Apple’s iPod a must have, but ditch those white earbuds

“For the gadget aficionado, Apple’s iPod portable music player is a must have. Simply go to your local Apple store and pick out the color of nano or iPod you like. Done. Enjoy the iPod for what it is — a marketing triumph disguised as a gadget. But headphones for iPods? That’s another story,” Jonathan Blum writes for “As much as Steve Jobs has redrawn the digital landscape with his iPod and other Apple products, he has turned a deaf ear to his headphones. iPod headphones, like all things Apple, certainly look cool; those little white earbuds are as ubiquitous as they are iconic. But as headphones, they are a disgrace.”

“The good news is there are excellent aftermarket choices for high-quality headphones for portable music players. These headphones sound better. They fit better,” Blum reports. “[Personal monitors] are not earbuds. They are actually high-quality small speakers that fit inside the outer part of your ear canal and sit flush to your eardrums, providing better sound at lower volumes… The three brands to know for [personal monitors] are Etymotic Research, Shure Electronics and Ultimate Ears. I tested three of the better units from these companies: the Etymotic ER-4 ($330), the Shure E4c ($299) and the UE 5Pro ($249)… The audio quality in all of these units was solid. Really solid. But even good things are not created equal. For me, audio equipment is like red wine — you can go and on about the stuff, but you know right away what’s best. And the standout in this group was the Ultimate Ears.”

Full article here.

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Related article:
Review: Etymotic Research ER-6i Isolator black earphones – February 04, 2006


  1. OK, if I am going to be that picky about my personal audio, I’m not going to be listening to an MP3 player. Instead, I’ll be sitting at home with a state of the art sound system around me. Likewise, I’m not going to spend $300 on an iPod, then $330 for headphones. The earbuds do what I need them to do – play my music well and fit into my pocket with my iPod when I’m done.

  2. I’m with you Jimbo. I do sometimes use true headphones for the increased bass response, but they didn’t cost me anywhere near $300. If I were out and about I would probably look pretty dorky w/ the big headphones on. I’m not real self conscious, but please!

  3. What’s wrong with WHITE?!? Huh? What is this? Racism? WHY is the WHITE man always shit on lately?? I don’t get it. I don’t unnerstand. What if they were BLACK earbuds, huh? The whaddaya all say? “Get rid of those disgraceful BLACK earbuds!”?? uh-uh. I don’t think so!

    That’s right, we’re WHITE and we’re PISSED. Screw you, BLUM! Screw YOU! What are you, anyway? Jewish?

  4. i’m on my third ipod in 4 years and all of my headphones have sucked.

    I think they are for people who want to be seen wearing “White earphones” signifying “i’ve got an iPod.

    Who gives a damn?

    Are you listening to music or putting on a show?

  5. As a sound engineer, I hate when people are griping about the earbuds with the iPod and want to spend a fortune for headphones to listen to compressed audio. Take the iPod for what it is: an easy way to listen to music. If you want to do critical listening, leave your stuff in wav or aiff format. Then get the good headphones.

  6. Thorin,

    The Etymotics are in-ear headphones. They actually create a seal when inserted correctly so the bass response is unreal. They also block noise better than any active noise-cancelling headphones on the market.

    I think i paid around $220 for them. They were actually stolen and I purchased them again the next day. (BTW, I’m not loaded, it hurt to make both purchases, I just love them so much I couldn’t be without them.)

    The standard iPod headphones aren’t the worst phones out there, but after using the Ety’s you’ll think they are utter crap. Terrible. F.

  7. The iPod’s analog output and electronics is no match for a Mac’s digital optical output to quality 7.1 surround sound system.

    $300 is a waste for headphones.

    If you want to make your iTunes music sound wonderful as well as control the volume between songs automatically check out Volume Logic iTunes plugin, it’s well worth the mere $15 or so for it.

    It engineers your music as it’s played. Sounds a million times better than just regular rip.

  8. Thank God someone wrote about the crappy earphones that comes with all iPods. They suck to the fullest extent of all that does suck!

    I’m an Audio, Mixing and Mastering engineer, besides being a bass player and bass luthier ( and I know what I’m talking about.

    If you want great sound without spending much, go for the Sony MDR-EX51LP earphones. They cost less than US$30 from Amazon and they kick!
    And yeah, they come in white, black and other colors. The white ones are perfect for iPod fans.

    They fit perfectly in your ears, because they’re in-ear designed. There are silicone buds that comes in 3 sizes, and fits securely to your ears, and help isolate external noise. That way you can listen to a lower volume, without being disturbed by external noise, and thus you save your ears from fatigue.

    Apple, wake up! At least you can learn something with Sony: make awesome earphones at an unbeatable price!

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