Reviewed on Mar 01, 2018

Apple EarPods HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
6.1
Mixed Usage
6.4
Critical Listening
5.6
Commute/Travel
6.8
Sports/Fitness
5.8
Office
5.8
TV
6.7
Gaming
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.

Test Results
Design 7.5
Sound 6.1
Isolation 4.2
Microphone 7.1
Active Features 0
Connectivity 5.1
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 2/16/2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
  2. Update 10/2/2017: The microphone has been tested with our new methodology, as explained here
  3. Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.

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7.5

Design

The Apple EarPods are sleek-looking and comfortable earbuds with a one-size-fits-all design. They're lightweight, easy-to-carry-around on your person and come with a stylish case that's portable enough to fit into most pockets. They're fairly sturdy, but the audio cable is a bit thin, making them not as durable as some of the other earbuds we've reviewed. Unfortunately, although the unique fit is incredibly comfortable, it's also quite unstable, which is not ideal for running or exercising.

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 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 Controls
Ease of use : Decent
Feedback : Decent
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : Yes
Microphone Control : No
Channel Mixing
:
N/A
Noise Canceling 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 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 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 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 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 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.

Cable
Detachable : No
Length : 3.73 ft
Connection : 1/8" TRRS

They have 1/8" TRRS connection and no additional cables.

Top
Headshots 1
Headshots 2
6.1

Sound

The Apple EarPods are a mediocre sounding pair of open-back earbuds. Their bass is tight and punchy but lacks quite a bit of sub-bass. Their mid-range and treble are pretty good but they sound a bit forward on vocals and are a bit bright. Overall, they are not the best choice for bass-heavy music such as EDM, hip-hop, and film scores. But perfectly adequate for other genres such as classical, 70's rock or audiobooks/podcasts. Also, like most other in-ears and earbuds, they don't have a large and out-of-head soundstage.

5.4 Bass
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 Mid
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 Treble
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.

5.9 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.

7.9 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.

2.6 Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
:
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
:
N/A
PRTF Distance
:
N/A
Openness
:
9.0
Acoustic Space Excitation
:
3.0
Correlated Crosstalk
:
-0.0 dB

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.

8.3 Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
:
0.335
Weighted THD @ 100
:
1.126

Good harmonic distortion performance. The overall amount of harmonic distortion in the mid and treble ranges are quite low, regardless of the level, and within very good limits. However, in the bass range and under heavier loads, there is a rise in THD which suggests the EarPods struggle with producing those frequencies at very loud volumes. This also means that they won't respond well to an EQ boost in the bass range.

4.2

Isolation

The Apple EarPods have an open fit that lets in as much ambient noise as an open-back over-ear headphone. They're not the ideal earbuds to use in loud, noisy environments and you may struggle to hear what's playing through the headphones when traveling or commuting via public transit. However, the lack of isolation does let you monitor your surroundings for traffic. Also, due to their small size, the leakage level is barely audible to the people around you except at high volumes.

2.6 Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
:
Overall Attenuation
:
-2.94 dB
Bass
:
-0.0 dB
Mid
:
1.0 dB
Treble
:
-9.53 dB
Self-Noise
:
0 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.

7.4 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.

7.1

Microphone

Integrated
:
No
In-line
:
Yes
Boom
:
No
Detachable Boom
:
N/A

The Apple EarPod's in-line microphone has a decent performance. Speech recorded/transmitted with this mic in a quiet environment will sound a bit thin, but quite detailed, clear and easily understandable. In noisy situations however, they will have a hard time separating speech from background noise in relatively loud environments such a busy street.

8.0 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 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.

0

Active Features

The Apple EarPods are passive and have no active features.

N/A Battery
Battery Type
:
N/A
Battery Life
:
N/A
Charge Time
:
N/A
Power Saving Feature
:
N/A
Audio while charging
:
N/A
Passive Playback
:
N/A

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

0 App Support
App Name : N/A
iOS : N/A
Android : N/A
Mac OS : 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.

5.1

Connectivity

The Apple EarPods are passive, wired headphones, so they only connect to other devices via their 1/8" TRRS audio cable. Unfortunately,  the non-detachable cable is optimized for iOS and only provides audio compatibility with console controllers but no microphone input.

0 Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
:
N/A
Multi-Device Pairing
:
N/A
NFC Pairing
:
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.

7.8 Wired
OS Compatibility
:
iOS
Analog Audio
:
Yes
USB Audio
:
No
PS4 Compatible
:
Audio Only
Xbox One Compatible
:
Audio Only
PC Compatible
:
Audio + Microphone

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

0 Base/Dock
Type
:
N/A
Optical Input
:
N/A
Line In
:
N/A
Line Out
:
N/A
USB Input
:
N/A
RCA Input
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
:
N/A
PC Compatible
:
N/A
Power Supply
:
N/A
Dock Charging
:
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.

0 Wireless Range
Obstructed Range
:
N/A
Line of Sight Range
:
N/A

The Apple EarPods are wired and do not have a wireless range.

10 Latency
Default Latency
:
0 ms
aptX Latency
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
:
N/A

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

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.

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.

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.

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
6.1 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.

6.4 Critical Listening

Decent for critical 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.

5.6 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.

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.

5.8 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.

5.8 TV

Above-average for home theater use. They're comfortable and have no latency. Unfortunately, they also have a short audio cable so they won't have the range to watch TV from your couch unless you have an extension cord.

6.7 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.

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