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Teardown of Apple's EarPods finds more durable, water resistant design

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
Apple's newly redesigned headphones, the EarPods, have been taken apart to reveal a more durable design that is more resistant to water and sweat damage.

iFixit


The teardown of Apple's new EarPods was published on Tuesday by iFixit. A repairability score was not given to the headphones, as they will come packaged with new iPhones and iPods and are "still of the throw-away kind."

But the EarPods can also be purchased separately for $29, which is how iFixit got their hands on the new accessory before the new iPhone 5 launches on Friday. The solutions provider used a guitar pick to separate the integrated volume controls and microphone on the headphone cord, while the earbuds were taken apart with an X-Acto blade.

"Like most speakers, the EarPod speakers consist of a diaphragm/cone, a voice coil, a permanent magnet, and a cabinet," they explained. "The voice coil is supported by a composite diaphragm made of a paper cone and a polymer surround. This is the first iteration of Apple headphones to use paper cones rather than all plastic."

iFixit


The switch to paper cones is said to make the speakers more resistant to tearing. That's an improvement from the plastic that Apple previously used.

In their teardown, the repair website found that Apple "had durability in mind" when the company designed the new EarPods. In particular, the redesigned controls include larger cable wrapping on both ends to reduce strain on the wires.

The EarPods are also said to be more resistant to water and sweat damage. This was accomplished by removing the external microphone grate Apple employed on its previous earbuds.

"Unfortunately, these products are still of the throw-away kind," iFixit concluded. "Sourcing parts is next to impossible, and it would be a tough sell to convince someone to take apart their earbuds in stead of buying a new pair. They will never be the same once taken apart."

iFixit


Apple unveiled its redesigned EarPods at the iPhone 5 media event in San Francisco, Calif., last week. Apple design chief Jony Ive said his company scanned hundreds of ears searching for commonality between them, and the new headphones are designed to fit the geometry of a user's ear without creating a seal.

EarPods feature a directed speaker that points forward into a user's ear canal. A second port on the back aids with mid-level tones, and also maximizes air flow for improved sound quality.
post #2 of 39

I'd be more interested to hear how an audio site would rate those headphones, as audio quality is the most important feature, in my view. I never did like the sound quality of the old Apple headphones.

 

Since they call themselves iFixit, I guess that they're a little bit biased against things that aren't easily fixed, but I disagree with them, when they say that it's unfortunate that these products are still of the throw away kind. Why is it unfortunate? Who's going to bother and go fix a pair of $29 headphones? Of course they're disposable.

 

If somebody is really interested in good sound quality, then they're already using other, much more expensive headphones to begin with.

post #3 of 39
I'm anxious to try mine out this Friday, though I'm sure they wont be replacing my Klipsch S4i's.
post #4 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

I'd be more interested to hear how an audio site would rate those headphones, as audio quality is the most important feature, in my view. I never did like the sound quality of the old Apple headphones.

 

Since they call themselves iFixit, I guess that they're a little bit biased against things that aren't easily fixed, but I disagree with them, when they say that it's unfortunate that these products are still of the throw away kind. Why is it unfortunate? Who's going to bother and go fix a pair of $29 headphones? Of course they're disposable.

 

If somebody is really interested in good sound quality, then they're already using other, much more expensive headphones to begin with.

Cnet gave them a "meh" rating. They called them the best included headphones on the market but not worth $30 on their own. Sound is substantially improved from old headphones but fit is slippery.

post #5 of 39
ifixIt gives these headphones a 0 on the repair-ability scale. No phillips screws, everything is glued together, and no user-replaceable speaker cones. This is a slap in the face to Apple's user base.
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post #6 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

If somebody is really interested in good sound quality, then they're already using other, much more expensive headphones to begin with.

I was at the Apple Store over the weekend looking for some good headphones for listening to music during airplane travel. What model do people recommend?

I have the Shure earphone now.

 

I was looking at:

 

 

Bowers & Wilkins
Bose
Sennheiser

Edited by mstone - 9/18/12 at 12:45pm

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post #7 of 39
The two things I'd like to know are: How do they sound? How long is the cord? Apple has been notorious for going cheap with shorter headphone cords that other makers.
post #8 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I was at the Apple Store over the weekend looking for some good headphones for listening to music during airplane travel. What model do people recommend?

I have the Shure earphone now.

 

I was looking at:

 

 

Bowers & Wilkins
Bose
Sennheiser

 

I've got a great solution for you. It's called a book. That way your fellow passengers don't have to hear what you're listening to while they quietly read or chat during the flight. Unless we're talking Sennheiser closed ear headphones [large, great but bulky] all earbuds bleed sound out and very rarely does someone listen to them on 3 or 4. They jack'em to 11.

post #9 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

I've got a great solution for you. It's called a book. That way your fellow passengers don't have to hear what you're listening to while they quietly read or chat during the flight. Unless we're talking Sennheiser closed ear headphones [large, great but bulky] all earbuds bleed sound out and very rarely does someone listen to them on 3 or 4. They jack'em to 11.

Good suggestion thanks. I was curious how well the Bose noise cancellation works. With the flights I often take especially ones in Central America, the planes are really loud. I don't know if you have ever been on a twin engine prop aircraft but after an hour or so of that you are likely to have a splitting headache. Forget about chatting, you need to be able to read lips.

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post #10 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by AeronPrometheus View Post

ifixIt gives these headphones a 0 on the repair-ability scale. No phillips screws, everything is glued together, and no user-replaceable speaker cones. This is a slap in the face to Apple's user base.

 

They are included ear pods that cost $29 to replace.  Who would even bother repairing them?!

post #11 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I was at the Apple Store over the weekend looking for some good headphones for listening to music during airplane travel. What model do people recommend?
I have the Shure earphone now.

I was looking at:


Bowers & Wilkins
Bose
Sennheiser
I just got the Apple new earpods $30 and Wow!! My daughter has Bose & beats ear buds and we just compare, fit & quality sound..... The fit, no need to shove in the ear, they just sit in the ear. The sound, is close enough to the Bose and beats to give me pause on purchasing again! Wow !!! Apple, get ready for the earpods to be cloned. What a value for $30.
post #12 of 39
Add me to the list of happy customers. These headphones rock.
post #13 of 39

If you are looking for a great airplane headphones try audio-technica noise-cancelling headphones.

These are very good, and about $40 at Amazon.

post #14 of 39
Might want to get your sarcasm meter checked out...

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AaronJ View Post

 

They are included ear pods that cost $29 to replace.  Who would even bother repairing them?!

post #15 of 39
What is everyone complaining about? When was the last time you took apart a pair of headphones?
post #16 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Waverunnr View Post

Might want to get your sarcasm meter checked out...

 

 

Ouch.  Right you are.

 

:(

post #17 of 39
I bought them at the Apple store yesterday.

They have some bass! They stay in my ears better! The box they come in is fantastic! (Good for putting them away without tangling, but pay attention to how they wind them at the end when you unbox. I didn't and now I can't figure out how they did it.)

I don't have any other ear buds to compare them to except the old Apple ones, so I'd be interested to hear if anybody has other recommendations for about the same price.

My originals, 8 months old, had lost a channel and the strain reliefs were tearing. Plus I misplaced them, no more limping along with one good ear. Now I'm glad they got lost.
post #18 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Good suggestion thanks. I was curious how well the Bose noise cancellation works. With the flights I often take especially ones in Central America, the planes are really loud. I don't know if you have ever been on a twin engine prop aircraft but after an hour or so of that you are likely to have a splitting headache. Forget about chatting, you need to be able to read lips.

I have Bose over the ear noise cancelling headphones and they work great. However, note that there are several types. I have the oldest ones where the ear cup completely surrounds your ears. The newer ones have a smaller cup with at least partially sits on top of your ears and I didn't find them to be as comfortable.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AaronJ View Post

They are included ear pods that cost $29 to replace.  Who would even bother repairing them?!

Come on, how are the iFixit people going to make a living if people won't pay the $50 diagnostic fee plus $60 per hour to fix their headphones?
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post #19 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I was at the Apple Store over the weekend looking for some good headphones for listening to music during airplane travel. What model do people recommend?

I have the Shure earphone now.

 

To your list, I would consider Thinksounds also.  They were on my short list until I stumbled on the EQu app, which gave my current set (Westone WS-1) a new lease on life.

post #20 of 39
forget about the headphones, what about the lightning cable? apple's continuing refusal to include a cable which can be reliably disassembled and repaired by the end user is a complete fiasco.
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post #21 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I was at the Apple Store over the weekend looking for some good headphones for listening to music during airplane travel. What model do people recommend?
I have the Shure earphone now.

I was looking at:
Bowers & Wilkins
Bose
Sennheiser
Away from home, I'm currently using these earbuds: NuForce NE600M. They don't have volume control buttons on the cord, but that's really the only main shortcoming of these.

While I haven't tried the new Apple EarPods, the NuForce are the best pair of $30 earbuds that I've used to date. I'm not interested in spending much more for travel since they get bashed around so much.

At home I use my venerable Grado SR-80 headphones, but they are an open-air design and will leak sound to people around you.
Edited by cvaldes1831 - 9/18/12 at 4:34pm
post #22 of 39

I love my Bower and Wilkins. I do not like anything in my ear canals for long periods of time, and the Bose create a hissing sound to reduce the noise.

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post #23 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Good suggestion thanks. I was curious how well the Bose noise cancellation works. With the flights I often take especially ones in Central America, the planes are really loud. I don't know if you have ever been on a twin engine prop aircraft but after an hour or so of that you are likely to have a splitting headache. Forget about chatting, you need to be able to read lips.

 

I travel a lot, and spend a lot of my life on airplanes, so I decided to get a pair of Bose QC 2's back in 2005 and absolutely loved them.  To be completely honest, for pure sound reproduction, you can find better headphones for the same price, but I think it's worth sacrificing a little sound quality (and I really mean a little) to get the outstanding noise cancellation.

 

Before I bought them, I tried a friends Sony noise canceling headphones on a flight, and they weren't nearly as good.  The Bose ones really kill the engine noise (including on prop aircraft), and I find them very comfortable over long periods of time.  They really help me sleep on a flight.


So much did I like them, that when they broke (which while they were 5 years old, I was a little disappointed with, since I'd looked after them well, and the breakage was a small piece of plastic that snappend and was clearly a design weakness), I had no hesitation in getting over my disappointment and going straight out to buy a new pair.  When I did, I was delighted to find that Bose would trade in the broken ones against a new pair, so I got the new QC15's for $100.  I was very happy with their customer care.


The QC15's are a notable improvement over my original QC2's, with the sound quality being better, and the comfort being a step forwards, and this is an improvement over an already comfortable pair of headphones.


The only downside I have is that when the battery dies, the music does too, whereas with my Bose pilots headset, if the battery dies they keep working, albeit without the noise cancellation.  Obviously with a pilots headset that's a safety thing, but I do wonder why they can't do the same with the consumer headphones?  Anyway, it's a minor point, I always have a spare battery in the case, and the led on the side starts blinking when there is still multiple hours battery life left, so it's not really a big deal.

 

All told, I recommend them highly.

post #24 of 39

I find it interesting that this site which is known to be at odds with some of Apple's design decisions and very critical of Apple in general, is the only one so far to review the Earbuds and give a "do not buy" recommendation.  Why is it that we are even listening to "iFixit" on this matter at all?  

 

I read two reviews of the Earbuds yesterday and both thought they were "great," and a great improvement on the previous model.  Specific reference was made to the fact that the bass (something that was often criticised in the old models) was substantially better.  Today, we get one negative review from iFIxit, and it's plastered all over the web.  

 

iFixit's main complaint is that they are "not worth the money" yet they cost more or less the same as the previous model and even they admit that the sound is "better."  


Edited by Gazoobee - 9/18/12 at 2:51pm
post #25 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

What is everyone complaining about? When was the last time you took apart a pair of headphones?

About two months ago, I ran over a pair with the car by mistake.

 

That soon took them apart!

post #26 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I was at the Apple Store over the weekend looking for some good headphones for listening to music during airplane travel. What model do people recommend?
I have the Shure earphone now.

I was looking at:


Bowers & Wilkins
Bose
Sennheiser

You looking for full ear cover? If not -

I'm very happy with my Shure SE535s. The detachable cable is great considering the wear that can happen with travel and frequent daily use. I tend to use an iPod (older model with decent DACs) because of the size of the library so I don't need the fancy controls but available is the http://www.shure.com/americas/products/earphones-headphones/music-mobile/m-mplus-cables and transform it into an iDevice capable set of headphones.
post #27 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

What is everyone complaining about? When was the last time you took apart a pair of headphones?

I had a set of Shure EC5s that had dried cafe latte against the driver. I wanted to take them apart and clean. Instead I sent them back to the manufacturer for them to do the work. I had them replace the wire in the same trip because the constant flexing near the buds can cause shorts. Ended up leaving them on a plane shortly after. 1frown.gif Made someone happy, I bet. Probably some punk who had no idea what he found.
post #28 of 39
Klipsch s4i II
post #29 of 39

"The next noticeable design feature for the EarPods is that the main speaker port faces forward, rather than directly into your ear canal. Is sound that is not pointed directly at your ear drum better to listen to? We don't know, but that's the verdict of Apple's acousticians, and they get paid a lot of money to do what they do."


Wait what? I thought the hole that points towards your ear canal was the main speaker, and the smaller hole on the side was just another intake? 




EDIT: Looked more at the teardown pics, the sites description is right, the hole that doesn't go in your ear (smaller one on the top earpod in the picture above) is in fact right in front of the driver, so sound comes out of both that and the larger hole that actually faces your ear canal. Weird. Seems like that means even more sound leak than before? 

Apples claim of sounding like they are "hundreds more", is, as expected, bull though. 

http://gizmodo.com/5943222/apple-earpods-review-less-terrible-still-garbage


Edited by tipoo - 9/18/12 at 3:07pm
post #30 of 39

Man, I consider myself an audiophile, but I can't imagine paying more than $20 on earpieces for my ipod/phone (outside the frequent flyer, noise cancelling issue).  Am I the only person who manages to step on their pieces every couple of months?  I'll keep the quality snobbery to my sound systems and stick with skull candy earbuds.  Hopefully these will be as annoying to wear as all hard case earbuds and I won't be tempted to spend the extra $10 :D
 

post #31 of 39
I like the reviews I'm seeing. Not that I'll use them much but at least now I am fairly certain I can use these earphones in a pinch without them pinching.

PS: If I have $250 in-earphones does that make me an audiophile? Even if my only playlist consists of Spice Girls, Wilson Phillips, Milli Vanilli, and Color Me Bad? (I'm asking for a friend)

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post #32 of 39

I've bought two headphones from when they first were announced. As a Head-Fi forum enthusiast I have to agree with CNET. There are probably the best "out of the headphones" you can get. 

 

They aren't in-ear monitors or earbuds but they sit in your ears loosely however they manage to stay on.

My initial impressions of these headphones are
++ Decent Vocal Clarity
++ Good Mids
++ No complaints with microphone so far. Plug-n-play directly into my Google Nexus and worked.
-- Bass is flat, no punch to it.
-- Falls off when running, also wind passes inside of the headphones while running
-- Might not fit in small ears still
++//-- The sliding piece that holds the "Y" part of your headphone is bound to one wire and can be removed from another wire. Gives room for 1 earpod/microphone use but comes off when you don't want it to.


If you like bass and want to save a few bucks I suggest going for one of those 9.99 earphones. For 30 dollars these earphones are somewhat worth it because the microphone is a redeeming feature, it sounds good and makes a good present for those who aren't audio maniacs.

post #33 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I like the reviews I'm seeing. Not that I'll use them much but at least now I am fairly certain I can use these earphones in a pinch without them pinching.
PS: If I have $250 in-earphones does that make me an audiophile? Even if my only playlist consists of Spice Girls, Wilson Phillips, Milli Vanilli, and Color Me Bad? (I'm asking for a friend)

If you have $250 headphones your friend qualifies as an audiophile AS LONG as they are not Dr Dre Beats or SOL headphones.

post #34 of 39
Ditto for Audio-Technica, I've used them a lot on flights, they do cut down quite a lot on ambient noise from propellers, less from crying babies tho unless you listen to a higher volume (I try to protect my ears!). It's not a complete seal, but I'd say it cuts down to 60% the noise. Very comfy too!
post #35 of 39
post #36 of 39

I have heard that the Senns are good, but I have not used them.  I have a pair of Bose that I got at a warehouse store that I think sound good, but I am not an audiophile.

post #37 of 39
I tried Apples' bundled headphones but my ears are too big as they don't hold. So I was pleasantly surprised when they sold their in-ear headphones and really like those.

OT, a friend of mine gave me a listen through his FiiO E6 headphone amp: that makes all the difference. Definitely buying one of those!
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post #38 of 39

I got my son the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones, and he (happily) says he can hear compression artifacts he didn't hear before. They were recommended by a friend who managed a local "audio" store.

post #39 of 39
mdriftmeyer View Post

Unless we're talking Sennheiser closed ear headphones [large, great but bulky] all earbuds bleed sound out and very rarely does someone listen to them on 3 or 4. They jack'em to 11.

I have used Apple's in-ear headphones for two years, and no one outside has been able to hear them. They are helpful when doing noise reduction for video editing, since I can pinpoint the exact level required. I'm actually surprised they are not more popular, with their even frequency response and controls for iOS/Macs.

 

Any idea if they will migrate the new line controls to the in-ears? I hope they are not discontinued.

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