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  • Live at the Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI

    • 6 out of 10
    • Supersuckers
    • Man, there's nothing like good, old fashioned, rock and roll... add a bit of industry resentment to that with a double-shot of cynicism, and you get one of the best "new" rock bands going. This album
  • Never Let Me Down [ECD]

    • 4 out of 10
    • David Bowie
    • It must be a lonely place to be considered David Bowie's worst album by just about everyone, including the artist himself. As the last album before Bowie "rebooted" and formed the band Tin Machine, "N
  • Every Day: The Best of the Verve Years

    • 8 out of 10
    • Joe Williams
    • Joe Williams was Figure Two in my three-man education in singing. A brilliant vocalist, scatter, and interpreter of jazz and blues, Williams produces music that's totally unique, yet sounds so effortl
  • Playing the Angel

    • 8 out of 10
    • Depeche Mode
    • Oddly enough, Playing The Angel is a return to form for Depeche Mode, even though it may well be argued that they never truly deviated from their roots in their more recent offerings. In the

  • Trouble

    • 8 out of 10
    • Ray LaMontagne
    • At first, Ray LaMontagne might strike you as just another breathy-voiced knockoff of folk/rock guitarists like John Mayer and Jack Johnson. But he's actually got a better voice than either, he tell

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In-Depth Review

Cerulean XLR Earphones

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´┐Żfantastic 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.

iSkin Cerulean XLR
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.

iSkin Cerulean XLR

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.

Bottom Line

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

Cerulean XLR Earphones from iSkin

MSRP US$29.99

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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