Today I thought we could talk about something dear to my heart. Sound. Specifically reproducing sound through earbuds or in-ear-monitors (herein referred to IEMs). I like listening to music and sometimes, so I don’t disturb others, I listen over headphones or IEMs.
There are a plethora of headphones on Amazon to check out and I thought we could look at some that are under $20 and see if they are any good.
Lets start with the Philips SHE3590/10.
These are about the cheapest IEMs you can get from a name brand company. There are cheaper IEMs on Amazon but I wouldn’t even think about anything cheaper than these. These IEMs are built OK. They have thinner cables than any other IEMs we will talk about today. The jack is so short that it’s hard to pull out of a plug which is quite inconvenient. The included rubber ear cups come in three sizes and provide a good feel and adequate audio isolation.
But it’s not always about build quality though I personally would like to see better. The SHE3590/10s are not particularly impressive when they come to sound. for $15.99 CAD you get IEMs that have very pronounced to overpowering mid sound levels, lows are nealy non-existent and highs are almost shreak-like. Not a great experience. Running the IEMs through an EQ I was able to fix the audio up a but. Bass came out of hiding though is not very pronounced. and lowering the mids and highs seems to have cleaned the sound up quite a bit.
Next up we have the Edifier H185 earbuds.
Construction on these earbuds is very good. They are in almost every way opposite to the Philips IEMs above. They feel very premium for $18.63. They have thicker cabling and are reinforced around the earbuds and the jack which is good. They sit well in the ear for earbuds as well.
Sadly they suffer in audio quality but not in the way you may think. Holding this close to my ears with some force you can tell the drivers in these earbuds are really good but suffer from no audio isolation. They don’t seal well and as such the audio seems to feel empty? Lacking? They do however sound cleaner the the Philips immediately and and tend to be very neutral. Bringing an EQ in I am able to get slightly more pronounced highs and mids but the bass never really comes up. I would love to see these same drivers in an IEM style headphone.
EckoUnltd Zone IEMs.
With a gold plated headphone jack the EckoUnltd Zone IEMs push a premium look. They are very comfortable in the ear with multiple sized rubber ear cups. I have very little negative to say about these at a reasonable $18.66 CAD.
The audio quality is also the best so far if not just a little too bass heavy. The drivers here produce a lot of bass at the expense of some mid range juiciness. The highs are present but not as pronounced as the bass. Running through an EQ I am able to balance them out pretty good. The bass is retained while boosting the mids and highs to an acceptable level without any distortion at high volumes. That really speaks to the high quality drivers used here.
Monoprice 110153 IEMs.
It’s clear Monoprice spent the money on their IEMs and not their packaging. Which is fine. The plastic casing was really hard to remove the IEMs out of but they eventually came out. Build quality is solid with reinforcing where it should be. They feel goodin the ear and they seal a little nicer as the rubber used in the ear cups is a little more flexible.
They are heavy on the bass but all levels are clear and overall sound about the best. Using an EQ you can balance out the sound a teeny bit more but you do lose a lot of the bass. For $19.45 I was really impressed.
Venture Electronics VA Monk Plus earbuds.
These earbuds have been lauded for their impressive sound for a relatively cheap price. I recently picked up a couple of these off Massdrop for $4.99 each in a limited edition blue colour only available through Massdrop. They are incredibly well constructed for a such a cheap pair of earbuds. It has nice thick cabling and a really nice reinforced headphone jack.
Audio is great for such a cheap pair of earbuds. That said without an EQ the sound is very neutral with a slight bias towards the bass. Using the EQ I was able to encourage a lot more bass performance but you do lose a little on the high end. That said there is not distortion at higher volumes which is really impressive. I would love to see these in an IEM style application.
So there are some differences between a lot of these. I did pick up a few more for testing but they don’t quite fit in this bracket so I will do a seperate review of those at a later time. If you are in a pinch I would say almost any of these would do. I highly recommend the VA Monk Plus earbuds and the Monoprice 110153 IEMs. They are definitely my picks. While many people laud the Philips IEMs for being good at their price point I cannot recommend them.