The best iPhone headphones

Want to ditch those standard Apple 'phones? We put five alternatives to the test

Everyone knows that the bundled headphones you get with music-playing gadgets are rubbish, and the Apple iPhone is no different.

But as poor as the bundled headphones are, the dedicated button on the microphone that allows you to seamlessly switch between your tunes and the iPhone's call functions means people have been reluctant to replace them.

But there are alternatives, and we’ve rounded up five sets of iPhone earphones to see which is the best replacement for the set in the box.

They're all iPhone-compatible sets with microphones and where possible, remote control clickers. We tested them with a range of songs in a variety of styles, all compressed to a typical level, and used them both in the office and out on the streets and on public transport, and made calls to see how the microphones fared.

Apple In-Ear Headphones
Price: £54 (from the Apple Store)

It’s good to see Apple offering a relatively inexpensive upgrade option from the bundled earphones, but its new In-Ear Headphones are seriously flawed. Like all Apple products, they’re beautifully packaged in a box that echoes the iPhone’s. They’re in-ear models, but the tips – made from two types of plastic – are stiff and uncomfortable compared to others in this lineup, while the sound is thin and seriously lacking in bass.

• Frequency response: 5Hz to 21kHz
• Carry case: Hard case
• Tips: Small, medium, large plastic
• Cable length: 139.5cm
• Weight: 10.2g
• Remote: Clicker with volume adjustment

Pros: Inexpensive / Gorgeous presentation / White
Cons: Fiddly remote / Bass is absent / Uncomfortable
Verdict: Apple tries to tempt people to upgrade to more white earphones, but they lack bass and the remote is fiddly

Bose Mobile On Ear Headset
Price: £147 (from the Apple Store)

It’s good to see that not all iPhone earphones are of the in-ear variety, but Bose’s set could do a better job of representing the over-the-ear design. At just over 130g they are relatively light and quite comfortable, but there’s no clicker button on the mic, and the sound quality isn’t dependable. Bassy parts on their own have a decent amount of punch, but more dynamic combinations of audio reveal their limitations and audio soon becomes sharp and scratchy. The fact they’re £145 is a disaster, too, as for that price you can get some seriously talented earphones.

• Frequency response: Not disclosed
• Carry case: Hard case
• Tips: N/A
• Cable length: 110cm
• Weight: 132g
• Remote: None

Pros: Light / Comfortable / Good bass
Cons: No clicker button / Expensive / Not hard to reveal flaws in sound
Verdict: One of the few on-the-ear headphones with a microphone, they’re seriously handicapped by price and average sound quality

Sennheiser MM50 iPhone Black
Price: £36 (from Amazon)

By not opting for an equal Y-split in the cable, Sennheiser has ended up stranding the microphone a considerable distance down the wire so call quality was only average. For their price, though, this is the only flaw it feels fair to call the MM50s on. They’re easy to insert, light and comfy to wear for extended periods. While they don’t reveal details with the kind of forensic accuracy of pricier models, they’re an exciting listen thanks to powerful bass that really enlivens modern rock, pop and rap tracks.

• Frequency response: 18 – 22,000Hz
• Carry case: No
• Tips: Small, medium, large plastic
• Cable length: 100cm
• Weight: 10g
• Remote: Clicker

Pros: Cheap / Unfussy / Powerful bass
Cons: Clicker button is fiddly / Mic a bit too far away
Verdict: Sonically, the MM50’s aren’t perfect but if you like rock, pop or rap their powerful bass makes a good first upgrade from the bundled iPhone earphones at a very attractive price

Etymotic HF2
Price: £98 (from the Apple Store)

The HF2s come with some of the most invasive tips we’ve seen for in-ear earphones – they look like little Christmas trees – but with them, or the friendlier foam barrels, you can achieve a seal which all but mutes the outside world. This enables them to bring their sparklingly accurate touch to your music. Bass pops with precision and there are times when you’ll swear the band is in the same room as you. They take time to get used to, and the cable can be oddly unco-operative at keeping the mic in place, but for audio they’re terrific.

Pros: Excellent noise insulation / Stunningly accurate audio
Cons: Mic assembly too big / Stiff cable / Tips too invasive for some
Verdict: The HF2s use a light touch to reveal the details and expansive range that lesser earphones squash out of your music

• Frequency response: 20hz – 15kHz
• Carry case: Soft Pouch
• Tips: Small, medium cones, foam barrels
• Cable length: 122cm
• Weight: 37g
• Remote: Clicker

V-Moda Vibe II
Price: around £75 TBC

If you want more punch than you get with the HF2s, then V-Moda’s new Vibe IIs are the better bet. They also play safer when it comes to the fittings, with conventional soft tips. Bass is absolutely huge but still retains a sense of reality – it’ll overwhelm the odd track here and there but generally they really animate your music, and make you want to relisten to all your favourite songs.

• Frequency response: 12hz – 22kHz
• Carry case: Soft Pouch
• Tips: Small, medium, large plastic, small, medium, large silicon
• Cable length: 114cm
• Weight: 22g
• Remote: Clicker

Pros: Separate clicker and mic / Solid construction / Comfortable tips
Cons: Bass will be too much for some / Sound isolation not as good as the HF2s
Verdict: Massive bass sometimes overwhelms them but mostly the audio they provide is terrifically good fun – involving, dramatic and alive


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