If I wanted to buy in-ear headphones for under $100, I’d get the Marshall Mode. After researching a few hundred headphones in this price range, seriously considering over 150, and testing 54 (29 over the last two rounds, and 25 this round) with our expert audio panel, we’re confident that the Marshall Mode is your best bet in this price range and a serious upgrade from the earbuds that came with your phone. Not only did the headphones fit everyone (and many others didn’t), they sound better than much of their competition and also cost less.
The Marshall Mode are the best choice if you want in-ear headphones for around $100. In fact, they were the only headphones this round that made it into every one of our expert panelists’ top three picks. That’s because the Mode have a balanced sound profile that can handle any style of music you throw at them. The bass is slightly boosted, but it’s very well represented; there is no bloat or blurriness, even on already bass-forward songs. The highs are clear and don’t have the harsh, piercing quality that so many in this category do.
As for the fit, all of our panelists were able to get a good seal with one of the four included pairs of silicone tips. The low-profile earbuds don’t weigh down on your ear canal or stick out far enough to get snagged, so they’re comfortable when commuting. The build quality feels substantial, with a rubberized cord that transfers very little noise and a classic, edgy feel to the design that is reminiscent of a Marshall amp.
The single-button universal remote answers calls, handles music playback functions, and activates voice commands. iPhone users will have no problems, though depending on your Android platform track skipping may not always work. (Unfortunately, this is a common issue among Android devices.) The microphone is separate from the remote and sits up higher on the cable, closer to your mouth. If you’ve ever held the remote on your headphones up to your mouth to be heard on phone calls, this will be a welcome feature.
For iPhone or Android users that require a three-button remote, the 1More Triple Driver headphones are a wonderful choice. Via a switch (according to 1More), one model works with iPhones and most Android devices, too. Although our panel wasn’t as in love with the sound of the Triple Driver as we were with the Marshall, everyone agreed that the 1More performed vastly better than the majority of the other headphones we tested this round.
The Triple Driver has boosted bass and upper-treble frequency regions, so on electronic music, hip hop, and similarly mixed songs, our panel felt the sound could get a bit overpowering on the bottom and sibilant on the top. Songs that had already forward low bass notes could sound so loud through the 1More that they’d overpower some of the guitar strums. Similarly, the consonants on vocals could feel a little unnaturally forward. These flaws were just enough for us to rank the Marshall Mode over the Triple Driver; however, these issues weren’t pronounced enough to keep the Triple Driver out of our overall top picks. Overall, the Triple Driver sounds really good.
In addition, the Triple Driver comes with a lot of accessories: a hard case, a two-pronged adaptor for flights, an aluminum shirt clip, and a whopping nine sets of tips (three foam, six silicone). The build on the headphones themselves feels lightweight yet sturdy with a cloth-wrapped cable and rose gold accents. Perhaps most importantly, all of our panel was able to get a proper fit, which was not the case with many of the other in-ears.
If you are on a tight budget (or you’re the sort of person who tends to lose a lot of headphones), the AKG Y20U is a solid choice. The quality of sound you get for the price is pretty fantastic, and they have a single button remote and mic. That said, the Y20U lack the clarity in the highs and lower bass notes that you’ll find in our pick. If Y20U are good, our $100 pick is great.
Since starting at The Wirecutter three-plus years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing hundreds of (yes, hundreds: over 400 at the time of writing this) headphones, and my articles have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Electronic House, Fast Company, Forbes, Time, Sound & Vision, and Gizmodo, among others. I also work as a professional voice actor, so I spend a lot of time in and out of top recording studios around Los Angeles. Add to that my dual bachelors from Ithaca College in music performance and audio recording, and it’s clear I have a solid foundation in both how music is created and how it’s saved. With all of my experience, I’ve got a pretty good handle on what sounds good out there and what’s worth your hard-earned dollars.
As for the panel of experts: In addition to myself, we had Brent Butterworth, a Wirecutter A/V writer with decades of experience in the field for publications such as About.com, Home Theater, Sound & Vision, and many others; Geoff Morrison, writer for CNET and Forbes and A/V editor here at The Wirecutter; and John Higgins, a session musician and music director (with a music master’s degree from the University of Southern California), music/audio teacher, and occasional freelance audio reviewer.
When it comes to outside advice, I consulted a number of experts, including Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity and Steve Guttenberg of CNET. I read reviews on Engadget, Forbes, PCMag, Sound & Vision, and other professional sites where available. I also checked out some popular enthusiast sites like HeadFi.
With a focus on higher build and sound quality than cheap earbuds, the picks in this guide are for someone who loves listening to music on a portable device, wants to improve audio detail and sense of sonic space, but doesn’t want to drop a fortune. Perfect for commuting, these picks have a remote and mic to take calls and are compact enough to stuff in a shirt pocket. The sealed in-ear design will help to block out some external noise, too.
Please note: while these headphones are perfect for the walk to the train, they are not sweat-resistant and are therefore not made for the gym. You’ll want to check out our Best Wired Exercise Headphones guide for working out, as getting these picks wet could cause them to short out and break.
Just looking for something to replace the earbuds that came with your phone? Check out our Cheap In-Ear Headphones Guide. Or conversely, if you’re ready for a serious step up in sound quality, our $200 in-ear guide might be right for you. Still a little lost? That’s okay. Pop over to Which headphones should I get? We’ll get you sorted.
I researched new releases since we did our panel for the previous version of this guide and made a spreadsheet of everything that we hadn’t yet heard. Once I had that list, I then weeded out anything without a remote or mic, as in this price range, we felt it was very important that a day-to-day in-ear headphone have mobile phone capabilities.
From there, I read reviews on CNET, Inner Fidelity, What HiFi, and others, and I checked out enthusiast sites like Head-Fi to see if any model was particularly liked or disliked. I also scanned the reviews on Amazon to see if any large-scale manufacturing defects had cropped up. That eliminated a small number. I called in anything remaining to be tested by our expert panel. For this round, that meant 25 new pairs of headphones.
After a super fun night of burning all 25 in (unbox, plug in, start playlist, set egg timer… ding! repeat), I asked the panel to listen to each headphone using their own playlists. The panelists took notes and ranked their top three. We then factored in price, fit, and build quality. When all was said and done, we had a clear winner.
Our panel loved the Marshall Mode. It fit all of our testers well, and it had a mellow, full sound with a mildly-but-pleasantly boosted low-frequency range. The span over which this boost falls is narrow and relatively subtle on most tracks. Acoustic guitar, strings, and piano are unaffected. Only on songs with already intense lows—generally electronic and hip-hop music—does the bump show itself. In contrast with many headphones in this category that claim a bass boost, the Mode never sounds blurry, muddy, or smeared.
The highs on the Mode are clear and avoid the piercing sibilance that afflict many other headphones we tested. You’ll still easily hear snare and cymbal hits, as well as consonants on words, but they won’t dominate the soundscape or hurt your ears when you’re listening at higher volumes.
The mids are rich and have a weight to them. Guitars have an almost meaty quality—they’re sonically present and never lost in the mix. Overall, the Marshall Mode headphones are well suited to all kinds of music but especially show off their skill on rock and hip-hop.
The chassis on the Mode is thoughtfully designed: The single-button remote has a permanent but unobtrusive shirt clip to keep it from bouncing around when you walk, and the microphone is located separately, higher up on the left ear cable so it’s closer to your mouth. This means you won’t have to shout or hold the remote up to your face to have callers clearly hear you.
The cable is rubber coated; although it transfers a small amount of noise, it’s not distracting when you walk around. The earbuds themselves have a classic, modest design and are low profile and lightweight; they don’t hang out of your ear canal or drag down uncomfortably. There are four sizes of included tips, and all of our diversely-ear-sized panelists found one that worked for their ear canal size. This isn’t always the case.
It’s worth noting that this group of ~$100 contenders had a lot of ups and downs in terms of both fit and sound quality. We were shocked by how many headphone designs simply did not fit one or many of our panelists, even with multiple tip options provided. Here’s why that’s a big deal: when a headphone doesn’t seal properly, the sound quality is dramatically affected.
Worse, even the headphones that did fit often had peaked, unpleasant voicing: sibilant on top frequencies and boomy on the bottom frequencies. While we aren’t sure why the these issues were a trend this round, we do know one thing: the Marshall Mode didn’t suffer from either of these problems.
We looked for some other reviews on the Mode, but it seems most professional reviewers focused on the Mode EQ, which, admittedly, is a neat concept, but ultimately wasn’t our favorite in terms of sound. You can read more of our thoughts on the Mode EQ below. The one review we were able to find on the Mode was from Reviewed.com; they gave it a 9.1 rating. They, like us, appreciated the Mode’s sound quality, design and fit, though they dinged Marshall for not including volume control or accessories.
What is perhaps most impressive is that the Marshall Mode were our panel’s top pick before we considered the price. At around $30 cheaper than our second place pick, the Mode are a bargain—solid build, fantastic warm sound, great fit, amazing price. The Marshall Mode check off all our requirements and then some.
The Mode only have a single-button remote. Though it will handle play/pause, voice commands, and track skipping on most devices, some Android users may find the track skipping won’t work as well. In our tests with a Samsung Galaxy S7, for example, everything but skipping tracks backward worked. Sadly, because of the varying OS coding on Android phones, this is a common issue with universal remotes. We’d love a device-specific three-button remote but not so much that we’d ignore their great sound and price.
Also, while the overall balance of the Mode is wonderful, the highs can occasionally show their price point, sounding slightly coarse when compared to headphones in the $200 range. Speaking of the high-frequency range, listeners who like a bit more intensity to the highs may not be pleased with the Mode, and we’d advise those people look to our second-place pick for a more “audiophile” sound.
While they didn’t snag first place, the Triple Driver by 1More landed in most of our panelists’ top three and with good reason. The headphones have a lot going for them: a three-button-remote/mic that 1More claims will work with Apple and most Android products (yes, the same remote), a fabric wrapped cable, 9 sets of tips (6 silicone and 3 memory foam), an airplane audio adapter, and a hard-sided carrying case. The rose-gold-tone metal accents add a classy vibe, and the packaging all feels pretty impressive. If you’re giving the 1More as a gift, they certainly look as though they are expensive.
The sound quality of the 1More Triple Driver, while not our panel’s top pick, is still pretty fantastic. The mids and lows are balanced and very even-sounding, especially if you use the memory foam tips. Acoustic instruments are really well served. The silicone tips make the bass sound every so slightly louder and the highs a little sharper.
It’s in those high frequencies where the Triple Driver fell a little short. All of our panelists felt that the highs were peaked in a somewhat irregular way that caused consonants on words and cymbal hits to sound tizzy, sizzling, or harsh. They don’t reach the full-on piercing quality of many others that we tested, but somewhere around 8 kHz and 14 kHz, there is a jagged aspect to the Triple Driver’s sound. That was just enough for the Marshall to eke out a victory.
If the Marshall Mode is sold out, you prefer a brighter sound profile, or need a three-button remote, the 1More Triple Driver is a solid choice. However, our panel preferred the overall experience and price of the Mode better.
If you lose your headphones a lot, or aren’t quite ready to commit to this price range, one pair of the AKG Y20U is a solid budget option. They’re our pick for Best Cheap In-Ear Headphones to Replace Your Stock Earbuds. While you’ll lose some of the detail and sonic depth that you’d find in our $100 pick, the AKG are still a great choice for the price. They have a single-button mic and high frequencies that are clear but a bit more mellow than others in their range. They also come in a few fun colors.
While we love the AKG for their price, our $100 pick sounds better and is more sturdily built. The Y20U headphones are lightweight plastic and lack a reinforced cable or metal accents on the stress points.
So although they may be easier on your wallet if you lose them, the AKG aren’t built to be as durable as our pick in this guide, nor do they sound as great.
As we mentioned above, fit was a major factor this round. We’ve never before run into so many models that didn’t fit multiple panelists, even with varying tips provided. At this price range, that’s unusual and unacceptable. We generally take into account the fact that Brent has larger-than-average ear canals and Geoff has smaller-than-average ear canals. If one of the two has a fit issue but everyone else can easily get a seal, we note it but don’t completely eliminate a headphone for that reason alone.
However, when half of us or more can’t get a seal, that’s beyond unique ear shape issues: that’s a design issue. Sometimes it’s the shape or material of the tip; sometimes it’s the size and weight of the chassis. But whatever the reason, we’re looking for headphones that will fit most people right out of the box, and when several panelists can’t get a proper seal, we’re concerned that you won’t be able to, either. With fit being essential to good sound quality, it doesn’t matter if headphones have the best drivers and build quality ever; if they don’t fit well, you won’t be able to enjoy them.
1More Crystal Piston: Only available in a set of two, the Crystal Piston, like the name suggests, have a crystal embellishment on the earbud. Sadly, the Swarovskis were the only thing that sparkled on these headphones. The low frequencies are dull and blurry and end up covering the mids and highs. Additionally, the Crystal Piston suffer from a good bit of cable noise. Even at two-for-one prices, we’d prefer to stay with our pick.
1More Dual Driver: John seemed to be the only one of our panelists who enjoyed the dual driver. Brent couldn’t get a good seal, and Geoff and I both found the high frequencies to be too harsh and the mids to be recessed. However, John mentioned that he felt the Dual Driver might fall out of his ear, so perhaps fit affected his sound quality as well. Regardless, three out of four of our panel was enough for these 1More to be out of our top picks.
AKG N20U: If there were one word to describe the N20U it would be “almost.” Brent, Geoff, and I all mostly liked the sound: a slightly boosted bass, even mids, and mostly pleasant highs. What went wrong? There seems to be a spike around 3 kHz that was sizzling and fatiguing. It makes one section of the highs have a jabbing, sibilant quality that ruins what could otherwise have been a great-sounding headphone. Additionally, the slightly conical shape of the tips made the N20U feel somewhat unstable in our ears. John said he needed a tip size between the M and S to get a really comfortable seal, and while I felt the same about the M and L. Almost-good-fit and almost-great-sound just isn’t good enough for us to recommend these.
Audiofly Clublife Adagio: Blaring, and this pair sounds cheaper than its price tag. There’s a weird dip in the mid frequencies and uneven highs. Overall, none of us were thrilled with the sound.
Audiofly Clublife Maximal: Harsh highs that make a drumstick snap on the rim of a snare sound like it’s coming from a cheap speaker. Geoff felt that male voices had an odd coloration, and all of us agreed to pass.
Beats urBeats: “Muddy,” “muddled,” “exaggerated.” That about sums up the sound. The urBeats lack definition, and the woofing bass completely smears the entire frequency range. The bass is even too much when listening to hip-hop. None of our panelists liked the headphones.
Beyerdynamic iDX 120 iE: We had high hopes for the iDX 120 iE, since our last pick was the now discontinued MMX 120iE. Unfortunately, the iDX didn’t live up to our expectations. The bass is forward and sounds like it has reverb on it, and the treble has a hissing, unrefined quality. Geoff liked the flat cable, but that’s about the only positive our panel reported. Darn.
Bose Sound True Ultra: Bose in-ears have a different kind of fit. They don’t make a seal but rather sit just outside the ear canal. This means there is no sound isolation, which depending on your opinion, is either a good thing or a bad thing.
In certain circumstances, say, walking near traffic or running in busy areas, awareness of your surroundings can be crucial. It’s something I struggle with when debating the merits of workout headphones all the time. But these aren’t Bose’s sport offering, and Brent detested the fit. The sound is obviously engineered to counteract the lack of seal, and to Brent, the voicing sounded “crude” and the fit to him was “unusable.” John found the fit comfortable and enjoyed the snappy highs, but he said he much prefers the isolated in-ears. That said, they are light and stay put for most of us.
If you like hearing more than just your music, you can snag them, but we felt they were overpriced, especially when you can get Bose’s sport version and have sweat resistance. Or, if you want to know what we recommend for workout headphones, you can read more here.
Brainwavz S3: Brent and I both had issues with getting a seal from the S3, even using the largest tips. We could get one side to seal well, but the other had to be held in place. If we let go of the cable, the weight of the metal chassis would pull the earbuds out of our ear. Fit aside, all of our panel found the S3 had a thin-sounding vocal range, and the lows were too rounded off. Possibly this bass-loss was because the seal wasn’t great. Either way, it made stringed instruments (guitar included) lack a richness and depth to the sound. The S3 weren’t terrible, but they were flawed enough to be shut out from our top picks.
Creative Aurvana In-Ear2 Plus: Thin middle frequencies and diminished bass leave the In-Ear2 Plus feeling really top heavy. Kick drums, for example, have a “pa-pa-pa” sound rather than “Boom-boom-boom” and everything else ends up sounding as though it’s coming from an inexpensive speaker.
Grado iGi: The iGi are the first in-ear headphones from enthusiast-favorites Grado. The iGi include a variety of really unusually-shaped tips. Brent and I couldn’t get a seal, but I pulled the tips off of a pair of Phiatons and managed to get a seal and listen. Unfortunately, Geoff, John, and I all agreed that the high frequencies on the iGi were not only too intense, but too harsh and sibilant. “S” sounds especially pierced.
While the mids and lows were actually really lovely, the incredible spike in the consonant range was far too fatiguing for us to be able to listen for long periods. We felt that if Grado toned down the highs, they’d have made our top picks. But as the iGi are tuned now, we can’t recommend them.
Klipsch R6i: Klipsch have a tip shape that is specific to their brand, and it never fit Brent. This isn’t anything new. However, John couldn’t get a seal because his ear canals landed somewhere between the M and L size, and I couldn’t get the L to stay put either; they kept feeling as though the earbuds would fall out any moment. Then Geoff mentioned that he was able to get a seal, but that the fit “felt weird.” 0 for 4.
Interestingly, John, Geoff, and I all noticed that there was a lot of low-frequency intensity in spite of the insecure fit. Usually, when a headphone doesn’t seal well, you lose the bass. Which means either Klipsch wanted the R6i to be very bass-intense headphones, or they tried to tune around an unsealed tip. Whichever the case, none of us were happy with the fit, and we really didn’t feel we could evaluate the sound properly.
LSTN Bowery: This was another tricky fit situation. With short, fat tips that look like a mushroom cap, I couldn’t get a seal, and John’s fit was loose enough that the weight of the bud slowly pulled the Bowery out of his ear. The large tips were too big and the medium too small for us. Which is odd, because statistically speaking, we have the most average ear canal size. Brent and Geoff could get seals, however, and both agreed that there was too much push in the male vocal range, and that the bass was somewhat dull.
LSTN Wembley: The shorter shape of the chassis on the Wembley meant that unlike the Bowery, John could maintain a seal. I still had no luck. The opinions were really varied on the sound. Brent felt that he’d like about 2 dB more low frequencies to balance out the mids and highs. John felt the bass was way too heavy and the upper ranges muted. Geoff thought there was a dip in the mids. What was going on? I suspect fit issues. Though the tips could seal on all three panelists, perhaps the angle at which the earbuds needed to be positioned to accomplish that seal caused a massive difference in the way the sound waves bounced around in their ear canals. This could alter their perception of the Wembley. With no way of knowing what results others would get, we had to keep these from our picks.
Marshall Mode EQ: The Mode EQ has a little switch on the side of the remote that toggles between a what Marshall describes as a “warm sound” and a “brighter sound.” While our panel didn’t dislike the EQ, we didn’t like either option more than the standard black and white Mode. Geoff, who adores strong bass, really liked the EQ, but the rest of the panel felt the low frequencies were a bit overstated on the “warm” setting and the highs a bit jagged on the “bright” setting. Overall, we just found the standard Mode to be our favorite of the Marshall in-ears.
Molami Stitch: Molami are a fashion-forward brand that caters to a more traditionally feminine aesthetic. And for those with smaller ear canals, like Geoff, the fit is really comfortable. Most of the panel felt the bass was a bit boomy and resonant sounding, but Geoff didn’t find that to be the case at all. It’s possible that the design and tuning really works best for those with smaller inner ears. But unless you’re part of that population, the Stitch probably isn’t for you.
Panasonic Drops 360 Luxe: The Drops 360 didn’t go over too well with the panel. John had a tough time getting them to stay in as they slooooowly came loose, and Brent and I found the bass to be laughably intense and boomy. Even acoustic guitar sounded muddy and blurry. Geoff, who loves forward lows, said the Drops have “probably more bass than most people would want.” So that’s saying something right there. Like standing next to a subwoofer at a concert, the Drops bass bump covers up everything else. It’s not a listening experience we’d recommend.
Phiaton MS100 BA: Affordable, and with a single-button remote, the MS100 BA were close to being a pick if it weren’t for the sibilant highs. Everyone on the panel noticed them and found them to be fatiguing. There is a slight dip in the male vocal range, so if you turn up a man singing, the “S” sounds on the words really pierce. A near miss.
Phiaton MS300 BA: The MS300 BA underwhelmed John and Geoff, who both felt the highs were sibilant. John also referred to the lows as “breathy sounding,” by which he meant that kick drums and electronic bass lacked depth and sounded unsupported. I liked the mids and lows and felt they had a lot of dexterity. But the highs were just too piercing and harsh, specifically on consonants and cymbal hits, for me to listen at length comfortably. Brent couldn’t get a seal, not because of the tips, but the shape of the earbud chassis prevented him from getting the MS300 BA properly seated in his ears. Like the MS100, there were just a few too many flaws to put the 300 in the top picks.
Polk Nue Era: Polk is having a renaissance in their product lineup. The aesthetic is cool, the build quality top-notch. The Nue Era are no exception. Modern looking with a tortoise-shell color option, Geoff loved what he described as the “Googie-esque look.” The problem came with the fit. Geoff was unable to get the unique oblong shape to fit in his smaller ears. (They are designed to wedge into the antihelix part of your ear so they’re more stable.) The rest of us managed to get a decent fit but found that the frequency response was zig-zagged in a way that was just enough to knock them out of the top three. If you listen to music that’s sonically dense (think Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound) you can hear dips and valleys that weren’t in the recordings. Brent tied them with the MEElectronics A151, and I put them just out of my top four. Overall, they’re on the right track, but sadly, we’d end up spending our $70 elsewhere.
Puro IEM500: the IEM500 were just discontinued, and it’s just as well. The highs were blaring, the bass was lacking, and the overall sound quality was that of a cheap speaker. They did have a nice sweater-like carrying case, though.
RHA S500i: RHA make some seriously substantial-feeling headphones. Metal accents, rubberized cable, a caddy for a wide variety of tips… everything RHA makes is beautifully designed. Unfortunately, despite their lovely build quality, our panel just didn’t care for the sound quality. Acoustic guitar and female voices sound pretty good, if a little resonant. However, once you add some bass to the mix, everything becomes really blurry. The lows are sloppy and boomy. The highest highs are boosted in an attempt to compensate and add definition, but even male vocals get overwhelmed. As a result, consonants on words pierce through the blurry overall sound like a stick poking out of a cloud.
The Sennheiser Momentum line is known for intense bass. The in-ear additions to the family are no exception. In fact, our resident bass-head, Geoff, liked the Momentum in-ears better than our old Beyerdynamic top pick. However the rest of the panel (Brent, John, and I) found that the bass boost sounded spiked and bloated and made male vocals sound a bit muddy. The highs are clear, but there is a spike somewhere around 5 kHz that leaves strings and cymbal hits sounding a bit edgy or harsh, almost like when you turn a speaker up too loud and it blares.
In general, the sound reminded me more of the Momentum on-ear (which our panel didn’t adore) than the over-ear (which our panel liked). But if you’re someone who loves the Momentum line in general (like Geoff), you’ll probably like the Momentum in-ears. Plus, the Momentum offer three button in-line mic/remotes in Android as well as Apple formats. So for those of you non-Apple users out there, this might come as welcome news.
Thinksound ts02+mic: Personally, I was excited to include a company that is environmentally friendly. These in-ears are packaged in recycled materials and have wood chassis. In general they are lovely looking. Sadly, the overall sound, while not offensive, is lackluster. All our panelists commented on the bloat in the mid/bass range, and while they were warm-sounding, they weren’t our overall favorite. That said, if you need a universal remote and want to make a statement with your headphones, you can get them on Amazon.
Trinity Techne: The Techne is one of a growing number of headphones that come with a series of filters that enable you to alter the sound profile. With the Techne, Trinity includes three filters: red, gray, and purple. It took some digging, but I found that Trinity refers to these sound profiles as “fun,” “vivid,” and “smooth,” respectively. From what we heard, “fun” has a bass-forward profile, “vivid” is more pronounced in the high frequencies, and “smooth” is somewhere in the middle of the other two.
Brent liked the red “fun” filter, but felt the other two were way too sibilant. The rest of us weren’t fans of any of the filters. We all agreed that the red was the closest to something we liked, but the bass was blurry and the highs were sibilant. Because the other two filters enhanced the upper range, those hissing highs only became more intense as we swapped out for the gray and purple options.
Additionally, the filters are designed to screw into the earbud chassis on one end with the rubber tip affixed to the other end. Unfortunately, if you need to twist the earbud to adjust it in your ear canal, the filter can unscrew a bit and become loose. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it is a flaw that could become annoying over time. Added to an overall sound that none of our panel adored, and the Techne was out of the running.
UrbanEars Medis Plus: Because of the unsealed design, the low bass is lacking. This was enough for Brent to dislike them. Geoff, however, loved them: while the “vocal range was a touch ‘shouty’ feeling, they nailed the overall sound. John and I found that the upper bass line was well represented, but like Brent, we missed the truly low bass line that you can really only get in sealed designs. Unless you absolutely must have an unsealed in-ear, we think you can pass.
Yamaha EPH-M100: Unrefined lows give a lack of depth and dimension to the M100. Voices sound thin and unsupported, and the upper mids sound harsh. While I really liked the squishy tips and how secure they felt in my ears, Geoff found the M100’s fit “fiddly.” Nobody was very happy, and we don’t think you’d be either.
Yamaha EPH-M200: In an platonic ideal, you want your headphones to be even-sounding across all frequency ranges: a flat line from bass to treble. In contrast, the M200 are a craggy mountain range of peaks and valleys. The mid frequencies are recessed, and the lows and highs have a few spikes here and there that make bass instruments sound blobby. Voices sound simultaneously muffled in the vocal range yet sizzling on the consonants. It’s an odd effect that none of our panelists found to be positive.
Zipbuds Slide: The Slide was recently rebranded as a sport headphone, but even in that category, they likely wouldn’t have gotten past the listening round to the workout test. Our panel, with the exception of Brent, found the bottom frequencies overly oppressive. Bass-lover Geoff even described the lows as “boomy.” I think Brent may have had a similar fit to mine, which was a little loose. I noticed if I wiggled the Slide out ever so slightly, the headphones sounded far more balanced. That said, a loose fit won’t work in everyday or sport conditions, so the Zipbuds slid out of our top choices.
Trinity are taking pre-orders for their affordable Vyrus changeable-filter headphones.
In September 2016, Denon announced the wired AH-C620R in-ear headphones. The AH-C620R have Comply-brand memory-foam tips and a built-in mic and remote. The headphones work with the Denon Audio smartphone app—available for iOS and Android—to adjust your mobile device’s sound, as well as set up playlists and access Internet radio stations. We’re looking into testing the AH-C620R for our next update.
With a shape that is comfortable, and a rich, lush sound, the Marshall Mode is bound to make your ears happy. Plus, they’re affordable, so they’ll make the budget-conscious pleased as well. If you’re ready to amp up your headphone game, the Mode is sure to rock your world.