If I had around $100 and had to choose one pair of in-ear headphones to buy, I’d get the Beyerdynamic MMX 102iE. After researching more than 100 headphones and testing more than two dozen with our expert listening panel, the Beyerdynamic MMX 102iE were the one pair our listening panel could all agree on. They’re not perfect—although they have a useful universal remote button that works with iOS and Android devices, along with a functioning microphone and a Skype adapter, they unfortunately lack volume controls. However, they are light, have an exciting sound, and fit well enough that you might forget they’re in your ears, all for $109.
Our previous pick, the Sony XBA-C10IP, are still technically our favorite. When compared to the Beyerdynamic, not only are they more evenly balanced sonically across the all frequency ranges, they’re much less expensive. Alas, the Sonys have been discontinued (more on this later), which is why we decided to re-visit this guide.
How did we pick a winner?
Since we still like our previous pick but it’s unavailable to most of the public, we were forced to find a new favorite. First I interviewed experts. Steve Guttenberg of CNET’s Audiophiliac added a few potential favorites, and I also read as many reviews as possible, including those by Tyll Hertsens on Inner Fidelity, and In Ear Matters’ List.
Once I had a grasp on what the pros were saying, I took to Amazon and Best Buy to see what customer reviews were available. Anything with four stars or more was considered.
Finally, I contacted every company that we know makes in-ear headphones in this price range and called in anything that was brand-new to the market since our last review.
Once I had that list, I then weeded out anything without a remote or mic, as in this price range, we felt it very important that a day-to-day use in-ear headphone have mobile phone capabilities.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison visit the zoo to test headphones.
The best of the best and the newest of the new were brought in for testing—10 pairs in total. We created a face-off panel consisting of Brent Butterworth, experienced and prolific audio and tech writer for a long list of publications including About.com, Sound+Vision, Home Theater, Robb Report, The Wirecutter, and so many more; John Higgins, a session musician and music and audio teacher at Windward School, a prestigious private high school in Los Angeles; Geoff Morrison, writer for Forbes and CNET and editor at The Wirecutter; and me, Lauren Dragan, a writer for Wirecutter and Sound+Vision and a professional voice actor with a dual bachelor’s degree in music and audio production. Between all of us, there’s a lot of knowledge to be had, so you can feel comfortable knowing that when we agree on something, it’s going to be good.
Most of the headphones our listening panel tested.
Our panelists separately listened to music of their own selection and took copious notes on their thoughts, each finally selecting a top three. It was a tough and divisive category this time, but the one thing everyone agreed on was that the Beyerdynamic MMX 102iE were pretty good.
Our Pick: Beyerdynamic MMX 102iE
The Beyerdynamic were the only headphones the entire panel put in their top three. They’re small, comfortable, and “smooth sounding, with a decent sense of space.”
Of all of the in-ear headphones in this price range, the 102iE were the only ones that everyone on the panel agreed on putting in their top three. They are small, comfortable, fit everyone well (as you’ll read below, the fit was a huge factor in the outcome of our testing), and have a pleasing sound profile.
Brent commented on how they were “smooth sounding, with a decent sense of space. There’s a little roll off in the treble, but overall, they’re very recommendable.” Geoff also acknowledged the extra bass bump, saying, “there is lots of bass, but in a good way.” John and I both noticed the boosted frequency response, and while the profile is not flat, we also found them to be a clean, crisp, and enjoyable listening experience.
…they were so comfortable that I could see myself forgetting that they were in my ears.
What made them fit so well? One aspect was that the Beyerdynamic MMX 102iE have very tiny and light buds. This means there isn’t a heavy piece of metal or plastic outside of your ear canal pulling down and compromising the fit. Once you have these in place, they don’t move around much. In fact, they were so comfortable that I could see myself forgetting that they were in my ears. There are three included tips that will fit a variety of ear sizes (and our panel is about as diverse in ear canal size as they come, so if they fit all of us, you can bet they’ll work for you).
The cord itself is light and includes a shirt clip so that you can reduce excess movement. The remote is a single universal button, so it will work with any phone OS. The microphone is clear and sounds excellent over phone calls.
Overall, they are well-built, sound great, are comfortable, and will work with any phone you choose. And the included VoIP adapter lets you use it with your computer as well (it’s basically a splitter that changes the ⅛-inch phone jack into separate jacks, one for your mic input, and one for your audio out).
Flaws but not dealbreakers
There are a few things about the MMX 102iE that we were a bit bummed about. First, there is no in-line volume control. While we realize that this would mean making a designated iPhone-only and/or Android-only headphone, we do like to have volume control as an option available right on the cord. But, since you can still use the single button to pause, answer calls, and pull up voice commands, it’s not enough to make us completely dismiss them.
Another issue is that the sound isn’t reference-flat, or, in other words, they don’t seem to be the same loudness across every frequency range from low to high. As we mentioned above, the overall auditory profile is a bit bass-heavy, with a small dip in the mids and a rolled-off treble. A great number of people love this kind of sound, so we think lots of folks will be really happy with these as their next in-ear headphone.
However, these aren’t by any means reference headphones. Not that we think you’ll be mixing your next album using them, but for people who like a neutral-to-flat sound to their headphones, you may want to choose another option. We’ll give some potential solutions for you folks below. And don’t worry, if you’re someone who loves in-your-face bass, we have a couple of picks for you, too.
Emphasized mids for rock and folk music
The mids and highs are very forward with much less emphasis on bass, so if you prefer guitar solos to thumping basslines, the ME Electronics should satisfy.
Our next recommendation goes to the ME Electronics A151 (make sure to select the “with mic” option before adding to cart if you need a microphone/remote). With clean, clear highs and mids and an overall nice sound field and depth, the A151 are another favorite.
The mids were a little forward for Brent’s and my personal tastes to put in first, but John described the sound as “great: it really blossoms as you listen to them longer.” Geoff likes a lot more bass in his mix, so the A151 fell into fourth place for him. The remote is universal, but, like the Beyerdynamic, doesn’t offer volume control. In our previous test, one of our panelists was concerned about the braided cable unraveling. However, after several months of regular use, the cord is still in great shape. So if you are someone who likes to hear the guitar solo more than you want a powerful bass line, these might be just the sound you are looking for. Plus, the price is fantastic. They retail for around $45 with mic on Amazon.
For bass lovers
The Velodynes have very forward bass but manage to avoid any muddiness and still have voicing with clear mids and treble. Still, they are heavy and tend to fall out of ears and our panel found them too bass-heavy for long-term listening.
Two special mentions for fans of forward bass: our former pick, the V-Pulse by Velodyne still holds up. Velodyne is known for their bass, and the V-Pulse is a great example of why. While the bass is very forward, it avoids being muddy and still has voicing with clear mids and treble. That said, all of our panel found the bass overpowering for long-term listening. Personally, I love a good thumping bass line, especially when I’m working out.
But all that bass comes at a price. The body of the earpieces that affords such fine bass sticks out of the ear canal and weighs down the construction. As a result, they had a tendency to pop out of my ears every few seconds while on a hurried walk. Even walking with a bit of a bounce caused them to need adjustment. That said, your ears may be different, and if you are sitting on the subway and want to bump a long day out of your mind, these are the in-ears for you. Snag them on Amazon for $99.
The Grain Audio headphones are beautiful (made from natural wood) and comfortable with great mids and high-end response. Acoustic music, piano, and vocals really shine. That being said, the bass is extremely loud so only bass heads need apply.
Then there’s the Grain Audio IEHP. These were another controversial pair of headphones. Beautifully made of natural wood and comfortable to wear, the IEHP have mids and high-end response that are perhaps my favorite overall. They are rich with a fantastic soundstage. Listen to acoustic music, piano, and vocals, and you’ll be truly wowed.
Brent called these his favorites overall, but with his large ear canals, I don’t think he got the same tight fit with the tips that the rest of us did. (When a seal isn’t fantastic, lower frequencies can escape and not sound as loud.)
…when the bass kicks in, holy mother of subwoofers, it’s intense.
Because when the bass kicks in, holy mother of subwoofers, it’s intense. Now don’t mistake that as the bass being poorly represented, because it’s not. It’s clear, has pitch to it, and isn’t muddy or woofy sounding. But it’s LOUD. Like standing-next-to-a-woofer-at-a-club loud. John found himself looking for tracks that had intense bass already just to chuckle at how forward it was. So these are really not for everyone but the most diehard of bass heads. But if that’s you, run to the computer, throw your $99 at Grain, and take the IEHP. You’ll be super happy.
Also great: peaked voicing for dance and pop music
The clean, crisp treble of the AKGs is perfect for voicing in the highs and lows. Some find that appealing, but others may find it to be a bit tiresome after prolonged listening.
The AKG K376 were well-liked in our earlier testing panels; all of our testers gave these a good review. With a little more oomph in the bass, the AKG K376 have clear mids and clean crisp treble. But while Brent said these were something he would buy for himself, they “weren’t necessarily the ones [he’d] recommend to others.” The voicing is more intense in the highs and lows, which many people find exciting and appealing-sounding. After a while, however, this peaked voicing can be fatiguing to some more sensitive listeners, myself included. John, too, liked the fit and overall sound, but wished that the remote had a volume control (again, the price you pay for a universal remote). So if you like an exciting, dynamic sound (great for hip-hop, electronica, dance, and pop), solid classic construction, and like a universal one-button remote, the AKG K376 sound great, are a good option, and retail for $100.
Not into sealed in-ears?
If you don’t like a sealed design or need to hear your surroundings while running or commuting, the Urbanears strike a happy medium between an open design and pleasing sound.
For those folks who like a little environmental awareness when out and about, there are few options that are decent-sounding as well as unsealed. The Urbanears Medis Plus were actually requested for review by our readers, so we happily brought them in for testing. But as with other options in this category, these are not for everyone.
Because of the unsealed design, the low bass is lacking. This was enough for Brent to dislike them. Geoff, however, loved them and said he’d easily put them as his favorite. He said that while the “vocal range was a touch ‘shouty’ feeling, they nailed the overall sound. The Medis Plus sound really open because of the design. While there isn’t a ton of low bass, they are fairly balanced overall.” 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. Perhaps that’s why there were several mixed Amazon reviews. Generally, the Amazon reviewers that disliked them commented on the lack of bass or disliking the fit. So be aware: If you are someone who prefers sealed in-ears, these will not be for you.
That said, what we could hear was well-represented, and if you are someone who needs to hear your surroundings to avoid being hit by a taxi on your way to work or school, the Urbanears Medis Plus might be a perfect solution for you, and retail for around $55.
Last year’s model
The Sonys are still our favorite in this category but they are (sadly) no longer being manufactured. If you can find them, we’d recommend you snap them up.
As mentioned earlier, we confirmed that our former and still-admired pick in this category, the Sony XBA-C10IP, is no longer being manufactured. We aren’t sure why they were discontinued, but we have to accept and move forward. That said, we still really like them. We know that there are a few pairs of the XBA-C10IP available for purchase out there, so if you see them, by all means, feel good about snapping them up. Overall, they are still our panel’s favorites. But, like pining for an ex after you’ve been dumped, we don’t feel good about recommending something to you when it’s not available anymore.
A step up
If you want in-ear headphones to blow you away then get the EP2s. Not only is the build quality much better; the sound rivals over-ear headphones.
Not quite sure whether these are right for you? Also worth considering are the RBH EP2, our pick for $200 and under headphones. What’s the difference (aside from the price tag)? Sound quality and build quality. The Beyerdynamics and the Sonys (our former winners) sound fantastic, make no mistake. But the RBH are phenomenal. The RBHs sound cleaner, crisper, and have a sense of acoustic space that rivals over-ear headphones. The RBH also have a fabric-wrapped cord, metal toggles, and generally feel more sturdy and substantial. It’s the difference between a great meal at a lovely restaurant and being served by an Iron Chef. Are you the sort who needs that level of musical experience? Then the extra cash is worth the investment.
A step down
The Panasonics aren’t as clear in the higher end and don’t have well-defined bass like our main pick, but they’re great if you just need an inexpensive pair of headphones.
Not ready to take the financial plunge? Check out our in-ears under $30. Our pick, the Panasonic RP-TCM 125, lacks the crispness and clarity of the Beyerdynamic in the higher end and they don’t have as well-defined bass. They also don’t have as large a sense of space, and frankly aren’t built as sturdily. But for the price (around $15!), you really can’t complain.
Why spend $100 on in-ear headphones and what makes for good in-ears?
When looking for in-ears, there are three things you want to take into account: First, fit. Are they comfortable in your ear canal? Do they stay put or do they tug when you move? Do they seal off external sound? Do they chafe or irritate your ears? Good in-ear headphones should be light, easy to wear for long periods, and fit comfortably once you find the correct tip.
Good in-ear headphones should be light, easy to wear for long periods, and fit comfortably once you find the correct tip.
Second, sound. How well do they reproduce sounds? Is there one frequency range that is over- or underrepresented? Are they so loud in one frequency range that it makes it uncomfortable to listen to music for very long? Music should sound warm and full and have a sense of space and voices should be clear and crisp.
Third, build. Headphones in this price range and size are generally used for commuting so it makes sense to look for something that is sturdy that will survive the abuses of daily use. Things like a tangle-resistant cord and a well-designed carrying case are also good to look for as well.
You should also get something with a microphone and remote because having to take your phone out of your pocket/bag to answer a call while on the go, or even while sitting at a desk, can be really annoying.
Why spend a little more? Headphones in this range will have better drivers and therefore better sound than models around $30 or less. They’ll also have features like extra tips to fit your ears properly, cable clips, or a carrying case. While they won’t have the detail, sense of space, and sonic clarity of $200 models like our pick in that range, the RBH EP2, they will sound a darn sight better than the pair that you got with your mobile phone or that you snagged from that accessory kiosk at the mall. Not into in-ears? Take a look at our over-ear recommendations in the same price range.
Or if you’re still unsure where to begin, check out Which Headphones Should I Get?
What else did we test?
Audio-Technica ATH-CKX7iS – Part of Audio-Technica’s “Sonic Fuel” line of headphones, the 7iS has a unique fit that includes a rotating wing. The wing (which has three interchangeable options) does enable the headphones to stay put, but comes at a cost of comfort. At best, they feel like they’re stuffed in your ear. At worst, as Brent described it, “they feel like a LEGO wedged in my ear.” He had the worst time getting a fit that sealed, and when he did, he still wasn’t thrilled with the sound. He found the treble to be a bit harsh and intense, and overall said the sonic profile was “so-so.” Geoff and John agreed, saying that the treble was “sizzling.” All of us also struggled to get the tips on and off, which is frustrating, especially when you’re having a tough time getting a decent fit to begin with. In the end, all of these factors were enough to make us advice that you pass.
Audio-Technica ATH-CKX9iS – Another of the “Sonic Fuel” line, our test panel fared slightly better with the 9iS as opposed to the 7iS. However, the overall consensus was negative towards the wing design (which was similar, but not identical, to the 7iS), as well as the sound. Geoff and Brent both noticed a spike between 2-3k and an issue in the higher end that made “the high hat sound like maracas.” Personally, I found that it was an issue with the attack and decay of the higher frequencies that lead to the lack of clarity. Overall, for $99, we would still choose other options.
Beats Heartbeats – Considering our experience with other Beats products in the past, our panel was surprised that the Heartbeats were decent-sounding. But the treble can be overpowering and piercing, and the shape of the design, which is admittedly unique, pokes at your ear as you wear them. If you value form over function, these are the stiletto heel of headphones: Gee, they look pretty, but after a while they just plain hurt.
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 even is too much when listening to hip hop. None of our panelists liked them.
Bose IE2 – The IE2 have a different kind of fit for in-ears. 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. Phil Metzler, musician in the band Just Off Turner and occasional Wirecutter panelist, liked the balance of the sound and the fact that they didn’t need to be jammed into his ear. I could see his point. 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 of the IE2s is obviously engineered to counter their fit, 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. If you like hearing more than just your music, you can pick them up on Amazon for $130 with remote or $99 without. Or, if you want to know what we recommend for workout headphones, you can read more here.
None of my panel liked their $200 in-ear offering, and nobody liked these either.
Etymotic mc2/3 – There’s probably a reason Etymotic has stopped answering my emails. None of my panel liked their $200 in-ear offering, and nobody liked these either. What was so bad, you ask? To start, the fit. Etymotic offers three different types of tips, but all in one size. There’s the suffocating take on comply tips, the odd “ear violating” (as Phil put it) pine-tree-looking tips, and the tips that resemble the cheapo earplugs you buy at the pharmacy. Regardless of comfort, the mc2/3s don’t have any bass. At all. Brent probably described it best: “While the treble is smooth, the tonal balance is so far off.” It’s a shame, because the mc2/3 will put you back $89 to $99 depending on what type of remote you want. (Apple-compatible remotes are $10 more.) And while the build quality seems solid, I know that a company like Etymotic can do better.
House of Marley Redemption Song – Solidly built with a snazzy case and environmentally friendly construction, the Redemption Song by House of Marley are so close to being great but miss the mark in a few key areas. Mainly, it’s in the tuning. There are some peaks that end up making the entire mix feel off. From what I could gather, it was somewhere around 350Hz, 1200Hz, and then 3kHz that led to a peaked and sibilant sound. Brent described the result as having a “blaring” feel, and Geoff said the higher end was just too much for him. That said, these were quite close to making it to our top list. Geoff put them in third, John second, and Brent and I fourth. So with a little tweaking, we have hopes that these could be a brand to watch in the future, especially when you consider they retail for around $50.
Klipsch S3m – The overall opinion on the S3m was underwhelming. Klipsch has oblong tips that Phil couldn’t find a sweet spot for in the fit and therefore felt he couldn’t fairly judge the sound. John and I found the bass to be overpoweringly voiced, and Brent couldn’t get them to fit at all, so he couldn’t even hear them. Apparently Klipsch makes other tips, which Brent says he has gotten to use, but they don’t offer them with their headphones, nor do they sell them. You have to contact Klipsch directly. With so many concerns, we just couldn’t recommend these overall.
Klipsch S4i II – Once again, the oblong tips stymied Brent’s attempt to hear these. Phil found the sound to be lifeless and unexciting, and John found the high frequencies to be too loud and fatiguing. I agreed that the highs were piercing and the bass was muddy and lackluster. They weren’t as bad as the urBeats voicing, but they still lacked the clarity one would expect for $100 in-ears.
MEElectronics M-Duo – While the voicing on these is okay for rock and and hip hop, the overall effect is muddy in the midrange and the bass is woofy and lacking definition. The build is nice and light and feels durable and as though it would last, but because they lack versatility when it comes to the types of music they do well, we’d recommend to get their other offering, the A151 for around the same price.
Monster DNA with ControlTalk – John described these as a “one-note punch,” which is very apt. The low end is bloated and and dull, and the high end is overly sybilant to overcome it. As a result, everything sounds masked. Brent suggested that they might only be good for listening to hip hop or metal with a driving bass. The external portion of the ear piece is large and plastic and ends up feeling cheap. We’d say to pass.
Paradigm Electronics E2i – These are another headphone with mixed reviews. Phil said that they have a pleasant fit, decent sound, and there was nothing offensive about them; they did their job. However, Brent, John, and I found there to be a muffled quality to them, probably caused by a dip in the mid range. Personally, I found that if I got the mid loud enough to hear properly, the bass and treble were uncomfortable. John said that if he wanted a bass-heavy pair, when compared to other offerings, he’d still stick with the V-Pulse. Ordinarily, I might chalk this up to a fit issue, but in this case, everyone agreed that the E2i fit well and comfortably. They are built beautifully. However, from a company that makes well-respected speakers, I know that Paradigm can offer far better, especially for $99.
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 4. Overall, they’re on the right track, but sadly, we’d end up spending our $70 elsewhere.
…sound great and exciting in electronic music or acoustic guitar, but leave rock and hip hop feeling lost in the low end.
Sennheiser MM70i – Brent found the sound of the mids and treble in the newest offering from Sennheiser to be detailed and lush at the same time. For treble-heavy enthusiasts, these might be their top choice, as the mid and trebles are very heavily featured with the bass lacking in emphasis. The result is headphones that sound great and exciting in electronic music or acoustic guitar, but leave rock and hip hop feeling lost in the low end. Unfortunately, there were some build design flaws that left our panelists confused. First, the remote placement. We presume that to keep the microphone up near the wearer’s mouth, the remote and mic are high up on the left ear’s cable. But to compensate for that, the right ear’s cable is significantly longer. Unfortunately, this causes is the left ear to get constantly tugged from both a shorter cable and the weight of the remote. Also, the remote itself has a slide volume control that can easily slip from normal volume to frighteningly loud if it catches on your zipper or collar. Overall, this was enough to keep them out of our top picks.
Sol Republic Relays – Considered a “crossover” headphone, the Relays were created as a hybrid commuter/workout headphone. The ear design is really clever. Everyone on the panel was surprised at how comfortable and effective they were. They’re light and rimmed with a silicone spoked-wheel design that holds the buds in your ears. You’ll see them again in our workout headphone piece, so be sure to check that out to see how they fare against other sport headphones. But when you compare the sound of these to the other standard in-ears in this range, they don’t hold up. John commented on how the Relays have a bloated lower-mids range, and an undefined high end that Brent mentioned made “cymbal hits sound like they were brushed rather than hit with a stick.” Geoff agreed that the sound overall was “average.” Add all of that up, and a clever comfortable fit was not enough to overcome a lackluster sound, especially for $75.
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 for $89.
What else is out there?
Not every pair of headphones is good enough for the listening panel.
AKGK328 – Terrible Amazon reviews
AKGQ350 – Lackluster reviews from pros and consumers.
AKGK374 – $80 for meh reviews.
Apple In-Ear Earphones – Even Apple store reviewers don’t like them.
Brainwavz M4 and M5 – For around $50, we want a remote, and the one pair of M4 that have a remote have build quality issues. Add that to comments of difficulty getting warranty assistance (we emailed the company five times through different channels with zero response) we’d say to proceed with caution.
Fischer Audio Ceramique, Consonance, Paradigm, and Silver Bullet – These indie darlings are not available in the U.S., so I couldn’t test them, and can’t recommend headphones that aren’t readily available to all.
Creative Zen Aurvana – Only 3.5 stars on CNet.
Harman Kardon NI – While they are undeniably pretty, the sound is lacking. Plus they have three-star reviews on Amazon.
HiFiMan RE-400 – While these have great reviews from both Steve Guttenberg and In Ear Matters, for a price tag of $99, we really think a remote should be included. That said, if you really don’t need a remote, they are a well-reviewed pick.
MEElectronics 161p – Being discontinued.
Monster Gratitude – There’s a reason these $229 MSRP headphones are now down to $57 on Amazon. Lackluster reviews.
Monster Mobile Jamz High Performance – CNet only gave them 3.5 stars, Amazon reviews agree.
Nixon Micro Blaster – Build and design issues.
NuForce NE700M – Users on Amazon complained of build issues, breaking quickly, the mic sounding terrible.
Philips Fidelio S1 – While Tyll Hertsens gave them a great review, Philips is no longer supporting them
Phonak Audeo PFE022 Perfect Bass – another well-reviewed headphone no longer being made.
Red Giant A00 Malleus Prime – These boutique headphones are another bass-lovers option only widely available in Canada. Your gain, our loss, Canucks.
RHA MA600i – Beautifully constructed, these are lookers to be sure. But the mid/low range is muddy and overpowering, which bleeds into the other frequencies and leaves the overall sound feeling inarticulate when compared to other headphones in this price point.
RHA 750i – Also gorgeous and solidly constructed, the 750i have a cord that wraps over your ear and lovely small details like a spring-reinforced cable connection. Unlike their sister in-ears the 600i, they do perform well sound-wise, with intense highs and lows that sound exciting and on par with the AKG K376s. In fact, there’s nothing bad to say about them about them except the price. At $130, they are straddling the price point of the $100 in-ears and the next step up, the $179 RBH EP2. That said, they do have a three-year warranty, and if you don’t mind shelling out the cash and want an iPhone-based remote, you can get them here.
Rock-It-Sounds R50 – $119 and no microphone or remote. They are well-reviewed by In Ear Matters, but be sure you like an over-ear cord design before you buy.
Shure SE215 – These deserve a special mention because they have the holy grail of in-ear headphones: replaceable cables. That said, we put them in second place after the Velodyne V-Pulse in our last piece, and with good reason. For $99, we still preferred our current fourth place finishers, and to get a remote, you need to spend $150. If you’re inching up into that price range, we’d suggest that you get the RBH EP2s. Or, save the money and get the Sonys for a third of the price. That said, if you simply must have a replaceable cable, these are your best bet.
Sony XBA1Ip – Lackluster Amazon reviews and the standard XBA-1s have no mic.
Spider Cable Realvoice In-Ear Headphones – While considered good when released, they were considered sub-par to others we looked at, so we started with those models instead.
TDK EB950 – We tried to get a hold of these, and a month after we ordered them, they still were unavailable. Unless you enjoy waiting rather than listening, we’d say take a pass.
V-Moda Remix – Build quality issues lead to low Amazon reviews.
VSonic VC02 – Again, low user reviews prove to be the downfall.
A crowd pleaser
While every headphone currently in the $100 range has a few minuses, the plusses of the Beyerdynamic MMX 102iE far outweigh their downsides. They’re exciting to hear and comfortable to wear, with versatile functionality among your devices, so they’re our favorite of everything currently available.
This guide originally appeared on The Wirecutter on 4/27/14 and is republished here with permission.