Despite a refresh in 2006, the earbuds that Apple bundles with iPods have never been up to much. We say it time and time again: if you enjoy music at all, give them away and buy a pair of Sennheiser CX 300-II's.
For years, it was received wisdom that one of the best bang-for-buck upgrades you could have invested in was Sennheiser's now-iconic CX 300 earbuds. Well, they've now been superseded by the CX 300-II.
The market price is now roughly double what the originals were at the end of their life, but it's still a fair price, and is likely to drop.
They're light – hardly noticeable in your ear, and the soft, reasonably chunky cable doesn't cause as much crackle in your ears when you move as many others we've tried – and they do sound damned good.
There's tons of bass, and while it's a little flabby, it slaughters the white Apple buds. Vocals are pretty clean, and though trebles lack the refinement and assuredness of buds at two, three, four times the price, the CX 300-II's audio performance ensures this second generation of a classic gets our strongest possible recommendation.
There's not much else in the box – three sizes of earcups that do a good job of blocking some ambient noise, and a basic carry pouch – but that's fine.
Some might prefer Sennheiser hadn't adopted an asymmetrical cable system – in which the right earbud's cable is longer, and wraps around the back of your neck, directing the main cable down the left side of your body – but it's a good length, and the angled joint at the jack connection feels pretty sturdy. It fits the original iPhone too, though there's no mic or playback controls.
These are not the best headphones you can buy, but they are incredibly good value. With plenty of volume and a big, meaty sound, it looks like Sennheiser has another hit on its hands.
If you're on a budget but want to ditch the crappy Apple buds, we can't say it loudly or plainly enough: buy a set of Sennheiser CX 300-II.