After taking a look at some of the MP3 players out on the market, we found one major consistency out of all of them out there: not one of them bundle a great pair of headphones in the package. Of the two big names out there, Creative Labs is probably the worst of the two in this regard. The packaged headphones for their lower end products, namely the Muvo line, are mediocre if not sub-par, mainly because they are oversized. More disappointingly, Creative seemed to switch their packaged headphones for the Muvo TX to a cheaper version already packaged with one of their lower end MP3 players. Apple made definite improvements by upgrading the packaged earbud headphones for the second iPod revision.

As for the no name brands, it is almost a given that additional pair of headphones need to be purchased. There are several earbud headphones on the market; a few even surpassing the $300 marker. The most popular of late seem to be the in-ear style headphones, as the headband style headphones seem to be less frequently used with those owning a MP3 player such as an iPod, Nomad Muvo, Nomad Jukebox, etc. Some of the no name brand MP3 players don't even come with a pair, so a purchase is inevitable.

The two most popular pair of in-ear headphones on the market are Apple's In-Ear headphones and the Sony In-Ear MDR-EX71SL, as both can be bought online at most retailers and are priced reasonably, under $40. Based on our experience with bundled headphones as well as readers asking us, we were curious to know which was the better choice. As a result, we picked up both headphones at to put through the AnandTech paces.

Apple's In-Ear and Sony's MDR-EX71SL


View All Comments

  • DLeRium - Thursday, December 24, 2009 - link

    In 2004 I bought my first iPod. I went to the iPod Touch and 3GS later on. I have stock iPod headphones.

    Today I pulled them out.

    In 2004, I bought Sony Fontopia earbuds. After reading this review I though they were BOMB. I went through 3 years of college swearing these were amazing and laughed at stock iPod earbuds.

    I pulled those out.

    In 2007, I switched to Super.Fi 5 Pros. These totally woke me up that I was listening to crap.

    In 2009, I jumped on the Amazon Triple.Fi 10 $99 deal. I had been watching these ever since I got the Super.Fis and my friend showed me his Shure SE530 which he upgraded to from Super.Fis. I was amazed by the ~$400 price range of earbuds.

    Today I put these 4 together.

    After using my Triple.Fis for 3 days, I concluded they are excellent across the board. Excellent separation, isolation, and very crisp sounds. The bass is bassy yet clear. The mids are a step above the Super.Fis, and even the highs are excellent.

    The Super.Fis quite frankly sound FLAT. I'm glad I can still hear every instrument with my SF5Pros, but honestly, it's not as isolated as the Triple.Fis.

    The Sony Fontopias? I laughed out loud. I haven't used these since 2007. I was like "And I called this music for 3 years of my life?" Everything was muddled. Blurred together. Bass was bassier than my SF5Pros but BOOMY... meaning you can't make out the individual instruments well. It's just thumping. Low quality bass. I suppose people enjoy this and "bassy" to them usually means "oooh awesome quality!"

    The stock iPhone 3GS earbuds? Even worse. I nearly threw up. I tried for 30 minutes to use my Sony Fontopias to tell myself "THIS IS MUSIC." I wanted to retry my Triple.Fis and be amazed yet again. I couldn't keep the Fontopias on. They were just too bad.

    This is like moving from a camera phone to a point & shoot, then to an enthusiasts P&S/entry SLR, and finally to a full frame SLR with a high end lens...
  • S0me1X - Wednesday, June 9, 2004 - link

    I love my ER4Ps :)

    Its one of the bet bargains in portable headphones.
    The SR60 is a very poor choice for portable use (I have MS1, which is pretty much same as a SR125) because it does not isolate at all.

    Shure E2c would be your best buy for sub-$100 portable headphones.
  • Davieblue - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

    If you're really lookin for some great earbuds check out the jaybird freedom sprints - better yet, the jaybird bluebuds (a bit more expensive) you can read more about the differences between them here . I own the sprints, my wife loves the bluebuds. As far as sound quality goes, I think they're pretty similar, so it was never worth the extra money for me to upgrade. She notices a difference though.. either way, both are a big upgrade from the standard apple in-ear headphones. Reply
  • xand - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    Do also consider the Sharp HP 33md. (which run about the same, $40)

    I must say that i've heard neither of these, but I do have a pair of Er4Ps. The Sharp phones are a tad more comfortable, and provide far more acoustic impact while costing about a fifth. They predictably resolve less detail though.

    I would consider them broadly comparable to a Grado SR60, and for pure portable use, superior on grounds of the noise isolation provided.
  • sammie - Monday, June 7, 2004 - link

    Err, is what I just read is true? Sony MDR-EX71LP is selling at $29.99?! Is there a possibility that you mean Sony MDR-EX51LP?

    some history :
    4 years ago (2000), I was in HK looking for a MDR-ED2xx earphone (predecessor of MDR-ED21LP)when i stumbled into a weird looking earphone, the MDR-EX70. Just to be sure, i bought 2 earphones, when i got home, I plugged in the ED2xx first, checked if there's any problem, the bass is clear, the sound is nice, test run it in 3 hrs playing different music from classical to jazz, RnB to bass bumping music (lost in bass, bass syndicate, etc.), Pop to heavy metal, etc etc just to condition the earphone. The only problem i have with earphones is that your ears start to sore after 2~3 hours stucked on the ears. After a day of conditioning the ED2xx. I opened the package of EX70, at first I thought I just waste my money on this earphone, but after I plugged it in on my ear. only expression... WOW. I was very very very very very satisfied, It's the first time that I've heard something like this on a earphone, you can hear the wholeness / clarity of the bass just like there's a subwoofer attached to your ear, something like enclosed 12" subwoofer of a car. And another good thing i liked about the earphone is that I've been wearing it for more than 10 hours and cannot feel any pain on my ear. Then I put the ED2x back on it's original package, and now, it's on my shelf acumulating dust :P. My first EX70 failed on me when left earpiece was attacked by red fire ants...yes...that damn ant bit me inside the ear. So i have no choice but to buy another one, since the earphone isn't sold here in my area, I asked my friend who was at HK to buy me another one, but he told me he can't find it anywhere except on a shop that sold it at a much higher price, and they only have 2 left. So I ask him to buy the 2 for me, after testing, I can agree with what GokieKS experience, the bass / treble issue of what you read in reviews are also true on EX70, not all EX70 are made the same, out of the 2 units, 1 was sounded a little bit off, when you listen to any song with a strong bass, your might get a headache of the strong bass the earphone produces. The other one, was better than the original one, the treble is much better, but the bass is the same. When E888 was first released, my friend bought one, i tried it for a week, and my comment was, nice overall clarity, but lacks bass, I cannot hear the low bass of some songs i used to play with my EX70. Then last year, EX71 was out on the market, I also bought one thinking that i must sound better than my EX70 which in turn was different, my EX70 sounded better than the EX71, which forces me to sell it to my friend who cannot find any EX70, hehehe.

    Regarding the sound quality between Apple and EX70, I still like the sound of EX70, but comfort wise, apple's are much lighter, but quality over a little improvement in comfort, well... I choose sound quality.

    For other higher quality brands like Sennheiser, Etymotic, and Shure, well what can i say, there's only a handful of people i knew willing to pay for a headphone worth $99 or more, well even $49.99 (EX71) is way too much for other people. Most of them might as well invest there money on home entertainment system or car audio system rather on headphone, what I usually see people hear is using those cheap bundled earphone or some of them will buy those $7 earphones.

    My next "prospect" is Sony's MDR-EX51, lower price but do the sound quality differs that much? hmmmmmm anyone there already bought and tried one?
  • djao - Saturday, June 5, 2004 - link

    #10 - Nobody is objecting to the choice of headphones you used in the review. I think #5 is bothered more by the phrase "best pair of in-ear headphones" than the choice of which headphones you reviewed. The problem is that "best" kind of implies "best at any price" instead of the intended meaning of "best for the majority of our readers."

    #6 states rightly that 99% of the population does not want to spend over $100 on earplugs. But I think some perspective is in order here -- #5 already mentioned the ATI x800, and I'm absolutely sure that 99% of the population will never buy such an expensive video card either.

    Of course, this site does largely target gamers, so the focus on gaming hardware is to be expected. By and large I did appreciate this review. Thanks Andrew!
  • araczynski - Friday, June 4, 2004 - link

    i haven't used earphones in years, my daily music/mp3 dosage comes from the HD unit in my car which i use to/from work and anytime else i'm driving...anyway, nice article for a change (from the constant drooling over what intel/amd is cra*ping out their a*s).

    at the least i can now recommend something to my little brother who i just bought a portable mp3 player for.
  • Koing - Friday, June 4, 2004 - link

    I really liked my Sony 888's. Great sound imo. I didn't want the ones with the bits sticking in your ear at the time. The Bass Boost things. I'm not so in to the ones that are meant to be plugged in to your ears like this. Too bass heavy for me.

    AndrewKu if still have the Apple's or any other in ear headphone push them just a bit harder towards your ear. The bass is richer and more full now. I suspect the Sony's go further in to your ear. This is probably what they wanted by this like in your review.

  • AndrewKu - Friday, June 4, 2004 - link

    I think GokieKS explains our reasoning best. Most people don't want to spend over 40 dollars on headphones if they don't have to, minus the audio enthusiasts. So this article was really for the majority, in a sense.

    #8 - The articles using a US Quarter were written all about the same time. A few readers have already suggested using something else to compare the size of the unit, and we will make sure we use something else in the future.

    #9 - I should have mentioned that in the review. For those curious, cleaning your ears really helps maintain sound quality and keeps your in-ear headphones free from becoming gross to handle. Sony states that their in-ear headphones fittings can be cleaned with a soft detergent, and I assume that Apple's has the same cleaning instructions.
  • Falco. - Thursday, June 3, 2004 - link

    i have the sonys.. and love them .. although i didn't pay the 40 bucks US ( 70 cdn )for them, i payed about 80cdn with tax, and would gladly do it again ... the bass is great, and once my ears got used to the " ear plug " design, i found them quite comfortable, even with long hrs of usage ( 7-10 hrs) while playing games during the night hrs ( the 11pm to 8 am time frame)

    my only suggestion.. ( and this may seem a bit gross to some, but it WILL be a part of owning them ) if any one gets these.. keep your ears clean and wax free.. at times.. the wax does block the little whole in the center and can cause the earphone to seem to be a lower volume then the other, at first, i thought the left head phone screwed up and was broken, after taking them back the to local sony store and showing them , they exchanged those for the present ones i have now.. it happend again, and after comparing the left and right, i found out this was the problem ...

    either way.. great headphones, been using them for prob a good 10 months now ...

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now