High-end audio is a rich man’s hobby. Or so it used to be. The iPod (and now, smartphones) led to a boom in the number and variety of earphones manufacturers. With increased competitions, prices plummeted, bringing high-quality sound within the means of the average consumer. After all, big sound doesn’t necessarily have to mean a big price tag, as these 5 earphones under $20 prove:
5. Sony MDR-ED12LP
It would be impossible to create any list of affordable earphones without at least one Sony jostling its way in. Over the years, Sony has perfected the art of manufacturing affordable headphones/earphones that, nonetheless, pack in a lot of punch. Sony MDR-ED12LP is no different – a cheap, sturdy pair of earphones with exceptional sound quality (for the price). These earphones boast of large, 16mm drivers, something rarely found in this price range. Neodymium magnets, typically used in $100+ speakers, provide solid sound reproduction. A ‘bass booster’ handles the low ranges with aplomb. The cherry on the cake, of course, is the price tag.
Pros: Snug, comfortable fit. Perfect for gym wear. Strong performance in the mid-tones. Punchy bass. Low price.
Cons: High tones can be quite unclear. Bass can be a bit too screechy without enough warmth or richness.
4. iFrogz EarPollution Plugz
Cheap, durable, and comfortable, these iFrogz Plugz are all that you could want in a pair of affordable earphones. The high tones are not the clearest, the bass not the thumpiest, but altogether, the iFrogz Plugz delivers a sound that is surprisingly good for its price. Add in noise isolation and a snazzy design with a variety of colors, and you have a winner on your hands.
Pros: Good overall sound. Comfortable. Decent noise isolation. Trendy design and colors.
Cons: Bass is quite weak. High tones not very clear.
3. JVC Gumy
Head over to any college campus and you’ll find at least 10% of the population dangling a pair of JVC gumy earphones from their iPods. This massively popular pair of earphones may be getting a little out-dated, but can still hold their own against pricier competition. Available in 8 different colors to complement the 6th Generation iPod Nano, the JVC Gumy features 13.5mm Neodymium drivers and a strong frequency response of 16Hz to 20 kHz. The soft rubber body makes for a comfortable fit. Recent updates to the driver design have improved the sound and made an already solid pair of earphones even better.
Pros: Solid overall sound. Very comfortable. Different colors match Apple’s iPod Nano. Will withstand a lot of punishment. Extremely good value for money.
Cons: Weak bass, soft mid tones.
2. Ultimate Ears 100
Quirky, cool, comfortable: these are the first few words you’ll use to describe this entry-level offering from Ultimate Ears. Available in a range of striking designs and colors, from robot blue to gorgeous purple, these earphones not only look great but also deliver killer sound. With four different sizes of soft silicone in-ear cushions, you can wear them for hours without pause. Unique design ensures that outside noise is kept to a minimum – perfect for long haul flights (especially with noisy babies on-board!). The best price, of course, is the price. At $19.99, you can buy all the five different colors and color co-ordinate them with your wardrobe!
Pros: Quirky design. Silicone in-ear cushions provide exceptional comfort. Strong sound. Adequate noise cancellation. Sturdy construction.
Cons: Weak bass response. High frequencies can be unclear at times.
1. Koss KSC75
The Koss KSC75 is an enigma: a small, cheap headphone that somehow manages to deliver extremely powerful, clear sound that is miles ahead of the competition. It might be the Titanium coated drivers, or the 15-25,000 Hz frequency response, but the KSC75’s performance in this price range remains unparalleled. Clip-on style makes them perfect for heavy duty wear in the gym or on the road, while an open design ensures that you won’t remain oblivious to the environment. Koss’ lifetime warranty wraps up what is already an impressive package.
Pros: Exceptionally rich, detailed sound. Comfortable clip-on style. Lifetime warranty. Best value for money.
Cons: Not terribly great to look at. The bass, as with most cheap earphones, can take a beating, especially in bass-heavy hip-hop tracks.
From a distance, you can be forgiven for mistaking this Panasonic earphone with JVC Gumy. It shares the same rubbery, Elastomer bound profile and a similar price tag. Put them on and you’ll recognize the same solid overall sound. Where the Panasonic RP-HV21-K differs is in the bass response: the JVC Gumy outperforms it in this regard. Nonetheless, this Panasonic earphone is a great choice for the cash strapped music aficionado.
Pros: Extremely comfortable. Will last for years. Good overall sound. Useful built-in clip.
Cons: Poor bass response, unclear highs.