By: Brian Lam
Apple says their new earpods took 3 years to develop, created from the commonalities between hundreds of 3d-mapped earshaped, over 120-something prototypes. That's cool, but Apple also claims they sound better than earphones that cost "hundreds of dollars". That might be true in some cases of really bad expensive headphones. But after some time, we think they sound pretty similar to our $10 headphones.
(TL;DR: The bottom line is that if you get these with an iPod or an iPhone, you don't have to throw them out or replace them. They're good. they're ok. They're better than the old earbuds by Apple. But they are about the same quality as our $9 dollar cheap headphone pick (albeit with a mic and remote.) But you should't go out and buy them because they're not quite worth $30 compared to high value/quality picks on our leaderboard. More like $20. And when it comes to $100 headphones, our favorite is much better, despite Apple's claims to they can best headphones that cost $100s. Maybe some. But not these.)
After a few hours of break in and testing by Mike Zhao and Geoffrey Morrison (Geoff has worked in high end Audio/Video review for about a decade), we've found they're better than the old earbuds, but worth about $20, not $30 considering they have a microphone/remote and similar audio quality, if not bassier and less detailed, than our favorite $9 headphones, the Monoprice 8320s. They're a good alternative for our budget headphones if you want a mic and remote, but a touch more expensive than they should be given their audio quality. (We're working on an update to the cheap headphone piece that includes a recommendation for a set with mic and remote, at the moment.)
Through my testing and the testing of Geoff Morrison, who has worked in AV publications for about a decade, we found that the earpods sound much better than the old earbuds. After some break in time, Geoff said, "The old ones are almost all mid-range and very shouty–It's like listening to AM radio. But the earpods are more balanced, tonally, than the old apple buds. I still wouldn't consider them bassy compared to most in-ear earbuds. But what bass is there is fairly melodic. They're light and comfortable, I'll give them that. They're unquestionably better than the old ones, but $30 seems excessively steep."
I found similar results, but I also tested these against the Monoprices, our current favorite value under $30.
After an hour of burn in, I gave my first impression was that they have a lot more bass than the monoprices without overpowering trebles and mids. One hour into listening, I would say that the monoprices have better detail and imaging but the earpods' bass is much better so probably better for most people. Or at the very least, worth keeping unlike previous iterations of apple buds. They also stay in my ears really well. Even with tugging. I think $20 is reasonable given it has a mic and remote. But they're $30, and I still prefer the detail of the monoprices over the bass of the ear pods. At this point however, I would not automatically recommend that people replace their apple headphones.
The bottom line between these two: Without a mic and remote, the Monoprices are still our pick over the earpods, but there's no reason to swap between them. Apple's $30 headphones sound similar in quality (with more bass but worse detail) to our $9 headphones.
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