Apple's 2008 In-Ear Headphones Review

Our Review by Tom Hesser on December 19th, 2008
Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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Apple's new in-ear headphone offering is a huge improvement, and they are a lower cost alternative to high-priced, 3rd party sets.

Manufacturer: Apple, Inc.
Price: $79.00

Quality [rating:4/5]
Ease of Use [rating:5/5]
Value [rating:4/5]

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar

Yes, I bought the new headphones. I was ready to buy them when Steve Jobs announced them in...what...November? I had bought some 3rd party in-ear, iPhone headphones that served me well and were very affordable. After only a few months, however, the control button stopped working and I found out the company's headphone division had been sold off, but nobody was offering support. Weak. Other in-ear headphones that promised better quality and service were out of my price range, so I have been using the standard "bud" headphones that came with my 2G iPhone and hurt my ears. When Apple said they would offer a pair for $79, I was eager to get my hands on a set. While I wish Apple made a set in black, their button controls seem superior to the others I have looked at, so I'm willing to live with the "he's got an iPod/iPhone!" recognition factor.

What I can say so far is that they fit really nicely. For me anyway, they provide a great seal in my ear using the medium (default) inserts. I listened to some soundtracks and the range was really nice even without the equalizer turned on. Bass sections came across really well in Classical selections. The range was really good too, in my opinion. None of the sounds seemed muffled or tinny. The dual drivers appear to make the sound very clear and crisp. One of the downsides that I forgot about in-ears is that while it blocks outside noise, it accentuates weird things like my breathing and and disturbance of the cords. I can even hear my heartbeat if the volume is low enough. A little distracting but better than the usual din from public transportation and other noisy environments. It also means I don't have to turn the volume up as much, which is probably good for my ears.

Oddly, the cords seem more "rubbery" than other Apple buds. This makes for weird "bendy" behavior and the cords will sometimes stick out away from my body. It also makes them harder to put in and take out of pockets. I haven't been able to tell if this makes them more durable or not. Apple brought back the little slider on the dual cords that go to the individual earbuds so that when you wrap the phones, the left and right cords don't get tangled. The control button is a bit larger thanks to the useless (so far) volume controls, but still less obtrusive than most 3rd party buds. I think they improved the clicking action a bit, or else it's just because they're new. Even if the volume controls are not enabled by a future firmware update (oh man, I hope they are!), I would still recommend these to an iPhone user. I attribute the extra cost to the sound quality and all the other control functions operate properly. The triangle-shaped case is really nice too, but I doubt I'll end up using it much. It would be good protection for packing the headphones, but it quickly gets tiring wrapping and un wrapping them from the case in everyday use. Clever capsule-shaped packaging contains the extra large and small ear inserts, but those will probably get lost in a drawer somewhere.

The hard part of a review is that my my music quality rarely goes over 190 bps, so I may be missing something in the response just because of that. Bottom line is that I'm very happy with them so far, but I still wish they made them in black.


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