Apple EarPods – first impressions review

Shocker: new free iThing headphones are actually pretty good. So good, in fact, we’d pay for them. Maybe

Apple reckons its EarPods, the long-awaited (and very, very long-needed) upgrade to the iconic but awful white earbuds that have come free with iPods and their kin since 2001, can hold their own against high-end cans. That's optimistic, but these in-line remote-toting buds are still very decent indeed.

Read our in depth iPhone 5 review.

The open, ported design still means you'll annoy your fellow commuters, and they'll be able to annoy you too, but it also means the sound is pleasingly spacious. There's impressive detail and even some dynamic capability, while bass feels just right.

That's unless you jam the EarPods down your ear canals. Do so, and the bass gets overwhelming, and you'll ruin the exemplary fit. According to Jony Ive, the ergonomics are the result of three years of ear moulding and finessing, and the resulting earbuds are genuinely, impressively comfortable. They're very light and smooth, much less intrusive than any sound isolating in-ears you'll find, and seem designed to work best when hanging freely from your lug holes.

The downside is the competition. The EarPods are going to retail for £25. Spend £10 more and you'll get a pair of SoundMagic E10s, which sound amazing, and will block the rest of the world firmly out. Of course, that doesn't matter a jot if you get them free with your iPhone or iPod. As freebies they're an order of magnitude better than their predecessors; as an upgrade path, you have some very strong alternatives to consider.

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