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My cheap fix that made Google's Pixel Buds Pro sound better than ever

If your Google Pixel Buds - or any earbuds, for that matter - won't stay put, here's a $17 solution.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Foam eartip made for the Google Pixel Buds Pro earbuds.

These foam tips are a cost-effective replacement that will help keep your earbuds in place.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • Foam earbud tips are readily available on Amazon for as low as $17 for three sizes.
  • These tips are more capable of keeping your earbuds in place and creating a superior seal to enhance the sound.
  • They have to be regularly replaced and are not a one-size-fits-all solution.

When I insert a Google Pixel Bud into my right ear, it tends to stay. My left ear is a different story altogether. Thanks to some trick of biology, my left ear doesn't like to hold onto earbuds -- Pixel Buds or any other brand -- nearly as well as my right ear does.

There are myriad reasons why earbuds have a propensity to slip out. The first reason is the wrong-sized tip is being used. Most earbuds include three sizes of tips: small, medium, and large. You must try all three to get the best fit. When you get the best fit, you'll know because the sound will be greatly improved (especially the bass), and -- drum roll please -- they'll stay in place.

Also: The best earbuds you can buy: Sony, Apple, and more compared

In theory.

The problem is that not all ears are created equal and while those silicon tips might work for some, they won't work for everyone. Your ears might exist somewhere in between sizes. Your skin might be dry enough that the silicon can't get a good enough grip.

For me, the silicon tips work fine in my right ear but almost always fail to get a good seal in my left ear.

How do I get around this? I use memory foam ear tips.

View at Amazon

Essentially, what you do -- after replacing your silicon tips with the foam option -- is compress the foam tip with your fingers (you can squeeze or roll them), insert the earbud into your ear, and hold it in place until the foam expands. Once the foam expands, the earbud should -- in theory -- remain in place far better than it would with the silicon tips.

You can purchase such tips from Amazon but make sure you buy them to suit your earbuds. For example, the Google Pixel Buds (for which I had to use the foam tips) have a much wider flange than many earbuds. Because of that, I had to purchase tips that were designed specifically for the Pixel buds. These tips cost me $16.99 and were very much worth it. Not only do I feel the buds are more firmly in place, but the seal is better, which improves the sound.

Also: Do your AirPods Pro constantly fall out of your ears? This $20 fix changed my life

I can move about, shake my head, jump up and down, and the Pixel Buds Pro earbuds don't budge. Given how troublesome my left ear can be with these, that's a big win.

Again, I have to reiterate that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. But if you have earbuds that simply refuse to stay in place, this is the best option I've found to solve that problem. Foam ear tips are available for a variety of earbuds. (My colleague David Gewirtz said memory foam AirPods Pro ear inserts changed his life.)

The caveat

Everything comes with a caveat these days. For the foam earbud tips, the caveat is that these won't last forever. Depending on how much you use your earbuds, you'll probably be replacing them every six months. You can only compress that foam so many times before it no longer decompresses to its original size.

Also: The best noise-canceling earbuds for deep work and quiet studying

But, if getting the right seal and keeping your buds in place is important, the cost of replacements is a no-brainer.

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