The Best Headphones for Any Budget

by David Lipscomb

With the expanding use of portable devices beyond simple MP3 players and into the realm of tablets and smartphones, the need for a quality set of headphones becomes more important. The industry has responded, offering more personal audio choices than ever. In this sea of selection, picking out which set of headphones is the "best" becomes increasingly confusing. Audio quality is a subjective thing, so consulting a curated list of top choices makes sense prior to shopping.


Commonly associated and used with portable devices, earbuds offer personal audio in a discrete package. The best earbuds are those that possess a richness of sound that belies their size. The inexpensive AUVIO Elements earbuds, medium-range urBeats In-Ear and the upper-end Monster Pro Copper Turbines meet that expectation. The AUVIO Elements offer a balanced sound that defies their disposable-headphone price range, with the Monster Pro Copper units providing extreme clarity with high-end quality. Hallmarks of all three units are solid-but-not-overpowering bass, good-to-excellent sound isolation and overall clarity with vocals and speech.

Sport Earbuds

Sport earbuds distinguish themselves from conventional earbuds by offering some type of over-the-ear or other form of restraint, keeping the headphones from falling off during your run. Other features such as increased moisture resistance and an inline controller and microphone let you concentrate on exercising instead of playing with your phone. Top options in this category are the low-cost Radio Shack Earclips, upgraded Sony MDRAS20J with its innovative around-the-ear restraint system and the Powerbeats by Dr. Dre, offering solid bass from a compact in-ear design.

Wireless Headphones

Household chores and workouts go faster with a quality set of headphones, made even better by removing the tether between you and your portable device. Operating on Bluetooth technology, some of these units pair with compatible devices like iPads and Android smartphones. Other models use radio frequency spectrum in the 5 GHz range, offering a much extended range. Compact Bluetooth units like the Plantronics Backbeat show battery life on your Apple device. Models such as the Sennheiser RS120 give you superior audio performance in a full-size headphone, while the Beats Wireless headphones offer that solid trademark bass response and midrange clarity with wireless convenience.

Over-the-Ear Headphones

Serious listeners demand balanced audio reproduction, isolation and solid bass. For all three criteria to be adequately met, nothing beats a quality set of super-aural headphones. Sitting entirely over the ear, these models provide enhanced comfort for movie watching and extended critical-listening sessions. Excellent choices in this category feature the bang-for-the-buck JVC HA-RX300 super-aural units, mid-grade Yamaha Pro Monitor headphones and the upper-end Klipsch Mode M40 featuring noise-cancellation. These units are designed to please discerning audiophiles, presenting a level of detail and refinement typically found on high-end standalone speakers.

About the Author

David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.

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