Last year our list of the best earphones under $50 was a huge hit so we wanted to follow it up this year but at the same time expand the budget for those folks with a little bit extra to spend on. The industry has been growing fast over the past 12 months but and many new in ear headphones have hit the market yet at the same time you are still going to see a number of familiar names from previous years because when something sounds good it sounds good and over time we have seen a number of these budget earbuds become even more affordable as the price drops the longer they remain on the market. To make our cut all the IEM's listed below needed to meet our strict criteria of offering a combination of killer build quality, amazing sound and a high level of value for money.
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KZ ATE by knowledge zenith
When we reviewed the KZ ATE earbuds late year we were blown away by the amount of value that this low cost earphone has to offer. The sound was fairly balanced with a slight tint towards the bass end of the spectrum which made it a great option for a variety of music genres. The sound was befitting of that of an earbud many times the price offering up a load of detail and reasonably large soundstage for the price. It is very uncommon to see such a budget friendly earphone to come in sporting this sort of design and is a credit that it was produced with a lot of care as to what audio enthusiast want. The IEM over the ear design helps them to stay in place making them a good headphone for sports and travel without them ever falling out. The cable is another bones here with it being a very cool looking copper twist design that we found to be very resistant to tangling. There is also some unique innovation that we haven seen before in the way of the hanging weights as opposed to ear-guides. This method helps to keep the earbuds cable hanging behind the ear. Fit was extremely comfortable and a good selection of quality buds are provided in the package to get you going.
The Soundmagic E10 earbuds have been on the market for many years now yet they still pop up on almost every best earbuds under $50 list you can find. Thats no surprise because the E10 offer up boatloads of desirable features for only $40. The all metal housing is extremely strong meaning that they are able to take years of abuse from being thrown in a backpack to being dropped on a hard surface I am pretty sure these rugged earphones can deal with all but the harshest of treatments. The cable is another bonus with it being resistant to tangles as well as having a good thickness on it to help the longevity even further. A custom metal jack and Y-splitter as well as metal filters and gold plated jacks are also all present on this IEM. Sound is very well balanced and offers a clean and detailed listening experience suited for users wanting to listen to the earphones with rock, indie, folk etc but it also has the ability to drop a good level of bass even if it isn't quite as punch as something like the Zero Audio Carbo Basso listed below. The Sounmagic E10 also come in a range of different colours which makes them a suitable option as a budget earphone option for the fashion conscience amongst us but don't be fooled these earbuds will sound infinitely better than anything Dre's Beats have produced over the past few years.
Vsonic have for many years now been producing quality earbuds for enthusiasts. The Vsonic GR07 was for many the best budget audiophile earbud for quite some time and I rated the bass enhanced version the GR07BE highly in our review. This is a company that know sound very well and knows how to make a great earphone. The new Vsonic VSD3S are a long awaited update to the range and come in as an incredibly low price of just $49 to those in the US market.
Zero Audio Carbo tenore
The Carbo Tenore represents one of the great audio community finds of the past 5 years. Before this massive thread on Head-Fi it Zero Audio were relatively unheard of but now are consistently praised for their efforts in brining great sound quality to portable audio fans at very reasonable prices. Theres a reason that people talk so fondly of them because these earphones offer up a sound that can compete with those many times the price of the Tenore. In our time with the Zero Audio earphones we found the highs and mids to be nicely balanced and a nice tight and punchy bass. Soundstage was excellent for a sub $100 earphone as was stereo separation. Build quality was excellent so we expect these to last you many years of listening pleasure and the fit makes them incredibly comfortable for use over long listening sessions.
Our pic for the best budget in ear headphone in 2016 is the Shure SE215. Its hard to believe that you can get an IEM this good under $100 but Shure have done it and during our review we highly impressed not just with the sound but the build quality and design. The SE215 is and earphone designed to be used as a stage monitor and as such it takes a number of design queues from it far more expensive brothers in Shures SE range. You get a whole lot of earphone as a result. The build quality is phenomenal and designed to take a beating. The 215's feature a detachable cable making it possible to install a custom cable of your choice at a later date. Shures warranty is one of the best in the business and comes as 2 years as standard. Sound is slightly on the warm side and features plenty of that much loved Shure "house sound" (or brand tuning) and it also comes in the choice of a few different colours to boot. They are certainly good looking earbuds but have the sound quality to back them up and a feature set and build quality that others can not get close to at this price point.
The Sennheiser momentum series has been about great sound and design for those who are using there earphones on the go. This has made the momentum series on of the most popular earbuds for commuting and travel and often one that you will see in airports all around the world. The design is very cool and very comfortable with its ergonomically shaped housings, novel strain reliefs and multi coloured cable. Just a few months back the Momentum were priced around the $100 mark but you can now find them on Amazon for well under $60 including delivery. The have a fairly neutral sound with a nice amount of bass that will go well with a number of modern genres such as pop, R&B, Hip Hop etc but the perform equally as well when playing rock and acoustic music. The momentum range also work with smartphones and are the only set of earbuds with microphone on this list. Call quality is crisp and clear and the inline remote also offers users some extra added functionality such as play, pause, skip and of course volume up and down control. All in its a great and stylish package from one of the biggest companies in portable audio.