Apple EarPods review
Apple likes to strike it right with a design that suits the majority and stick with it, and it’s done that very well with the iPhone and iPad. However, one product it has not done so well with is its bundled headphones. The standard Apple in-ear headphones that have come with i-Devices for the best part of a decade are nothing short of poor; something that we’re sure many will agree on.
It was then with great joy that Apple announced a pair of completely redesigned in-ear headphones alongside the iPhone 5 and new iPods last month. The Cupertino company has been working on these headphones for three years, and it claims to have tested 124 different prototypes on 600 people in order to find the right size, shape and overall design to best suit everybody.
Making headphones to fit everyone is nigh on impossible – it would be like making a pair of shoes to fit all – and without the option for interchangeable rubber inserts, it’s an even tougher task. Nevertheless, Apple seems to have come up with a winning design, at least from our perspective.
From the 3.5mm jack connection up to the earbuds, the new EarPods headphones are very similar to the last model, with around one metre of white cable and the familiar inline remote panel. The cable isn’t as long as you’ll get from other manufacturers, but we found it to be the perfect length, with no annoying loops of superfluous cord to tuck in to your pocket.
The earbuds themselves are where the magic happens, so Apple says. These have been completely redesigned to better fit your ear, as well as to provide a much better quality of sound. Gone is the round shape that either caused discomfort or just fell out of your ear at the slightest movement, and in is a new teardrop shape with a glossy white finish.
We found the EarBuds to slot into our ears comfortably, and we didn’t experience any of the pains we did with Apple’s older set. After a while they were barely noticeable, and even when working out at the gym – we don’t play with gadgets all day – they didn’t fall out. Whereas the old headphones were designed in a way so that the sound was fired pretty much entirely into the side of your ear, the EarBuds feature drivers on the tip of the teardrop design that fire sound right into your ear canal.
The result is a much improved sound quality that’s also well isolated, cancelling out a good portion of external noise. We found the noise cancellation properties to be surprisingly good, and didn’t expect much after using an excellent pair of in-ear Denons with custom rubber tips. They’re not perfect, and louder sounds will manage to creep in from the outside, but for a set of bundled headphones it’s excellent.
Overall the sound quality of Apple’s new EarBuds is decent, and one that surpassed our initial – and very low – expectations with ease. For starters, they’re much louder, which is something we’re going to attribute to a good fit and the sound being directed into our ears rather than onto flat skin. The sound stage is well balanced, although we felt the bass was a bit on the heavy side. For tracks that demand their punchy bass line to stand out, such as Childish Gambino’s ‘Heartbeat’ – they sound excellent, but in other cases we found the bass to be a little overpowering. Trebles and mids are well balanced, although they’re not as well defined as we’ve experienced in some other similarly priced headphones recently.
Apple’s new EarBuds are a marked improvement over the original bundled headphones, but when compared as standalone headphones costing £25, alternatives in that price bracket outshine them. If you’re looking to upgrade your headphones for around that price, the likes of RHA’s MA-350 or Sennheiser’s excellent CX 300-IIs will give you more for your money.
However, we feel that Apple has done a sterling job in providing a set of headphones that many will be happy with when they buy an iPhone or iPod, and won’t feel the need to upgrade straightaway.