Review: Billboard Earbuds on Delta Air Lines

A  new set of “ergonomically designed” earbuds was recently released by Delta Air Lines in a partnership with Billboard which are provided on flights greater than 250 miles in length which feature seat-back and overhead in-flight entertainment.

“Billboard brings a new level of expertise to the redesigned earbuds resulting in better sound quality and improved comfort”, according to this press release from Delta Air Lines. “The earbuds are complimentary for all customers traveling on all international flights as well as flights between New York and Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle.” Passengers seated in the economy cabin or Economy Comfort cabin on domestic flights within the United States may purchase the earbuds for two dollars.

“While a minor thing like an improved earbud isn’t noticeable to a majority of passengers, the new earbuds are a huge and noticeable improvement over the old earbuds”, according to this article in a review of the earbuds written by The Weekly Flyer of Points, Miles & Martinis. “It’s nice to have them as an option in case your forget your own set or want an extra set in your bag as a backup.”

These are the earbuds by Billboard currently available aboard flights operated by Delta Air Lines. Note the soft tips to be inserted into your ears. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

These are the earbuds by Billboard currently available aboard flights operated by Delta Air Lines. Note the soft tips to be inserted into your ears. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

I agree with his assessment. I tried the earbuds for myself on a recent flight. Unlike the previous generation of earbuds, there is now a soft part of the earbuds which can fit more comfortably and conform to your ear. Without physically increasing the volume, the sound is louder with these earbuds than it was with the previous generation of earbuds.

One criticism: it is possible to push the soft piece too far into your ear, which tends to narrow the range of sounds which you hear. I found myself not hearing certain instruments and keys of songs, prompting me to pull the soft piece back out slightly.

This is the previous generation of earbuds before July of 2014. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

This is the previous generation of earbuds available before July of 2014. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

One problem which has been consistent with previous generations of earbuds and headphones was not so much the quality of the audio; but rather with the construction and materials used for the assembly of the wiring and connections, which tended to break easily. I do not expect an improvement with the current improved earbuds.

Headphones such as these — which covered your ears and were equipped with hooks to keep them secure on your ears — were available before the earbuds several years ago. Note the logotype of Delta Air Lines before the airline officially emerged from bankruptcy on April 29, 2007. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Headphones such as these — which covered your ears and were equipped with hooks to keep them secure on your ears — were available before the earbuds several years ago. Note the logotype of Delta Air Lines before the airline officially emerged from bankruptcy on April 29, 2007. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

I can tell you that the previous generation of earbuds distributed by Delta Air Lines were so cheaply manufactured that they broke quite easily — but they were better than those annoyingly uncomfortable and ineffective air tubes from yesteryear, which I described in this controversial article pertaining to the armrest “wars” as having “to listen to audio sounds through a conveyance that was nothing more than a cheap hollow double plastic tube with little sponges that you stuffed into your ears. It was like listening to the adults speak in Charlie Brown cartoons, with their muffled gibberish. I could not understand a word anyone was saying — especially when the tubes had a kink in them. Those ‘headphones’ were probably designed by the same sadist who devised the modern armrest. Thank goodness those hollow tubes are gone.”

If I recall correctly, the cost to use those air tube headphones was $5.00; and unlike the headphones currently distributed by Delta Air Lines, you could not keep them — not that you would want to keep them, as they were useless outside of airplanes. Unlike those old air tube headphones, at least the current earbuds are equipped with a universal jack which you could use on a plethora of electronic devices — including music players and “smartphones.”

Back in December of 2013, “better earbuds” was a promise from Delta Air Lines. That promise was kept, in my opinion…

…and to put it all in perspective: at two dollars for earbuds which you can keep as your own, this is a far better deal than the five dollars needed to rent those irritatingly annoying air tube headphones three decades ago.

Despite the aforementioned criticisms, the Billboard earbuds are arguably the best audio devices yet offered by Delta Air Lines which you can keep until they fail.

4 thoughts on “Review: Billboard Earbuds on Delta Air Lines”

  1. Brooke says:

    I am allergic to latex and had an allergic reaction both times I used them when flying.. nothing like burning face and ear canals

    1. Margaret Weisenseel says:

      I also had an allergic reaction. Took an entire week to feel better. Airline should have some type of warning notice on package.

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