Learn how to pick the right earphones in a market saturated with choices. 

By Abigail Ang

Earphones have proven time and again to be our trusty companion in times of long bus rides and tiring study sessions. With so much time spent with these unassuming gadgets, it only makes sense for us to pay extra attention to our purchases.

Here are 5 helpful tips to help you find the best pair of earphones.

The trusty earphones are still at the technological epicenter of our lives.

1. Don’t Under Budget

Our love of music is present virtually everywhere, but so are thrifty individuals. In a survey conducted by HYPE, almost half of 117 youths are only willing to spend $50 on a pair of earphones.

Mr Joe Wong, 27, a salesperson at Stereo Electronics, a company that sells audio equipment, notes that most customers who walk in with lower budgets are not aware that earphones could make the music sound better. These customers are usually impressed after hearing more expensive models despite their initial skepticism. Thus, we would suggest having a higher budget of around $150 or more the next time you are looking for a fresh and decent pair of earphones.

“They frequently leave the store with a pair of earphones that cost very differently from the ones they had in mind,” Mr Wong said.

The higher-end earphones have a higher price point due to the addition of a component known as the “driver”. These “mini loudspeakers” enhance audio elements of different ranges. The more drivers in an earphone, the better each of these drivers can focus on delivering the different frequencies of sound: the bass, mids and treble.

A great illustration would be Westone’s W series lineup of W10, W20, W30 and W40 in-ear monitors. With each increasing number, more drivers are added into the earphones alongside an increasing price point.

The Westone W30 is equipped with 3 drivers that is catered to the low, mid and high frequencies for a more balanced sound
The Westone W30 is equipped with 3 drivers that is catered to low, mid and high frequencies for a more balanced sound.

2. What Do You Use it For?

Are you spoilt for choices when it comes to finding earphones?

In HYPE’s survey, it was found that one of the key challenges in finding a pair of earphones is in part due to the large array of products available on the market.

We suggest listing the various activities in which you will use your earphones for. From hardcore audiophiles to workout junkies, there are many different types of functions that you might want to consider in order to provide the best listening experience.

Gym goers can consider sound isolating earphones to block out unnecessary noise from the outside. Joggers, on the other hand, who prefers to listen to the sounds around them are better off using regular earbuds. “The most important thing is to buy something sweat resistant,” suggested Ms Mario Tan, 29, a salesperson at Challenger Musica, a company offering audio-related products.

Mr Wong suggests that if your workout sessions are under 4 hours, you can consider wireless earphones as they would not obstruct your movement. The wireless earphones only limitation is that it’s battery-powered and requires charging.

Wireless earphones are best suited for the workout Junkie
Wireless earphones are best suited for the workout junkie


3. The Sound For You

Unlike test scores, there is no ultimate earphone. A crucial step in choosing the right earphones is to determine your preferred sound signature.

There are many different types of sound signatures unique to every earphone model and manufacturer. In the HYPE survey, 47% of respondents preferred a balanced and clear sound. According to Mr Wong, this sound is favored by listeners of instrumental music or songs with an emphasis on melodic vocals. Users can try the MEE Audio’s Pinnacle 1 earphones or the Klipsch’s R6 In-Ear headphones.

“If the person likes club music or house music, he or she will tend to prefer something with more bass,” he said, recommending JVC’s Kenwood HA-FX850 or Shure’s Sound Isolating SE215 earphones.

4. Try It Out

While extensive reviews online on earphones may provide better insights, they should be taken with a pinch of salt. “The product might work well for the reviewer, but it might not work for you,” said Mr Wong. “You need to try it for yourself.”

Mr Andy Yap, 50, owner of Farle Innovations, a speakers and earphones store, agreed. “The specifications can’t say anything about whether you will like it,” he added.

Most stores specializing in audio equipment provide samples for customers to try. The best part? You can be your own judge and compare earphones and choose the one of your liking.

5. Maintaining Your Earphones

Investing hundreds of dollars into a good pair of earphones is pointless if you don’t take care of the product.

“A lot of people spoil their earphones within the year, while others maintain it for a few years,” said Mr Wong. “The difference is how they handle the product.”

Earphone cases are a must to preserve your device’s longevity. “A hard case is better than a soft case, but a fabric pouch is better than nothing,” advised Mr Wong. Coiling your earphone before storing it lowers its chance of getting tangled, and this compartmentalization makes the device easier to find.

Mishandling earphones when unplugging them from a jack or your ears may also shorten its lifespan. A good rule of thumb is to hold your earphones from their housing or plug during removal – in other words, anything other than the cable.

The Pelican 1010 Micro Case is one such example of solid protection for expensive earphones
The Pelican 1010 Micro Case is one such example of a solid protection for expensive earphones

So what are your favorite earphone models? Let us know in the comments section below. 



Fantastic Earphones and Where to Find Them

The following is our list of recommended earphones:

Westone W10 In-Ear Monitors (W Series) – US$199.99 (S$269) via Westone

Westone W10 In-Ear Monitors comes with a mini-monitor vault case for protection


MEE Audio’s Pinnacle 1 Earphones – US$199.99 (S$269) via MEE Audio

Mee Audio
MEE Audio’s Pinnacle 1 Earphones are the world’s first earphones to be die-cast from a zinc alloy


Klipsch’s R6 In-Ear Headphones – US$58 (S$78)  via Amazon

Klipsch R6
Klipsch R6 In-Ear Headphones has a patented oval ear tips that reduces ear fatigue


JVC’s Kenwood HA-FX850 – US$299.98 (S$404) via Amazon

JVC Kenwood HA-FX850 has a almost fully wooden housing


Shure SE215 Earphones – US$99 (S$133) via Shure

Shure SE215 blocks up to 37db of ambient noise


Photos from pcwallart.com, photobucket.com, amazon.com