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Budget Earphone Shootout
Sunday 20, November 2022   |   Post link

Plato said - "Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything."

I for one cannot imagine life without music. We have come a long way from dealing with the dreaded hiss of analog players like the Walkman to CD digital audio which eliminates most of the problems of analog.

Personal music players may have changed from the humble cassette player to mobile phones, one thing however has remained unchanged - the "earphone". Your earphone impacts your listening experience more than any other component. This makes having a good pair extremely important if you're serious about your music.

I'll be reviewing four budget earphones in this blog-post:

Audio Technica CLR100iS
Boult Bassbuds Oak-in-ear
iPhone earphones

I listened to the following tracks to determine their sound quality:

  • Only Human by the Jonas Brothers
  • Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven
  • Extreme Ways by Moby

Audio Technica CLR100iS

This pair retails for INR 699. This is one of the best sounding earphones of all the four. The midrange is clear, voices sound really great. The bass sounds a bit muddled but not enough to cause a huge concern. All three songs sounded engaging. Volume level is average. Highs sound just right, overall the pair produces very natural sounding music and can be listened to for a long time. The build quality is slightly above average howeverat times it felt a little delicate, I would have preferred a more robust feel.

Lows four star
Mids four star
Highs four star
Musicality four star
Build four star
Value for money four star
Price Rs. 699

Boult Bassbuds Oak-in-ear

The pair retails for INR 499. It is the cheapest of the lot except for of course the iPhone Stock earphone which comes free with somes iPhones. It produces a natural tone very much like the Audio Technica. The bass is slightly more pronounced without sounding boomy. Like the Audio Technica, the midrange is clear with great sounding voices. It presents a wide soundstage and does not cause ear-fatigue. Volume level is average. Highs are crisp & clear. The build quality feels quite good. Of all the earphones, the Boults perhaps has the most stylish and unique look. Overall a very enjoyable & affordable set of earphones.

Lows four star
Mids four star
Highs four star
Musicality four star
Build four star
Value for money five star
Price Rs. 499


The pair retails for INR 799. The JBLs offer higher sensitivity than all the others. The base is more pronounced which however comes at the price of an artifical sounding midrange. The treble is on the higher side too making it sound bright and making it difficult to listen to over longer periods of time. This pair sound less musical than the Audio Technica and the Boult, instrument separation is not very clear either. Considering the price, there are clearly better alternatives.

Lows four star
Mids four star
Highs four star
Musicality four star
Build four star
Value for money five star
Price Rs. 799

Stock Apple iPhone wired earphones

A lot of Apple affectionados will swear by any and all Apple products but if music is important to you, you can do better when it comes to the earphones. Clearly Apple didn't make these for music and if they did, I just can't respect Apple ever again. The earphones have low sensitivity, sound lasks musicality, bass is non-existent, mid-range is pronounced but voices sound nasal and harsh. Even comparing audio calls, all other earphones produced much clearer listening experiences. All I could think of when listening to music using the Apple earphones was "how much longer do I have to do this?".

Lows four star
Mids four star
Highs four star
Musicality four star
Build four star
Value for money five star
Price Rs. 1699


To be honest, I wasn't sure of the Boults, I have never had any of their products and did not expect this level of quality. In terms of value-for-money, it is the clear winner. Coming in close second is the Audio Technica, this is a well-known Japanese audio company, I expected them to perform and the pair did so wonderfully. The JBLs - a well known brand - were a bit of a disappointment and comparing the Apple pair was a revelation!

So with that this post comes to an end. I would be very interested to know which earphones you prefer for music and why, you can always drop a line using the comment box or mail to sbytestream@outlook.com.

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