Apple EarPods Sound Quality
The Apple EarPods are likely to be dismissed by most audio fans simply because of the Apple name, but we've tried to give them a fair crack, comparing them to both the original Apple Earphones and obvious rivals like the Sennheiser CX 300 and SoundMagic E30.
Pleasingly, they fare surprisingly well. The Apple EarPods are a huge improvement over the previous Earphones in almost every respect. Most notably, bass response has gone from a shallow parp to rich, full-bodied and surprisingly-punchy output.
We're talking a thousand per cent improvement here, folks. Given the EarPods don't make a full seal with your ear canals, such impressive bass response suggests these earphones have been tuned very carefully, and very cleverly. There's no sense of bloating to the bass either - and bass depth edges out the market-leading Sennheiser CX 300 too.
Treble extension is impressive at the price as well. Where entry-level IEM earphones tend to tone down the top-end to avoid harshness and sibilance, the treble here doesn't feel similarly restricted - and is much more natural-sounding than the Apple Earphones' top-end to boot.
The mix of a sparky treble and surprisingly full-bodied low-end that doesn't spill over its borders give the Apple Earpods a sense of dynamic range that's actually quite unusual at the price. However, it's not all good.
There's not a great deal of mid-range body to the Apple EarPods, and it can leave them sounding a little bit hollow and lacking in authority. This is made worse by the design in two core respects. They're always fighting with ambient noise and if they slip away from their perfect position in your ear, the bass response and mid-range suffer significantly. They can end up sounding disappointingly thin.
The fatal issue is that when walking about town, this sort of slippage is inevitable, and constantly re-seating them will only end in pain. Literal ear cartilage pain. As such, we find that entry-level IEM earphones such as the classic Sennheiser CX 300 offer a much more involving and satisfying listening experience.
These aren't magic-sounding earphones, either. While they compete with the best at the price on some levels, there's not a great deal of separation going on and while the treble has strong presence, the level of refinement is nothing to write a thankyou letter to your local Apple store about.
Apple EarPods Verdict
With the Apple EarPods, the iPad 3 creator has successfully one-upped its own Earphones, which have been doing the rounds in various forms for more than a decade. Sound quality is much improved. However, while the design is novel, they won't get us to turn away from our in-ear isolating earphones. Unless you absolutely can't stand the feel of silicone tips blocking your ear canals, a proper isolating pair offers a much more involving, flexible - and in some cases less painful - listening experience.