Whether you’re taking your first steps into the audiophile arena or just want the best pair of in-ears for your daily commute, you’ll find them all here.
The EM1 has been our go-to recommendation in the budget space for nearly two years now. A total workhorse, the EM1 can take some rough handling. The audio quality for the price delivers the best proposition you can find. What the headphone lacks in terms of precision it makes up in comfort and isolation. The fit and isolation is one of the best we’ve seen. If you can get your hands on one (since they frequently go out of stock everywhere), they’re a perfect balance between value and performance.
Price: ~ Rs. 675
At one time the EP-630 had sent Indian forums in a tizzy for the kind of phenomenal price to performance it offered. It was the first time listeners witnessed great audio in the IEM form factor. Sure in today’s day and age they don’t offer the flat tangle free cables that the likes of the EM1 do, but hey has their aural performance degraded over the years? Of course not! Classics never go out of style. Pick them up for their distinct bass heavy and yet ultra sharp sound signature (and a hint of nostalgia too).
Price: ~ Rs. 700
The budget variant of the twinwoofers, but surprisingly not too budget-sounding. The set itself looks a little different from the average IEM, owing to the wood finish on the ear buds. We also liked the flat cables that were used, ensuring a relatively tangle-free experience. The Ecoofers are powered by twin 10 mm drivers and have a frequency response of 18 – 20,000 Hz but of course as experience teaches us specifications don’t mean squat as much as real-world performance. Go for the Ecoofers if you want to be different from the pack and don’t want to go for the ultra-common EP-630 types.
Price: ~ Rs. 850
Sennheiser CX180 Street II
The CX 180 has one of the most pleasing sound signatures out there. Not too boomy, and not too shrill, it manages to hit the goldilocks spot of “just right” quite well. It’s also for those who can’t do without the Sennheiser sound. We particularly like the steel grey variant with it’s signature ultra small housing.
Price Rs. 948
Xiaomi’s Mi headphones (or the Piston, as they’re popularly called)
There’s no denying that at Rs. 799, the Mi earphones are a fantastic deal. The overall performance, build quality and design make these a very good buy and another successful product from the Mi stables. You get great build quality, in-line controls, and a signature that’s tuned to reproduce great highs. If you like your music with an extra serving of bass, you’d better avoid these. But if you’re one of those audiophiles who’d appreciate the ear piercing pinch harmonics from a Stratocaster, these are worth your money.
Price: Rs. 999
The EK2 is your weapon of choice if you have a bit more money to spend and are looking for an upgrade over the old favourite EM1. You’ll find that the EK2 differs slightly in terms of its sound signature. The EK2 is sharper and at the same time provides a better seal than the EM1. It’s also more sensitive, so you get more volume per unit of input power. At the end of it the EK2 adheres to a simple formula: throw a little more money, get a little more performance. If the EM1 is ever discontinued the EK2 is a prime candidate for being our go-to recco for the foreseeable future.
Price: Rs. 1,099
Creative HITZ MA350
Perhaps one of the most underrated IEMs around, the MA350 seems to have slipped under the amateur audiophile’s radar. The headphones sport a flat tangle-free cable just like the Cowon EM1 but gains a few points in the features department thanks to the sliding volume control switch (most likely an in-line pot, thus working with any source). Performance-wise too they’re slightly ahead giving you crystal clear mids and highs without the flatlining bass of the EM1. Recommended for bass-heads who want fidelity in other frequency ranges. The rated frequency response on this pair of IEMs is 6Hz ~ 23kHz. Of course we don’t really believe it’s going to go as low as 6Hz but it’s still an indicator of its tuning.
Price: Rs. 1,370
These are made by an Indian company based out of Bangalore. As far as IEMs go, they’re not bad at all. True to their name the Twinwoofers are bass heavy and there is more emphasis on upper mids as well. There’s good clarity in the entire range but cord microphonics is a bit of an issue. The fit and isolation could’ve been better but the build quality of the housing is decent. The different ear tips provided are a nice touch. If you’re a bass head you won’t go wrong with these.
JBL Synchros E10
The Synchros E10 brings in the perfect balance between style, sportiness and great sound. The IEM has the typical JBL sound signature – well represented mids and highs with an over-load on bass. In terms of performance, it’s got what you would need – clarity, tonal accuracy and a decent soundstage. In terms of features, it hits the right spots as well with its flat, tangle free cable and a see-through box it comes in that doubles as a carry case. Between this one and the Soundmagic E10S that we cover in the next slide, you should go for this one if you prefer bass.
Price: Rs. 1,999
The E10S has perhaps the best aural performance on this list. At first glance they appear to be an exact replica of the legendary E10 but they’re not. There’s a small change in headphone’s wiring – a switch near the headphone jack that makes it compatible with a number of smartphone variants. And unlike the E10, there’s no on-cable volume control, instead there’s just a single toggle. The sound reproduction is crystal clear as expected but is a little warmer than the E10M. The bass is hard-hitting (giving it a broader audience) and the cable is braided unlike the delicate, almost flimsy string of a cable on the E10. All these enhancements and it costs about Rs. 200 less than the E10. You can’t go wrong.
Price: Rs. 2,049