Earphones Tested

April 24, 2007

Ok, I'll delve into all the earphones I've ever owned or tried out and guess what, I'll put them in chronological order, newest first. Here goes:

  1. Creative Zen Aurvana DJ
  2. Razer Pro|Tone m100
  3. Sony Ericsson HPM-70
  4. Etymotic ER-6i
  5. Apple iPod earphones (1st gen)
  6. Sony MDR-E888LP
  7. Sennheiser PX-100
  8. Sennheiser MX-400
  9. Creative EP-480
  10. Aiwa HP-V161
  11. Sony MDR-G82SL
  12. Sharp earphones (bundled with Sharp MD-MT877)
  13. Sony MDR-E837A/L
  14. Sony MDR-1122
  15. Sony MDR-E515
All the others not mentioned are not really worthy of mention as they are cheap OEM earphones. If there's anything significant I've missed, I'll be adding it in.

To break them down, I'll split them into 3 categories where b. and c. are purchased seperately (ie. non-supplied):
a. Supplied Earphones
b. Good Earphones
c. Others

a. Supplied Earphones:
  • Sony Ericsson HPM-70 (with Sony Ericsson W800i)
  • Apple iPod earphones (1st gen - with iPod mini)
  • Creative EP-480 (with Creative Zen Micro)
  • Sharp earphones (with Sharp MD-MT877)
As mentioned, supplied earphones are usually horrible. This is the case for the HPM-70s with muffled audio and the iPod earphones which does a poor job for the Red Hot Chili Pepper's Dani California where the vocals and guitars are muddled and very indistinct when 'California, rest in peace' are rammed in to the listener. However, the exception to the rule appears to be the Sharp earphones which do a fine job in splitting the bass and the vocals pretty well. The treble tends to be a little chirpy at times though.
b. Good Earphones
  • Etymotic ER-6i
  • Sony MDR-E888LP
  • Sennheiser PX-100
  • Sharp earphones (with Sharp MD-MT877)
When there is bad, there is good. These are among the better ones I've used. Now before I go on, let's put a disclaimer that sound quality is subjective. It always has been and always will be. Now, when I mention these earphones are good, I'm comparing based on:

1. Price-point ie. bang for the buck

2. Comparisons with earphones of similar type

There is absolutely no way you can compare nor
mal earphones like the Sony MDR-E888LP with full-grade headphones like the Grado SR60 in terms of price, bass/treble response hence they have to be gauged with their peers. In-ears are compared with in-ears. Headphones with headphones. You get the idea.

I'll give some in-depth reviews over the next few postings. For now, to explain their 'good' status, take the Sony MDR-E888LP. These are Sony's top earphones and when I'm talking about earphones, I'm not talking about in-ears or headphone types. The bass and the treble are clear and resonant. No doubt it has a 16mm diameter driver which produces great sound. I'd have to say its only failing is when it's used on the train - I only hear the treble, the bass is pretty weak. However in a quiet environment, I'd give my thumbs up.

The Sharp earphones I listed are bound to cause certain consternation among audiophiles. For one obvious reason, these are supplied earphones! Then again, I state - based on price point (being bundled is already a bonus for users) and compared with its peers, these are solid earpieces. I just chose to close my eyes and listen. For a simple earphone comparison, this gives the Sennheiser MX-400 a good run for its money and totally blasts the Sony MDR-E515 away and I did pay for the E515s.

c. Others
The 'others' are the earphones apart from the 4 I listed under b. Special mention goes out to the
Aiwa HP-V161 and the Sony MDR-G82SL.

The Aiwas are interesting because they have a silicon bubble that is meant as a cushion within your ears and what's more, they are pretty affordable too! Sound quality is decent...as long as it remains in your ear properly. While some users say it provides a perfect fit where sound actually doesn't leak, my experience says otherwise. The diameter is pretty small. As such, only when I stuff the earpieces into the ear, then I get pretty good bass. Since I bought them in 2002, the cables frayed and one side became mute so I placed them aside.

The Sony MDR-G82SL are around-the-neck headphones. These were pretty expensive and not really worth it. The sound quality is indeed isolated as your ears fit into the cups. Once in, the experience is kinda forgettable. The treble and bass aren't too distinct though the emphasis is more on the bass. As one of its redeeming factors was its excellent industrial design, I managed to get a buyer for this model.

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