Review: Apple EarPods – Revised, but not Perfected

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Apple | Earbuds | $ 29.00

The little white buds have always been a symbol of the iPod. The origin is unknown, it could be the silhouette commercials that Apple showed with the little white buds in conjunction with the iPod. Well, as most of you know, Apple has some new little white buds, and they’re dubbed the EarPods. It seems that it’s been a love-hate game with them.  

Specifications

  • Driver: Dynamic
  • Frequency Response: NA
  • Impedance: NA
  • Sensitivity: NA

In the Box

  • Apple EarPods
  • Carrying Case

Design

The EarPods conform to the classic Apple earbud design. They haven’t strayed from the white, no-coloring, and really, it should be that way. The design is a bit awkward in shape as these conform a little better to your ears. Plastic remains the material of choice for the earbuds, nothing changed there. As Apple would say it, the new EarPods are “ear shaped”, a unique ear at that.

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Design: ★★★★

Audio

The first thing you’ll notice when you put on the new EarPods is that the sound signature has drastically changed. From the very balanced, treble-happy buds before, these have a more upbeat v-shape signature that consumers seem to radiate towards. Overall though, this sound is a step in the right direction for Apple, but it has its problems.

Bass

The first thing you’ll notice with the new EarPods is that the bass has been turned up about 10 notches. Nearly non-existent sub-bass becomes strong, well-bodied texturing in the EarPods. It’s a little bit much at times being able to get a little muddy and uncontrolled. The focus tends mainly towards the lower end. That said, the bass impacts, like the sub-bass, hold a large body and can boom quite a bit. This takes a bit away from the non-existent punch in the bass though. The upper-levels, or mid-bass, really lacks in return.
Bass: ★★★★

Mids

The midrange tries to be a little more fluid and smooth overall. This doesn’t hinder the presentation too much. Detailing definitely isn’t an upgrade with the new ‘Pods as it hangs further back in this regard. The Clarity is strong enough to ring through though while vocals remain decently strong. The depth and lushness in the voice is portrayed very well while the upper harmonics can’t really be reached. It’s a give-take here as vocal dynamics, and dynamics in general, trail behind.
Mids: ★★★★

Treble

I have to say, that the treble is a little less strident than the previous ‘buds. That said, the upper treble is really the focus that will give any energy into the smoother mids and lows. They are softer though, lagging a bit in extension. They do have a nice separation to them and never go sibilant, so those are big pluses. The lower treble, however, lacks in both presence and extension. Really, the lower-high snap just isn’t there.
Treble: ★★★★

Now, previously I have made a few statements about the ports used. I found that clogging the stem port resulted in a more neutral sound overall but didn’t deter, but rather improved both the bass and mids quite a bit. This, however, would be a sound that consumers probably wouldn’t like.

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Audio: ★★★★

Build

The build of the EarPods hasn’t improved at all from either of Apples headphones (their IEMs and previous ‘buds). That said, there is a positive note though, the EarPods do come with a plastic carrying case similar to the one included with the IEMs. It’s plastic, and has a cord organizer built into the system. I don’t have the case though as my EarPods came with the iPod Touch.

The housings remain a stronger, thicker plastic. Yes, plastic does sound bad, but this is a little better grade plastic that feels nice in the hand and has ample thickness to it. That said, it should be able to protect the drivers. Coming out of the long stem is a short strain relief to protect the EarPods.

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The cable seems to be thicker than the ones on my IEMs as well as the ones on my Earbuds. That said, Apple has upped their game a little here. Apple made this cable a little stiffer as well while the additional thickness makes them feel firm and stable. Normally I’d rag against Apples cables, but these seem decent enough.

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Going down into the headphone jack, we find our first problems, actually our first two. First off, the jack remains puny in size and the strain relief coming out of it doesn’t help either. The strain relief coming out of it is tiny; just isn’t large enough. Nikel plating tends to also corrode quicker as well. Knowing this is the most probably place for cable failure (this and the strain relief in the housings), I have no clue why Apple still has no intention of upping the build here. It turns an actually great build into something average.

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Build: ★★★½

Comfort

Sound and comfort have been the two areas where we have seen controversy. I have to say though, these buds are quite comfortable in my ears. They conform very nicely to the natural shape of my ear and fit beautifully. The previous ‘buds were always too big for me, but these fit well. They are light weight, and the longer stem allows the cable to travel down the right direction. I’m going to side with the people who feel Apple nailed the fit.

Comfort: ★★★★

Value

Although Apple has improved a bit with their new ‘Pods, they are still hindered in value. They cost 30 dollars, but still have to compete with cheap bang for the buck IEMs that put the new EarPods to shame sonically and are built a little better. Something like the Dunu Trident or even the Brainwavz M4 will always be a few steps ahead of the EarPods; they cost less too.

Value: ★★★½

Final Thoughts

Just weeks before the announcement of the iPhone 5, spy shots of the EarPods began to emerge. I do have to admit, this is an upgrade from the previous ‘buds in a few ways, the main being comfort. Sonically, however, it remains a distant tug of war where you gain some, but also lose some.

Overall Score

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Apple EarPods

† All prices are in US currency.
This review was written by the iFans.com Review Team. Cumulative scores are rounded to the nearest half or full star.
All accessories, applications, themes, tweaks, or other products were purchased by iFans at their respective prices unless stated otherwise.
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