If you are like me, the one-size-fits-all earphones that come bundled with new iPods are more like don’t-fit-at-all. The standard earphones rest in the bottom of your ear next to your ear canal. They are comfortable and do sound pretty good, provided you can stay stationary. You can forget about shaking your head like the silhouetted dancers in the iPod commercials, since the earphones tend to fall out at even the slightest angle. So I decided to try out the new Apple In-Ear Headphones to see how they compare.
The major difference with the new headphones is that they actually sit inside your ear canal and seal it off from the outside world. Inserting and removing the headphones feels natural after only a few uses, and once you find the right size ear tips – three sizes are included – they stay planted firmly in place. I was worried about discomfort, but they turned out to be quite comfortable for even long periods of time. Apple even includes a spare set of mesh caps and instructions on how to clean them. I tested the sound quality against the standard earphones using a large range of music, from Dark Side of the Moon to Tuvan throat singing. The separate woofers and tweeters in the in-ear headphones provide impressive bass response, with a much more neutral and full sound, making the standard earphones sound slightly harsh by comparison. The in-ear headphones also come with an inline remote to control the iPod, which is intuitive to use by touch. I was pleased to find that the remote also works when plugged into my MacBook. My one complaint: because they seal your ear canal so well, vibrations from the cables hanging down tend to travel up to your ear with a loud booming; this proved to be quite annoying while running, but at least they they stayed in place. The sound quality and fit of the In-Ear Headphones is on par with other, more expensive ear canal models, making it worth the upgrade from the standard earphones.
In the case of the current iPhone, users should be aware that the volume up/down rocker does not adjust the sound. Hopefully this is something that is cleaned up with OS 3 that is about to come out. The click to pause, replay or skip a song work as you would expect. Great!