It happens to everyone. That frustrating moment when you reach for your headphones, only to pull out a rat's nest of wires requiring untangling before you can answer the phone, listen to music or check out that funny video someone emailed you.
This might not be an issue if you wind your cord around a portable music player, water bottle or itself tightly. However, tight winding on a regular basis might cause your headphones to break sooner.
"We get a lot [of headphones] back from people wrapping them around iPods," the director of Perth-based Headphonic headphone specialist store, Marcus Miller, says.
"There's only 15 or so copper wires in most headphones, and each one of them is a little thinner than a human hair, so it doesn't take much to break them. That's when you get intermittent cut-outs and, eventually, it cuts out on one side completely."
Headphones and smartphone cases with built-in cable winders have the same problem, he says, as they pull and stretch the copper fibres. Instead, he recommends keeping headphones in their own case, as the limited space inside reduces the likelihood of tangles.
Another option is gently looping the headphones around your hand. "Make sure it's around at least four of your fingers," Miller says. "Loop it gently, don't wrap it tightly."
Tangled headphones. Photo: Ben Grubb
The internet is replete with do-it-yourself solutions for making headphones tangle-free. If your headphones didn't come with a case, the "how-to" website Snapguide recommends keeping them in a travel pack of cotton buds (minus the cotton buds, of course). Failing that, a mini snap-lock bag (usually used for food storage) will do the trick.
The Instructables website suggests encasing your headphone cable in parachute cord, also known as paracord, as the material's texture and thickness make it far less likely to knot. Paracord can be bought from specialty outdoor and camping stores.
You can also make headphone cables thicker by wrapping them in embroidery floss, a material that can be found in most arts and crafts shops. A user known as ''ada(:'' on the virtual pinboard site Pinterest came up with the method of weaving a friendship bracelet around headphone cables using embroidery floss and square staircase knots. If you have time.
If you're in the market for new headphones, you can eliminate the problem altogether by opting for a model that connects wirelessly.
Traditionally, wireless headphones have been bulky over-the-ear models that are difficult to carry alongside your device, but newer models such as the Jabra Sport are compact enough to fit in your pocket.
But wireless headphones come with their own problems. Since they use wireless technology (usually Bluetooth) to transmit audio, the signal is subject to interference from everything from fridges to cordless telephones, resulting in static and cut-outs. Music quality is usually inferior compared to wired headphones in the same price range and, if you don't remember to charge them, they're as good as doorstops when you want to listen to music.
Your music player also needs to support the same wireless standard as the headphones. If it doesn't (most iPods don't have built-in Bluetooth, for instance), you'll need to invest in a separate dongle that plugs into the headphone jack.
Another option is tangle-free headphones that use flat and/or cloth-covered cables, but they don't solve the problem completely. A product manager for personal audio and car audio at Sony, Alistair Miranda, says tangle-free headphones can still become knotted, and he prefers to call Sony's equivalent headphones "reduced-tangle" models.
Marketing gimmicks aside, the CordCruncher may well be the world's first truly tangle-free headphones that don't rely on cable winders. These headphones have a built-in cable management system that retracts the cord into a thick elastic sleeve when you're not using them.
The CordCruncher's inventor, Jay Johnson, says the beauty of his product is its simplicity. "You don't have to think about wrapping it up and putting it in a pristine case," he says. "You finish listening to your music, and then you make two feet [60 centimetres] of cord disappear into one foot of sleeve by pulling on each end."
Johnson is tackling the tangle problem head-on, with plans to license his CordCruncher technology to other headphone manufacturers.
In the meantime, his company will be releasing tangle-free USB cords and other styles of CordCruncher headphones in the coming year.
Kick tangles to the kerb
Ways to make your headphones tangle-free
■ Weave a friendship bracelet around it using embroidery floss: tinyurl.com/d4sgbjq.
■ Encase your headphones in parachute cord: tinyurl.com/8hbjhve.
■ Keep your headphones in a cotton buds travel pack: tinyurl.com/9b2q25u.