Review: Apple Computer iPod nano Lanyard Headphones (Second-Generation)
Pros: A simple combination of newly improved Apple iPod earbuds with an all-white fabric lanyard necklace and matching white plastic attachment for the aluminum-bodied iPod nanos. Easy to adjust, minimalist design that’s visually inoffensive.
Cons: High price. Nothing special about either the earphones or the lanyard. Color of accessory doesn’t visually match top-end, all-black iPod nano; no black-colored version is available.
Last week’s introduction of the second-generation, aluminum-bodied iPod nano forced Apple Computer to introduce several refreshed accessories that fit the new model’s slightly changed body size and shape. The most changed of the bunch is Apple’s second-generation version of the iPod nano Lanyard Headphones ($39), a combination of white fabric necklace and official Apple earbuds that makes three changes from the original version we reviewed last year (iLounge rating: B-), one positive, one neutral, and one negative. Overall, the new Lanyard Headphones are a toss-up on value for the dollar.
When we reviewed the original Lanyard Headphones last year, we described them as a white adjustable rope with two standard iPod earbuds and a chrome iPod nano holder attached. This year’s model does away with the chrome attachment in favor of white plastic, resizes the attachment so that it fits only the aluminum, second-generation nanos, and replaces the old “standard” earbuds with Apple’s latest, more comfortable pack-ins. Though the earbud change is a net positive for this design, the Lanyard Headphones’ continued high price and other factors prevent us from feeling totally comfortable recommending the accessory to our general readership.
As a wearable accessory, Apple’s minimalist design is generally on-target: it’s fashion-neutral and comfortable, thus there’s no visual or functional barrier precluding most people from giving it a try. Like the prior version, Apple has managed to make the latest Lanyard Headphones look less goofy than earlier, similar entries from other companies, while preserving the user’s ability to adjust the necklace’s length to their own neck and chest size needs. The only step down from the prior model is its use of the aforementioned white plastic iPod nano clip rather than the metal one of its predecessor. In addition to the fact that this clip fits only second-generation iPod nanos, not original ones, its white coloration only matches the plastic accents on the sub-$200 aluminum models, and looks cheaper than before. Unlike the prior metal clip, the white plastic one doesn’t match Apple’s all-black 8GB iPod nano model, either, and Apple has announced no plans to release any black accessories to satisfy earlier customer demands.
On a mostly positive note, we were satisfied during testing that the plastic attachment held our new nanos firmly, using its headphone port and locking into its Dock Connector port for full-bottom reinforced suport. Over many months of ownership, our earlier, similarly designed Lanyard Headphones didn’t exhibit problems, but we’ve noted several comments on that model - mostly from younger readers - that the connector can come loose from your nano under certain circumstances. Exercise caution and this shouldn’t be an issue.
Last year’s Lanyard Headphones included Apple’s stock black foam-covered earbuds, which we described as fine from an audio standpoint, but not standouts for the dollar on comfort or isolation. This year’s model incorporates Apple’s newest, better pack-ins, which are more comfortable, capable of providing modestly better isolation in some ears, and tend to deliver better apparent bass response as a consequence. We affirmatively prefer the sound and comfort of these newer Lanyard Headphones, not by a huge factor, but enough that they’re surely better than what came before.
Our real problem with these Headphones continues to be simple: the price. Like you, we actually buy the Apple products we cover, and we try to ask ourselves the same question you would whenever we reach the cash register - is this worth the price? In our opinion, as with last year’s model, the answer remains no - you can do better on sound quality, isolation, and looks for the dollar, assuming you’re willing to compromise on wearing the nano around your neck. The prior Lanyard Headphones stood out visually only because of their single flashy metal piece, which properly matched both white and black iPod nanos, but this year’s even more plasticy pairing of rope and stock earbuds looks less cheaper than before, and the fact that it’s in no way color-cued to the black nano will continue to put some people off. In our view, unless you can find the Lanyard Headphones at a significant discount or really need to wear your new nano at chest level, enjoy your nano’s packed-in earbuds and save your earphone money for something substantially better.