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When it comes to headphones, there’s no group as passionate as the forum members over at Head-Fi. If you have a pair of headphones, chances are there’s a multi-page thread discussing its every nuance on their board.
It can be a little intimidating to sift through their threads (believe me), but the knowledge is invaluable. Before any major headphone-related purchase, I always check what the people there have to say.
In addition to sub-forums dedicated to different headphone styles and brands, Head-Fi also has a headphone buyer’s guide. The guide is compiled by people who read through a bunch of different Head-Fi user’s reviews and headphones that have become a bit of a hit in that community.
These are 15 pairs of headphones that cost AUD$130 or less that have been given the OK by Head-Fi.
I’ve read through the reviews and given you the Head-Fi reviewers’ thoughts in a nutshell, but it’s also worth going to Head-Fi and reading a full review if you want to learn more about each pair.
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This pair of earbuds has a slight bass emphasis, but not so much that it muddies the midrange and treble. Overall, these are a neutral pair of earbuds that sound good and are built well for the price.
One of the few 'classic' headphones on this list, the Koss PortaPros have been in production since 1986. According to Head-Fi, these headphones fall directly in the middle-of-the-road category. Their lack of super strong bass and treble response lead to a somewhat muffled presentation, although the midrange is pretty accurate. They might be more iconic than sonically excellent, but they're still in production for a reason -- people like them.
This pair of earbuds is capable of producing surprisingly accurate sound given its price. Bass, midrange, and highs were all constrained (in a good way) as to not compete with one another. You should be happy with these earbuds regardless of what genre of music you like. As a bonus, Head-Fi considered this pair to be better than some headphones twice its price, which at the time was $130, making their current quality-to-price ratio even better.
This pair of earbuds has a strong bass, middling midrange, and pretty good highs. When taken on its own, sound in the midrange (like piano and acoustic guitar), sounds great, but it can get a little lost in more sonically dense songs. On the bass and treble side, though, sound is typically where it should be.
This pair of earbuds has an overall balanced sound. The word one reviewer on Head-Fi emphasised to sum its sound up was 'clarity.' The midrange might seem a little weak at first, but depending on your taste, 'laid back' sound in that area might suit you well.
According to Head-Fi, the Superlux HD-681 EVO have a slight bass heaviness, but not enough to detract much from the mids or treble. The midrange can get impacted by the extra bass on some tracks, but not on others; the treble is great overall. These headphones are also accurate enough that you'll be able to detect bad mastering when wearing them; so if your favourite bands recorded low-fidelity music, you'll be able to tell.
According to one reviewer on Head-Fi, the Samson SR850's are the best headphones he's ever used. Bass, midrange, and treble all sound excellent, accentuating different parts of different songs and not interfering with one another. Another reviewer said that these were able to keep up -- bass-wise -- with other headphones he owned that were made to deliver extra bass. That same reviewer also praised this headphone's midrange and treble, although they noted the treble could get fatiguing if you listen at high volumes for extended periods of time.
These are not the headphones for bass heads. Bass isn't absent from them, but lower frequencies take a backseat to midrange (sound this headphone excels at producing) and treble (which gets extra emphasis.) One reviewer described the sound these headphones produce as 'smooth.'
Like the headphones I just mentioned, the Grado SR80e's are not meant for listeners looking for a lot of bass. According to Head-Fi, bass is still there, but it takes a backseat to midrange and treble. Vocals, guitars, and horns were all called out as sounding great through these headphones, and as a former Grado headphone owner myself, I totally agree.
This pair of earbuds has an extra boomy bass at the expense of midrange and treble sounds. But it still holds its own in terms of clarity, and for a budget pair of headphones, it is well worth the price of admission.
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According to Head-Fi, these are a pretty great-sounding pair of budget headphones. One reviewer went so far as to call them a 'really nice surprise.' They have a bit more bass emphasis with less attention paid to the midrange and treble. But for the price, these headphones sound better than pairs that cost a good deal more.
These 'best buy' headphones will shock you with their quality. They're bassy enough for hip-hop, and while their treble is a little too crisp, it can be toned down to an acceptable level by messing with the EQ. These aren't audiophile headphones, but they're among the best headphones in this price range.
According to Head-Fi, these headphones have a slight bass bias at the expense of accuracy in the midrange and treble. It's not too bad in the midrange, but you can definitely tell the treble doesn't present high frequencies as well as other headphones. Another reviewer also mentioned that the instrument separation is a little weak, and that it's hard to pick out different sounds in more complex pieces.
According to Head-Fi, these are a pretty neutral pair of headphones -- bass, midrange, and treble all sound pretty good overall. The only problem one reviewer noticed was that during fast parts of metal songs the bass doesn't hold up as well. Another reviewer went so far as to call them the 'best value for the money.'
This is a good 'all around' pair of headphones. One reviewer mentioned that the quality of the bass, midrange, and treble response was better than most other headphones he's tried at this price. Another reviewer gave a hypercritical breakdown of how these headphones performed when listening to 11 different songs. While not as overjoyed as the first reviewer, the second ultimately concluded that these were among the best headphones in their price range. I actually own these headphones and like them quite a bit. I find them neutral-sounding and perfect for both listening to and creating music.
This article was originally published on 8/30/2016.