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Cheap Headphones Buying Guide
Some people rip through headphones quickly -- probably because many cheap headphones, like those that come with MP3 players, are not built for the long haul. Manufacturers such as JVC and Sony have jumped into this noisy market with a wide range of options that cater to a range of budgets and feature preferences.
The best cheap headphones we found are a pair of earbuds from Skullcandy, the Ink'd 2 (starting at $11).
The most important criterion when shopping for headphones is sound quality. Users don't expect budget headphones to deliver concert-quality sound, but the audio should still be clear and sharp. Relatively strong bass and clean highs are also appreciated. Distortion is unacceptable at lower volumes but will occur at higher volumes in some cheap models. Comfort, of course, is essential. Cheap headphones may sound great, but if they aren't comfortable to wear, what's the point? Many earbuds include silicon ear tips of different sizes to help buyers get just the right fit. Whether to buy earbuds or on-ear headphones is strictly the user's choice, although earbuds seem to be the most popular choice for MP3 players and phones.
Don't expect to find a lot of extra features,, such as noise cancellation or built-in volume control, in the budget price range. Such features are nice but confined to more expensive products. Some mid-range headphones, such as the iLuv HearSay iEP515 earbuds (starting at $21) and an upgraded version of the Skullcandy Ink'd 2 ($20), include a mic so you can take phone calls while wearing them.
Upmarket headphones also tend to be more durable than their budget counterparts. Cheap headphones are mostly plastic, while higher-end products incorporate sturdier materials, such as steel and specially formulated silicon. Although inexpensive headphones aren't as reliable as high-cost models because of the way they're built, reviews suggest that users understand that their cheap earbuds probably won't last all that long. Some models are so cheap that users simply don't care if they wear out in a few months. Our recommended models should last long enough to give you plenty of value for the dollar.
In general budget headphones are a mixed bag of poorly constructed products and a few gems. It seems that manufacturers can get away with making shoddy headphones because consumers keep buying them. But if you know what makes a good set of headphones and ignore catchy buzzwords, you can find a lot of decent headphones that won't set you back more than $15 or $20. Just make sure you know which features are essential and which models are durable so you don't wind up disappointed and looking, all too soon, for another set of cheap headphones.
Best Cheap Headphones
Skullcandy Ink'd 2
These earbuds deliver the best audio you're going to find for less than $15. They do an excellent job reproducing a full range of sound, experts say. Just be aware that cheap earbuds aren't very durable, so you'll probably have to replace them occasionally.Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Good Cheap Headphones
iLuv HearSay iEP515 Review
Sennheiser HD 219s Review
Sony MDR-ZX100 Review
Panasonic RP-HJE120 Review
JVC Flats Review
Skullcandy Ink'd 2 Review
JVC Gumy Plus Review
V-MODA Bass Freq Earbuds
Sennheiser eH 150
Sennheiser HD 201
Skullcandy Smokin' Buds
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