So, you love listening to music, but can’t afford high-end headphones that cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars? Don’t worry, because we got you covered. In this article, we will review the 5 best budget headphones that you can buy right now and get the most out of your favorite music. Let’s take a look.
1. Sony MDRV6
The winner of the best budget headphones are definitely the MDRV6’s by Sony.
In this list, we have another pair of headphones that were designed in the mid-80s, the Sony MDRV6. Released in 1985, it was produced for the masses, form monitoring headphones, to critical listening, to studio use, and for home use as well, they are very affordable and have a great build quality made of excellent materials, and it is still in production after 34 years, simply marvelous, let’s see what else these have to offer.
Design-wise the Sony MDRV6 hasn’t changed one bit since their first production, still rocking those 80’s vibes, which you may or may not like, it is entirely subjective. But if you have an acquired taste for the retro these are just excellent, with a simple radio room design of the earcups and big leather headband that provides support, and it writes Studio Monitor on it. These are not meant to look cool but I can see a lot of people drooling over this kind of design.
Sony MDRV6 has combined two possible designs of headphones, the over-ear design which provides maximum comfort and cushioning, and on-ear design which delivers the best seal and isolation, providing excellent sealing and cushioning without putting pressure to the head.
One caveat of these may be the non-removable cable, that is permanently attached to the headphones, it is a 1-meter coiled cable which can be extended or stretched up to 3 meters, but it isn’t a deal-breaker for these exceptional cans.
If I had to explain the sound of the Sony MDRV6 with just a few words I would say, balanced, natural, but exciting. The performance is pretty good and very versatile, so you can use them with every genre of music, gaming, films, and even some critical listening, can’t get a more all-around sound. The sound is a little crisper and sharper, not like most commercial headphones that feature warmer fuller sounds, but it is quite fast, detailed and precise.
If you want just a single pair of headphones for every purpose and you will do a lot of listening the Sony MDRV6 delivers tremendous value for its budget price.
2. Audio-Technica ATH-M30x
Professionals are always looking for better and better headphones with the most accurate soundscape and clear audiophile-grade quality. Most of those aforementioned qualities are present in the high-end studio-quality headphones, but Audio-Technica provides excellent headphones for critical listening for every budget, enter the ATH-M30x. These headphones may not be for your daily commute but if your job description has a critical listening requirement, the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x is perfect for you.
In the design department, the whole ATH-M series of the company rock the same design, which would be pretty bad for other companies, but with Audio-Technica headphones and their intended use, it is a whole different story. They have a really simple design with a utilitarian frame that extends upon sliding to adjust for your head size, it is all black and made mainly of plastic, and they have the good build quality and will endure the test of time.
The amount of padding on this device is excellent, both earcups have plenty of cushioning and the headband is fully padded as well for maximum comfort. The earcups can be rotated up to 90 degrees horizontally and up to 15 degrees vertically, providing you excellent versatility, and I found that even after extended use, I felt no discomfort from these headphones.
It is equipped with two 40mm drivers that have a frequency range from 15Hz to 22kHz at 96dN and impedance set at 47 Ohms. The Audio-Technica ATH-M30x doesn’t feature a detachable cable which is a disadvantage for some people, however, the attached cable is extremely rugged and sturdy with 10 feet length, which should last a lifetime and has plenty of lengths.
The main selling point of the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x is its performance, for its asking price you could not find the same clarity, soundscape, definition, and transparency, the definite best headphones for professionals on a budget. The sound is balanced and neutral just like it was intended and has adequate performance through all the frequency range.
To conclude, I would like to say that for the studio you can’t get better performance, reliability and comfort, at this price range, class work from Audio-Technica.
3. Koss Porta Pro
The Koss Porta Pro has been first released in 1984, and since then it has endured fierce competition. Professionals, critics, and buyers have always praised the exceptional quality comfort, sound and overall value of this product. For their listed price the Koss Porta Pro has no weak points, and nothing can compare with their portability and lightweight, let’s take a closer look at these headphones.
The Koss Porta Pro is small, an open back headphone that is designed in the 1980s, it has no padding on the headband, but it is very lightweight and doesn’t put any strain on the ears. The earcups can be folded for easy storage and you can put them in the little carrying pouch that is included in the package.
The design of this device is pretty cool in my opinion, and rather unique, the earcup pads are small but they provide good comfort, and above them, you have an anchor point that has a comfort zone adjustment switch for decreasing or increasing the pressure on your ears, and it was functional to my surprise. The comfort was excellent and it stayed put on the head once you adjust it securely without putting pressure on your head as if they are floating above it.
They provide no isolation whatsoever due to their open-back design, they are portable and you can listen to music with them in your daily commute but the experience won’t be the same, and there is also the sound leakage issue. Despite not being ideal you can comfortably listen to music with them, and I think that they will provide great situational awareness if you use them for your morning run.
Despite being small and affordable, the Koss Porta Pro provides excellent sound, with powerful and punchy bass, smooth and balanced mids, and clear highs, without any bleeding in the frequencies whatsoever. The soundstage is very good and for its super cheap price, the overall listening experience is perfect.
You can find caveats with these, however, when you consider everything, you really can’t compare these with its competitors, truly amazing.
4. AKG K240
The AKG K240 are an excellent pair of headphones that are affordable and are mainly intended for studio use. Audiophiles and producers have been known to use these for years thanks to their clear and accurate sound, good looks and balance focused frequency range. For that price, you can’t find better sound quality in any headphone that is apparent on the market.
Right out of the box I was impressed by the looks of the AKG K240, with their golden finish and their trademark AKG headband, look beautiful and no one would guess that these are a budget headphone.
The build quality is not up to par with the looks, but it is still passable, the plastic is a little flimsy, but if you go with its intended use I don’t see these falling apart. Like a true AKG, the K240’s are also pretty light and in turn deliver excellent comfort, I can comfortably say that these are the most comfortable headphones in this list.
The pads are decent and the clamping force is pretty low, but this results in lacking isolation making these headphones not appropriate for commuting. This is also due to their semi-open nature, which is not good at keeping the sound inside, however, it is needed for achieving a better sound for critical and analytical listening. But then again they are not made for commuters or casual users.
The AKG K240 features some amazingly detailed mids and highs with tremendous clarity, the vocals were crisp and clear, stringed instruments, cymbals, and wind instruments all sounded perfect. The detail resolution on high notes was excellent, and the speed as well thanks to its semi-open nature.
The bass was precise and present, but not energetic and powerful which is not a deal-breaker for analytical headphones, but if you enjoy music with heavy bass and sub-bass, you might want to look elsewhere.
If you want to try as to what an audiophile-grade sound quality looks like, you should give these affordable headphones a try, as they provide a good way to enter that world. Definitely one of the best budget headphones out there.
5. Tribit XFree
You have to be extra careful when you are shopping in the budget range, especially headphones because most manufacturers make large sacrifices in sound quality and feature just to put out a budget product. A safe bet for casual users say commuters, the Tribit XFree provides excellent value for its budget price, thanks to its comfort, quality build, wireless and wired playing, lengthy battery life and decent sound. They lack premium features such as noise-canceling, but it is expected at this price point and it is not a deal-breaker.
As most budget headphones, the Tribit XFree sports a very basic and generic design with an all-black design, two earpieces attached to the plastic band that sits on your head. Unlike, most of these headphones fold inwards for convenient storage in their included case, which was a nice touch of detail. The band of the device feels like hard rubber on touch and has faux-leather cushioning on its underside for comfort.
On the outside part of the earpieces, you will find a decorative grille with the Tribit logo on them, on the left side you will find just the 3.5mm port for wired operation, and on the right side, you will find the power button, volume buttons, and the micro USB port covered with a flap.
As I mentioned the comfort was pretty good with these, as the leatherette earcups had plenty of cushioning on them that allowed for lengthy listening sessions, but they didn’t offer a lot of breathabilities. The Tribit XFree is extremely easy to use and the connection is seamless from the get-go, and the controls don’t have a learning curve to them for your convenience.
The sound of these headphones for their asking price is great, but if you are used to listening with high-quality pricy headphones with crisp and clear sounds with enhanced bass, you will find the experience lesser. The 40m speakers provide clarity in the midrange and the trebles were appropriate and aggressive enough, however, the bass was a little lacking in places.
You really can’t go wrong with the XFree if you don’t have high listening demands.