GARY STEEL HAS already covered much of what Apple had to say about the new iPhone 5 (read his article here). While he mentioned the new earphones that are part of the deal with Apple’s latest hero product, I reckon they need some more attention.
I’ve been muttering for years about the quality of the ‘phones supplied with portable devices. Generally, these ‘phones are mediocre, some are truly dire, while a small fraction of them are actually able to be categorised as “okay”. Apple is by no means the worst of the offenders in this regard – its early white earbuds were lousy but they’re improved over the years and while they were never good, they were at least tolerable.
This situation played into the hands of aftermarket manufacturers and the earphone and headphone market has grown in leaps and bounds as portable music became ubiquitous and as users looked for better audio quality.
The new Apple EarPods (as they’re called) get an extensive mention on the iPhone 5 page on the Apple site, with emphasis placed not just on fit and comfort, but also on the acoustics. Will miracles never cease?
Apparently, Apple’s industrial designers tested 124 different prototypes on over 600 people to get the perfect fit, enhancing both comfort and in-ear stability, so the new ‘phones should not only feel good but should also stay put when users are getting active.
Sonically, the Apple sound engineers set themselves a high bar for the new EarPods – a person sitting in a room listening to high-quality speakers (although after the laughable iPod Hi-Fi product of a few years back, one would hope that Apple’s engineers have upgraded their reference speakers).
To improve the sound quality, the EarPods feature a new speaker diaphragm made up of both rigid and flexible materials. The ‘phones are also vented by two vents, which are said to enhance the low frequencies.
Apple states that “The overall audio quality of Apple EarPods is so impressive, they rival high-end headphones that cost hundreds of dollars more.”
Assuming Apple isn’t just blowing its own white plastic trumpet here, these new ‘phones could spell trouble for aftermarket manufacturers, particularly for products in the sub-$100 range. If Apple has really made an effort here, it wouldn’t be too tough to come close to, or even to match the audio quality of many of the aftermarket models, although the in-ear type with interchangeable soft tips will still have an edge over Apple’s one size fits all version, regardless of how carefully Apple has tuned the fit for the average ear.
As the resident ear-fi guy, I’m more interested in getting my hands on the ‘phones than I am in the phone. ASHLEY KRAMER