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What are the best budget audiophile headphones on the market right now? Let’s dig into the most accurate, highest fidelity headphones that will bring out the highs, mellow down the lows, and pop up the mids!
If you’re an audiophile, you have to love your headphones.
Sure, nothing beats a great pair of speakers as far as spatial clarity goes. But speakers come up with their own problems – untreated rooms, amplification, and speaker placement, to name a few (and cost, to name a fourth).
Headphones are far easier.
A great pair of audiophile headphones will help you zero-in on the finest details without the fuss of treating rooms and perfecting placement. The fact that you can buy audiophile headphones for a fraction of the price of audiophile speakers is just the cherry on top.
Below, we’ll, look at the best budget audiophile headphones on the market and share the secrets of getting top-notch sound without spending an arm and a leg.
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x – Best Overall
- 90° swiveling earcups
- Detachable cables
- Powerful 40mm drivers
- 98dB sensitivity
- 15Hz to 24kHz frequency response
My choice of the overall best budget audiophile headphones, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x is delivered in a stylish cardboard box. In addition to the headphones, it contains a leatherette transport bag, service documents, and two cables, one straight and one in a spiral design. The straight cable is 3 m long, and the spiral cable can be extended from 1.2 m to 3 m. This is the first difference from the old receiver, which had a permanently attached cable.
The Audio Technica ATH-M40X is equipped with 40 mm drivers. Light neodymium is used for the magnets. The voice coil is made of copper-coated aluminum wire. In the frequency range from 15 Hz to 24 kHz, the headphone can work according to the factory specifications, which is significantly more than the frequency range perceived by the human ear. It can offer a sound pressure of 97 dB. The maximum input power is 1600 mW, measured at 1 kHz. The impedance is 35 ohms, which makes it suitable for mobile devices.
The product consists mainly of plastic, but it seems to be of high quality. The ear and head pads are made of synthetic leather, which feels comfortable and almost like the real thing. The length adjustment of the brackets is made of metal and divided into 17 steps that lock into place quite firmly. The auricles can be tilted 90° to the side and rotated 180° vertically. This way, the turning away of a shell and the trapping of the listener between the ear and shoulder, which is important for DJs, can be solved well. The ear cups can be folded in, which is very convenient for transport. The predecessor does not have these foldable bars, so again a point for product maintenance.
The Audio Technica headphones are circumaural and comfortably light at 240 grams. The receiver sits perfectly on the ears; the contact pressure is not too light and not too tight. So it sits well on the head, does not slip with every movement, and there is no uncomfortable feeling of pressure. The bass is tight but not overemphasized; the low mids are more subtle, which suits my listening habits. The high mids are powerful and accentuated. A beautiful, albeit a bit too clear, high-frequency reproduction rounds off the sound.
What I Don't Like
The folding mechanism is too free. Hence, the mussels keep sliding away, which can become annoying.
The headphones are ideal for studio work, live, and DJ use. In addition to the sound properties, they also provide good panorama resolution and depth graduation.
- Good sound
- Comfortable wearing
- Detachable cables
- Collapsible design
- High sensitivity
- The folding handle
Kz Zsn Pro – Most Affordable Earphones
- In-ear phones
- 7Hz to 40kHz frequency response
- 112dB sound sensitivity
- Deep bass stereo sound
- 24 ohms impedance
- Zinc alloy and resin material
These headphones from Yinyoo are delivered in white packaging with light gray printing. With the inclusion of a replaceable 2-pin cable as well as a 3 silicone tip set, a warranty card and user manual is included.
The housing of the earphones is mainly made of thermoplastics, with the zinc alloy faceplate screwed on. The ZSN has a dynamic driver inside. The impedance is 24 ohms and with 112dB sensitivity. The connection cable has a length of 1.2 m long and also a 3.5 mm jack plug.
As for the bass, it goes ultra-low, really physically for the ears. In the mid-range, the ZSN is a bit withdrawn but plays a little forward in the 2-3kHz range. This makes the ZSN sound fresh, fun, and authentic at the same time.
The earphones are a money saver! Even if it doesn't play every genre equally well, it should be worth the fun for everyone to get the ZSN as additional headphones. I can wholeheartedly recommend the ZSN for watching blockbuster films of any kind. It sounds like a home cinema in the ear.
What I Don't Like
The cable is quite thin and tends to get tangled, but this does not affect the electrical properties.
It's suitable for watching videos. With music such as Classic Rock, the earphones are no problem. However, with electronics or jazz, the bass pops hard into your ear canal a little too much.
- Cable is detachable
- Very low frequency
- Noise-canceling abilities
- One-year warranty
- Thin cable gets tangled a lot
Linsoul Tinhifi – Best Earphones
- 10mm diameter dynamic driver
- Frequency response of 20-20,000Hz
- Sensitivity of 104 ± 3dB
- Impedance of 32 Ω ± 15%
- 4-core copper cable
- 3.5mm gold plated jack connector
Tin HiFi is a Chinese company that already has a certain background, reputation, and experience in the market thanks to the creation of previous products such as the Tin HiFi T2. These earphones have raised the brand to the front page of the international audiophile scene. This well-known pair of in-ear HiFi phones have great technical capabilities at a reduced price. However, this time, we are faced with another successor, the Tin HiFi T2 Plus, which has little to do with its predecessor in terms of profile.
Tin HiFi T2 Plus has a more balanced approach that should satisfy everyone looking for a Tin HiFi T2 with a bit more bass. The Tin HiFi T2 Plus cable stands out for its good quality. Made of copper and protected by a strong, silver-colored Kevlar plastic sleeve, it has very good malleability, which has a favorable effect on comfort.
All its elements such as the jack, MMCX connectors, and the Y-divider are finished in metal. This excludes the spherical adjustment element that is made of hard and resistant plastic.
The Tin HiFi T2 Plus is a slightly bright IEM but with good timbre and tonal precision. Its profile is quite balanced, and although it tends towards a small V, it is quite neutral. It has a slight emphasis on the lower zone that adds some warmth to the whole outfit.
Highs are bright, light, crisp, detailed, and realistic. They spread very well but are neither strident nor enter into aggressive wheezing. The sound is at all times soft, very pleasant, airy, and spacious.
The mids have a slight emphasis on the upper part; they are not fatiguing or excessive. But they certainly emphasize their presence in the higher-pitched instrumental notes such as cymbals and some string and wind instruments.
The bass is very precise and deep, neutral, agile, and fast but well dosed and articulated. There's a good amount of warmth at the lower end, and there's more presence in the mid-bass area that is not congested or bloated. They are detailed, refined, with very good texture and layered composition. The subwoofers have a decent presence. They are not over the top, but they extend well and are deep. The soundstage is quite panoramic. It is not extremely expansive but has plenty of space.
What I Don't Like
Given the price and range of the product, it is a shame that the package doesn't include a bag or some type of rigid or semi-rigid case to safeguard the unit from possible accidents and their transport.
The Tin HiFi T2 Plus has a more balanced approach that should satisfy everyone looking for a Tin HiFi T2 with a bit more bass. It's for audiophile musicians.
- Good construction, comfort, and design
- Panoramic soundstage
- Good thickness
- Astonishing sound quality
- Very good quality cable
- No bag or carrying case
Philips Audio Philips SHP9500 – Best Open Back
- Circumaural over-ear headphones
- Open construction
- Wired headphones
- Dynamic transducers
These over-the-ear open headphones have a relatively high-quality and comfortable design.
Open headphones are not as common as closed ones for the simple fact that most people do not want to share what they are listening to on the subway, bus, or in any other public place with others. However, in terms of sound, the result is surprisingly good.
The audio is extremely balanced, with excellent mids. I found the bass to be great, although I had trouble hearing the deeper frequencies. The highs are balanced in most situations, but at higher frequencies, there may be some distortion.
The only thing that doesn't quite convince me are the letters “R” and “L” painted in white, although they perfectly fulfill their function of identifying each headphones.
The pads are large and extremely comfortable, but with the mesh finish, they can make you sweat at times. They are very thin too, allowing your ears to get quite close to the drivers, although it can become uncomfortable if your ears touch them by chance. If you don't like them, you can always change them for other compatible ones, although remember that this can influence the final sound.
Its black plastic appears to be very strong, giving a good sense of security. The headband is covered by plastic on the top and a flexible metal on the inside, which will allow you to increase or decrease the size.
What I Don't Like
EDM and hip-hop fans would prefer a bit more punching and kicking, as these headphones lack a bit of bass, which is normal for open headphones.
The Philips SHP9500 is not for all users, as they lack a microphone. And the fact that they are open can be a problem in some situations. I recommend them for gamers or “normal human beings.”
- very comfortable design
- Decently built
- Lightweight construction
- Accurate mids and highs
- No noise cancellation
- No microphone
MEE Audio Matrix3 – Best Wireless
- High-resolution drivers
- Bluetooth 4.0 technology
- Support for aptX and AAC.
- Comfortable and spacious ear pads
- Hands-free functionality
- Control button and micro integrator
- Up to 28h of battery life
The MEE Audio Matrix3 is the third generation of headphones developed by MEE Audio. With it, you will experience high fidelity and professional audio, and you can enjoy it without having to tie it to cables. All this in compact headphones that you can take wherever you want.
With the 40mm drivers mounted on the MEE Audio Matrix3, you can say goodbye to booming bass, dark profiles, and undefined highs. The sound that comes from these headphones is balanced, clear, and precise, which is surprising coming from a Bluetooth headset.
Whatever your favorite musical genre is, you will always enjoy a good performance in audio quality. To ensure superior audio quality, MEE Audio has integrated the latest wireless technologies such as AAC and aptX into its MEE Audio Matrix3. This provides us with the best audio signal over Bluetooth while reducing its latency to the maximum.
If, on the other hand, you want to enjoy your songs wired, you can do so thanks to its 3.5mm jack connection, while saving battery life.
Thanks to its over-ear design, the MEE Audio Matrix3 provides a complete seal, surrounding the ear. In addition to providing great comfort, this helps in a great way to isolate you from the outside noise.
Two other factors that ensure its great comfort are the ear pads which are made of memory foam and imitation leather. Also, its lightweight construction will allow you to wear these headphones throughout the day without discomfort.
Due to the efficient use of the Bluetooth 4.0 protocol and the high-density battery integrated into the MEE Audio Matrix3, you can have 24 hours of uninterrupted audio playback and 1000 hours in standby. Also, you don't have to wait while it charges, you can use its 3.5mm cable connection while the headphones are charging.
What I Don't Like
There's nothing to complain about.
The headphones are most suitable for watching TV wirelessly.
- Modern design with denim finishes
- Carrying case included.
- For excellent long-term comfort.
- High definition wireless sound
- Maximum fidelity
Koss Porta Pro – Best Budget
- 60 ohm impedance
- 101 dB sensitivity
- 3.5mm/6.4mm plug
- 12Hz to 25kHz frequency response
- Includes a carrying case
The Koss Porta Pro is a pair of headphones that has been around on the market for more than 35 years. Very open, the PortaPro is also very light. Its half-industrial-half-retro look stands out. An adjustment system makes it possible to manage the firmness of the pressure of the arch. A little archaic – considering the age of the headphones, it does not maintain the setting for very long.
But the biggest weak point is undoubtedly the hoop itself. Composed of two metal branches that slide on top of each other to adapt to the user's head, it is undoubtedly solid. But it contains a real hair trap: it carries a few hairs once it is removed. Annoying! Also, pay attention to the cable; its strength is questionable.
On the sound side, I cannot say that the PortaPro is fine. It has very dynamic mids and a slight veil on the treble.
After a period of adaptation, I love its great dynamics and its correct precision, despite its voluminous sound mass. It's too round at the bottom of the spectrum.
The side stage width and positioning are a bit cramped. Finally, this model has not aged too badly, and we understand that after 35 years and a significant price drop, it is still selling well. However, for a budget a bit higher, you can find more comfortable and more efficient models.
What I Don't Like
What I don't like is undoubtedly the hoop. Composed of two metal branches that slide on top of each other to adapt to the user's head, it is undoubtedly solid. But it contains a hair trap that hooks a few hairs once it is removed. Also, it doesn't isolate noise.
Koss recommends it for those who have refined musical tastes.
- Tested and trusted over the decades
- Very deep bass
- Quirky design
- Bottom of the spectrum too massive
- Hoop is a hair trap
Creative Aurvana Live! – Best Closed Back
- Closed back headphones
- Wired headphones
- 40mm driver
- High-grade ear pads
- Oxygen-Free Copper cable
The Creative Aurvana Live! is a pair of black headphones with good sound and a low price. The headphones have soft ear cups for good wearing comfort. It is well shielded from external noise. The headphone looks simple and dynamic.
The headphones have well-shaped ear cups that ensure precise playback. The composite membrane is made of bio-cellulose, so clear highs and deep bass are possible. An unadulterated sound is guaranteed by the 40 mm drivers with neodymium magnets. The headphones have a half-open design, so they are equally suitable for home and on the go use.
This model impresses me with its elegant and classic design. The material of the ear cups and headband is plastic, the ear cups and band have soft padding. The ear cups have a high gloss finish that not everyone likes. However, this design is perfectly fine for headphones in this price range.
The headphones offer crystal clear and detailed highs and deep bass, but it still doesn't seem treble or bass-heavy. The sound is balanced and precise. There is almost no distortion. The sound quality appears natural and unadulterated. The headphones have a closed design. The ear cushions are soft and, due to their construction, provide good shielding from outside noise.
The copper cable is oxygen-free and long enough to ensure sufficient freedom of movement. The plug is gold-plated, so there is no loss of signal transmission. Also, the headphones are very light, even after several hours they can hardly be felt and they are still comfortable to wear.
At an extremely low price, you get well-equipped headphones that come with good sound quality and a perfect fit. And they don't look cheap.
What I Don't Like
The headphone wires cannot be replaced.
The headphones have a closed design, so they are equally suitable casual and serious use. It's ideal for gaming and listening to music.
- Very good workmanship
- Closed construction
- Unadulterated, natural sound
- Good bass and treble
- Good padding
- Headphone wires not replaceable