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« Phablet Redux: Samsung Galaxy Note 2 announced | Main | iPhone 5 sells five million units over the weekend »
Monday
Sep242012

Review: Apple EarPods

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

While the new Apple EarPods were leaked in photos from Asia, I was still surprised that Apple decided to create entirely new earbud-style headphones to accompany their new iOS devices and the result is quite surprising.

The white Apple earbud headphones are iconic. They have been a part of the iPod identity and even spawned a generation of copycats, there was a time that an influx of white KIRF headphones sold all over the place for users who didn't have iPods or iPhones. These earbuds were even the stars of various iPod campaigns ofsetting shadowy figures dancing on colourful backgrounds.

The stock Apple earbuds were also imperfect in terms of fit and wouldn't stay on for some users, which is why the contributed to a booming third-party headset and earphone industry. I admit to having a collection of unopened Apple earbuds from various devices and would only really use them if I had nothing else around.

Apple's new EarPods, which come with every iPhone and iPod, are a result of studying hundreds of ears and finding commonality in design. This makes the EarPods odd looking with their biomorphic design, but they fit surprisingly well without feeling like you're forcing them in your ear. While they fit snugly, they don't go all the way in as most earbuds do and they also don't fill up your whole earhole.

The sculpted design is one aspect, Apple also put substantial effort and sound science behind the earphones and really studied the best way to produce an improved sound experience at an affordable price point. iFixit tore down the EarPods and found them to be sturdy.

"Apple had durability in mind with the new EarPods. Notice the new remote design (left), which includes larger cable wrapping near the remote than the previous earbuds (right) to reduce strain on the wires," says the write up on the iFixit's page.

The sensation of having the EarPods in your ear requires some getting used to since they're not  very tightly fitted, one might feel that they will slip out easily, but they wont. As odd as their shape is, they fit quite well on various types and shapes of ears.

They're designed much like some high-end hearing aids so they will stay put even if you go for a vigorous run with them.

In terms of sound quality, they are far better 'separated' than the original Apple earbuds. This means that there is better definition of sound listening to The Best of Culture Club and the Killers Hot Fuss the vocals seem to float above the instrumentation.

The rhythm section is more forceful, the bass is certainly  more defined and  you can hear subtleties and nuances better without raising the volume. 

Same goes for making FaceTime calls or using the EarPods as a handsfree option. You don't need to pump up the volume yet you'll hear everything quite clearly.

The new Apple EarPods won't make me replace my daily driver Klipsch Image S4 earbuds. I'm used to the S4's and like how they feel and how they sound for a variety of music styles, they also work very well with my Mac computers and iOS devices since they feature a mic and controls. 

The S4's like many third party specialty headphones, also cost around $100, substantially more than the EarPods (which cost $35 but also offer remote and mic functionality).

I would still consider the Apple EarPods as viable second options, they definitely fit and sound better than Apple's original earbuds as well as 90 per cent of the free earbuds that come bundled with PMPs and smartphones today.

Rating:  4 out of 5

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