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Review - Cerulean XLR Earphones
Wednesday, December 21st, 2005 at 12:00 AM - by
When Apple shipped its first iPod in fall of 2001, critics were quick to praise the included earphones for not only their attractive design but also their above average quality. Compared to what consumers were used to receiving with their music players, Apple's earphones featuring neodymium transducer magnets were praised as being a cut above. A year or two later, those same critics were seemingly lampooning the stock earphones, saying they were barely satisfactory and certainly not acceptable for a $400+ music player.
I've never understood what exactly changed (to the contrary, Apple actually improved its earphones slightly with the second generation iPods), but pitching the ubiquitous white earphones suddenly became a way not only to improve your iPod listening experience but also differentiate you from the millions of "regular" iPod owners. Third-parties have responded en masse, designing earphones that better match the iPod but remain distinct, all the while pushing price tags into the hundreds of dollars—fantastic news if you are an audiophile or truly want to take advantage of encoding your music in Apple's Lossless format, but less appealing if you're on a budget and need to replace your stock earphones, since Apple only sells its own as part of a $40 remote combo.
Cerulean XLR Colors
The Cerulean XLR earphones are designed for this more casual listener, carrying a price tag of $30 (or half that if they're purchased alongside a select iSkin case). While the XLR's description may lead you to believe you're getting a premium product at a budget price, what with talk of "powerful magnets" and "extraordinary super-thin oversized mylar drivers," the reality is more down to earth. In fact, the frequency response of the XLR earphones is less than Apple's own (50Hz to 20KHz, compared to 20Hz to 20KHz).
Still, numbers and buzzwords aside, the XLR are solid, but solidly average, earphones. We found the sound quality, particularly bass, to be marginally better than Apple's own earphones across a wide range of music, but the contrast is naturally not nearly as apparent as a pair Shures or Sennheisers.
Perhaps the biggest appeal of these earphones to many prospective buyers will be the eight colors they're available in (white with seven color cord/accents, or grey with black cord/accents), perfect for matching your iPod's case or your wardrobe. Of note, the XLR earphones have a shortened left cable to help keep cable clutter out of your way, but many people find this earphone design to be more sloppy than the typical Y design.
The Ceurlean XLR earphones are good replacements for Apple's stock earphones if yours get lost or damaged or you want a different look, but don't expect a signfiicant improvement in audio quality. At $29.99 the price is not unreasonable, but they're much more appealing at the special $14.99 pricing available when purchasing an iSkin case.
Just The Facts
Pros: solid replacement for the iPod's stock earphones, with marginally better sound quality; eight different colors
Cons: apart from colors, nothing particularly distinct
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