8 Cheap Headphones and Earbuds You Should Not Buy
If you’ve been thinking that headphones are getting more expensive, you’re exactly correct. We’re expecting more out of each pair of headphones that we buy in terms of features, so prices are going up accordingly. But if you don’t need high-end headphones, and aren’t looking for any specialized features, you’re probably more interested in getting the cheapest headphones possible. However, choosing the right pair of cheap headphones can be tricky. With that in mind, the eight cheap headphones ahead are models you definitely shouldn’t buy, according to the reviewers at Consumer Reports.
1. JLab Audio JBuds Pro
According to Consumer Reports, these cheap headphones aren’t worth the $10 price tag. Reviewers found that the Jbuds Pro headphones from JLab Audio offer sound quality that casual listeners may find sufficient for music and movie playback. However, the sound “can best be summarized as thin and sometimes harsh,” with bass that’s soft and slightly subdued, midrange that’s grainy, congested, and hazy, and treble that can be overbearing. The reviewers also note that “sound-wise it is obvious that you have something plugging up your ears,” and the sense of pressure they produce in your ears can be uncomfortable for some users.
2. Monoprice Dual Driver earbuds with in-line mic
Consumer Reports reviewers found that while the Dual Driver earbuds from Monoprice may offer adequate sound quality for taking calls, these cheap headphones aren’t a good choice for anyone who likes listening to music. These $15 headphones “leave a lot to be desired when listening to music,” with a muffled sound and bass that overwhelms the midrange and treble. The midrange sounds soft and congested, the treble is subdued, and the sound overall is “closed-in.” All in all, not sound quality you’d want to put up with even from a cheap pair of headphones.
3. Puro Sound Labs IEM100
The Puro Sound Labs IEM100 aren’t a good choice of headphones if you’re looking for a pair to listen to music. Reviewers found that these headphones can provide satisfying volume levels when used with home audio equipment, but note that they might not be a good match for lower-powered portables thanks to a volume limiting function. The sound, which is overall thin and harsh, leaves “a lot to be desired when listening to music,” with bass that doesn’t make much impact, midrange that’s thin and grainy, and treble that can sound smeared and piercing. Though these cost just $30 on Amazon, this model wouldn’t be our choice.
4. Motorola Moto Pulse
The Motorola Moto Pulse is another pair of cheap headphones we’d recommend avoiding. According to reviewers, these headphones are elegantly designed but fall short on sound quality. They only partially block out external noise and prevent sound from escaping, so Consumer Reports notes that they’re best for people who listen in moderately quiet environments where disturbing others won’t be an issue. The sound quality is full, but soft and hazy, with “slightly boomy” bass, congested midrange with “a bit of a plastic resonance,” and soft and muted treble. Though this model is priced at $30 to $35 depending on color, these headphones aren’t a good buy if you’re listening to music.
5. UrbanEars Bagis
The UrbanEars Bagis may sound like a great deal at $25 to $30, but if you place a priority on sound quality, you might want to pass on this model. Though these headphones lack active noise reduction, the earplug-like design can reduce outside noise and prevent sound from leaking out in your environment. Reviewers found that the pronounced bass “has good impact, but is boomy and lacks some definition,” while the midrange is grainy and can be overwhelmed by the bass. The treble is “recessed and rolled off,” resulting in an overall sound that’s “closed-in, with compromised dynamics.”
6. iLuv FitActive Air
The iLuv FitActive Air is one of the cheapest pairs of sports-focused headphones you can buy at just $27, but we’d recommend opting for something a little more expensive. Reviewers found that this model isn’t a good choice for listening to music, with an overall sound that “can best be summarized isn bright and tinny.” The little bass these headphones offer is subdued, while the midrange is thin and gritty, plus piercing “at anything above a moderate volume.” The treble is “prominent and sizzly,” according to Consumer Reports, which means that “sounds that should have a delicate shimmer have a sound reminiscent of bacon frying.”
7. JVC HA-FR100X
The JVC’s HA-FR100X headphones earn low marks from Consumer Reports reviewers, who note that while this model is inexpensive at around $50, there are many other headphones that perform better. Reviewers recommend against using these headphones for music, though they may be sufficient for movie and TV dialog, podcasts, or audio books. Reviewers describe this model’s sound as “full, bass, and muffled,” with boomy bass, muffled midrange, and subdued treble. That all adds up to a sound that’s closed in and “lifeless.”
8. HiFiMan RE-300i
The HiFiMan RE-300i only costs $25, but that doesn’t make these cheap headphones a good buy. Consumer Reports reviewers found that this model is a bad choice for listening to music. They summarize the sound as “full, busy, and a bit choked,” and report that the bass lacks detail, the midrange is grainy and nasal, and the treble is extended but muted. Additionally, the small size of the earphone body makes them difficult to grasp when trying to fit them, and they “require careful placement for some users to get the best sound quality.”