Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Apple's Ear Pods Review

Apple ear pods with remote and mic
I must say, Apples new "ear-pods" impressed me quite a lot when I took my first listen from a pair my friend received with his iPhone 5 purchase.  In fact I was so impressed, I actually went out and bought a stand alone pair for $30 dollars.  Now you may be wondering at this point, why would a hi-fi audio enthusiast want anything to do with Apple's ear pods? I will get into my reasons in a little bit, but first lets just go over a few specifications, changes from the previous models and my thoughts in regards to the new ear pods.

Apples newest iteration of the iconic and widespread white ear bud (or "ear pod" rather) has the standard 20-20,000Hz frequency response.  This is a common frequency response for headphones in the ear pods price tier.  The ear pod model supplied with the iPhone 5 and the stand alone or separate purchase ear pod model come with a plastic travel case (that looks really cool but is generally a pain to use) a play/ pause, volume up and down and mic assembly located on the right ear bud wire.  The size of the button assembly has been increased from the previous generation and has also gained a new Siri mic symbol on the back.  However, the ear pods supplied with all of Apple's iPod models lack the travel case and button assembly.  I find this a little disappointing, nonetheless sound quality is the same on both models.

The Apple ear pods have been completely re-worked and re-enginereed by the folks down in Cupertino, and I must say that they are a massive improvement over the notoriously bad previous generation.  The ear pods are unique in that they sit deeper in the ear canal of the listener as apposed to similar cheap ear buds.  Just this method alone substantially increases sound quality, especially bass response and the listeners ability to listen at lower volume levels without a significant loss of being able to hear all facets of the track.  In addition to this major improvement,  ports were added to increase bass and midrange response and clarity.  The affect of these ports on the sound can be demonstrated by covering up the ports with a finger when listening.  When I covered up the bass port, the sound became significantly less full and significantly more tinny and hollow.  In terms of sound quality, there is no doubt that the ear pods perform significantly better than the horrible tinny sound signature produced by Apple's previous generation ear buds.
Ear pod travel case (supplied with iPhone 5 and stand alone ear pods)

The design improvement is another significant factor that makes the new ear pods better than the older ear buds.  More attention to the fit of the headphones was taken by Apple's engineers.  The ear pods shape was actually created by taking a random selection of peoples ear canals, geometrically analyzing these ear canals, finding a similarity between all of these ear canals and subsequently shaping the ear pods to be a universal fit to all of us who call ourselves part of the human race (not quite sure if the ear pods would fit a Klingon).  My experience with the fit has been superb.  I often have issues with ear buds falling out or not sitting properly on one or both of my ears.  However, some people have complained that the the ear pods do not fit their respective ears properly.

There are reasons why a hi-fi guy like me would run out to an Apple store to get the new ear pods.  First of all, they are the best fitting ear buds I have ever used.  I always have issues with ear buds (even expensive universal fit in- ear monitors) not fitting in my ears properly.  The ear pods are the first ear buds in which this is no longer a problem.  Secondly, I only use them when I want to listen to music in public and not look like a 80's throwback kid with my Sony MDR-7506 over ear headphones with their long coiled cable (although I do wear those cans sometimes in public, but not very often).  I only ever use the ear pods for a short while.  I also don't have to worry about them being so expensive.  With universal fit in- ear monitors I am always afraid of how fragile they are.  If I snag IEM's  on something (which I do quite often) that could be anywhere from $150 to $400 dollars down the drain.  When I buy expensive things I want them to last.  With these I don't have to worry at all, and they have held up pretty well so far.  Thirdly, they don't sound half bad, and I don't need a headphone amp or DAC for them to sound good.  This is obviously due to the fact that he ear pods are designed to be driven directly from your iDevices line out.  When I say that they don't sound half bad, what I really mean is that they don't sound half bad for headphones that come free with your device.  They are far from being great, but it's just impressive how far Apple has come.  Another reason why I was so impressed by the ear pods was because of how bad the previous generation was. I wasn't expecting much was was happily rewarded with much improved fidelity and bass response. Of course the ear pods aren't going to sound nearly as good as a pair of IEM's or over ear headphones, but I truly was pleasantly surprised by the increased importance of sound quality that Apple seems to have embodied with the headphones.

Old Apple ear bud internals (left) as apposed to the new ear pods (right)
The overall sound quality of the ear pods can be described as "going along with the times".  They tend to be very bass heavy, but I am pleased to see that they mid range hasn't become to far recessed.  Upper  ranges are maybe not as present as I would like, but all together not a bad sound signature.  Of course, the ear pods have very little in the way of sound stage, but that is to be expected with a pair of supplied or $30 dollar ear buds.  If I was to review the older generation Apple ear buds, I would given them a horrible review, because they truly were terrible. However,  the ear pods offer up a substantial improvement over the previous generation, and I hope that they will give the non audio enthusiast regular listener a much improved and rewarding audio experience.

CLICK HERE for Apple ear pod product page

1 comment:

  1. This design reminds me of the Sennheiser HD 600, these headphones these intended only to DJs!

    Black Edition
    DJ Table