“We have a carefully curated list of top five budget earphones”
Streaming services are slowly replacing music downloads. While we don’t have absolute numbers for India, we know that in the US, streaming generated $2.4 billion in music sales in 2015, surpassing digital downloads by a small margin. The proliferation of smartphones is the major reason for this paradigm shift.
While listening formats are maturing, even audio standards are going through somewhat of a renaissance thanks to smartphones, once again. Apple removed the headphone jack from its new iPhone 7 and the new phone makes use of the company’s proprietary Lightning port for headphones. Even Android smartphones are expected to follow suit by adopting the USB Type-C for audio with Motorola and LeEco already making the shift.
Having said all that, even today, the primary port continues to be the 3.5mm standard in most smartphones and even high-end Digital Audio players (DAP) haven’t eschewed the port yet. But let’s make one thing clear: most bundled headsets with smartphones sound horrendous. A good pair of replacement earphones can enhance your music listening experience by leaps and bounds.
And you know what, you don’t even have to break a bank for it; you can easily buy a great pair of earphones for less than Rs 1,000. We’ve carefully curated the best ones for so you don’t have to go through the trouble of sifting through the options.
Possibly the best-sounding earphone in this list, the Panasonic RP-TCM125 Ergo Fit is available for Rs 700 or thereabouts. The RP-TCM125 is a fairly inconspicuous and lightweight pair of earphones that does its job to the T. It has a warm and mellow sound with little to no distortion. The sound signature is such that it doesn’t favour any particular frequency. However, the note that the bass doesn’t have as much depth as you would expect from a more expensive set of earphones; the low-end is pretty tight nonetheless. You really cannot go wrong with the RP-TCM125 earphones.
You might not have heard of Soundmagic before but the brand is known in the audiophile community for making some good quality budget earphones. The sound signature of the ES18 is quite similar to that of Soundmagic’s more expensive E10s earphones – which is actually saying a lot for a pair of earphones that doesn’t cost as much as a meal in KFC. The ES18’s sound signature is easily appreciable with a decent amount of bass for the EDM fan’s out there. Our only concern is that the cable is too thin and might snap easily if you don’t take care of it. The ES18 is available with or without a mic, with a starting price of around Rs 630 as of the time of publishing this post.
Cowon is another renowned brand in the audio circles known for its audio players. While the brand is now lost in oblivion, there is one earphone that is still stocked by a few sellers on Amazon primarily because of its stellar sound quality. At around Rs 800, the Cowon EM1 is the most expensive one of the lot but it totally deserves the asking price. The one reason why we love the EM1 is because of its flat cable that ensures that it remains tangle-free most of the time. The EM1 offers the tightest and the most detailed performance in the low-end frequencies (bass) and offers decent noise isolation as well. The vocals sound pretty good too. The soundstaging could have been better but honestly we are just nitpicking here.
Quite arguably, the Creative EP-630 is the most popular pair of IEMs in India of all time. It’s popularity was augmented by the fact that Dell used to bundle a pair with its popular Inspiron range of laptops some ten years ago. Yes, the EP-630 has been around for so long and it is still available on Amazon for Rs 800 or so. The EP-630’s sound signature has the characteristic of a studio-grade IEM with a very distinct emphasis on the treble to the extent that it might sound shrill to some. The bass response is not very refined though, and moreover the cable is too fragile. You will literally have to handle this one with care. However, if you are craving a good sound signature at a low price the EP-630 is still a pretty great buy.
Up until the last earphone in this list, you’d have noticed that all of them are of the in-ear kind. But, we do understand that not everyone likes in-ears and if some prefer using a regular earbud, our favourite is the Edifier H180. It is believed that the H180’s have a sound signature that is similar to that of Grado’s headphones – and this is high, very high praise for a pair of earphones that costs just Rs 749. The H180’s sound signature places more emphasis on the treble and the mids. The bass unfortunately takes a backseat and it sounds slightly muddy, which doesn’t bode well. Having said that, these earphones are quite comfortable for prolonged listening sessions.
Now that we have listed our top five earphones priced under Rs 1,000, don’t forget to mention your favourites in the comments section below. Also, note that earphones like the Brainwavz Delta and the SoundMagic PL21 are often available for under Rs 1,000 during Amazon sales and we’d suggest you keep a lookout for them.