When you've just dropped a wad of your hard-earned cash on a new MP3 player, purchasing an accessory to help make the most of it may seem counterintuitive, but that's exactly what you should do: upgrade those headphones. You needn't spend a lot to get a pair that's undeniably better than the stock set that came with your device. Case in point: the Sony MDR-EX55LP Stereo Headphones. These earphones will set you back about $30 only, and they offer a noticeable improvement in sound quality and comfort.
As you might expect of earphones in this price range, the Sony MDR-EX55LP earbuds are constructed of plastic and feel pretty cheap. However, you do get to choose from four color accents--black, blue, white, or pink--and the arm that feeds the cable into the earpiece has a metallic sheen that offers a glimmer of style. Also, the 'buds are wrapped in a rubberized coating to help ensure comfort. This, combined with their small, round shape and Sony's inclusion of three sets of silicone sleeves (S, M, and L), helps with fit. We had no problems achieving a seal and wore the earphones comfortably for several hours. The package also contains a soft travel pouch, though you won't find the cable wrap that comes with the earphones' similarly priced sibling, the Sony MDR-EX36V.
Another feature that the MDR-EX55LP lacks is the inline volume control found on the 36V. We probably wouldn't consider this a downside if not for the other model, but the fact that the two sets of earphones come at the same price makes it hard to ignore. Also, we prefer the even Y-cable of the 36V; the 55LP features a longer right cable, designed to be worn behind the head--the latter style is more fitting for active applications, however. As with the 36V, the 55LP's cord raises some concern for durability, since it is quite thin and coated in plastic. The fact that it terminates in an L-plug (gold-plated) helps allay this fear somewhat.
Beyond comfort, the No. 1 reason to upgrade from stock earbuds is sound quality, and the Sony MDR-EX55LP earphones definitely offer an improvement there. The first thing you'll notice is the low-end response, in that there is actually bass. However, while it's better than stock 'buds, the bass isn't as deep as that offered by the 36V. Yet the 55LPs present a more balanced audio response overall, so the not-so-boomy bass might be preferable for some listeners. Mids sound reasonably warm and aren't overly forward, though vocals don't come through as rich and buttery as they do on high-end earphones. Also, there's not an excessive amount of detail on the high-end, but nor does it sound muffled by any means. Overall clarity is solid, and the earbuds should be a good choice for people who like to listen to a lot of different types of music.