reproduction.
Although not the most suble earphones out there, they're also protected against dust and water and have "power-saving magnets" so when you're not using the earbuds, they can clip together around your neck and the magnets will activate the power-saving mode, ideal for the messy cable-hating neat freaks.
For those that like to get their music wet: Sony NWZ-W273
The Weather Girls could have done Sony's advertising for them when they sang "outside it's raining but inside its wet", as with the Sony NWZ-W273 waterproof earphones you could sing along to that very song and mean every word.
Not only are these earphones waterproof, but they have a built-in MP3 player so you don't have to worry about having your smartphone or iPod dangerously near the water while you're swimming.
Sound reproduction wasn't the best sounding in our roundup, but listening to music in water it was never going to be, and they do the job. What's more, the Sony NWZ-W273 have up to eight hours of battery life so you can definitely stay in the water long enough to get those wrinkles on your fingers. And for £59, they are cheap as chips considering their feature set.
For the show offs: Tonino Lamborghini Quantum HL-01
If you like to show off then these are the perfect earphones for you. Oozing with a luxurious design, the Quantum HL-01 Lamborghini earphones are definitely not known for their subtlety, what with the bright red Lamborghini crest stretched across the side. They are the perfect accompaniment for those with a big flashy car or even bigger ego.
The Quantum HL-01's use Double Driver technology for "unsurpassed audio quality". While unsurpassed might be taking it a bit far, in terms of audio anyway, as they aren't the best sounding cans on the market, they sure are the most charming. Saying that, after a good test drive we found the sound quality is still excellent, retaining a very clear sound, and they do a great job of blocking out external sounds, too.
And the HL-01 earphones are not just about the bolshie design. They have a secure in-ear fit, a three-button in-line microphone, and all models come with a metal clothing clip, hard-shell carry case, and silicon and foam ear-tips to keep even the biggest car buffs happy. They retail for an expected mid-range price of £124 and are only available from Selfridges in London.
For the raver: Mighty Buds Light Flowing Earphones
Although probably rather embarrassing unless you're intoxicated, the Might Buds Light Flowing Earphones feature sound reactive technology in the wires meaning they flash in time with the music.
While probably not ideal for the morning commute, they are perfect for the hardcore raver, party animal or silent disco fan. Or perhaps just for a boogie on your own in front of the mirror. What's more, the Mighty Buds aren't just novel. They have a surprisingly good bass reproduction considering their £30 price tag and also manage to go really loud without distortion, so you can dance around in the dark like a one-man disco and be content in the fact the experience wasn't an expensive one.