Everyone knows Apple’s earphones aren’t very good. I looked around and decided the Sony MDR-EX71 would be the best option. They come in white, to match my iPod, and they are in-ear, effectively blocking out surrounding noise.
I ordered my Sony earphones from a Hong Kong site, iShopping4u for $50, with free shipping included. They arrived in a little over a week (it was still Christmas holidays in Spain).
The earphones come with multiple sizes of the grey tips that go in your ears- allowing for a sung and comfortable fit. The sound is really good in my opinion. Many people say there is too much bass, but it sounds great to me- not muddy bass, but punchy clear bass- much like my Mission speakers on my home stereo.
The phones are made with an unusual rubbery, flexible material- very different from the hard plastic iPod earphones.
The cord on the headphones is quite short. This is great if you always wear a jacket and can keep your iPod in your inner chest pocket. Otherwise, the cord is too short to keep the iPod in a lower jacket pocket or pants pocket. There is an extension included, but after adding that, the cord is way too long for daily use.
Each earbud’s cord length is different. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. By making the right cord longer, it’s easy to pass the right earbud behind your head, with the shorter left cord being just above the inner chest pocket of your jacket. However, when you take the earphones off, they do not wrap very well around your iPod for storage. This creates a tangled mess of earphones.
A case is provided to store the headphones, but it is completely worthless. It’s an unusual tube shape and you have to wrap the cord around the outside, but just like on an iPod, the different cord lengths keep it from wrapping symmetrically and storing neatly.
$50 for these earphones is not a good deal. Sure they sound great, but they are a real hassle to use everyday. If you’re in the market for new earphones, $39 for Apple’s new in-ear buds may be the best option. (I’m still disappointed that Apple is providing such awful earphones with the iPod . I mean, iPods *do* cost $300+). There is a comparison of Sony’s and Apple’s earphones available here.
[Updated December 11, 2004]
I have been using these headphones now for almost 1 year. I think they *are* a good buy for $50. They effectively block outside noises, which means I can actually hear music while riding on the Tube in the morning. With Apple’s headphones, you have to crank up the music and you still can’t really hear anything. Also, the shorter cord is fine for me. I keep my headphones in my pocket when not in use. Because the cord is short, they very rarely get tangled up. Also, the sound is good. Listening to something like The Killers is great on these headphones. The White version is probably overkill though. If you can find the black version locally- get them.
[Updated January 8, 2005]
If you’re thinking about getting these Sony earphones, you might want to read my Shure E2c review. They are worth the extra cash.