By now, you’re probably familiar with Apple’s latest earbuds. But are they an improvement over their arguably disposable predecessor, you ask? You bet. Still, they’re not going to win out over high-end or even mid-range audio options. That’s to be expected, though — the EarPods do sound better, and, well, they cost 29 bucks and ship with all of the devices Apple announced today. The attractive white ‘buds are packaged in a plastic case that’s quite similar to the enclosure that Apple introduced with its previous-gen step-up set. They’re very lightweight, not that you had any doubts, and appear to be durable enough. The “one size fits all” design worked well in our ears — it wasn’t a snug fit by any means, but we didn’t fear that they’d fall to the ground with the slightest movement.
You’ll net the best performance in quieter settings, considering that they don’t isolate sound like some other options on the market, and if you’re a frequent air traveler or often find yourself working in noisy environments, you’ll probably want to consider other options. That said, folks who don’t need the absolute best or want to save up for a better solution should find these to be sufficient — we didn’t have a chance to do any in-depth testing and analysis, but expect that to come after we’ve had a chance to digest all of today’s new gadgets. For now, you can take a closer look in the hands-on gallery just below.
Yes, finally — finally — Apple’s years-long headphone debacle may finally be at an end, with the introduction this morning of redesigned earbuds. Their new name: “EarPods.” Like so many things from today’s Apple press conference, the new earphones look an awful lot like a leak we saw earlier this month. Apple says the new earphones feature, “a breakthrough design for a more natural fit and increased durability, and an incredible acoustic quality typically reserved for higher-end earphones.” As seen above, they feature a main and secondary grill on each “pod,” and the iPhone version has an inline remote / microphone built-in along the wire. The set looks starkly different from past Apple earphone offerings — no rubber, distinctly less visible metal, and an all-plastic outer shell.
Rather than create a plugged-up seal as most in-ear headphones do, the pods rest at the edge of your ear canal with the main grill directed straight into it. A port on the back of each bud helps airflow to enhance the midrange, while dual ports on the bottom of each stem helps the bass response. Overall, the intention is to maximize airflow for optimal sound quality. Apple claims the design results in, “overall audio quality [that's] so impressive, they rival high-end headphones that cost hundreds of dollars more.” They’re available today for purchase as a standalone, and will ship with the new iPod Touch, Nano, and iPhone 5. A standalone set with an inline remote / mic will cost you the same $29 price point of its predecessor — and they’re already available at the source link below.
If you’re looking for something new to wrap around your noggin this coming season, then put it on your radar that Denon will be bringing 11 new sets of headphones to store shelves this August. That number might seem like quite a lot to digest, but it becomes a lot easier when broken down by category. First is the Exercise Freak lineup, a wrap-around earbud design that sells for $149 and will be available in black, blue and yellow. Beyond that, the company has three additional lineups — the Music Maniac, the Urban Raver and the Globe Cruiser — and each will be available in earbud and over-the-ear form factors. The Music Maniac headphones ($349 and $499) are designed to cater to audio purists with an acoustically flat signature. Most notable about the Music Maniac lineup is the top shelf Artisan model, which rings in at a healthy $1,199 and pits itself against other audiophile mainstays such as the Sennheiser HD800 and Audez’e LCD2. Meanwhile, the Urban Ravers ($249 and $399) place a heavy emphasis on bass, whereas the Globe Cruisers ($179 and $499) feature noise cancellation. As a nice touch, each of the models feature built-in microphones and volume controls.
Nokia doesn’t just have phones on display, check out their new audio product, the Purity HD Stereo Headset by Monster. The line includes headphones and earbuds (Purity In-Ear Stereo Headset), whichever tickles your fancy, and with that trademark M on the side, you can bet they’ll bear a healthy price tag when they hit shelves. Naturally, there’s also a couple of YouTube videos showing it off in the traditional Nokia strongholds of rock music and dancing, check those out after the break.
To the joy and delight of babysitters everywhere, Sony announced a boatload of new noise-cancelling headphones and earbuds to keep you sane in loud situations. Leading the pack are the $200, on-ear active / passive MDR-NC200D headphones, which have a 40mm drivers in each ear, 22-hour battery and folding design. For $150, users wanting portability can cop the smaller in-ear MDR-NC100Ds, which have a lower price tag and 13.5mm drivers. Both headphones feature Sony’s “Artificial Intelligence Noise-Cancelling” technology, which claims to automatically reduce ambient noise by around 98.2 percent — because you know, precision matters.
Also launching today are two new smartphone headsets — the $40 in-ear DR-EX14VP and the $60 DR-XB23VP earbuds — with connectivity to Android, iPhone and BlackBerry phones, as well as Sony Ericsson, Nokia and other phones thanks to an included compatibility cord. Pulling up the rear are the new iPhone control headsets — the $60 DR-XB22iP in-ear silicone hybrids, the $40 DR-EX61iP earbuds and the $150 “over-the-head” DR-ZX701iP. Currently accepting pre-orders, the headphones will be available for purchase sometime in October — just in time to tune out the doorbell this Halloween. Check out the full PR after the break.
Etymotic specializes in putting inexpensive moving coil drivers inside noise-isolating buds that can, as an optional upgrade, be individually molded via the company’s international “Custom-fit” program. Previous models have been iDevice only, at least in terms of their microphone function and button controls, but the new mc2 should also get along happily with Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, WebOS and Symbian smartphones and tablets. It’s due for release by the end of the week for $99, which will buy you noise isolation up to a claimed market-beating 42dB, 8mm (0.3-inch) dual-magnet neodymium drivers, an all-important mic and an assortment of ear tips — Custom-fit costs extra, and substantially so. Listen carefully and you might just hear the PR after the break squeaking for your attention.
Maxell has taken a slightly different approach to the bone conduction trope with its new Vibrabone HP-VBC40 earbuds – headphones that combine standard stereo drivers with the same bone-rattling, vibration-based technology we’ve all come to know and love. According to Maxell, the Vibrabone’s hybrid system enhances the bass that would be coursing its way through your cranium, while its dual volume control allows users to fine tune that bass flow. Apparently, this bass adjustment mechanism puts less stress on your eardrums, which might make the entire bone conduction concept seem slightly less creepy. The earbuds come in black, blue and white, and will be available in Japan toward the end of April, for a little under ¥4,000 or about $50.
Given the one-size-fits-few nature of most audio products, it’s good to have choices, and Sony happens to have two new pairs of headphones designed for very particular segments of your life. If, say, you’re a traveling music lover who doesn’t happen to have the disposable income to obtain Sony’s premium $300 MDR-NC300D noise canceling buds (which the company claims filter out 99 percent of noise), you’ll find a cheaper alternative in the new $70 MDR-NC13, which only make a estimated 87.4 percent of background distractions go bye-bye. C’est la vie. If, on the other hand, you need to throw sound from one end of your mansion to the other for hours on end, the MDR-RF865RK wireless headphones might be the wide receiver you’ve been dreaming of — Sony claims they’ll play audio up to 100 meters away from their dock, which provides up to 25 hours of playtime after a 3.5 hour charge. No price or availability for the wireless cans, which were just announced in the UK, but you’ll find the NC-13 on sale at Sony’s online store right now. PR after the break.
Westone isn’t exactly a household name, even in the earphone universe. But what the company lacks in recognition, it more than makes up for in quality. If you’ll recall, we had a listen to its ES5 custom in-ear monitors earlier in the year, and while they cost a staggering $950, they also managed to melt our brain and thoroughly spoil us in the process. Thankfully, there’s a budget alternative: the Westone 4. Granted, even 50 percent off still lands you right around $449, but many audiophiles would argue that said price is a small one to pay when looking at a quad-driver setup, a three-way crossover network and an insanely robust set of earbud tips. There’s no question that these guys are aimed at the professionals in the crowd, and if you’re interested in seriously stepping up your mobile listening game, you owe it to yourself to peek our full review. It’s after the break, per usual.