Why do headphone cables get tangled?

How many times have you encountered this situation; you go to work or school in the morning, store your earbuds in your bag, and by the evening when you take them out, they look like a jumbled mess? You will be spending the next 10 minutes cursing and untangling them. The problem is so common, that someone has actually devised a sport around it called SpeedCabling. But why do cables get tangled? We decided to investigate.

According to an article in LiveScience, scientists at University of California, San Diego performed experiments to help them understand how knots form, and how best to avoid them. They found that knots in cables are caused by the free end waving through the concentric coils that most of us keep our cables in, with a 50% likelihood of crossing over or under the coil and following a path to the left or right. If this process is repeated enough times by the movement of the cable, you are going to definitely end up with tangled headphones. Thankfully, there is hope for us! Here are some rules that will help reduce the probability of knotted cables:


  1. Use flat cables, rather than ones with a round cross-section. Flat cables increase friction, therefore reducing the chance of a knot forming.
  2. The shorter the cable, the less the likelihood of a knot forming. This isn’t a very practical, but not opting for the 5-foot long headphone cable might save you hassle in the long term.
  3. Store cables in small pouches or boxes. The less remove that the cable has to move around, the less likelihood of it getting tangled.
  4. Or the simplest solution, don’t buy headphones with cables! Enjoy great music, without having to untangle cables each time, with the Paww WaveSound 2.

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