Backstage: Your next pair of iPod earphones is… | iLounge Backstage

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Backstage: Your next pair of iPod earphones is…

picSony might not know how to make MP3 players, but they sure know earphones. We’ll be going live shortly with a review of the company’s new MDR-EX81s (currently available only in Japan, and imported to the U.S. by Audiocubes.com), and I have to tell you - they’re right in all the right ways for typical iPod owners. Great price tag, great sound, great fit, and they come in iPod-matching white. When they’re officially released outside of Asia, my guess is that they’ll become the iPod replacement earbud of choice.

Updated: Click on Read More for the review, which will be on the main site tomorrow.

Though there have been a few exceptions, iLounge generally reviews products that match or are expressly made for the iPod. For that reason, we haven’t reviewed every pair of headphones we’ve tested - so many pairs of otherwise acceptable headphones just don’t match the iPod’s look and feel quite right. We’ve made a few exceptions in the past because there weren’t a really good set of perfect iPod matches at the lower end of the price spectrum.

Apple’s iPod pack-ins are good freebies, but we had reservations about its separate In-Ear Headphones ($39.00, iLounge rating: B). And though Sony and Sennheiser make good alternatives, neither company’s earbuds were available in iPod-matching white outside of Asia until Sony quietly released white versions of its MDR-EX71 headphones ($49.99, iLounge rating: A-) here some weeks ago.

Today we’re ready to recommend a set of low-end earphones without reservation. Sony’s new MDR-EX81 earphones ($59.00, available from Audiocubes.com) improve upon the best features from the MDR-EX70s and MDR-EX71s to create moderately priced in-canal earphones that virtually anyone could enjoy. While not yet widely available in stores at the time of this review, the MDR-EX81s are worth the little bit of extra effort they’ll take to find and order.

Design

Having tested everything from $19.95 Sennheiser MX500s to $900 Ultimate Ears UE-10 Pro custom-fit earphones, we’ve sampled the entire range of “fit

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Comments

1

So essentially, they’re MDR-EX71s with plastic that wraps around your ears. Woohoo.

Posted by Xenex in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on November 14, 2004 at 6:30 PM (CST)

2

Oh, and there’s a decent picture of them here.

Posted by Xenex in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on November 14, 2004 at 6:31 PM (CST)

3

No. They’re not. That’s what we were led to believe before we received them, but they’re a hell of a lot better than the 71s.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on November 14, 2004 at 8:28 PM (CST)

4

Don’t tell me that! Don’t tell me that! I’ve already been fighting the urge to grab a set!

I bought a pair of EX71SLs 6 months ago, which in turn replaced my 2-year-old EX70SPs. And now I want to upgrade to these.

I can hear my credit card calling already…

Posted by Xenex in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on November 14, 2004 at 9:31 PM (CST)

5

I am very dissapointed to see that they don’t offer these or the original ex-71s with a normal cord length.

Posted by StinkieDMB in Pittsburgh, PA on November 14, 2004 at 10:50 PM (CST)

6

you can get them cheaper from smartimports.com. $49 bucks to the US (with shipping)

Posted by enero in New York, NY on November 15, 2004 at 12:17 AM (CST)

7

Is the treble as ear-splittingly harsh as the EX71s are? Or has all the issues with sibilance (the hiss you get on S and CH sounds) been fixed with these new ones?

Posted by camson in Melbourne, Australia on November 15, 2004 at 7:44 AM (CST)

8

I have owned tons of Sony products. I have owned about 1/2 dozen earphones including a pair of their last generation noise canceling ones that I paid close to $400 for. I have owned their walkmen, CD players and portable radios, too. The one thing that I can say with a tremensous amount of experience is that Sony really does suck. Every single thing that I have ever purchased from them has ended up broken. Not that I am rough on my things. Rather I take great care of my electronics. It’s just that their workmanship is awful and their customer service, repair service is worse then bad. I would rather spend more money and get better quality. It’s hard to imagine getting anything worse.

Posted by JeffNNJ on December 24, 2004 at 10:28 PM (CST)

9

I recently ordered a pair of MDR-81SL’s and i noticed those cheap sony earbuds that come with their mp3 players have plenty of bass in them for stock earbuds. From a scale of 1 to 10, comparing these earbuds to the stock ones, how much stronger is the bass? because the majority of you guys are saying the bass is crap compared to the 71sl’s

Posted by Type R on January 24, 2005 at 7:05 PM (CST)

If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.

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