Good-quality earphones do not necessarily have to cost an arm and a leg. While it is true that budget earphones cannot compete with their pricier counterparts in terms of clarity and features, there are many inexpensive earphones out there that punch far above their weight and deliver great sound quality. Here are the best earphones under Rs. 1,000 that provide a substantial upgrade in terms of both sound quality and comfort vis-a-vis the terrible earphones bundled with smartphones:
Note: The prices mentioned below are from the time of writing but they do fluctuate a little from time to time so you might get the earphones for a slightly different amount.
Sennheiser MX 170
The MX 170 are a pair of no-frills earbud-style earphones from Sennheiser, which offer a lot of bang for your buck. The highs on offer are clear and pronounced, and the mids, while expressive, are slightly recessed in the sound mix. Bass is tight and punchy and does not distort at high volume.
The MX 170 are not the most comfortable pair of earphones in the market but the sound quality on offer more than makes up for the slight discomfort. These come with a standard 1.2m cable and 3.5mm jack. You get get them both online and offline, although the price varies a little depending on where you buy them.
The Sennheiser MX 170 are available online at less than Rs. 600.
The SoundMagic ES18S delivers a crisp, detailed and well balanced sound. They are regarded as one of the best pairs of entry-level earphones by audiophiles across the world, and have a fairly neutral sound signature with expressive mids and crisp highs. Bass lovers will be left wanting for more though, and should look towards the Sony EX150, or the Xiaomi Mi Earphones.
The earphones come with a 1.2 metre cable, a gold-plated headphone jack and 10mm neodymium drivers with a frequency range of 15 - 22,000 Hz and an impedance of 16 ohms.
The SoundMagic ES18S are available at Rs. 699.
Xiaomi Mi Earphones
With a three-button remote with mic, a Kevlar fiber cable, good sound quality, and a right angled headphone jack, the Xiaomi Mi Earphones tick almost all the right boxes. At just 14 grams, the earphones weigh next to nothing and are very comfortable thanks to ergonomically shaped housings.
The bass response on the Mi Earphones is restrained and doesn't dominate the sound signature. While the mids are slightly recessed, highs are crisp and clear and the clarity on offer is surprisingly great for the price. If a mic is an important feature, then the Mi Earphones are a great choice. You can get these on mi.com, or at Xiaomi's service centres, and Mi Homes.
The Mi Earphones are available online at Rs. 699.
As the name entails, the Panasonic ErgoFit are a very light and comfortable pair of earphones which can be worn for hours on end without much discomfort. In addition, they have a mostly flat sound signature that does not skew towards any one frequency.
The bass on offer is punchy and highs are clear as well. That said, clarity is lacking and the soundstage is muffled. The cable quality is also a bit of letdown.
The Panasonic ErgoFit are available online at less than Rs. 900.
Sony MDR EX-150
The Sony MDR EX-150 is a great option for bass lovers on a budget. The bass on offer is punchy and thankfully does not completely dominate the rest of the frequencies. That said, the mids are not as well represented as some of the other earphones in this list and the clarity on offer is a bit lacking.
The earphones are quite lightweight and comfortable and are available in a wide variety of colours. The EX-150 can be found online for around 700 rupees, and there is another variant on offer with an in-line remote with mic that retails for Rs. 999.
The Sony MDR EX-150 are available online at roughly Rs. 650.
The Edifer H180 is the cheapest offering in Edifier's earphone line-up and offers great sound quality for the price. Just like the Sennheiser MX 170, it has a classic earbud-style design that is going the way of the dodo these days.
The H180 has an impedance of 32ohm, which is a bit on the higher side for consumer grade earphones. The sound quality on offer is terrific with sparkly highs, expressive natural mids, and punchy lows which do not distort at high volume. Some might find the earbud design a bit uncomfortable though, which means long hours of listening are out. There is also a variant with a microphone, although that is more expensive, available for around Rs. 800 online.
The Edifer H180 are available online at Rs. 669.
Sennheiser CX 180
The Sennheiser CX 180 is one of the cheapest earphones in the German brand's line-up and offers tremendous value for money. The CX 180 delivers powerful and punchy bass and has an impedance of 16 Ohms and a frequency response of 18 to 20,000Hz.
The controlled and powerful bass does come at the cost of the mids and lows which are somewhat suppressed in the sound mix. The clarity on offer is decent for the price but the earphones do sound a bit muddy in complicated and layered recordings. For around 800 bucks, the CX 180 are a great pair of earphones for bass lovers on a budget.
The Sennheiser CX 180 are available online at around Rs. 800.