So you’re walking around with your fancy white earbuds, letting everyone know just how much you love your iPod. But have you ever stopped and thought for a second: is this the reason I paid a premium for an Apple-branded product? Because it isn’t. The included earbuds are crap. And I mean crap. When you pay hundreds of dollars for a music player, wouldn’t it be stupid to ruin the experience with crappy earbuds, when you can take it to the next level for as little as $15?

Hallvard with his shiny old nano (yours truly only touting a shiny ancient mini), let me know the “new and improved” earbuds from Apple, are in fact “new and improved”. No, not the ones bundled with the “new and multi colored shuffles”, the old new ones. That probably made no sense at all, but Apple made some changes along the way. While I can’t speak for Apple on matters else than the buds that came with my mini, I know for a fact they sucked.

So a year ago or so, I picked up a cheap set from Scandinavian chain Hi-Fi Klubben. They have their own brand named Argon, which is basically a re-branding of cheap, but still good, OEM products. And let’s face it: what ISN’T OEM these days? The Argon EP4001 earbuds retail for 98 NOK (≈$16) at their stores, which I would consider the lower end of the scale. They don’t give much information about their origins, obviously, but let slip that another “big” player in the earbuds market sells the same buds for three times the price. It didn’t take much digging to find that these pieces look EXACTLY like the Sennheiser MX500‘s, and indeed I found those for as much as 295 NOK online, even though I also found them as low as 149 NOK. Still, a pretty good deal I think.

Last week, I came across a great deal on the Koss SPARKPLUG (129 NOK). “Might as well give them a try”, I thought. I’ve been running some strictly non-scientific tests on them today, comparing them to the Sennheisers, errr, Argons. The SPARKPLUG seems more crisp, and also seems to be able to keep a higher volume level without distortion. The Argons on the other hand, seem to have more punch to the bass. I’ve been switching back and forth here, and it really is hard to compare the two. All I know is they both put Apples buds to shame. If I had to pick one however, I think I would go with the SPARKPLUG. The sound is clearer and more realistic. They also fit better in the ear, don’t fall out as easily, and are more comfortable to wear over a prolonged period of time.

While I can certainly recommend the SPARKPLUG, the objective of this post is not really to make you get one specific set of new earbuds, but rather to tell you to throw your freebies in the trash. While you can argue that Apples earbuds are part of the price you pay for the iPod itself, and that they actually cost quite a lil slump of money if you want a new set (249 NOK / $29), I can promise you they are thrown in for free! The SPARKPLUG can be had for a lousy $15 from, and is an upgrade worthwhile.

Goodbye luxury brand, hello Koss. Why do I always seem to be coming back for ya?



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