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Apple In-Ear Headphones

Oh dear - it might be time to roll back a few assumptions.

Apple's track record in the headphone department has not been great. The standard iPod earbuds are quite rightly vilified for being awful (though Apple is hardly alone in shipping useless bundled 'phones) and the fact that many iPod owners buy the exact same earbuds when their old ones break stands up with the continuing success of Nickleback as one of the great audio tragedies of our times.

Apple's last attempt at a higher-quality replacement earphone was a disaster, leading most sensible people to doubt whether the company had much idea what audio quality meant, let alone how to make a pair of headphones demonstrating it. Frankly, the idea of someone buying Apple earphones rather than those from Shure, Sennheiser, Ultimate Ears, Sony - or just about anyone else - used to inspire mucho, mucho laughter, with a big side-order of derision.

I don't think we'll be laughing so much any more.

Let's look at what Apple has got right here. First, they've released a pair of well-designed, dual-driver headphones at a respectable £54 price point. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there's another pair of dual-driver phones from a notable manufacturer on the market for under £100.

Second, Apple hasn't stinted on the bundled extras, including a triangular, hard-plastic carry case with cable winder, three different sizes of silicone ear piece and even replacement steel mesh caps to replace those in the earpiece should they get bunged up with your own brand of hideous, oily, orange wax (or maybe that's just me). These look and feel like serious in-ear phones for people who care about quality. This is a major step in the right direction.

Build quality and comfort is also very good. I've seen thicker cable and chunkier plugs on rival models from Klipsch or Shure, but the Apple In-Ear Headphones don't feel anywhere near as flimsy as the standard iPod 'phones. All the joints and connections that should be reinforced are. The actual in-ear bit probes quite a way into your ear, but the body of each earpiece is lightweight and unobtrusive.

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