To find the best earphones under Rs.500 for you, we started our research by visiting reputed technology websites and dedicated audio websites. We dug a little further into the maze of earphone available by having our researcher join  “The Indian Audiophile Forum”.The Indian Audiophile Forum is home to the biggest audiophiles in India currently, who take their audio very seriously. 

To add to our research work done over the past year we visited Mr Jacob Abraham, CEO of Rontek. Rontek has been in the audio and power-electronics manufacturing for nearly two decades.
 

Best earphones under 500 

KZ EDR2

Good sound

The Knowledge Zenith EDR2 set of earphones use the same in-ear style design that's popular today along with an amazingly balanced sound for an extremely low price. Unlike the VE Monk’s, the EDR2 does reproduce sub-bass and higher frequencies more faithfully without them being recessed. Also despite the design suggesting otherwise, it is fully closed back and thus doesn't leak any sound nor allows any sound inside allowing for better bass response.

Pros

  • Excellent balanced sound for the price

  • Has good sub-bass and bass

  • Stylish design with premium build

  • Great value

Cons

  • Slightly recessed mids

  • Mic version is almost Rs.200 more!

Where to buy it?

You can get it on Hifinage
You can also get it from Amazon

Best Audiophile Pick

Venture Electronics Monk Plus

Affordable

Costing less than a medium-sized pizza the VE Monk Plus has no business sounding as good as it does. These earbud style earphones are a nod to the older generations of earphones. While the mid biased sound is great for vocals, a sound signature which is not found in this budget. So overall the great sound and cheap price make the Monk Plus a definitive pick.

Pros

  • Amazingly clear sound for the price

  • Open soundstage with relatively flat sound with forward-mids

  • Value Price

Cons

  • Some people may find the earbud style uncomfortable

  • No noise isolation

  • Not for EDM lovers due to the lack of sub-bass

  • Plastic build

  • Rs.533 version has no mic support

Where to buy it?

​You can get it on Hifinage
You can also get it from Amazon

Best earphones under 500

Boat BassHeads 100

Amazing sound

While our other two best picks are for people who love a balanced sound, the BoAt BassHeads 100 delivers bass in spades making it the perfect tool for EDM lovers. Add to that the low price, mic support, unique and comfortable design and you have amongst the best budget earphones under 500.

Pros

  • Made for bass lovers

  • Great Price

  • Has mic support

  • Available in two colours

Cons

  • Bass does tend to bleed into the mids

  • Plastic build

Where to buy it?

You can get it on Flipkart
You can also get it from Amazon


​This is a really long post! Use these links to jump around.


How we selected?

Earphones are not your usual type of electronic gadget. It's not a mixer or a roti maker. It's more specialized and it needs a lot of understanding of audio to really judge. So because of the technicalities involved we started by looking at suggestions by top tech websites and audio websites. Our next step was to pick suggestions by some of India's biggest audiophiles on The Indian Audiophile Group. To this, we added earphones that are popular on Flipkart and Amazon.

With the shortlisted earphones, we dug around trying to find their specifications like impedance, sensitivity and frequency response. We even gathered frequency response curves from review websites like rtings, phonograph, and head-fi.

Now with so much data in hand we needed a little help to really look through the earphones and pick the best. So we sought the help of our audio expert at Rontek. Rontek’s CEO helped understand the specifications and find the best pick of the lot.

What makes a good earphone - inputs from our audio expert

Every time you read an article featuring an audio product there will be many words through at you like frequency curve, sound signature, warm sound, V-shaped. If you feel really confused with what they even mean, then don’t worry we are here to help with our “Understanding Audio” section.

Sound Signature

Unlike most products like home appliances and other gadgets, audio products are more difficult to judge because each person has a different taste when it comes to music and sound. Some prefer the sound that is true to the composer's vision, while some prefer addition to that sound in terms of more bass or more treble. The way that an audio product’s sound reproduction is tuned is called as the sound signature. The following are the common types of sound signatures.

  • Flat sound (No boost in any frequency) found most commonly in studio monitoring headphones from Audio-Technica and Beyerdynamic. 

  • Bass boosted (Low end is boosted) sound is common in most Sony and Beats audio products

  • Bright sound (the High end is boosted) is found in headphones from Grado and Beyerdynamic

  • V-shaped sound (Low end and high end are boosted) is common on V-Moda headphones making them great for EDM, Hip-Hop type of sounds.

When you look at the spec sheet of any headphone, earphone or speaker you will see the three main specifications Frequency Response, impedance and sensitivity.

Frequency Response

Above we spoke about sound signatures, now sound signature and frequency responses are almost the same thing. Frequency response is the graphical representation of the ability of the audio device to produce different frequencies. A frequency response graph has the loudness in Y-axis and frequency on X-axis.

While the sound signature is determined based on the nature of the frequency curve, it can be bright or flat or bass boosted. Most audio products work within the 20-20000Hz frequency range, which is also the range of human hearing.

Hi-Res audio products are certified to produce frequency responses up to 45000Hz and more (We even reviewed a Sony MDR-1A that has a frequency range from as low as 3Hz all the way up to to a breathtaking 100000Hz). Now many may argue how are Hi-Res audio products even worth it when we can't even hear those high frequencies.

While you can't hear you can definitely feel the instruments and sound. Also, most of the Digital audio players, headphones, earphones and speakers now have Hi-Res certifications so whether we like it or not Hi-Res is becoming a norm. Do note a Hi-Res certification is not an assurance of great sound, a normal frequency range headphone/ earphone can sound way better than a Hi-Res certified one.

Impedance

Impedance is another term associated with audio products. It is the electric resistance of your earphone/ headphone to your source audio. Mobile devices can handles headphones with impedances around 32 Ohms, while a more moderns smartphones like Mi A1 and the lot can power devices above 100 Ohms. It is important to know that the source (device playing the song) can take the headphone/ earphone.

Using a high impedance headphone on a device that doesn't support it will usually give lower volume and reduce audio quality. Impedance by itself, however, has nothing to do with audio quality but is wrongly assumed to be because most of the high-end headphones usually have higher impedances. But more modern high headphones have impedances as low as 16-24 Ohms and still provide great audio quality.

Sensitivity

Sensitivity is the last of the important specifications and is a measure of loudness of an audio device. A sensitivity of 100 Db/mW is considered decently loud. Again sensitivity is a measure of loudness and not audio quality.

Reading a frequency curve

frequency

The frequency response of an RHA earphone (Source: RHA website)

Let us look at some of the specific regions of the frequency graph.

  • 20Hz to 60 Hz is the sub-bass region

  • 60 Hz to 200Hz is the bass or upper bass

  • 200 Hz to 2000 Hz is your mid region

  • 2000 Hz + is your treble or highs

The range can further be divided into lower mids, brilliance etc. but let us stick to the four important regions for now.

Generally, a good frequency response curve is one that has a relatively flat curve (near to the 0 Db) from 20Hz all the way up to 20000 Hz, this makes an earphone sound flat. But earphones need not stick to the flat curve always, a good earphone can have a slight drop in the sub-bass region (as this region is harder to reproduce), have an almost flat bass to the mid-region and then have a drop in the treble region.

frequency

Using our VE Monk's frequency curve we see the following:

  • The Sub-Bass region is rolled off, this is an issue not with this particular earphone but the whole design of earbuds which caused by lack of a proper ear seal. This makes it a big no-no for EDM or Hip-Hop songs.

  • The Bass region is almost flat which is good and the bass will sound natural

  • We see a peak in the Mid-region which gives this particular earphones its famed sound signature which is biased for vocals (also includes the sound of guitars)

  • The Treble region we see is rolled off (takes a dip) which is considered to be a good trait in most earphones/ headphones. This is because boosted highs can make the sound very sharp and is not preferred by most people.

At the end of the day, the frequency response is just a measure of how loud the earphone/ headphone can product each frequency. A headphone with an incredible flat sound may not be to the liking of most people who love oodles of sub-bass in their sound, so we suggest you use frequency curves to gauge if that particular headphone is suitable for your listening style.


Note: Measuring the Frequency Curve for earphones is far more difficult that Headphones and speakers. This is because your ear canal itself aids to sound production and with different people having different ear canals the results may vary from person to person.

Best earphones under 500 in detail

Good sound

Specifications

This time we have outdone ourselves when it comes to finding great audio products for cheap and the earphone we have this time around is again going to blow you away. The KZ EDR2 comes from a brand called Knowledge Zenith which is focussed on high-quality audio for budget prices and while it's not as mainstream as Sennheiser or Sony, it has its own following amongst audiophiles.

Easy to use

Using the in-ear style design fo the earphones, KZ has gone for a metal housing which looks very small and compact and feels premium too according to ThePhonograph. The small housing size is also due to the tiny 7mm dynamic drivers. Although the housing is metal, reviewers found it to be lightweight and comfortable to wear for long hours.

One neat little touch is the red and blue marking on the housing so you can easily determine which is the left/ right ear tip. Red means the right side. Next, you have the knurled pattern on the housing which gives it a nice industrial design and the back of the housing which although looks like a grille is covered by a solid back so it doesn't leak sound.

The cable is 123cm long and is made of transparent rubber where you can see the inner copper wires. It also doesn't tangle easily and uses a 90° jack. There's nothing much provided in the name of accessories, you get only three ear tips and no pouch or carry case. There are two variants of the earphones- one with a mic and one without a mic.

frequency

Design, price and build aside, where the KZ’s triumphs are in the sound department. The 7mm driver really shines giving you a high quality, balanced sound that's to be expected of earphones much pricier than these.

As can be seen from the Frequency Response of the earphones, it is almost flat in the sub-bass, bass, and mids with only a slight recession in the mids. The highs are where the sound takes a little dip. Overall this is a signature expected from a good quality earphone that doesn’t really take away or add too much to the source music.

Talking about specifics, ThePhonograph found the earphone to have a sufficient quantity of bass and sub-bass without being boomy or as earth-shattering as dedicated bass earphones. They found it to even respond nicely to custom EQ’s while pushing up the bass and sub-bass.  

As we have said before there is a hint of a recess to the mids, but it does sound good without the vocals feeling harsh. This recessed mids can even be remedied with a slight boost using a custom EQ.

Finally, you have the highs, which is something that has to be done just right without being too sharp or sibilant or piercing. The EDR2 handles this rather nicely despite the recessed sound. It's not sharp nor piercing and allows for comfortable listening. The highs also responsible for giving the details and the KZ has plenty of detail and clarity.

To add to the sound, one little detail is the earphones have a really low impedance of 16Ω which makes them easy to drive with just about any smartphone. 

To sum it up about the KZ EDR2, you get excellent sound quality, good build quality and an incredibly low price of around Rs.600. They also use the more conventional in-ear form factor and have better low-end and highs than the VE Monks (our previous best pick). This makes them amongst the best earphones under 500 and a must have if you love balanced audio.

Best Pick in detail

Good looking

Specifications

Our best earphone pick this time is from a brand most of you might have never heard of. The Monks are earbud style and are pretty large in size due to the large 15.4mm drivers. The drivers are actually the largest in our test with most averaging around 10mm. Because of their earbud-style design rather than in-ear earphones, they don't isolation background noise as well. They are also open at the back which is similar to some of the more premium headphones like Sennheiser’s brilliant 598 SE which we reviewed a few months back. Their shape and open back mean the soundstage is very open and gives you a distinctive sound usually not found in most earphones.

The Monks comes with a really cheap but funky packet. We really mean packet and not a box, it feels like an M&M packet. Apart from the earphones, you also get four pairs of earfoams in red and blue which is great. There are two versions of the earphone one with a mic support and one without.

The design of the earphones themselves are pretty simple, they look like the old generation earphones that used to be bundled with most phones, but the translucent body does add a bit of style.

VE Monk+ Frequency Response Chart

Ve Monk+ Frequency Response (Source: reference-audio-analyzer)

Finally, we come to the sound, a look at the frequency curve we see the area between 100Hz till 10000 Hz is pretty balanced, with a slight boost around the 2000Hz mark. Mr.Jacob appreciated the balanced nature of the Monks sound along with the distinctive boost in the mids which he said will really bring out the vocals and guitar sounds.
The same was backed by a lot of reviews online from The Phonograph, Linus Tech tips and the Indian Audiophile forum who praised the detail in the mid-range and the overall flatness of the sound. Headfonia even called it “the $4.99 miracle”, should we say any more?

If we have to sum up the sound on the VE Monk’s, we can only say that it is unlike any other earphones in its class. It is very clean and flat with a clear focus on the mids. There is sufficient bass without it getting muddy. The design of the earphone being open back makes them struggle with the sub-bass, but the mid and high bass is very good. Pinning the earphones tightly into your ears will definitely improve the sub-bass but that's not really practical always.

Do note these earphones have an impedance rating of 64 Ohms but they work fine with smartphones (Smartphones can work well with most 32 Ohm earphones/ headphones). However, using a dedicated AMP or a Digital Audio Player will definitely enhance your listening experience.

So with a price of around Rs.533, the Monks are a lightweight pair of earbuds with a balanced sound, great vocals. They are great earphone for not just regular listeners but for audiophiles as well.

Best earphones under 500

Unique design

Specifications

The boAt Bassheads 100 has a rather unique design to its housing over the cylindrical designs of most competitors. BoAt says the design is inspired by a Hawk and hence the overlapping wings like the design. While it's not needed, it does help differentiate the product very well.

In terms of build quality, it's decent, with a plastic housing which feels durable. The cable is around 120 cms long and has an in-line mic on it with a single button on it for receiving calls and skipping tracks. Receiving phone calls on this earphone work very well with clear sound on both ends.

When it comes to audio quality the 10mm neodymium drivers work really hard to give you a thumpy sound quality. Their in-ear style further helps with the bass which is punchy and deep. Other frequencies are also reproduced well but it's the low end that takes centre stage, sometimes at the cost of the vocals. But that is something that's common on bass-heavy earphones.

Apart from the bass, people also loved the clarity of sound produced by the BoAt 100 earphone which can be bought for under Rs.500.

Whether you like EDM or Hip-Hop, the BoAt Bassheads is going to deliver all the thump you need in your life in a unique package at an extremely low price.

Who is our best pick for?

The KZ EDR2 is for people who want great sound quality without any of the boomy bass usually associated with low-end earphones. It's relatively flat and manages to sound really good for what its priced at. The in-ear form factor will also have more takers when compared to the VE Monks.

This, in fact, helps the earphones to produce more sub-bass and gives much better bass response than the Monks. This is the perfect pair of earphones for most music genres like Classical, Vocals, Classic Rock. Only EDM lovers will feel the lack of thumping bass.

The VE Monk’s are great for people who listen to music that is flat without any excess boost to the bass or treble. The Monks are also great for songs with a lot of vocals as well as rock music that has a lot of guitar and vocals. EDM lovers, however, may not prefer this earphone and EDM songs are biased more towards bass and trebles and hence require a V-shaped frequency curve. Also, note these are earbud style, so if you do not want that pick the KZ’s

The BoAt BassHeads 100 as the name suggests is made for Bass Heads who listen to Hip -Hop and EDM which need a whole lot of sub-bass and bass reproduction and that is where the BoAt BassHeads 100 excels in.
 

Who is the competition?

Boat BassHeads 225

Black and Red ​Boat BassHeads 225

This is an incredibly popular pair of earphones online that are loved by a lot of Indian Tech websites. However, we couldn't find any detailed review that talked about its frequency response and specific sounds regions like sub-bass, bass, mids, and treble. A lot of users reviews, however, suggested they have very good bass but lack the sub-bass. While they will not match our best picks sound quality they are a decent pair of earphones for most types of listeners.

Mi Earphones Basic

Black and Red ​Mi Earphones Basic

Costing only Rs.399 these are one of the cheapest good sounding earphones in its class. We have come to always expect great products from Xiaomi and these also are known for their great audio clarity and balanced bass. If your budget is below Rs.500 and you prefer in-ear style earphones you can definitely pick these up.

Sennheiser MX170

​Sennheiser MX170 and ear buds

They are the most expensive pair of earphones in our test. They have a decent sound with sufficient bass and good clarity. We however wouldn't recommend these as they are simply too expensive and you can pick a better pair from our under Rs.1000 picks.

Final Thoughts

If you have a budget of around Rs.500 and are in the need of a great sounding earphone but confused over which one suits you, then do not worry as we have three different picks for you.

If you love a balanced sound and need an in-ear style earphone then the KZ EDR2’s should fit your bill perfectly. They sound great, are very well put together and are priced economically.

The VE Monk Plus too have a similar recipe as the KZ but they are earbud style and have a slightly forward mid based sound with recessed sub-bass and highs. Add to that the open-back design and you get that wide soundstage generally associated with speakers

Finally, we have the BoAt BassHeads 100 which comes with a unique design, EDM friendly sound, mic support and a really low price tag.