Fairbuds XL: Headphones designed for easy repairability

Meet the Fairbuds XL, a €249 (£219, $272) pair of over-ear wireless noise-canceling headphones. They are designed to be easy to repair when parts break or wear out over time.
Abdul-Rahman Oladimeji Bello
Fairphone XL
Fairbuds XL

Fairphone Youtube 

Fairphone is revolutionizing the headphone industry with its latest offering, the Fairbuds XL. These over-ear wireless noise-canceling headphones, priced at €249 (£219, $272), are not just another pair of high-tech gadgets. They are designed from the ground up to be easily repaired when components wear out or break over time, setting a new standard for repairability in the headphone market.

Given the company’s focus on repairability and sustainability rather than bleeding-edge technology, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Fairbuds XL features a fairly typical list of specs. The battery life is rated at 26 hours. There is also an active noise cancellation enabled for 30 hours. 

Also, there’s an IP54 rating for dust and water resistance which should mean the headphones survive light splashes. Control is handled via a small Marshall headphones-style joystick on the right earcup, which sits next to a USB-C port but has no dedicated 3.5mm port. 

In theory, wireless headphones are an ideal consumer tech product to receive a repairability overhaul. They don’t run an ever-evolving operating system like Android that needs to be continuously updated to deal with security vulnerabilities. 

And the relatively minor year-on-year improvements made to headphones mean that models which might be several years old can still be competitive with their modern equivalents. Yet, trying to get an older pair of headphones repaired can be frustrating.

Fairphone is taking a much more proactive approach to repairability with the Fairbuds XL. While other headphone manufacturers often prioritize cutting-edge technology and neglect repair options, Fairphone takes a different approach.

The Fairbuds XL embodies the company's ethos by featuring a modular construction that allows users to detach and replace specific parts easily. This means that when common issues arise, such as battery degradation, frayed cables, or unresponsive controls, users can simply replace the affected component rather than discard the entire product.

The reason behind the innovation

Fairphone understands that headphones, being mechanical products, require a different level of engineering for repairability compared to smartphones. Despite the challenges, the company has risen to the occasion by making spare parts readily available through its website. Users can conveniently order replacement batteries, ear cushions, and headband components for normal wear and tear.

This emphasis on repairability not only saves users from the frustration of being told their headphones are irreparable, as experienced with many other brands, but it also promotes sustainability by extending the lifespan of products. Rather than ending up in a landfill due to a faulty part, the Fairbuds XL can be easily repaired, reducing electronic waste and the environmental impact of disposable consumer electronics.

Fairphone also provides a two-year warranty covering manufacturer defects and offers replacement parts for normal wear and tear through their website. Fairphone is challenging the industry's disposable culture by prioritizing repairability and promoting sustainability in consumer electronics.