As any avid reader of Playlist knows, we’re big fans of upgrading your iPod’s earbuds to better appreciate how good your player can sound. But until recently, if you wanted to stick with earbuds, but just wanted better sounding ones, you lost the iPod-matching appearance of Apple’s ‘buds — most good earbuds have been available only in colors such as black or blue (or, in the case of AKG’s K12P, silver and yellow). Now that Sennheiser has released a version of their acclaimed MX 500 earbuds in white and silver, you don’t have to choose between color and quality.
Except for color, the white version of the MX 500 is identical to its blue and black siblings. The excellent overall sound quality (for earbuds, that is) improves on Apple’s ‘buds in both detail and bass response, and the actual earbuds are also smaller than Apple’s, which should make the MX 500 more comfortable for some listeners. You also get an inline volume control that lets you adjust the volume if your iPod is out of reach, and a wind-up travel case (somewhat iPod-matching, in white and gray) keeps the MX 500 safe during travel.
My only issues with the white MX 500 are, surprisingly, related to appearance: The white and chrome-finish plastic actually makes the new version look a bit cheaper than both Apple’s earbuds and the original MX 500, and unlike Sennheiser’s new iPod-matching version of the PX 100, which uses gray earpads, the white version of the MX 500 includes black earpads — gray would have been a much better match. But these are minor aesthetic issues that are significantly outweighed by the improvements in sound quality over Apple’s ‘buds. Along with Sennheiser’s MX 400 and AKG’s K12P and K14P, the MX 500 are among the very best earbuds you’ll find — and the fact that all can be had for around $20 makes them no-brainer upgrades.