The Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic look a lot like Apples last headphones, only this time they have a remote and mic.
***Please ignore the otherworldly aura around the headphones;
we have no idea how to photograph white headphones. ***
This time around, the ear buds have a more standard design to them compared to the beveled design from the previous model, the sleeves of which had a clear up and down. The tips of the nozzles have some horizontal striations, which should help them grip the sleeves and prevent the ear buds from rotating.
The nozzles are metal and covered with a mesh.
The remote and mic that the headphones' name alludes to is found a bit high up on the right ear bud's cable. It has a button and volume controls. You can single click to play/pause, double click to fast-forward, or triple-click to rewind.
***This is the remote and mic that everyone is talking about.
It has poor tactile feedback and is located a bit too
high to see when you're wearing the headphones. ***
The cord continues down to the 1/8-inch plug, which has the same design as its predecessor.
This plug will probably be the Achille's heel of the Apple In-ears.
While we're sure you don't really need a visual aid, we've provided the following photos so you can imagine what you would look like wearing the same headphones that everyone else wears. Chances are you have the old iterations; if you do, just go put those in and look in a mirror. We're sure that will give you a better idea than ol' HATS will.
These headphones look remarkably similar to the last iteration.
In The Box
In the box you'll find exactly what's pictured below: the headphones, a carrying case, and a pill-shaped case that can hold two different sizes of sleeves (in total there are 3 sizes of sleeves).
As we mentioned in our last review of an Apple product, the main durability issue you'll encounter here is with the plug, specifically with its design and lack of a cord guard. Take a look at the plugs pictured below. On the left are the Apple headphones, whose cord guard looks like a long-sleeve T-shirt and provides about as much protection. The purpose of a cord guard is to stop the cord from bending too sharply. The headphones in the picture on the right are the Sony MDR-EX51s, which cost under $20.
Note the sharp bend on the left versus the more
gradual bend on the right.
The two headphones are being pulled an equal distance. Look at the sharp bend exhibited along the inside curve on the Apple headphones, which occurs right in the middle of the cord guard. Now, the straight plug design itself is bad, because it necessitates the headphones have a robust cord guard. The Apple headphones do not have this robust cord guard, hence the acute angle in the bend. Now, the Sony headphones have an average cord guard and a bent plug. This plug is nothing special, yet see how gradual the bend is?
We stress this issue so much because, in our experience, the plug is the first part to break. Think of all the times your headphones have started to cut out as you walked around. How many of those times did you have to jiggle the cord at the plug?
Other than the significant issues with the plug, the headphones have average durability. There's nothing especially durable about the headphones' construction or materials and there's no glaring oversights. The main reason they got the poor score they did is because of the plug issue and, to a lesser, but not minor extent, the lack of any cord guards around the control pendant.
It's hard to be particularly fashionable when your aesthetic is the over-done norm. No one notices in-ear headphones by brand. If they're white, people will assume they're iPod headphones. Even if you have the control pendant swaying around in the open, chances are everyone's curiosity will have been sated by the 'white = iPod' assumption. Therefore, while these aren't ugly by any stretch, they exist solely in the baseline of in-ear aesthetics. These are the headphones we judge other headphones by, for better or worse. Perhaps some company will make a hiddeous set that becomes more ubiquitous than the Apple headphones. If you are reading this in the future (which you obviously are since this isn't a live stream), and such headphones exist, feel free to bump the aesthetic score by a few points. Chances are, however, the opposite will happen, ala the Motorola Razr: sure, they were trendy for a while, but once they became the norm their unique form factor lost all of its appeal. ** About our testing:** For more information on our tests, read [this article](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm). ()**Frequency Response** *(**3.59**)* *** ***What we found:*** The Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic had ok frequency response. Their main issue that brought their score down is the downard spike just before 10kHz. This is a significant, sudden drop. It might lead to some instruments sounding slightly blanketed, expecially spoken sibilance. The 10kHz plunge aside, the headphones didn't perform poorly. They have a strong bass response, but some might find it a bit too strong. If the headphones had a slightly plateaued bass, it'd be preferrable to the response curve at right, where the bass emphasis is inversely proportional to the frequency. When the bass steadily increases in volume the lower it goes, playback can sound boomy. While the graph trends off, it does so relateively gradually (except for the valley at 10kHz). If you like bass-heavy music, the Apple In-ears might offer a good sound. If you prefer vocals, the Apple In-ears are less ideal. ***How the Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic compares:*** ***What is frequency response?*** Frequency response refers to the emphasis or deemphasis the headphones add to any given sound frequency. Some headphones have a dynamic response, meaning they add all sorts of emphasis to your playback. This might mean those headphones are better suited to your personal preferences, but we award more points to headphones that faithfully recreate sound. To find out more about frequency response or how we test it, [follow this link](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Frequency_Response). ***How the test works:*** To test frequency response, we play a known sound file through the headphones. The headphones are being worn by HATS, which records the playback and sends it to SoundCheck for analysis. We compare the recording to the initial file and look for differences in the levels. In case the initial hyperlink somehow passed you by, [here](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Frequency_Response) it is again. ()**Distortion** *(4.26**)* *** ***What we found:*** The Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic do not have much distortion. Annoyingly, however, there is a bit of noise present towards the high end. Chances are, your playback's volume will mask the noise and you won't notice it the majority of the time. During quiet bits, however, those with impeccible hearing will be notice the noise. Even with the distortion, the Apple In-ears w/R&M had lower overall distortion than many headphones we've reviewed. ***How the Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic compares:*** ***What is distortion? ***Distortion refers to the way the headphones alter the shape of incoming soundwaves. Distortion is bad, but the severity of its effects depends on how much intentional distortion in the playback. Punk, grunge or metal? You will have a harder time separating the headphones' distortion from the distortion on the guitars. Classical, opera, or a capella? You'll notice distortion much more easily. For more info on distortion, click this [link](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Distortion). ***How the test works:*** To test distortion, we play a frequency sweep through the headphones and into HATS awaiting ear-microphones. We then compare the recorded sound back to the original and look for changes. To read more on this, check out the following [link](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Distortion). ()**Tracking** *(10.10)* *** ***What we found:*** The Apple In-ears had great tracking. They start off a negligible 2dB louder on the right side, which is probably due to a minor fit issue. Even towards the end, where the tracking graph usually turns into a block of scribbles, the Apple In-ears manage to remain reserved. This is one of the best tracking results we've seen to date. ***How the Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic compares:*** ***What is tracking? ***Tracking describes the volume balance between the left and right channels. A headphone has perfect tracking when the left and right channels are outputting exactly the same decibel level. Perfect tracking doesn't exist. Basically, you should look for headphones with as close to even tracking as you can find. Poor tracking would involve one channel playing significant louder than the other, or a sudden shift in emphasis from left to right. We've written a bit more on tracking [here](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Tracking). ***How the test works:*** Our tracking test once again involves playing back a frequency sweep through the headphones, and we once again compare the recorded output back to the original file. This time, however, we simply look for areas where either the left or right channel is outputting a louder decibel level than the other. Again, if tracking intrigues you, you can read a bit more [here](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Tracking). ()**Maximum Usable Volume** *(9.84)* *** ***What we found:*** The Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic were capable of a decent maximum usable volume: 119.34 decibels. We stop awarding points at the 120dB mark, because anything louder than that is doing you more harm than good. Anything withing 10dB of 120 is excellent, making the Apple In-ears excellent. You shouldn't have any volume concerns with these headphones. ***What is maximum usable volume? ***When you boost your playback volume, your headphones' distortion increases. There is a point on all headphones where boosting the volume another notch will result is annoyingly distorted playback. We refer to this point as the maximum usable volume. It isn't literally the max volume the headphones can output, just the most they can output without it sounding like garbage. If you'd like to know more, you should click on [this link](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Maximum_Usable_Volume). ***How the test works:*** As described above, max usable volume is the point at which distortion is degrading your sound quality by a noticeable amount. The test is an intuitive one: perform a series of distortion tests, looking for the point at which the scales tip at 3% total harmonic distortion. If you passed up the opportunity to click on the previous link and absolutely refuse to backtrack while reading, we have thoughfully put the link [here](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Maximum_Usable_Volume) as well. ()**Isolation** *(8.20**)* *** ***What we found:*** The Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic had good isolation for in-ears. Good isolation for in-ears is excellent isolation for any other headphone type. Like most in-ear headphones, the majority of the sound blocked out is towards the high-end, with less blocked out from 100-1000Hz. This isn't the best isolation score we've seen for a set of in-ears, but the Apple In-ears do block out more sound on average than high-end active noise cancellers. ***How the Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic compares:*** ***What is isolation? ***Isolation refers to your headphones' ability to block out external sounds. Until science invents an exception to the rule, there are two ways a set of headphones can isolate its user: active noise cancellation and passive attenuation. Passive attenuation refers to an object physically blocking sound from entering your ears. You use passive attenuation when you cover your head with a pillow or stick your fingers in your ears. Active noise cancellation isolates its user by actually negating incoming sounds. Active noise cancelling headphones have a microphone that they use to listen to the surrouning noise. Once the headphones get a general sense of your ambient surroundings, it plays back a sound of inverse amplitude. If you'll recall from your 6th grade science class, when a wave meets a wave of opposite amplitude, they cancel each other out. As a general rule, active noise cancellation technology isn't quite as good as the best set of in-ear headphones, but this is quickly changing. In-ears are typically better for blocking out more noise overall, while active-cancellers do a better job negating bass but all short on middle and high frequencies. To find out more on this fascinating subject, click [here](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Maximum_Usable_Volume). ***How the test works:*** To test isolation, we put the headphones on HATS, then blast HATS with a known amount of noise. Since we know exactly what we're outputting, we can check how the headphones isolate users from any given frequency. For a few more details, read [this article](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/How-We-Test-149.htm#Maximum_Usable_Volume). ()**Leakage** *(**10.00**)* *** ***What we found:*** The Apple In-ears really don't have a problem with leakage. We rarely see leakage issues on in-ears that fit into the ear canal and the Apple In-ears stick with this trend. When playing back music at normal or even louder-than-normal decibel levels, someone sitting right next to you won't be able to hear anything. Of course, if you're playing music at max volume in a quiet place, nearby people will hear a bit of a whisper, so maintain reasonable volume levels in such scenarios. ***What is leakage?*** Leakage refers to any sound that's escaping the circuit of you and your headphones. When a headphone has a lot of leakage, someone sitting next to you will be able to hear your music. For a pair of portable headphones, leakage is a bad thing. No one really wants to broadcast their playback to everyone in the vicinity (if someone did, there are really more efficient ways of doing so). You probably won't want to take leaky headphones to a museum or your local public library. For at-home headphones, leakage is a more ambiguous property of the headphones. In a private listening environment leakage isn't much of an issue since there's no one to annoy. Chances are you'll actually prefer a certain degree of leakage, since that partially indicates a more open sound stage (as opposed to what you get from headphones with closed backs, where your music sound like it's housed in a tiny room). ***How the test works:*** Once again the headphones go in HATS. This time, however, instead of assaulting the headphones with external sound, we play a set amount of noise through the headphones while a microphone nearby listens for leakage. ()**Short-Term Use** *(5.00)* *** We thought the Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic were pretty comfortable. They had a comfortable fit that didn't exert too much pressure on the insides of our ears. Over the course of an hour we didn't really have any comfort issues with the Apple In-ears. Unfortunately, these headphones suffer from the same issue as [their predecessors](https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/content/Apple-In-ear-Headphones-Review-269/In-Use.htm#Comfort): they fall out of place very easily. Some of the many activities that will cause your Apple In-ears to fall out of place include: • Moving • Not moving That's right, even just sitting still our ears would eventually spit these things out on their own accord. This issue is why the headphones didn't score a 7 or 8 on this section. Sure, they're comfortable, but it's annoying to have to constantly shove the things into your ears. These aren't great headphones for the gym. Of course, as we always mention, this section is one of the part of our review that is blatantly subjective. Sure, we pass the headphones around the office and ask for opinions, but we don't have an awesome lab test for comfort, unfortunately. Always be sure to try the heapdhones on before you decide to buy or keep them. We recommend you try them on for at least as long as your listening sessions tend to last, if not longer for good measure. ()**Extended Use** *(**4.50**)* *** We really didn't notice any issues with comfort over the course of six continuous hours. The constant necessary readjustments represent 100% of the score difference between this score and the previous one. On the previous score, which is based on one hour of use, we naively thought, 'although it was somewhat annoying to have to push the ear buds back into place a hundred times or so, it wasn't so annoying as to make these headphones less comfortable than average.' Well, tack on another five hours of wear and about 500 more adjustments and the annoyance factor increased a bit. The issue is really a shame, given how otherwise comfortable the headphones are. Of course, we highly recommend you try the headphones on. There's always the chance you have the golden ear shape and won't run into any issues. ()**Customizability** *(**2.25**)* *** Like many in-ear headphones, the Apple In-ears come with three sizes of sleeves, all of which are the standard soft plastic design. Some higher-end headphones come with a few different sleeve types or, rarely, optional in-line accessories.
While the case is nice, three sleeve sizes is the standard inclusion.
The Apple In-ears also have an adjustable neck split, but it isn't very good. One side of the adjustment slider is open, which lets the cable pop out should any undue stress be put on it. This will prevent the slider from ripping should such stress occur, but also renders the slider less effective.
***The end facing away in this picture is open, letting that cable
pop out to prevent tearing.***
Overall, the Apple In-ears only offer basic customizability options.
The Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic have a cord that's just under 3.5 feet long. This is long enough to stretch to a media player in the front pocket of your jeans but not much further. Most in-ear headphones are about this length, which is just about optimal for portability: any shorter and you'd have to keep your media player in a shirt pocket, or only connect to a nearby laptop, and longer and the cord would start to become a pocket-filling burden.
First of all, as a set of in-ear headphones, the Apple In-ears are very portable. They use a short, thin cord, and the ear buds are tiny compared to a set of full-sized headphones. If you wanted, you could easily toss these in a pocket and forget about them. They also come with a nice case, however, which lets you wrap up the cord to avoid wrinkles. There's also a separate carrying case for sleeves that's shaped like a giant Dr. Mario pill. We would've preferred one case holding both the headphones and the sleeves, but overall the Apple in-ears are still very portable.
***This is a picture of the Apple In-ears on the go. The pill on the left holds
two different sizes of sleeves.***
Like most in-ears, there's not a lot of maintenance you can do on the Apple In-ears. There aren't any exposed screws to let you crack into them and they don't come with any cleaning tools. You can remove the sleeves should you want to clean them, which is a standard feature. The nozzles have mesh over them, but if gunk gets on it you'll need to be careful lest you push the grime through the mesh and into the guts of the ear bud.
Despite having a Remote and Mic, the Apple In-ears do not require a battery. This is marvelous, since batteries are an annoying necessity. We award points to all headphones that don't require auxiliary battery power.
The Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic indeed do have a remote. The remote has three buttons: volume up, volume down, and the main button. The volume controls are self-explanatory, and the control button will play, pause, and skip both forward and reverse. This is great functionality, but the buttons themselves have poor tactile feedback. Unless you're really paying attention it's feel the button's click, which leads to pausing when you mean to forward skip.
The Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic also have a microphone. This means that Apple's naming convention, athough a bit ham-fisted, is accurate. The microphone works well; we have no complaints.
There once was a time where black was the omnipresent coloration for in-ear headphones. Nowadays, however, white is everywhere. Regardless, we consider both headphones to be about on the same level of bland, aesthetically speaking. Apples' headphones do look a bit cleaner overall, but their design aesthetics is pretty well-worn at this point. If you disagree with us, chalk up a win for Apple. If not, this section ends in a tie.
The Apple In-ears actually isolate better than the MM 50 iPs on the high end, but not over the middle frequencies. Overall, the Apple In-ears blocked out more noise.
The MM 50 iPs win on the comfort test. While it's very important you try on both sets of headphones to figure out which one you think is the most comfortable, this seems to be a clear-cut victory. The Sennheisers virtually never fell out o four ears, while the Apples came loose once every minute or two.
This is actually a closer match-up than we would have thought. In terms of sher audio quality, the MM 50 iPs win. Comfort is a bit subjective, but we thought the Apples lost there as well. While the MM 50 iPs seem like the better set of headphones, the differences aren't so stark as to obviate the Apples from your decision-making process.
The Vibe Duos have a better design than the Apple In-ear Headphones wiht Remote and Mic. The Apples have the mainstream behind their design, while the Vibe Duos look pleasingly different.
Even with their noisy high-end, the Apple In-ears showcased less distortion than the V-MODA Vibe Duos.
The Apples win this tracking competition handily. Look at the straight line on the left versus the squiggle on the right.
The Vibe Duo's smooth attenuation curve is relatively meaningless: on this test the only thing we care about is the area under the line, which is the amount of noise blocked out. The Vibe Duos block out a bit more high-end noise and excel at points where the Apple In-ears' graph dips down.
The Apple In-ear headphones are slightly less comfortable to wear than the Vibe Duos, primarily because the Vibe Duos don't fall out nearly as much.
The Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic might not be as pretty as the V-MODA Vibe Duos and they might pop-out about 12x as frequently, but they are better overall headphones. They are also cost about $20 less.
The Turbines look better than the Apple In-ears. Again, if the design wasn't beaten into the ground at this point, the Apple In-ears might've been a bit of fresh air. Unfortunately for them, the only fresh air in this scenario will be delivered by the jet-engine-like design on the turbines (we've been brainstorming ways to come up with a turbine pun now for almost three months). Both headphones also suffer from really bad plugs. The Monster Turbines gain a slight advantage here.
The Turbines have slightly more distortion overall, but this section was close. The Turbines gently spread this distortion out over the full course of their spectrum, the Apple In-ears have their bump. Apple gains a bit of andvantage here.
Here, again, the Apples win on tracking. The Turbines didn't do half bad, however, with most of their point loss due to the erratic scribbling towards the high end. If you like even tracking, you will like the Apple In-ears.
The Turbines have a very similar attenuation curve, but don't perform as well when it comes to attenuation. They block out less noise towards the high end, but more sound overall towards the low end.
The Apple In-ears were a bit more comfortable than the Turbines, if only because they fell out slightly less. That's right, those Turbines were positively jumping out of our ears.
We think the Apple In-ear Headphones with Remote and Mic win this performance test, but again, the victory was far from a landslide. The most compelling reason to pick up the Apples in lieu of the Monsters is the price difference: the monsters cost about $150 while the Apples cost $80.
Since Apple fears change, this new generation of in-ear headphones looks a lot like the last in a lot of ways. Sure, the strange sleeve shape of the previous model has given way to a more traditional look, but the horrible plug has somehow survived, flying in the face of Charles Darwin. The titular remote and mic have also made an appearance, along with the uncredited volume switch. We'd say the new in-ears look better than the old ones, if only for the new in-line gadgetry.
These graphs are almost mirrored over a horizontal line. The new one has a strong bass response that slowly falls off towards the high end. The old one had a horrible bass response that gradually increased as it got towards the high end (before eventually falling off). We'd say the new headphones are better, because they have a slightly less erratic response.
The in-ear headphones have evolved a long way in terms of distortion. While the old headphones stockpiled distortion on the low-end, the new ones have a small cache towards the high-end. The new onew are definitely an improvement.
The new Apples have a much more even tracking than the old ones. The old headphones' performance looks like a polygraph test.
The new Apple in-ear headphones do a slightly better job at isolating.
There's no real difference in comfort between the two generations. They both fall out with the same frequency and are about as comfortable the rest of the time.
The initial Apple in-ears weren't great, but they were inexpensive. These headphones are better in many ways but cost about $50 more. We prefer the new model for its improved feature set (we hear it has a REMOTE and MIC) as well as its better isolation and sound quality. The extra money is worth it.
Meet the tester
Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email