Pros: Hearing each instrument as a separate entity, unfettered, effortless bass, and as easy on the eyes as the ears.
Cons: Case takes getting used to, bizarre cord.
Upon receiving a set of Sony E888 earphones recently, I was eager to try them out and especially to compare them to the Apple earphones.
Opening the box they were shipped in, I saw the provocative purple package marked ‘N.U.D.E.’ in large letters. I’d seen this on a few websites while researching these and never really knew what it meant. One voyage to Google and Sony.com, I still have no idea. I tore off the plastic cover and pulled out the purple alien spaceship carrying case, struggled to remove the earphones from it and plugged them into the iPod for immediate listening.
It took me a little while to get the hang of the carrying case, and once I did I was left wondering why my brain should need to be exercised to take out or put away my earphones. The cord design causes a few problems with storage.
Specifically, the cord doubles back on itself so that it goes straight from the plug up to the left ear, then swoops back down under the chin to the right ear, making the cord to the right headphone significantly longer. It was suggested, by the method by which the cord was placed in the packaging, that I fold the cord in the middle of the right earphones’s cord, leaving a disconcerting, warped fold. The unequal lengths also made it difficult to drape the earphones around my neck, as I usually do.
Having read several reviews of various headphones before getting my iPod, I was sure that the provided earphones would reproduce my music something like a single, torn tweeter would, so when I got them I was pleasantly surprised by their quality. I wouldn’t say that the E888s completely changed my mind, but they perked up my ears to demand at least a slightly higher standard.
Apple seems to have a freakish fascination with glossy, shimmering objects… my iPod, iMac and OS X. Plugging the E888s into the iPod remote, I realized I had been hearing a glossy shimmer in my music as well.
First, all I heard from the E888s was vaguely better quality audio. At some point, however, in my right ear I heard cymbal action on ‘Amnesiac’ by RadioHead that I had never heard before. This drew me in to listen more closely to each general frequency of sound. A note that was once a bassy goo was now clearly a bass guitar and a bass drum striking at the same time. While the old iPod earphones seemed to point and say “there’s bass happening down here somewhere,” the E888s vividly described it so that I felt that if I heard any more, I’d know what Thom Yorke had for breakfast.
After their impressive display with Radiohead, I put my iPod on random play and listened through Bach, Paul Simon, Foo Fighters, Outkast, Blondie and a few others, switching headphones and relistening.