Apple makes the undisputed best MP3 player on the market but it ships with what may be the worst earbuds ever made. It's definitely a conflict: how can such a slick MP3 player as the iPod ship with earbud headphones that are so inferior?
Apple would tell you that they're perfectly acceptable or that it's an opportunity for their third party developers to sell alternatives, but it's no secret that Apple's iPod earbuds are amongst the worst in the industry. They're hard and feel like two stones in your ears; they split, tear and rip if you just look at them wrong—and they sound awful. Apple, almost admits as much in their feeble attempt to upsell you to their "better" US$40 in-ear headphones and MDR-EX51LP Studio Monitor headphones, white are basically re-branded Sony models.
If you're going to invest US$100-400 on a music player, you deserve better. Do yourself a favor if you're buying an iPod: keep the Apple earbuds in their original packaging and pick up a pair of third party earbuds instead. If you're on a budget there are in-ear models from Sony that start at around $40 that are head and shoulders about Apple's included models, if you want a better sonic experience, invest in a pair of higher end models from quality vendors like Future Sonics, Etymotic, Shure, Grado Labs or Sennheiser.
For a few extra bucks you'll get better sound at low volumes, amazing bass response and crystal clear vocals. It just doesn't make sense to spend so much for your MP3 player only to have it wasted on the lousy sound produced by the included earbuds. Budget for a pair of better 'buds when you buy your iPod and you won't be disappointed.