Please BAN Apple Earphones

image borrowed from – I hope they don’t mind. We are, after all, fighting for the same cause! 

I have held this rant in for SO long, but after the most painful tube journey ever today I feel that I need to vent.

I travel on the London Underground daily. I also use buses and overground trains. Do you know what the worst thing is about public transport? Worse than people with body odour standing with their pits in my face, worse than drunk people getting on and puking up half-digested chips? Worse, even, (and I know that this is far-fetched) than the frequent delays and suspensions?

BLOODY IPOD HEADPHONES! Whoever designed the white in-ear headphones that go with the Apple products is an absolute moron! More sound comes out of the speakers and into the general world than goes into the person’s head! This is a double-edged sword, by the way, because not only are we forced to listen to some crappy Euro-Pop for the entire journey, the person who the music is intended for can’t actually hear it because all the sound is going OUTWARDS and so they TURN IT UP! (By the way, I’m talking about those flattish earphones with the naked speaker (if that’s the correct term!) not the swisher pointier ones.)

How can Apple, who charge such vast amounts for their products, justify shipping them out with such badly designed listening apparatus? I have an amazing pair of earphones that lock snugly into my ears (they came with three sizes of rubber plugs to ensure a good fit) and they have no sound leakage whatsoever. I have conducted various experiments and I can declare that I am 100% NOT a noise nuisance.

It actually makes me feel physically ill when somebody sits next to me and I can hear their music – surely they know that everyone can hear it too? How absolutely self-centered do you have to be not to notice that every single person in the carriage is staring you out? Can people really be that ignorant? (Hey! That was a smooth blame-change!) I am the queen of staring people out when their music is too loud – for years I have made it my mission to make the noise-criminal feel as uncomfortable as possible until they turn the sound down – but after some near-misses with unexpectedly violent people, I have decided that the best policy is just to wear my earplugs when on public transport. This has an unnerving effect because it blocks out ALL SOUND and you feel a bit like you’re underwater, but it’s preferable to the tck-a-tck-tck-tck-tck-tck of some moronic piece of dance music.

Do you know how much my brilliant earphones cost me? £6.95! £6.95 off Amazon about two years ago – they were so good I bought three pairs! It’s not much to ask, surely, that if you’re going to listen to your music at full volume you buy some decent equipment? A fiver isn’t going to bankrupt anyone but it will make the travelling world a nicer place… Of course the big-wigs at Apple don’t care one jot about that, do they? Their crappy little earphones that must be manufactured at Crazy Colin’s Factory probably cost a fraction of a penny to make.. I know they’re pretty useful because you can use them as a handsfree with the iPhone, and I’m guessing that’s why many use them to listen to music as well, but really, come on people! Don’t make the world suffer!

Apple have a lot to answer for. If I could have a pound for every time I’ve almost burst a blood vessel in my face, been apoplectic with rage, sat huffing and puffing and stewing in my anger, I’d be at least a few grand richer! I know there’s a simple solution: wear my own Apple earphones and crank up the volume. I just can’t bring myself to do it. Yet.

Anyone want to join me in an anti-rubbish-earphone campaign?

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  1. Shelley
    January 18, 2012 / 6:43 am

    Hi Ruth

    I’ll join u in ur campaign. Apple earphones r awful, the sound quality is rubbish, everyone can hear what ur listening too, there’s far too much noise coming from outside & they really, really hurt ur ears. I bought Dr Dre Beats which r amazing but I know there expensive but there r lots of other more affordable earphones out there for people to use. Apple need to work on their earphones, they let customers down coz they have amazing & high quality products but poor earphones. Now my rant is over & I’m so pleased someone else feels the same about Apples earphones

    Love Shelley xx

    • Ruth
      January 18, 2012 / 2:45 pm

      @Shelley Mr AMR has Dr Dre Beats too, they are very good. But yes, you can pick up a good quality pair for way less than a tenner! x

      • Cheryl
        August 7, 2013 / 7:14 am


  2. Jo
    January 18, 2012 / 8:18 am

    I’ll join you, I object to having to listen to my own music when I am not in a music mood just to block out the noise created by ignorant music listeners. I have asked people to turn down their music and have been abused for doing so. I have even thought about making up “I’m an ignorant commuter” stickers to attach to such people’s backs as they walk in front of me! You are not alone, but as most of the people who do this are ignorant and disrespectful of all their fellow travellers I think we might be on a losing side!
    Good luck with the campaign x

  3. Vera
    January 18, 2012 / 8:52 am

    I understand your pain about such self-centred people. Once I travelled by bus for 4h and the guy next to me decided to bring a portable radio and play some kizomba out loud for the whole trip…..
    Not to mention my housemates, who make “parties” every 2 nights , often times in the room next to mine. Even with earplugs I could hear them last night… If the earplug falls from my ear while sleeping, I risk to wake up at 5h30 with that stuff :/ Can’t wait to get the hell out of hereeeeee!

  4. Iulia
    January 18, 2012 / 9:38 am

    This is rather weird. I had a pair of Apple earphones until recently, that worked very well for about 2 years, sound was great, clear and actually went into my ears not in other people’s. Unfortunately the right one doesn’t work anymore so I had to buy a new pair. Now the new pair is exactly the garbage that you’ve described above. I can’t even believe it and not a day passes by that I don’t weep after the old one. I am now sitting here wondering what on earth to buy next.

  5. Maria Bent
    January 18, 2012 / 9:39 am

    It’s not just a UK problem, where I live (south of Europe) it happens the same. Lack of civility I call it. Like you, I also own a pair of earphones that come with 3 sizes of small black rubber plugs. They are cheap, the sound is perfect and nobody gets bothered. Why buy something else?

  6. Kirsty
    January 18, 2012 / 9:43 am

    Never fear Ruth, my hubbie joins you in your rant, he’s been moaning about them for years!
    We are both still on a quest to find the perfect pair of earphones – discreet & comfy…Can you let me know which brand you use/recommend?! And do you happen to know if they are still available on Amazon?!

    Many Thanks :)

    Kirsty x

    • BenjyUK
      January 16, 2014 / 1:19 pm

      Sennheiser CX300 II. Aewsome and good value too.

  7. Ruby Blue
    January 18, 2012 / 9:50 am

    Yes, I am with you there! The metallic sound they produce is awful too. I use Wesc and Sennheiser headphones instead (I have a handy compact one that takes about the space of a wallet). Don’t carry out your idea to use the earphones yourself though ;) I always feel sorry for those who use that kind of earphones because it causes lasting ear damage. Especially on public transport and other noisy places, because you have to turn the sound up and it is battering your ears even more. In-ear plugs are better because there is no leakage and you don’t have to turn the volume up. This is effectively the one thing where Apple doens’t guarantee quality and I have wondered a lot of times how Steve Jobs could have let that happen!

  8. Claire McDonnell
    January 18, 2012 / 11:44 am

    Oh my gosh I had this problem on the tube last night! The worst dance music (and I’m a dance music fan) really, really loud. I tried staring at the guy but to no avail x

  9. Meeta
    January 18, 2012 / 11:47 am

    This annoys me as well, I hate hearing whatever other people are listening to. If other manufacturers can make decent headphones for less, why can’t apple, I would think they want people to use their earphones?

    Which ones do you find good as I’m using a pair of Sennheiser ones. TY

  10. AMR fan
    January 18, 2012 / 1:23 pm

    ”…burst a blood vessel in my face” hahahahaha I literally rolled on the floor laughing (ok…maybe not literally, but I did literally ”LOL”). On a more serious note, however, I do agree with every word you wrote Ruth. Glad I’m not the only one who feels that way. X

  11. Cheryl M
    January 18, 2012 / 2:22 pm

    I was so glad to read your email today! I began to think I was the only person left on the planet who objected to noise pollution. I LOATHE sitting within earshot of anyone whose earphones leak. (I’m sure that the earphones are making people deaf too, because they seem to feel a need to speak very loudly, but that’s another issue.) I am not brave enough to stare people out, but I wish there was something I could do to get Apple to change their earphone design, but I fear they have too much money to listen to me. And every time anyone raises the issue in Metro, they are greated by vituperative letters and texts calling them all sorts of dinosaur-like epithets. So maybe very few people do care, and we just have sensitive ears?

  12. Snooty
    January 18, 2012 / 3:46 pm

    YES! YES YES YES YES YES! Sorry for the shouting, but anything less would fail to convey my feeling while reading this. The “someone finally said it!” feeling. The release of so much pent-up annoyance!

    The most considerate earbuds for commuters are definitely the in-ear/canalphone type which don’t leak any sound at all, or what are called closed-back headphones. And as a bonus they deaden some of the external noise for the person using them.

  13. LadyEllner
    January 18, 2012 / 5:28 pm

    I used to have Apple earphones. Well, I did until my cat (when he was a kitten, though I swear he’s part dog) had himself a lovely evening chewing through the wire. Destroyed them totally. He went on to chomp through TWO subsequent pairs of different earphones. Rule no. 1 of kitten ownership: Never leave *anything* which can be chewed in easy reach. He even chewed husband’s iPhone charger. It survived though patched up in several places with rubber tape :(

    It’s a shame really, the Apple aesthetic normally so exemplary it’s odd that the earphones are so, so crappy – ear-bruisingly ROCK hard, terrible sound, etc.

  14. January 18, 2012 / 8:34 pm

    Not only is all that true, but they are the single most uncomfortable earphones ever! Much prefer my JVC ones with the little foamy bud thing!

  15. gaya
    January 18, 2012 / 10:40 pm

    Hell, I’ll join you in your campaign! Those people are extremely selfish as you said. The worst though are the ones who listen to the music on their PHONES and crank up the volume (looking around daring people to react) and so doing make you go crazy. Apple earphones make non sense to me too but I was wondering whether their design had to do with not impairing people’s hearing ability; if such a selfless thought could be attributed to Apple… It’s like they worked on designing the worst earphones ever!

  16. Bee
    January 18, 2012 / 11:56 pm

    I know i hate it when people do this. Some people have no manors for people around them. And these headphones are by far the worst ever.

  17. Paige
    January 19, 2012 / 2:43 am

    Hee hee! I’m looking to replace the apple earphones I just lost for almost exactly the reasons you list (I don’t need them to play music for other people, but then what can you do?). I have a job where most of the time I’m by myself, but people come and go and start talking to me at a moment’s notice, so I love being able to pause my music or podcast instantly, and just leave the earphones in and be able to hear them without a problem. I’ve been using my husband’s for a week now (the kind with 3 different adapters, pipe the sound right into your ears, etc.) and I hate them for work, because I can’t hear anything that’s going on! So yes they have their flaws but some of us like them! Perhaps they shouldn’t be the standard issue ones though; I’ll give you that.

    • Ruth
      January 19, 2012 / 1:55 pm

      @Paige yes, they are good if you need to be able to keep an ear out for what’s going on! But then I’m guessing you don’t have someone stood next to you the whole day and you don’t have the music up full blast! I’m more specifically talking about transport where you are forced into close proximity… xxxx

  18. Gosh, and I thought I was being overly sensitive! I hate it when people do that and got myself a similar pair of earphones for a similar price here in NY. Second-hand noise really does give you a head-ache.

    • Ruth
      January 19, 2012 / 1:52 pm

      @Verena never over-sensitive! Surely there can’t be ANYONE who enjoys other people’s noise?! x

  19. Jro_0th
    January 19, 2012 / 12:51 pm

    It used to drive me nuts when I was in college too. Apple includes the cheap earbuds because they want you to shell out the extra cash to buy ones with better ergonomic design and functionality. I know a lot of people love Apple products, but I am not a fan. They release products without getting all the software problems diagnosed or fixed first, then release products so frequently that it’s impossible to own an Apple product for a reasonable time before it becomes obsolete. If that’s how they run their product lines, then why should it make sense for the earbuds to work?

  20. Kim
    January 19, 2012 / 4:54 pm

    I battled with Apple earphones for years, mistakenly believing that all headphones must be the same and I just had to put up with it. Fortunatly the damn things broke a couple of months ago, and, in a hurry, I grabbed a pair for about a tenner at a train station. It was a revelation! Still can’t quite believe I used them for so long, I was apparently functioning under the foolish assumption that you could expect a half decent pair of headphones chucked in with a £500 phone, silly me!

  21. SiGod
    January 19, 2012 / 8:31 pm

    I came across your thread purely by chance. Thank you for venting your rant … I feel a sticker design coming on :)

    • Ruth
      January 20, 2012 / 8:07 pm

      @SIGod OMG. This is AMAZING!!!!!! Can I post it so that people can print it out?! How can I credit you – do you have a website or twitter? x

      • SiGod
        January 21, 2012 / 3:34 pm

        Ah Ruth, glad you like it!

        Please feel free to post it or print/distribute as you feel necessary. I’d be grateful if you could host it on your own server if possible so I can remove it from yousendit soon. I must add, of course, that I take no responsibility for any legal action or counter-rants resulting from the use or misuse of the flyer. I just hope it raises some smiles and makes people think; raising awareness of a problem gets you a good part of the way to solving it.

        Regarding credit, no worries, it was your posting and the supporting responses that encouraged me to do something. Like the comicbook superheroes I’m happy to keep my identity behind a mask… I’m just your friendly neighbourhood SiGod ;)

        • Ruth
          January 22, 2012 / 1:53 am

          @SiGod oh goodness, Apple WOULD probably have something to say about it wouldn’t they! Hahaha….

  22. Alex
    January 20, 2012 / 12:58 pm

    Ruth what make are the ones you have from amazon? I like the idea that they come with various size plugs as I have small ears and find most hurt my ears as they are too big…probably man sized :(

    • Ruth
      January 20, 2012 / 7:58 pm

      @Alex I have done an update post, it’ll be up soon! xx

  23. Harriet
    January 21, 2012 / 6:16 pm

    I totally agree! My hearing isn`t all that good anyway (I`m not deaf or anything, but often convisations end up me shouting “What did you say!?”) It was so bad, a women on the bus actually asked me to turn my music down, because of them being rubbish + my hearing making it worse! I actually have some headphones like yours, but I got mine free ( a radio station was handing them out for free in my local shopping centre) and they have been great (I thought they wouldn`t be but I thought I may as well) I don`t get funny looks on the bus anymore!

    • Ruth
      January 22, 2012 / 1:50 am

      @Harriet oh GOD! Were you embarrassed?! I hope it wasn’t me… hahahaha! xx

  24. January 21, 2012 / 7:56 pm

    Ugh I so agree. I want to commit murder every time I am on public transport. I also think the white color just looks so bad! Bronzer/fake tan gets all over it!!

  25. SiGod
    January 22, 2012 / 12:09 pm

    I wish Apple would indeed say something about it, our quality of life is being affected. The elephant is in the room, goddamnit!

    Their products are often regarded as beautiful perfectly formed artifacts by their owners, sometimes with an almost religious zeal, and the suggestion that any part/feature is inferior or badly designed is treated as heresy. But I think this is the one area where Apple should accept the opinion of members of the public, regardless of whether they are owners of Apple products.

    I would guess that they ship the same headphones with all their portable devices so this is not just a problem on transport or colleges, it’s unfortunately a problem worldwide that will need to be attacked in every language. To put things into perspective, it’s not of course as important as tackling global warming, racism, starvation, etc, but the use of their white headphones is anti-social and if some users can be enlightened to this fact and discouraged then the world will benefit.

    If Apple stopped producing the white headphones or issued a product recall, it would be noted in the media, the public would take note and to a certain extent the problem could be nipped in the bud. However –
    a) Apple are not very well known to admit to their being problems with their products
    b) Apple’s advertising campaigns featured white headphones so there’s very strong brand association that cost them $billions
    c) Apple are probably using the cheapest manufacturing methods possible, so any change of design to produce a superior grade of headphones would inevitably result in a (only very slightly) lower profit margin on their products, and would not be accepted by their shareholders.

    Apple taking unprovoked action on their headphones is about as likely as MacDonald’s and KFC providing their customers with a plate and knife+fork as a civilized nod to the needs of society – think of what effect it would have on reducing street litter, the numbers of urban foxes, reducing landfill, and the stench on public transport. (This is simply for comparison, and is of course a separate discussion for another day…)

    I’d be interested to hear what Apple would have to say.

    • Ruth
      January 22, 2012 / 4:17 pm

      @SiGod me too! Maybe I should start a movement! Hahaha…… No, seriously – maybe I should!

  26. Prof.
    January 23, 2012 / 1:59 am

    Ruth, worse than puke? this is non-sens…
    this was not very bright…

    • Ruth
      January 23, 2012 / 11:39 pm

      @Prof you know what’s not very bright?! Spelling nonsense “non-sens”! Touché. : )

      • ownd
        January 30, 2013 / 3:40 am


  27. Kirra
    January 23, 2012 / 6:02 am

    Hi Ruth, my trick to stop people listening to crazy bad music loudly on the train is to get their attention somehow, and then tell them you don’t think their headphones are plugged in properly, as their music seems to be playing for the whole train. Of course their headphones are plugged in, but it alerts them to just how loud and annoying their music is to everyone around them, and forces them to turn it down. WIN! Probably not best if the person in question looks frightening, but always a good one if they look moderately sane.

    • Ruth
      January 23, 2012 / 11:38 pm

      @Kirra that is a good method! I may try that – wish I had done earlier when I had to endure the man next to me playing his computer game with the effects on full volume! x

  28. July 2, 2012 / 7:49 am

    Nearly everytime I hear someone elses music on the train or the tube, I turnaround to see the white strings hanging from their ears.

    I like to think that the people wearing these earphones are not ignorant; just oblivious to the fact that the standard Apple headpones are rubbish becuase they broadcast too much noise.

    It’s somewhat unbeleavable that a company such as Apple – which is know for quality products, can be associated with such utter rubbish.

    I live in hope that Apple realised the error of their ways!

  29. Colin
    November 1, 2012 / 11:01 am

    My name never gets used as something good!

  30. Nippy
    December 20, 2012 / 2:28 pm

    Try the new EarPods.. They are much better..

  31. February 26, 2013 / 7:25 am

    I agree, but what also irritates me is the fact that their earphones break to easily!!

  32. Audiotech
    April 29, 2013 / 1:54 pm

    Do you really think £7 earphones are really that good coz if you want to get at least reasonable sound you need to spend at leat£200. Just saying :)

  33. Adam
    June 7, 2013 / 9:00 am

    I’m stood next to someone with then right now, some really clicky dance music. This is why searched “iPhone headphones are terrible and got this article. They don’t even feel nice and considering the ludicrous cost of apple products I’m amazed people put up with them.

  34. Lars Liedberg
    June 26, 2013 / 11:09 am

    Hi Ruth, what earphones did you end up buying? I’ve had 3 pairs of these godawful Apple EarBuds and they suck! All 3 pairs have lost sound from the left phone, but only after causing me hours of pain, and frustration (when trying to use em at the gym – impossible!). Apple have apparently launched new earphones called EarPods. Let’s hope its not just another catchy name.

  35. Please
    September 13, 2013 / 8:36 pm

    i have to hear ear bud noise leakage, oh the humanity….you’re all whiny cry babies…

  36. gnarlie
    October 5, 2013 / 11:25 am

    Agree. What people using these earphones don’t seem to realise is that because they let so much sound out and in, you have to turn the volume up way higher than with other phones. It’s only a matter of time before hearing damage results. In fact, I think it’s only a matter of time before we start to see people bringing class action against Apple for hearing damage brought about by the design of these earphones.

    For those who are sinners and wish to upgrade, try Soundmagic e10’s for decent quality at a reasonable price. (30ish)

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