Backstage: Your next pair of iPod earphones is…

Sony 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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