Although the quality of earphones that come out of the box have improved, spending a little to upgrade your earphones is one of the best ways to get the most from a smartphone, or any other portable player. The instant difference in audio quality needs to be heard to be believed – better, more impactful bass, crisper, more detailed treble and better isolation from the outside world are all worth the investment. At the same time, you shouldn't have to break the bank to afford it. To help you sort through the choices, we've rounded up our top headphones under Rs. 3000.
Build Quality: Most of the headphones in this category would be made of durable plastic. They would also be comfortable enough for long hours of use.
Sound Quality: Audio quality in this category is good, substantially better than what you'd get out of your smartphone box. Headphones claiming to have balanced sound actually start delivering on those claim at this price point. However, for true neutrality, you should look at a budget that's at least twice as much.
Form Factor: Headphones for specific purposes like studio monitoring or noise cancellation will perform the function perfunctorily. Wireless headphones of good quality cannot be expected here.
Remote and Mic functionality is available, but not very common.
This list has been compiled with the help of users as well as our in-house experts.
In no particular order, here we go!
Professional-grade monitor headphones are engineered to produce sound that is exceedingly accurate and true-to-life. Audio-Technica is famed for making audiophile-grade headphones and the ATH-M20X is the entry-level model to its highly acclaimed M-Series headphones. The M20X is an upgrade to the M20 and was launched along with upgrades to the entire M-series.
The M20x has a design that is quintessentially Audio Technica. A rather large company logo runs along the headband. And the rest of the structure is made of plastic and has oval shaped earcups, unlike its predecessor, which had a distinctly round shape. Both the earcups and headband have plush faux-leather making them very soft and comfortable. Unless you have uncommonly large ears/head, you should be able to use the headphones for long hours without experiencing fatigue. If you have a large head, you might also feel some pressure on the top.
A negative design aspect would be that these circumaural headphones have a cord that is 10 feet long and non-detachable, so you'll definitely have to roll it up a little if you want to go portable.
Moving on to the sound, the first thing that you should keep in mind is that the M20x has a very high impedance of 47 Ohms. So, most smartphones and iPods will be unable to drive it well. You can expect sound to be rather soft and muffled. Move on to your laptop or desktop PC and the difference is immediate.
Tuned to low frequency sound, it’s particularly bass that the ATH-M20x excels in. The bass is full and lush without being over-bearing. Mids and highs ring through with no problem at both low and high volumes. The sound is flat with absolutely no distortion. These cans also have a nice full sound stage and good left/right separation, but it definitely could be better.
However, while being very detailed, it does seem to focus on the vocals a bit much.
These headphones are closed, but they’re not intended for noise isolation in crowded, loud places, so they’re not ideal for a commute. But for the purpose of studio and home use, the noise isolation is perfectly adequate.
The ATH-M20x is definitely the best option for budget studio monitors, preferable to the ever-popular AKG K44 & K77. These are also perfect for long hours of movie watching on your laptops and computers.
AKG is rather well known for its high end pro audio headphones like the K702 & K712. With the K77, AKG's expertise in studio monitors is brought to the budget conscious.
AKG hasn't wasted any money in providing additional frills to the circumaural headphones. There isn't a case or a mic, and aesthetically, they aren't particularly attractive. The synthetic grey ear cushions aren’t exactly plush, and the blue plastic casing on the closed backs of the earpieces is equally utilitarian. Build quality isn't impressive either.
Despite these faults, what they are, is comfortable. Adjusting the fit doesn’t come via a metal mechanism but by a traditional flexible headband, with a cage above it providing structural support and a place for the stereo cable to run. This along with the light weight makes them perfect for long listening sessions.
When you actually get to listening to these headphones, the underwhelming design is completely forgotten. The soundstage is wide with detailed bass and reasonably dynamic treble. The bass is a little pronounced, however. Still, there’s defined sound across the board, and rock music is handled with force, while the slightly restrained treble is easily corrected by any equaliser.
Although, these headphones sound impressive, the pronounced bass is what hinders its claim of being an actual studio monitor. For that specific purpose, the M20x is definitely much better.
Founded in 1924, Beyerdynamic is one of the oldest audio companies in the world. With the DTX 710, the company attempts to bring semi open back headphones to the masses. Whether they do succeed remains to be seen.
The DTX 710 are pretty big. The pads are extremely comfortable velour and the pressure level is adequate. Although the earpads might not cover large ears, the earpads are soft enough that comfort wouldn't be a problem. They're also comfortable to be worn with your glasses.
The build quality however, isn't exactly high-end by Beyerdynamic's standards and is a bit plasticky. The swivels also feel a little vulnerable. But, at this price, you can't really complain too much.
Coming to the cable, it is inordinately long, thick and heavy duty. It's excellent if you're using these headphones at home, but on the move, the sheer bulk and weight of cable pulling down from the left cup might get cumbersome quickly.
Moving on to noise isolation, it's not optimal. Because of the semi-open nature of these headphones, noise leakage is also an issue. So, you should definitely avoid using these while at work.
Sound is where the DTX 710 excels in. These deliver some quality punchy and extended bass, it can get sloppy sometimes, but on the whole, i t's quite a fun bass response that isn't really very accurate. The mid-range is pure and well defined. The highs are also nothing to scoff at, being rather clear and exciting.
The sound stage is generally very clear with good placement of instruments from furthest left to furthest right and with a reasonable depth back to front as well. The soundstage is much better than many competing models.
For the uninitiated, noise cancellation is very different from noise isolation. Noise cancellation employs active technology (with the help of batteries) to stop ambient noise from getting in. The key information to know is that only constant, rhythmic sound can be blocked out. So if your boss starts yelling at you, you will be able to hear it. While the constant hum of an aeroplane in flight will be blocked out.
Noise isolation, on the other hand, is mostly due to the design of the headphones.
The ZX110NC is the noise cancelling version of Sony's ZX110. Sony claims to provide upto 90% noise cancellation, which does its job for the price. The headphones reduce sounds from the fan and a rambling bus very noticeably. Voices are softer but at the same time oddly, you can hear words clearly. Once the ANC feature is switched on, the volume also goes up which automatically reduces noise.
Despite being one-tenth the cost of the Bose QC25s, they do a pretty respectable job of cancelling out unwanted sounds.
The build otherwise, is not very strong. The structure is plasticky and to add to it, the on-ear design has a slight tendency to become uncomfortable and hot. Changing out the AAA battery every few weeks, can also become vexing too.
When it comes to sonic performance, the ZX110NC definitely sounds much better with the ANC function on. T he volume is higher when the switch is on and the bass, mids and highs are pretty clear.
Unfortunately, sound does suffer when the headphones are in passive mode.
The ZX110NC is definitely the weakest, sound wise. But, all this can be forgiven because for the purpose it has been designed, it excels.
Unlike the ATH-M20x, Audio Technica ATH-AX3is has been designed for casual, portable listening, without compromising on style.
The style and portability factor definitely seems to be the reason that the entire structure has been made with plastic. These headphones are definitely lightweight and aesthetically appealing (the multiple colours help out), but do end up looking slightly weak. But the plastic is not flimsy and within some time you realise that it is also quite durable.To its credit however, the ear cups and headband have faux-leather pads with thick cushioning to ensure a comfortable fit. The ear cup is hinged on three pieces so that it can fit any head!
However, in the humid Indian weather, it does tend to get a bit hot inside.
The cables are robust and tangle-free and the fold flat structure (similar to the ZX110NC) is also pretty nifty. The biggest USP of these over-ear headphones is that they come with a mic and remote that you can use with Android devices, iPhones, iPads, iPods, Windows phones etc.
Coming to the sound, the 40mm drivers do their job extremely well. The AX3is provides a strong sonic performance that is balanced and true to life. The bass shines through and the mids and highs are all well defined.
The vocals are handled brilliantly throughout, and none of the elements takes over the sound in a way that the other aspects are sent into the background. The sound stage is moderately wide but not as spacious and airy as you'd get the Beyerdynamic DTX710.
Depending on your ear size however, noise isolation can be iffy.Compared to the others in this list, the AX3is is the probably your best option for daily, constant use.
The Sony XB450AP is an upgrade to the XB400. The over-ear come in a metallic build and features an in-line microphone and remote.
The headphones come in a aluminium housing design, which lends it a rich bold look. The build is extremely sturdy, ensuring durability for a long while before they die out on you. Its ear cups and head band has been generously padded to lend you maximum comfort for long listening sessions.
Noise isolation is not well attenuated, however the thick padding does a fair good job of cutting out ambient sound.
The XB450AP features an in-line remote and microphone. Using your earphones is easier when travelling as you can conveniently answer phone calls and control music. Travelling with these headphones is convenient, lending you a complete hands free experience.
The cable is flat making them tangle free. They are extremely durable, while the separated cords do the job of not interrupting you while on the go.
The swivel design of the XB450AP lets it fold flat making it highly portable.
When it comes to the sound, the XB450AP hosts a 30mm driver unit that produces a very powerful bass. The bass is powerful enough that lends a nice punchy sound. The mids and highs sound clear and detailed. They are suitable enough to produce music from all genres.
The XB450AP is available in three different metallic colours namely black, blue and red.
The Sony XB450AP comes with a One year warranty.
We have curated a buying guide to choose the best earphones under Rs. 4000, for the confused Indian buyers.