Best Earphones Under £40
Choosing a set of earphones can be a bit tricky – especially with the staggering amount of choice available nowadays. From the humble earbud all the way up to custom inner-ear monitors you’re confronted with brand after brand, all claiming to sound better than each other, and unless you can find some reliable feedback about a specific model you can end up being bogged down in a swamp of product information.
We felt that any light which we could shed on the earphones available would be a huge help for anyone looking and below you will find our top picks. Plus if none of these tickle you feel free to give us a call for a chat.
Soundmagic E10 (£34.99)
Soundmagic are a brand you may not have heard of – although it’s a bit of an open secret that they actually produce quite a lot of headphones for other (premium) brands. This extensive experience gives them a huge leg-up on other ‘budget’ manufacturers.
The E10 is their latest performer and it really does offer some great advantages for a fairly tiny price. For only £34.99, you get an attractive metallic body in a choice of colours, incredible frequency range and really robust construction. The Audio performance is up with the best of anything else available for anything like the money.
What makes the SoundMagic E10 In-Ear Earphones Great?
• £34.99 price and £80+ performance
• Frequency response from 15Hz to 22kHz!
• Passive noise isolation
• Great looks
What isn’t so good?
• Not everyone likes the in-ear feel
• Blocks out sound, so not ideal for being out and about in safety
• No phone control or microphone
Shure SE115 (£39.99)
The Shures could be accused of cheating in this category, but as long as we have stock that we can sell at £39.99, I think it’s only fair to tell you about them! These, in reality, are a £100 headphone. The entry level model in Shure’s range of legendary in-ear devices, this range was originally developed from professional in-ear monitors for rock stars!
Incredibly comfortable, these offer great quality – incredible clarity and crispness. Some complain that there’s a lack of bass, but this is more that they are a balanced design – so they don’t artificially boost the bass of tracks, they can handle plenty if you feed it to them.
A wide range of in-ear fitments are included and these are some of the best isolating earphones (if you use the foam inserts) that you can buy – they have a very narrow ear-canal piece, giving them plenty of space in the ear canal for the foam or rubber insert – hence, they are really comfortable. Some who get sore ears with normal in-ears actually report that these cause no discomfort whatsoever.
What makes the Shure SE115 Sound Isolating Earphones great?
• Shure’s Legendary audio quality
• Crisp and clear
• Developed from stage-proven in-ear monitor technology
• As comfortable as in-ear earphones get
What isn’t so good?
• Only remaining colour is Pink
• Not the heaviest bass response out of the box
MEElectronics M11P+ (£34.99)
MEElectronics first entry in our top 5 is for this top-quality phone compatible earbud set. Again, a bit of a cheat in the price category, as the RRP is £59.99 – but we’re selling them for £34.99 and it’s not a time-limited offer, so they qualify!
These are properly tiny – a very small machined aluminium body reduces any chance of resonant standing waves and makes the earphone incredibly discrete when worn. This also helps with comfort – a tiny casing means less chance of hard edges being in contact with your ear.
Audio-wise, these rely more than most on a good seal in the ear for bass response, but when they are sealed and driven properly, they really do perform incredibly well. Beautifully uncoloured sound gives an accurate and well-spaced reproduction of the stereo image.
The killer touch is the inclusion of a good noise rejecting microphone and control for smartphones. Possibly our favourite iPhone earphones, these ones. Well worth the try.
What makes the MEElectronics M11P+ In-Ear Headset with Mic for iPhone/Mobile great?
• Beautiful, tiny, exquisitely designed wee earbuds
• Phone compatibility and control
• Killer audio
What isn’t so good?
• Cable does tangle
• Very small, so may be a challenge to keep in huge ears
MEElectronics A151 (£39.00)
Bit of a techy choice for our last in the top 5 and another one for MEElectronics. To explain a bit about their inclusion, we need to talk about the technology inside an in-ear earphone. Basically, there are two types of speaker (driver unit) used in production of tiny earpieces: Diaphragm driver and Balanced Armature driver. The Diaphragm driver is what you’d be used to seeing in a full sized speaker – the recessed cone visible behind speaker frets (or in some cases out on display) The downsides in an in-ear design are the energy required to move such a driver with control and the fact that it takes up a lot of space to get a large enough area to reproduce bass response.
The Balanced armature works differently. If you think of it more as a piston which is magnetised in a tunnel – this is an easier way to move air (what a speaker does, in simplest terms) with more control in a small space. The downsides are that they are usually more expensive.
Well, the A151 is a Balanced armature driver equipped earphone. This gives incredible control, so the frequency definition and separation is second to none – certainly nothing under £40 would come close. In common with most MEElectronics, these are designed for balanced listening, so Phat Beats aren’t their real reason for existence – although drive them hard and they perform.
What makes the MEElectronics A151 Balanced Armature In-Ear Headphone great?
• Clarity and control – the mids never disrupt the highs
• Small and light – comfortable to wear
• Best for music with complexity – maybe not the choice for 4 on the floor dance beats
What isn’t so good?
• As stated, they aren’t designed to offer ground-shattering bass
• Shell is a love-it-or-hate-it chrome style