How do identical earbuds know which is left/right?

I had a Teams meeting with an earbud manufacturer I’ve worked with in the past and the topic of their earbuds (which the right and left look exactly the same, and are,) and how they know which is left and which is right came up.

TL;DR – you probably knew this, it amused me to learn.

Should be noted I have a couple of earbuds that do this these days if I’m remembering correctly, but back when it came out a few years ago it was magic and I never questioned it.

So how do earbuds that can be fitted in either ear and have no markings know which is left and which is right?

The answer, at least in today’s case, is using a built-in accelerometer.

As most will fit their earbuds in with the sound portion facing slightly forward (just due to how ear holes are,) you know which direction is down, and you know which direction is forward. From there you logic it to “if down is on side A, we’re the left earbud. If on side B, we’re the right.”

And yes, it will fail in space, and flop if you’re upside down.

Depending on brand and tech you in theory could have two right or left channels. Not sure what that would accomplish but there’s a possibility for that.

This has been today’s “you probably already knew that, but it amused Paul for some reason”

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts