Announced at Oculus Connect 3 and launching alongside Touch, the Oculus Earphones were touted as a noise-isolating, more immersive alternative to the standard headphones. After days of using and testing the Earphones, I’ve been able to judge how good they really are (spoiler: very).

Oculus announced the Earphones last month as a replacement for the headphones that ship with with the headset in the box. The sensibly priced $49 pair is available for pre-order now from Amazon and the Oculus Store, and ships on December 6th.

Summary

oculus-earbud-review

First, the quick rundown, and then we’ll get into more details as well as a comparison with a much pricier pair of in-ear monitors (IEMs) further below. Remember, too, that these are subjective impressions, which is important because everyone physiologically hears sound differently to some degree.

Pros

The Oculus earphones are noise-isolating, which leads to not only less distractions from the real world, but an easier time hearing the ambient noises from VR content that you may have never been able to hear before, an important factor in immersion.

Balanced sound signature comparable to the standard headphones, but at an even higher quality.

No pressure on the ear lobe (this is if you have a problem with the comfort of the standard headphones).

Easy to install.

Great value for the price.

Cons

People in your vicinity can have a harder time communicating to you while you’re effectively blind and deaf to them.

Pressure in the ear canal (this is for people who generally dislike the feeling of IEMs or earbuds in their ears).

More annoying to switch out if you let other people use your headset often.

Slightly longer ‘setup’ time to use the headset compared to the headphones.

Can’t be used on their own, since they have a unique connection to the Rift headset.

The improvements in sound quality and noise-isolation far outweighed any of the negatives for me, and at $49, these Earphones are a steal.

Installation

oculus-rift-earphones-earbuds-8

Getting the Earphones onto the Rift is simple. In Rift box, Oculus provided a small plastic rod that tapers down to the shape of a flat head screwdriver. This is used to unscrew the existing headphones from the headset. If you threw this piece out not knowing what it was, Oculus handily included another one with the Earphones (you could also use a screwdriver or coin, but risk scratches).

Ones the headphones are unscrewed, put the Earphones in place and tighten using the same tool. The Earphones are labeled L and R, and their design also implies which side of the headset they should be on. The audio contacts align automatically when you have the Earphones installed correctly, and now you’re ready to listen.

Comfort

oculus-rift-earphones-earbuds-5

It was pretty easy to find the optimal placement for the earphones so that they feel good and create a seal with the ear. An improper seal often results in less bass, and less noise-isolation, so getting it right is important. For me, the medium tips fit well, but so did the large and the small. I could also switch out for other brands of tips, including Comply (model T400 and T500), Spinfit (CP100), and Meelectronics (single/double flanged), which I’ve tested and confirmed to work. The Comply tips were the most comfortable, but I still preferred the stock eartips for the sound they produced.

Sound

Using VR applications, music, and sine wave generators, I’ve determined that these IEMs have a similarly balanced sound signature to the original Rift headphones, but extend and emphasize slightly better in the high and low frequencies, meaning that the sound of both rumble and sizzle, for example, were heightened, and just enough to make things sound better to my ears. Not at one time did I feel like any part of the frequency spectrum was overpowering the others. As a result, I noticed that sounds were more accurate to their position in 3D space, and music came out more clear, more impactful, and with better texture. The differences weren’t a huge step up from the original headphones, but were noticeable.

The bigger difference was that bass and treble frequencies were slightly boosted, with slightly better extension as well. In essence, the Earphones sound like a revision to the tuning they did on the original headphones, where the boosts help in different areas to make things sound even more natural in VR

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  • user

    how much did they pay you for this review?

    • CURTROCK

      If you have been following R2VR from the beginning, you would know that this website does not schill for Oculus, or any other VR company. Considering we are talking about a pair of pretty cheap ear buds, the idea that Rift owners need to be artificially hyped to try this product is ridiculous. After what I spent on the Rift & the computer to run it, $49 is a no brainer.

      • user

        ya, i guess oculus is better than all the companies who are building speakers / headphones for decades and they have disrupted the industry for professional headphones with just some cheap parts. they are magicians.

        • CURTROCK

          I didn’t say the parts are cheap. I was referring to the price Oculus is offering them to their customers. The quality & fidelity of the current headphones that come with the Rift is excellent. They have demonstrated a commitment to high quality audio. If you have tried the Oculus earbuds, and you find that they are lying about the quality, please do share your insights with us.

          • user

            its not possible to produce the same quality with 10% of the costs.

          • Get Schwifty!

            Not the exact quality, but a close enough approximation it will do the job. People are really going overboard on this comparison; the author simply used a high end set of ear phones to compare against, and said they acquitted themselves nicely, but someone serious about audio would detect the difference, not the average Joe.

            As to costs, lets compare cars. For about 45K one can get a Corvette that will do the same speeds as a 450K Lamborghini. Are they equivalent experiences? To someone who isn’t into driving, they may seem on the surface very close, but to a trained and experienced driver the differences stand out. The same holds true in this case. Base cost with a strong curve upwards for diminishing returns holds true for most technology.

          • user

            read the cnet review

          • Mateusz

            You clearly have no idea how branding works

          • german kyote

            Well, in a lot of technical related products you get to a point where you can spent 90% of the money for 1% of improvement.
            And that counts especially for audio/hi-fi.
            Audio isn’t rocket science.

        • DM

          I guess you think 99% of the population think a $900 pair of earbuds is a perfectly reasonable price to spend, and they can all tell the difference between a $50 pair and a $900 pair right away then, and all those people would try the Oculus buds and say “ugh these sound like they are only worth $50 and sound $750 worse than my earbuds at home!”

  • Nord Doe

    I’m still skeptical of the $900 claims, because this reads like a paid review.

    • benz145

      So your hypothesis is that Oculus got up on stage at Connect 3 last month, lied everyone that the headphones could compare well against a high-end pair of in-ear-monitors, and then paid media outlets to perpetrate their lie?

      Or maybe they’re just a decent pair of headphones.

      https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor

      • ummm…

        thats totally possible tho. may not be the case here, but your rebuttal is faulty. you do know how marketing works right?

      • Nord Doe

        It isn’t necessary to make extreme assumptions. But I think the review read just like an ad and I remain skeptical that $50 headphones can really compare favorably with $900 headphones. I for one do not believe the hype.

        • Aeroflux

          Ads do not try off-brand ear tips or compare to anything that is half as good. There is nothing wrong with your disbelief in a comparison to $900 IEMs, but I take issue with your claim that this article is an ad. You are using slander to back up your opinion and it isn’t necessary.

          • Nord Doe

            Parroting fatty sales pitches like “$900 value” does make it read like an ad. I stand by that. Being so easily influenced by marketing is a poor trait for a reviewer.

          • Aeroflux

            Meh, whatever.

          • benz145

            If the company got up and claimed their product compares well to something much more expensive, you don’t think a reviewer should test that claim?

        • Foreign Devil

          In this case I’d suggest $900 headphones are overhyped and overpriced.

          • DM

            $900 headphones basically have to be massively hyped for anyone to spend that much on them. And those are the guys who would throw down $900 for a headphone amp and probably the same again on a turntable or valve amp, and spend a small fortune on interconnects.

            Expensive audiophile headphones are a fairly niche market even for hifi dealers, or at least that was the case when I spent 3 years selling hifi gear about 12 years ago.

            I think we had one guy who spent £700 on some Beyer Dynamic(?) cans, they came with an apology that their usual luxury wooden box packaging wasn’t included as the 9/11 attacks had disrupted their usual source :-/

            At that time we were still selling loads of Bang & Olufsen 32″ CRT TV’s for £5k and £500 telephone handsets. For reference we were also selling Meridian, Rotel, NAD, Bose, Denon, Yamaha, Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, Cyrus, M&K, Mission, B&W, Sharp, and had an online servise too for the usual cheaper stuff.

            We also had a rep from Nordost who made crazy expensive speaker cables and hifi interconnects. They also did cabling for the NASA space program and on the shuttles. They demonstrated cable that cost £1k per meter, we tried it out on a £1k amp and £1k CD player with some decent speakers, and as we listened to some short clips from the same song we could actually tell the difference between the different levels of cable quality from their “cheapest” all the way up to the best.

            In short, if the rest of your system is good, expensive hardware can make a real difference, you just have to know what to look for and what to pair it with. It’s up to you if it’s worth the money or not. There are systems out there that can take advantage of headphones genuinely worth £900, but not many people will own them, and most people won’t ever justify spending that much or immediately notice the difference.

      • user

        yes, they lied. that’s what companies do. 20 years ago mc donalds and coca-cola claimed they will reduce hiv in africa by 50% in 10 years.

        • DM

          so you are comparing a 10 year goal to reduce a sexually transmitted disease in the worlds least educated continent, against actual hardware that exists and has been reviewed?

          Are you insane?

          • user

            the point is that companies lie. which i gave an example for.

            and yes. a few reviews exist. show me another one that says the oculus earbuds sound like professional earphones.

            cnet: 》”These sound as good as some of the highest-end earphones in the world,” he said.

            Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. I’ve spent a few hours in VR with the Oculus Rift Earphones, and I honestly like my Oculus much better without them.《

    • Get Schwifty!

      It’s very possible that a $49 pair is not far off from a $900 pair according to the few audiophiles I know. It’s very much like wine believe it or not; you can get a $20 USD bottle of wine that is comparable in most regards to one that is $200 or even $2000 that most folks would think is equivalent unless you are a true wine connoisseur or in this case audiophile to detect the differences.

  • wowgivemeabreak

    Thanks for the review. Read it and then ordered a pair since I like that the sound is improved (the standard cans actually sound quite good and surprised me) and I really want the better isolation since the standard cans are useless for that.

    I do have some high end closed headphones but don’t want to deal with wearing them and the rift straps and I also have some decent IEMs but don’t want to deal with having a separate connection/cord to manage so these should do the trick for what I want.

  • xebat

    This is so relieving to read.

  • ummm…

    vive killer!……..??????

    • Get Schwifty!

      LOL not even close… thats not the intention, but you know it won’t be long before HTC incorporates better audio, and i would bet the current CV1 headphones go away in time and these replace them in the standard package.

      • ummm…

        yeah. i did know i needed fancy headphones for my vive. but now that oculus has them i guess i need to get a second job to enhance my experience in VR – otherwise the 900 bucks i’ve already spent will have been completely worthless.

  • PK

    This has me very curious to try them. I own a vive and spent $1100 on my Andromeda IEM’s and paired with a subpac they’re incredible good, but now I wonder if I could have gotten something comparable for VR for a lot cheaper. Either way I’m really pleased they’re putting this much focus on audio because then more developers will create experiences that actually take advantage of my setup, right now most don’t have that level of sound design.

    I will add that the vive is too noisy for super sensitive high end IEM’s, they need to be plugged in directly to the computer, wireless doesn’t seem to be an option.

  • DiGiCT Ltd

    It is so funny to see you guys making so much noise about a pair of earbuds lol.
    Im fine with the one that comes with the vive although i have also better headsets for audio.
    The problem you are actually not mentioning here and is worth to mention is quite simple.
    Most game devs dont have high end audio equipment to be able to make that clear audio for a game afterall.
    Your earbuds or even headphones can only produce nothing more as the source audio file.
    Many times those audio sources are also compressed to save load times.
    The entire story here is just not fitted to VR at all, as i can tell you, there will not many applications with real high audio quality.
    At the end we are talking just about some games to play, and the audio will sound good, just will not be the quality music studios produce.
    I think the most important thing is that they feel right on your ears when using vr and second they produce a clear sound, but for sure it will not be super high detailed sounds in game, at least not in most of them.
    Oculus price seems fine, but earbuds and stuff like over 1k usd is in most cases just overkill.
    As a devloper it is useless to invest in such high end equipment for 2 reasons.
    1. games sell very cheap, yes even $40 is cheap for a game, so investment takes huge time to get it back,
    2. the amount of gamers which even buy your game, most of them will even not have those high end headsets or earbuds afterall.

    Therefor it really does not matter for VR as long as you have fun it will be fine.

    • Get Schwifty!

      So let me get this straight… the main argument here is the cost to access of high end audio equipment for development… and yet we are talking about a $49 USD pair of ear bud that are almost competitive to a $900 USD pair?

      Another distinction here is that one of the strengths of the Oculus Home platform is the aid and direction in development, this includes standards and access to guidelines in developing including audio.

      Audio is going to be a an important part of immersion, and its clear the reviewer has experience in judging audio qualities and has provided some compelling information that for the price the ear phones do make a real difference.

      I will say that I agree many people may not notice the difference consciously but will react better to VR, and not all content will utilize the ear phones to the best effect, but the difference should be noticeable for properly made content which only increases VR experiences. They are optional and $49 USD, a cheap refinement if there ever was one.

    • PrymeFactor

      Good thing every Rift comes with a very decent set of headphones, eh?

      Not sure why you’re so determined to downplay this

      • DiGiCT Ltd

        Yeah lol, I got already used to it, as they also had a statement VR cant be played with a gamepad, eventually it shipped with it too.
        But its good for their sales as people feel bad and just feel they need to upgrade again lol.
        Anyhow my point was simple that most VR games will not have audio on that quality included, so the max you can hear is the quality of the source.
        However they might feel more comfortable, but thats something else.

    • DM

      How can one post say so many wrong things?

      You get what you pay for, that includes PC audio, and is the reason I still pay for sound cards rather than relying on poor quality badly insulated/shielded on-board motherboard audio chipsets.

      There are hundreds of sound card and speaker reviews around that prove that even relatively small budgets can improve PC audio with little effort.

      A lot of games can sell hundreds of thousands of copies, they make their money back, and can afford some decent audio mastering.

      Yes, audio can often be overlooked, however there aren’t many games that are well known for terrible audio, other than the recent Skyrim remster, which was immediately called out for it’s over-compressed audio format which should be getting a patch.

      Audio matters massively for VR, if you skimp on the sound you will not be having fun in VR.

      • DiGiCT Ltd

        I agree audio matters, but what i said is that your hih end audio system is in many times overkill due to bas source included in the game, not bad to hear but simply you dont need a studio high end stuff to listen to 256 kbit audio, many audio devices can reach that range clearly for a cheap price.
        We are talking about games, for music production yeah I know what you need for that, and its not an onboard audio card but rather a terratec board and we could all go into detail about crystals be used on them to generate the audio etc etc. that not the point here.
        There are many headsets, even cheaper as oculus provides that can give you good quality sound in VR, thing for $800+ is just nonsense.

  • Justos

    Dangit, I was trying to convince myself that I don’t need these. But i do. Oh man I really do. Thanks for the honest review.

    • Get Schwifty!

      I think the author is Frank He ;)

      • Justos

        Wtf. I swear it was edited. Thought it said ben. thanks for correcting me

  • KoolKoala

    I’ve had them for about a month now. Got them on eBay. They sound great. Definitely worth getting.

  • crim3

    +$1000 earbuds exist? really? Damm, I’m such a loser

  • Peter Hansen

    tl;dr

  • Nein

    Wireless headphone industry has good prospects.

  • mbze430

    I absolutely hated the on-ear that came with the Rift. Actually I hate ALL on-ear headphones. So in the mean time I have been using my PSB M4U 2 and using Active Noise cancelling to get isolate myself from the real world.

    One thing that I haven’t bought these was because I didn’t know if I can use Comply foams, thank you for trying them out on these IEMs. I only use Comply for my IEMs as well.

    After reading the sonic performance on these IEMs, I am now incline to get a pair. I have very critical listening tastes (my best headphone is a Audeze LCD3).

    I think it’s safe to say $50 would be worth it, as last night i tried out using the Touch with my Rift + PSB (2 wires now) and it wasn’t worth the extra wire hassle.

    So thank you for the review, and hopefully they will sound as good I *think* what this review has described

  • Great Guide. Will look into it later.

  • My wife got me those for Christmas and they are awesome! :)

  • That’s totally possible though. may not be the case here, but your rebuttal is faulty. you do know how marketing works right?

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