Apple EarPods review
If there has been one certainty when it comes to Apple products since the launch of the original iPod, it was that the headphones in the box were rubbish.
Not any more, we're happy to report. Apple has "re-invented" the in-the-box earphones, giving them a funky name at the same time: EarPods.
They now come as standard with the Apple iPhone 5, iPod touch and iPod nano, but should you upgrade your current Apple headphones, or steer clear? We've been wearing a pair to find out.
The EarPods are white, come with a white flex cable that has a straight 3.5mm plug on the end and feature a volume control and call answer/hang-up button on the cable. The cable itself is more than long enough to go to your jeans pocket, although not so long that you'll be left with lots of cable dangling about.
The big difference however isn't in the cable, but the design of the earpieces themselves. The redesigned 'phones now have the speaker aperture to the side of the enclosure rather than the circular one as was the case previously.
The earpiece has been totally redesigned to sit better in your ear - gone is the teardrop design, and in is a more elongated ellipse that faces towards the left and right sides.
In the ear they are comfortable to wear, with no ear tip you don't have to ram them in your ear canal, although that does mean they can fall out more easily - as we found on a quick run when the cable snagged on our T-shirt.
The reason for the new design is that the sound is now bounced off your ear at right angles and down your ear canal with minimal waste, rather than flat against the wall of your outer ear. That ultimately makes for a better, more noise-isolating experience.
We tested the EarPods on an iPhone 4S playing a variety of music from Spotify and Apple's own Music app on the phone. Within Spotify there are no equaliser settings available so that gave us a very clean experience without software interference.
The first track we selected was Escape Velocity by Chemical Brothers before moving on to the soundtrack to Despicable Me. A strange choice, but one where we've found you get a good amount of bass alongside the high-pitched voice of Pharrell - it's actually pretty tough on headphones.
The results were good, better than we expected from a £25 pair of headphones, but you could hear some holes in the performance.
To compensate for the lack of oomph in the EarPods, Apple has raised the bass. It's not uncomfortable, but it's certainly noticeable, and the bass the EarPods do provide lacks the depth you'd get from more expensive earphones. This might worry people who are low-frequency lovers.
The second thing to note is that we were able to listen to tracks comfortably at full volume - that's not something you can do on a pair of custom-fit headphones, for example - but surprisingly, even though we had a number of tunes pumping in our ear, no one on the train complained. Even when we asked them whether it was too loud.
Like previous Apple headphones, the EarPods have a built-in volume control and microphone for hands-free talking. We took and made a number of calls using the EarPods and we were happy with the performance. Those on the other end of the call also said they could hear us perfectly even though we were on a busy train or a busy street in London.
Overall we are very pleased with the performance of the EarPods. They are comfortable to wear, sound good for the price and should mean that you don't have to worry about upgrading the headphones on your new iGadget straight away. Should you upgrade if you've got the old style? If you aren't looking to break the bank then it's £25 well spent. However if you can stretch the budget to, say, £50 you'll get a more sound for your cash.