- Good clarity
- Much improved bass response
- Good remote
- Weak mid-range
- Quickly work their way out of optimum position
- Review Price: £25.00
- Hard plastic construction
- Three-button remote with handsfree
- Straight 3.5mm jack
Apple Earphones have been ridiculed for years from all corners. They leak, they sound rubbish and they barely block out the noise of the outside world at all. Apple wants to remedy most of these problems with the EarPod headphones, which will be thrown in for free with the new iPhone 5 and iPod Touch. But are they any good?
Apple EarPod Design
The Apple EarPod headphones use a hybrid design that sits half-way between a pair of earbuds like the old Apple Earphones and an IEM-style pair like the Sennheiser CX 310. They’re made of unyielding hard, white plastic that’s curved to sit snugly in the cleft of the ear, just above the earlobe. We’d imagine Apple thinks of these as in-ear headphones for people who really don’t like in-ear headphones.
Unlike a rubber-tipped IEM earphone, there’s no seal made with your ear canal, and consequently they feel much less invasive than proper isolating earphones. They effectively use the natural architecture of your ear – the cartilage – to keep the earpieces in place, and do so more effectively than a traditional-shape earbud.
As with a traditional earbud, though, the exact nature of the fit will depend on your ear shape. And too much fiddling about will cause ear discomfort – in the war of cartilage versus hard plastic, your ears have no chance.
These are earphones that are tuned to deal with some leakage. While they sound best with a partial seal in place, like Apple Earphones the sonic equation is based on letting some of the mid-range sound that the drivers produce float away into the air. Crucially, though, this has been diminished because the “sound flow” is much more carefully directed toward your ear canal than a vanilla earbud. However, technically the Apple EarPods are much closer to a pair of earbuds than a pair of IEM earphones.
You’ll also notice a little grille’d port on the side of each earpiece. This vent lets the air – and to an extent the sound – flow more freely throughout the earphone. With all these oversized vents punching holes in the plastic outer wall, you might guess that the Apple EarPods don’t offer great sound isolation. And you’d be right.
These earphones offer marginally better isolation than the traditional Apple Earphones, but are far from a massive improvement. The extra directionality of the sound’s passage means it can cope with the intrusion of ambient noise more successfully – they’re harder to drown out – but you can still hear pretty much everything that’s going on around you unless your music is blasting. Passing cars, train announcements and the like will all be audible.
Whether this is a very good or very bad thing is up to you. As people who like to escape from the noise of Central London with music, most of the TrustedReviews team favours the fully-isolating IEM type of earphone.
Leakage is significant too. It’s less of a social catastrophe as it was
with Apple’s previous earphones, but crank up the tunes in the office
and you’re likely to tick off whoever’s sitting next to you. However, overall comfort is good once you learn to live with how the Apple EarPods are meant to fit. They can feel as though they’re forever on the cusp of falling out of your ears, but they seemingly never actually do.
Apple EarPod Accessories
For an entry-level pair of earphones, the Apple EarPods are reasonably well-specified. The cable is – just as with the original Earphones – fairly thick – and there’s a great little remote housing that also acts as a hands-free kit.
It’s fairly long, but entirely lightweight and has a generous dip in the middle that makes using it blind a cinch. You normally pay at least an extra £10 for a housing like this.
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.
Score in detail
Design & Features 7
Sound Quality 8
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