Top 5 Budget Earphones

March 27, 2015

After using earphones for many years now, there comes a point where a look back is needed. 

Needless to say, over the span of 15+ years, there is absolutely no way to do an apple to apple comparison of every single pair of earphones ever tried. Why so? Through wear and tear, some are discarded and new ones gotten. Some sold, more are bought. I decided to compile a list based on the top earphones that went easy on the budget. 

This is a list of a bunch 'o kickass budget (< S$100) earphones that I have had the pleasure of using at one point in my life. They brought back great memories as the experience was so darn awesome. They may not necessarily have the best sound quality but each has a unique selling point that justifies its place in this list.

Let's commence.

1. Aiwa HP-V161
S$11 a pop. Does the price make the earphone? In this case, nope. It is excellent for bass lovers and unique due to the silicon layer with a tiny layer of air on the earphones themselves to provide comfort and a certain degree of sound isolation. These earphones are great, on one condition - That your ear holes are tiny enough to afford a snug fit. My situation was that these plugs were rather tiny so I had to adjust them continually whenever they dropped out and this happened pretty often. When fitted right, the bass kicked in nicely.
S$11? Incredulous ain't it?
2. Creative EP-630
I was using a pair of these with my iPod mini in the mid-2000s and what I clearly recall is that this was an amazing pair of earphones for the S$40 dished out. What you get - well balanced sound with great sound isolation. This was my default pair of earphones for almost a year for a reason. I can't really find that many flaws with a model at this price range. Perhaps the only niggling issue was the cord swishing in the wind when walking, but this is inherent in most in-ear earphones. They are still in production so do get your paws on a pair if you can.
Great value. Great sound.
3. Jays a-JAYS Five
A controversial choice? Perhaps. However, these are a decent pair of in-ears that make up my current choice. Are they the best choice for sound quality? The highs aren't the best. The bass is certainly decent enough. 

I give them credit for two things:
1. This is an Android-ready pair of earphones. Not many manufacturers would bother an attempt to dedicate a pair to Android for some reason. Besides the iOS ready earphones, all the other so-called Android-ready units only have an analogue volume control.
2. They actually came up with a mobile app called Jays Headset Control for customization of the 3 buttons on the in-line remote. The downside is it seems they aren't really updating it. It worked great on Android v2.3 but on v4.4, the support for the top and bottom buttons seems to have vanished. Nonetheless, great concept. Other manufacturers should start to develop similar apps for their earphone ranges.
Android ready? Hell yes
4. Sony MDR-EX70SL
The key unique selling point of the EX70SL was that the earbuds fit right into your ears. There were small, medium and large sizes for customization to your ear hole size. The 'SL' meant that the cord could be either S (short cord) or linked to an extended cord to make it L (long cord), ideal for MP3 or Minidisc users sporting a remote. Sound quality is incredible. The tech specs mention 6 - 23000 Hz though these are probably marketing specs to emphasize the strength on the lower frequencies and yeah, the bass delivers. 

If iPhones sparked a revolution for phones, the Sony MDR-EX70SL did the same for in-ear earphones. While I am not sure if Sony are the folks who came up with the first pair of in-ears, they certainly popularized them. If you look into any shop selling earphones these days, most likely 80% are all of the in-ears category. That is the impact this model had.
The model that started it all

5. Sony MDR-E888LP
The emphasis of the E888LP was the sound quality. These were the top-of-the-range earphones of Sony's earphones catalogue. The break-in of the earphones took a while. The initial experience was that it was really nothing all that fantastic. However, after a month or so of usage, the delivery started to kick in and the audio coming in from the high and the mid-range certainly made an impact. They are great in the indoor environment with little ambient sound. Bring them to use in a train and that experience suddenly degrades by a lot. The E888LP was the EX70SL's complement to a certain extent. They appeared around the same time period. The former sparkled in the highs while the latter was a bass hitter. Regardless, this was an iconic pair.
Expensive? Damn right. Great sound quality though.

Merit goes to:
Sennheiser CX 300-II

Xiaomi Mi In-Ear Headphones 

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