Apple EarPods Headphones Review

Updated Mar 01, 2018 at 07:59 pm
Apple EarPods Picture
Usage Ratings - Version 1.3.1
5.9
Mixed Usage
6.2
Neutral Sound
5.4
Commute/Travel
6.8
Sports/Fitness
5.7
Office
5.2
Wireless Gaming
7.0
Wired Gaming
6.3
Phone Call
Type Earbuds
Enclosure Open-Back
Wireless No
Noise Cancelling No
Mic Yes
Transducer Dynamic

The Apple EarPods are simple but decent earbuds for casual listening. They're well-built, comfortable but not the most versatile headphones as their open fit lets in a lot of noise. They're also a bit too unstable to run with (unlike the AirPods). But, on the upside, they're very easy-to-use, fit in almost any pockets and have a decent if slightly bass-lacking sound.

Our Verdict

5.9 Mixed Usage

The Apple EarPods are simple, portable headphones with an above-average audio reproduction. They're not versatile enough for all environments and aren't the best headphones to use at the gym. However, they're one of the more comfortable earbuds we've reviewed so far, provided the one-size-fits-all design works for you.

6.2 Neutral Sound

Decent for neutral and casual listening. They're comfortable and moderately well balanced in the mid-to-high frequency ranges, reproducing instruments and vocals with an above-average fidelity. That and the open fit give the impression of a wider soundstage that's good if you're listening in a quiet environment. However, they lack quite a bit of bass for those looking for slightly more punch in their audio.

See our Neutral Sound recommendations
5.4 Commute/Travel

Subpar for commuting. They are open headphones that barely block any noise, so they won't be suitable for the loud environments involved in commuting. Their only redeeming quality is that they're very portable and passive (no active features or battery life) so you can have them in your pocket at all times.

See our Commute/Travel recommendations
6.8 Sports/Fitness

Average for sports. Although they're very portable headphones with an easy-to-use control scheme, they're a bit too unstable to be used for sports. They will quickly fall out of your ears during more intense exercises.

See our Sports/Fitness recommendations
5.7 Office

Mediocre for office use. They're comfortable to wear for long listening sessions and don't leak much, so they won't distract any of your colleagues. Unfortunately, they're also open headphones, which won't prevent noise from seeping into your audio.

See our Office recommendations
5.2 Wireless Gaming

Average for gaming. They have a wired connection, so they have negligible latency which is suitable for gaming. They also have a decent microphone and a comfortable design you can wear for hours. Unfortunately, they lack a good app to customize their sound profile and like most gaming headsets, their mic is not compatible with consoles.

See our Wireless Gaming recommendations
7.0 Wired Gaming
6.3 Phone Call
  • 5.9 Mixed Usage
  • 6.2 Neutral Sound
  • 5.4 Commute/Travel
  • 6.8 Sports/Fitness
  • 5.7 Office
  • 5.2 Wireless Gaming
  • 7.0 Wired Gaming
  • 6.3 Phone Call
Pros
  • Great portable design.
  • Simple and easy-to-use controls.
Cons
  • Poor isolation from ambient noise.
  • Easily falls out of your ears.
  • Bass and treble delivery varies significantly across users.
  1. Update 11/21/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.1.
  2. Update 11/6/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.
  3. Update 2/16/2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
  4. Update 10/2/2017: The microphone has been tested with our new methodology, as explained here
  5. Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.

Check Price

Test Results

Design
Design
Style

The Apple EarPods have a simple and sleek design reminiscent of most Apple products. The smooth finish and elegant form factor gives them a premium appeal to match their price. Furthermore, the understated and minimal aesthetic will work for some. They won't stand out in a crowd, despite their bright white color scheme, as they look like regular earbuds once in your ears; Unlike the AirPods which look a bit awkward without the cables.

8.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.03 lbs
Clamping Force
N/A

The AppleEarPods, like the AirPods, have a one-size-fits-all design that's quite comfortable provided you can achieve a good fit. They're super lightweight, and the smooth finish and form factor of the earbuds makes them barely noticeable once in your ears. You can wear them for hours and not feel the fatigue or soreness that some other earbuds induce.

7.2
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
iOS
Ease Of Use Decent
Feedback Decent
Call/Music Control Yes
Volume Control Yes
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
N/A
Noise Cancelling Control N/A
Talk-Through
N/A
Additional Buttons No

The Apple EarPod's control scheme is straightforward and efficient. They provide the essential functions: track skipping, call/music, and volume controls. The buttons deliver a satisfying click when pressed, they're easy to use and sufficiently well-spaced out, to not cause any missed inputs.

9.6
Design
Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference 0.4 C

The Apple EarPods are incredibly breathable headphones. They have no tips, and there are very few contact points with your ear. This makes them a bit less stable than other in-ear/earbuds, but they're also slightly more breathable. Overall, the temperature difference caused by the earbuds is very negligible even after a long and intense work out session.

9.3
Design
Portability
L 1.88 "
W 1.75 "
H 0.75 "
Volume 2.47 Cu. Inches
Transmitter Required N/A

These are very portable headphones. They're lightweight, and like most in-ear/earbuds, they have a small footprint, which means they will easily fit into almost any pocket or bag. They additionally come with a pretty good case that's also quite portable.

7.0
Design
Case
Type Hard case
L 2.44 "
W 2.44 "
H 0.75 "
Volume 4.47 Cu. Inches

The Apple Earpods with a transparent hard case that feels dense enough to protect the headphones from minor falls, scratches and water damage. However, the hard plastic used for the case is a bit more susceptible to cracking under moderate physical stress, unlike some of the other hard cases we have reviewed.

6.5
Design
Build Quality

Design-wise, the Apple EarPods are similar to the AirPods. However, putting the two headphones side by side you can see the improvements in both build quality and design. A lot more premium materials were used, and the plastic casing of the AirPods feels sturdier and thicker than that of the wired model. That and also the fact that the EarPods have a pretty flimsy cable make them about average for their build quality and on par with some other in-ear/earbuds we've reviewed.

5.5
Design
Stability

They have a unique fit that doesn't always accommodate different ear shapes and sizes. That and the lack of any additional tips for stability make them relatively loose in the ear canal even for those able to achieve a good fit. While this is good for comfort, it's not ideal for stability as even the lightest tug on the cable will pull the earbuds out of your ears. The AirPods mitigate this issue by being truly wireless, but unfortunately, the Earpods are not stable enough to run with and may even slip out of your ears during regular activities.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-8.24 db
Treble Amount
-0.81 db
5.9
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.97 dB

Sub-par frequency response consistency performance. The Apple EarPods, unlike the wireless AirPods, suffer from stability and fit issues which result in inconsistent bass and treble delivery across multiple re-seats and users. In the bass range, the maximum deviation at 60Hz is about 6dB, which is noticeable and could be inconvenient. In the treble range, the maximum deviation increases to about 6dB at 3KHz and 9dB at around 9KHz. This amount of deviation in the treble range means that depending on the fit, the sound could shift from being relatively neutral to overly-bright.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
5.4
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
6.04 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
70.25 Hz
Low-Bass
-12.01 dB
Mid-Bass
-0.14 dB
High-Bass
3.47 dB

The bass of the Apple EarPods is sub-par. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 70Hz, which is mediocre. Accordingly, their low-bass is lacking by 12dB, which is due to their open-back and earbud design. This means they have very little sub-bass, and may not be able to produce the thump and rumble that is common in EDM, hip-hop, and film scores. On the upside, most genres of music don't have much sub-bass, and sub frequencies are quite hard to notice regardless. Because of that, the lacking bass won't be as bad as it looks in the graph. Additionally, the overemphasis in high-bass could make the sound a bit muddy and boomy but this usually happens if the buds are stuck or pressed up too much against the tragus of the ear. Also, their bass delivery varies significantly across users, and is sensitive to the quality of fit and seal. The response here represents the average bass response and your experience may vary.

7.5
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
3.31 dB
Low-Mid
3.22 dB
Mid-Mid
1.6 dB
High-Mid
3.88 dB

The Apple EarPods have a good mid-range. Low-mid is quite flat and the 3dB overemphasis is actually the continuation of the high-bass bump. This could make the vocals a bit thick and the overall mixes a bit cluttered. The bump in high-bass adds some excess projection and intensity to the mid-range which will mostly affect vocals and lead instruments by nudging them towards the front of the mix.

7.8
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
3.66 dB
Low-Treble
2.91 dB
Mid-Treble
4.45 dB
High-Treble
-1.24 dB

The treble performance is good. The overall response is rather uneven and consistently over our target by at least 3dB. This gives emphasis to the vocals and lead instruments and makes the overall sound bright. However, they don't sound too sibilant (piercing on S and T sounds) like most in-ears, such as the X3 and the BeatsX, do. Also, their treble delivery varies noticeably across users. The response here represents the average response and your experience may vary.

7.2
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.86 db
Dips
1.3 db
7.9
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.28
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
1.58
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
2.83
Weighted Phase Mismatch
3.52

The imaging is pretty good. Despite their small drivers and open-back earbud design, their weighted group delay is 0.28, which is within very good limits. The graph also shows that their maximum group delay (around 80Hz) is still below our audibility threshold. But note that the improved group delay below 80Hz doesn't really mean much here, since the earbuds can't really produce frequencies that low. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were quite well-matched which helps which the accurate placement and localization of objects (vocals, instruments, footsteps) in the stereo field.

2.5
Sound
Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
N/A
PRTF Distance
N/A
Openness
9.5
Acoustic Space Excitation
3.1

The soundstage of the Apple EarPods, like most other in-ears/earbuds, is poor. This is because properly activating the resonances of the pinna (the outer ear) is one of the important factors in creating an out-of-head and speaker-like soundstage. Since in-ears and earbuds completely bypass the pinna, their soundstage tends to be perceived as small and located inside the listener's head. However, because of the open-back design, they tend to sound a bit more open and spacious that closed-back in-ears/earbuds.

8.8
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.102
WHD @ 100
0.054
Isolation
1.4
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-2.94 dB
Bass
-0.0 dB
Mid
1.0 dB
Treble
-9.53 dB

The isolation performance of the Apple EarPods are poor. These earbuds are not designed to create an air-tight seal, and therefore, isolate very little. The don't achieve any isolation in the bass and mid ranges, which is important for cutting out engine noise and speech. In the treble range, which is important for reducing sharp sounds such as S and Ts, they achieve a poor 9dB of isolation.

7.3
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
37.72 dB

The Apple EarPods have a decent leakage performance. Like other in-ears/earbuds, they don't leak below 1KHz. The majority of their leakage is concentrated around 6KHz, which is in the sibilance range and consists mostly S and T sounds. But because the level of leakage is rather loud, it will be audible to people around you if you blast the music.

Microphone
8.1
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
LFE
285.09 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
2.6 dB
HFE
12901.59 Hz
Weighted THD
0.4
Gain
16 dB

The recording quality of the Apple EarPod's in-line microphone is very good. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 285Hz, indicating a recorded/transmitted speech that sounds noticeably thin. However, their HFE (high-frequency extension) is at 13KHz, which is very good, and the range between LFE and HFE is quite flat too. This ensures a clear, intelligible and detailed speech transmission.

6.2
Microphone
Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise
Speech + Subway Noise
SpNR
14.36 dB

The noise handling capabilities of the mic are mediocre. In our SpNR test, they achieved a speech-to-noise ratio of 14dB, which is below average. This suggests that this mic is best suited to quiet environments and may struggle to separate speech from ambient noise in louder environments.

Active Features
N/A
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
N/A
Continuous Battery Life
N/A
Additional Charges
N/A
Total Battery Life
N/A
Charge Time
N/A
Power Saving Feature
N/A
Audio While Charging
N/A
Passive Playback
N/A
Charging Port N/A

These headphones are passive and have no battery life since they are wired.

0
Active Features
App Support
App Name N/A
iOS N/A
Android N/A
macOS N/A
Windows N/A
Equalizer
N/A
ANC Control
N/A
Mic Control N/A
Room effects
N/A
Playback Control
N/A
Button Mapping N/A
Surround Sound N/A

These headphones have no compatible app and no active features. If you want a wireless headphone with a similar design and a few extra features on iOS, get the AirPods instead.

Connectivity
0
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
N/A
Multi-Device Pairing
N/A
NFC Pairing
N/A
Line of Sight Range
N/A
Default Latency
N/A
aptX Latency
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
N/A

The earbuds are wired and do not have a Bluetooth connection. If you want a similar design from Apple that has a wireless Bluetooth connection, then consider the AirPods. See also our recommendations for the best sounding wireless earbuds.

The Apple EarPods have negligible latency because they have a wired connection.

0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
9.0
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
Yes
USB Audio
No
Detachable No
Length 3.73 ft
Connection 1/8" TRRS
Wired Latency
0 ms

These headphones have a 1/8TRRS audio cable with an inline remote microphone that is not compatible with consoles.

Connectivity
PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC / PS4 Analog
Audio Only
PC / PS4 Wired USB
No
PC / PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
Audio Only
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Wireless
No
0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
N/A
USB Input
N/A
Line In
N/A
Line Out
N/A
Optical Input
N/A
RCA Input
N/A
Dock Charging
N/A
Power Supply
N/A

The Apple EarPods do not have a dock. If you need a headset with a dock that also has a wired connection for gaming or watching movies, then consider the SteelSeries Arctis 7 2019 Edition.

In the box
In the box

  • Apple EarPods Headphones
  • Carrying  Case
  • Manual

Compared to other Headphones

The Apple Earpods are very comfortable earbuds with a decent build quality. They lack a bit of bass but should sound good enough for casual listening, and they're very portable. Unfortunately, they have no convenient active features, like wireless or noise canceling and their open one-size-fits-all design isn't as versatile as some of the other in-ear/earbuds. See our recommendations for the best earbuds, the best earbuds for bass and the best wireless earbuds for iPhone.

Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass are more versatile headphones than the Apple EarPods due to their closed-back design that isolates more ambient noise, which makes them more suitable for commuting. As their name suggests, the XB50AP Extra Bass have a very bass-heavy sound profile, while the Apple EarPods' open-design lacks sub-bass but don’t lack detail in the treble range like the Sonys do. Also, the EarPods are more comfortable if you can find a good fit. They have a decent in-line remote with volume control, which the Sony don’t have, disappointingly. The EarPods have a decent microphone for calls, while the Sony MDR-XB50AP are a more stable option for sports.

Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Bose SoundSport Free are better headphones than the Apple EarPods. They are truly wireless, which is very convenient and portable, and have a great audio reproduction that is accurate and well-balanced. The SoundSport Free are also better-built and don’t feel as plasticky as the EarPods. On the other hand, you don’t have to manage battery life with the wired EarPods and their design is very comfortable if you can find the right fit. They have a better microphone for calls and their wired connection doesn’t have any latency, which is great for watching videos. If you’re looking for casual, everyday in-ears, the EarPods are a decent option and might offer better value, but for sports or critical listening, the Bose SoundSport Free will be better.

Apple AirPods 1 Truly Wireless 2017
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Apple AirPods are better headphone than the Apple EarPods if you want a wireless design. The EarPods are wired, so they do not have the range and convenience of the wireless AirPods. On the upside, this also means they have no latency when watching movies. You also do not have a battery life to worry about since they are completely passive, unlike the AirPods. The AirPods, on the other hand, are a bit more stable for most listeners thanks to the absence of an audio cable. They're also a bit more practical for everyday casual use, since they are truly wireless headphones with good battery life and a stable wireless connection.

Beats urBeats3 Earphones
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Beats urBeats3 are better mixed usage headphones than the Apple EarPods thanks to their great passive isolation. Their closed-back design blocks noticeably more ambient noise than the open EarPods, which makes them the better option for commuting, and offers more bass. On the other hand, the EarPods' one-size-fits-all design is fairly more comfortable. The stability fins of the urBeats3 could help you find a better fit for sports activities.

KZ ZST
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The KZ ZST are better headphones than the Apple EarPods. Their sound is better, and they also feel noticeably sturdier. However, some will prefer the one-size-fits-all design of the EarPods, which seems to be more comfortable than the in-ear fit of the ZST. Also, the EarPods have an open design, so this means they don’t block noise well and won’t be a good option for commuting. On the upside, they have an in-line remote and microphone, which the ZST model we’ve tested is lacking, though there is a variant that has them.

KZ ZSN
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The KZ ZSN are better mixed usage and critical listening in-ears than the Apple EarPods. They are noticeably better built which more premium materials and a nice braided, detachable cable. The ZSN have poor treble, while the EarPods have poor bass performance. However, most people will find the EarPods to be slightly more comfortable due to their one-size-fits-all design. They also have a microphone, which is useful for calls.

Samsung Level U Pro Wireless
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Samsung Level U Pro are wireless headphones, a bit more convenient for day-to-day casual use than the Apple EarPods, but the EarPods are a decent option if you prefer wired headsets to wireless ones. The EarPods have practically no latency when watching movies or gaming due to their wired design. They also are a bit more comfortable, especially for those used to the Apple earbud fit. On the other hand, the Samsung Level U Pro are a lot more versatile, and since they're wireless, they have a greater range and also support low latency codecs so they're not as bad as some other Bluetooth headsets for watching videos. The Samsung also have a better-balanced sound that you can EQ with the Level app.

+ Show more

Apple EarPods Price

Recommended Articles

LOG IN

JOIN RTINGS.com

Be part of the most informed community and take advantage of our advanced tools to find the best product for your needs.
Join our mailing list:
Become an insider

Unlimited access to full product reviews, test measurements and scores

test table UI

Product prices across the site on reviews, tables and tools

product prices UI

Additional votes for our
next reviews

Additional votes UI

Early Access
to our reviews and test measurements

Early Access UI

Create Discussion