Review: Apple Earpods

Today I finally got the new Apple Earpods in the mail. How do these little guys stand up to both the hype and their predecessors? Read my review to find out.

What are they?

Along with the the announcement of the iphone 5 and the slew of new iPods last week, came another very exciting bit of news: The almost-a-decade-old Apple headphones were finally getting an update! With these new ‘Earpods’ Apple promised that all the issues people have had over the last nine years have been thoughtfully addressed. Testing and creating 3D molds of hundreds of ears, they hoped to fix the issues customers have had with comfort. Also, they wanted make them stay in better and, of course, sound better too.

Apple: The only company that gets it’s packaging reviewed!

First, is the packaging. If you have never owned an Apple product you may be scratching your head. But any Macbook owner will tell that the packaging is part of what makes Apple, Apple! The design is usually gorgeous, and well though-out, even down to the cable placement and instructions. With the Earpods, the packaging certainly looked great, but the function left a lot to be desired, at least from Apple. The most annoying thing was the way it opened; I still don’t know if I did it right. When my wife asked me how to open her headphones, my only advice was to give up logic and rip into it, which isn’t something a person has to do with other Apple products.

The Earpods, about a minute before I ripped into them. Looks good, eh? Too bad there is no clean way to get into them.

Just in Case.

One great thing about these headphones has nothing to with the phones themselves. At the keynote, Apple never mentioned that they were including an awesome little plastic case to keep them organized and neatly wrapped. It’s little surprises like this that win me over.  If you tend to carry a laptop bag everywhere, then you will really appreciate being able to wrap these up a stow them away safely with out any fear of cables getting twisted or yanked. This truly a delightful surprise!

This is the case that came with your new Earpods. Surprise!
Here it is opened. I left it unraveled a bit, so you can see how it wraps.

Now 100% Dubstep compatible.

Apple chose an interesting and rather unorthodox concept for increasing the bass and mid-range levels in the new Earpods. They ported the pods with vents to let air move through the chamber behind the speaker. Supposedly, the back one gives it more bass and the top one increases the mid-level frequencies. Does it make a big difference? The short answer is yes! The long answer is that I tried plugging up the holes to see if it made any difference. It was amazing how they went from rich and full to thin and weak just by putting a finger over the holes. It really makes them come to life. The overall difference is so noticeable that while I was using them to teach a drum student of mine a song that I had listened to hundreds of times with my other phones, I noticed, for the first time, that the song had a cello part in the end that was playing a counter melody! I also could hear the harmony vocals much clearer. So they really are more clear. And yes, they are also bassier, and, as Flux Pavillion is reminding me, the ports also make dubstep more dubbier, as well as steppier.

Do they fit? Are they comfy?

When I first put them in my ears. I thought to myself, “Well, this review is going to end really badly.” I put them in comfortably, but they felt like they were about to fall out, so I crammed and twisted until it hurt, and they still felt like they were just barely touching, ready to slip right out at any moment. Then I saw my wife with hers, shaking her head to see if they’d fall out. They didn’t! So, I took a leap of faith and pulled down. To my surprise, they stuck! These really do feel so light and loose that there is no way they should stay put. But they do! It’s like some crazy left-over Steve Jobs it-just-works magic. I can’t explain it, suffice to say that it relies on gravity. If you bend over to pick up your keys, they slip right out. But to upright folks, they stay put. It takes a while to get used to trusting them, but after a few minutes, you will forget that they feel loose. The other side to this is that they are really comfortable, as long as you don’t try to jab them in your ear like I did at first.

Road Test:

Taking them out for a run was a great experience! They were comfortable. They stayed in my ears, even though I was sure they were going to drop out with all my awkward running around. The other nice thing about the ports is that they keep the ear from feeling clogged. They also keep down the noise cancelation. In some situations, obviously, noise cancellation is nice, like on a plane, but when running in traffic it is nice to hear cars approach and be able to talk if you need to. Plus they felt much more secure after they get some sweat on them. Gross. I know. Sorry.

Final Verdict:

I am one happy user! They don’t sound as good as a pair of $200 studio over-ear phones. But also keep in mind that these are $29. And they are free if you are getting the new iphone 5, so for what you pay, I don’t think you can get anything better for running, cycling, or lounging.

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