Every person has their own taste in music. But, there are some headphones out there that simply check all the boxes—design, audio fidelity, and comfort—and appeal to every segment. Whether you’re an artist in a studio, a fitness freak in need of workout beats, an audiophile who craves instrumentals, a business traveler keeping track of the news, or just a general listener who needs a solid headphone for home-use, there are some great headphones out there for you.
Here at HomeTop, we decided to find out for ourselves, and for you, the best headphones selling in the market right now. To figure out which one was the best, we did extensive research on the different types of headphones that have been selling across several categories. After putting a few of them through a a lot of tests, we’ve listed the best ones in each category. Before we dive into the analysis, here is a summary of what we did:
We worked with a sound engineer with 20 years of work experience to find the best headphone
We used each headphone for 2 & half hours to see if we had any discomfort to our ears
We conducted a noise isolation experiment
As a result of our testing here’s what we liked.
The Best Headphone under Rs 1,000
Sennheiser HD 180 Wired Headphone
The Sennheiser HD 180 is a completely over-ear headphone, and it does justice to the audio quality the world has come to expect of Sennheiser. The sound quality is the best in its category, though the headphones didn’t have much to offer when used on different frequencies. The music output from the headphones is very close to the original, even without amplification. By covering the entire ear, it blocks out external noise like a boss, completely isolating the user from the external world. It does have a few negatives, though. The volume, even at the highest settings, feels quieter than the Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576 and the Sony MDR-ZX110A. They make up for this giving you a 2 year warranty and the option to repair your headphone post-warranty.
The Second-best Headphone under Rs 1,000
Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576 Anti Headphone
SkullCandy is effective when it comes to sound quality and has a superb build, stylish design, and robust performance to back it up. It is equipped with powerful audio drivers that reproduce sounds with high fidelity. Bass sounds particularly great on these headphones, so we highly recommend them for bass lovers. The headphones also offer noise isolation to reduce ambient noise, but they still came second to the Sennheiser HD180 in this regard. With padded ear cups and a flexible headband, this headset ensures a comfortable fit.
The Best Budget Headphone under Rs 1,000
Sony MDR-ZX110 Wired Headphone
The Sony has a competitive price, and if you’re looking for an entry-level, over-ear headphone, you can’t do better. It’s got extra bass, and as long as you aren’t too concerned about headphones producing more amplified sound with the sharp clarity of treble notes, then it would probably satisfy you. This model has a swivel-folding design, so it can easily fit into a small-sized box, giving it some neat portability. The headphone also has a stylish design and is extremely durable.
This is a really long post! Use the links below to jump around.
Why Trust Us
To find out which headphone was the best in its class, we partnered with Rontek, a company with over 20 years’ of experience in manufacturing high-end audio amplification systems and loudspeakers.
We carried out the tests at Rontek’s in-house R&D studio. The founder, Jacob Abraham, a sound engineer with over two decades of experience in the field, personally consulted with us in picking out the best headphones.
How we selected?
We started our research by looking at each of the approximately 30,000 headphones that were available on Amazon and Flipkart. Next, we eliminated the headphones that had insufficient reviews and poor ratings. Finally, we shortlisted 7 headphones with the highest number of reviews and ratings. They are as follows:
Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576 Anti Headphone
Sennheiser PX 80 Over-Ear Headphone
JBL C300SI Wired Headphone
Sennheiser HD 180 Wired Headphone
Motorola Pulse 2 Headset with Mic
Sony MDR-ZX110 A Wired Headphone
Philips SHS 390 /98 Wired Headphone
How we tested?
Sound quality: The number one consideration for us was to ensure that the sound quality you get is worth Rs. 1,000. To check, we ran two tests. The first was a LARSA test. This required special equipment in the form of a cardboard box connected to a specially designed mic. The headphones are placed over the box, and various sounds of differing frequencies are played. These are recorded by the mic inside the box. After that, we plotted frequency response graphs to measure sound quality. We also had Mr. Jacob, our sound expert from Rontek, listen to different songs on each headphone set. To eliminate any biases, we made sure that he couldn’t see which headphone he was listening to. He was then asked to rate them on the quality of the bass, mids, and trebles.
Discomfort to ear: We also wanted to double-check that you don’t get stuck with headphones that hurt your ears. To test this, we wore each of the headphones for almost two-and-a-half hours to make sure that they didn't cause any pain or discomfort. We eliminated any headphones that we couldn’t wear for more than two hours from our list.
Noise isolation: We wanted to make sure that external sounds don’t disturb your listening experience. So, to figure out which headphone delivered the best noise isolation, we sat beside a TV and tried out each headphone. Then, while listening to a song, we increased the volume on the TV until it was higher than the volume of the headphones. This test was repeated for all the headphones in our test. To ensure fairness, the distance from the TV was kept constant.
Durability of padding: We value durability highly. After all, if you’re going to invest in a device, you want it to stick around, right? To figure out which headphones had the best build quality, we compared the padding on each. We checked the sponge quality and softness, and the thickness of the padding on each of the headphones. There’s no real way for us to test how long the padding lasts, and so, we turned to online reviews to gather this information. We analysed verified reviews of each product on Amazon and Flipkart, to assess whether people had any problems with the padding. The ones which had lower-quality material and were reported to have lesser durability were eliminated.
Warranty and service: We called each brand’s after-sales service number to understand their warranty policy, and the process for getting a product replaced or fixed.
Cable Quality: We checked the cables on each of the headphones to see if they were tangle-free. We also tried deliberately tangling the wires and then untangling them again. We also read through reviews from verified customers online to see if users had run across any unexpected issues.
Best Headphone under Rs. 1000
Sennheiser HD 180 Wired Headphone
This is, hands-down, the top-notch best headphone of the ones we tested in this category. It possesses excellent sound quality, comfort, and durability.
Best sound quality in its price range.
Soft and comfortable ear cups.
Great post-warranty service.
Top-quality material used, for both the body and cable. You can expect it to be long-lasting.
Extra amplifier jack provided for more compatibility options.
No mic—can’t be used for calling.
Not as loud as the others.
Quality of Sound:
In both our tests, we found that this headphone easily outperformed the rest in terms of sound quality and clarity of audio. The audio output from the Sennheiser is very close to the actual audio of the song—the treble and bass are well balanced, though the bass isn’t very punchy, nor is the treble very sharp. The overall loudness is more than adequate for a good listening experience. However, there’s only one, small niggly problem: the maximum volume feels comparatively quieter than of the Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576; so if you’re a fan of heavy rock or death metal, this device might not be the best choice for you. However, our expert, Mr. Jacob really liked the warmth and body of the sound, and loved how the reproduction of sound was natural, even without any extra bass effects.
As far as noise isolation goes, this headphone managed to suppress ambient noise to a great extent, mainly due to the sheer size of its padding. At this price range, you’re not likely to get features like noise cancellation, but this headphone comes pretty close with its noise isolation capacity.
Build and Comfort:
Being an over-ear headphone, the Sennheiser HD 180 can completely cover your ears and is very comfortable. There is also some cushioning on the headband. What we really liked was the thick layer of spongy-soft padding over the ear cups. The over-ear design, with its cushions and perfect clamping, makes this headphone very comfortable to wear over long periods of time, while blocking external noise very effectively. We tried wearing it for two-and-a-half hours continuously, and found that there was no pressure on the ear, nor was there any untoward tightness. You can easily watch an entire movie without experiencing any discomfort, or wear it at work to drown out distraction. However, a minor flaw is that it isn’t sweat resistant, and so may not be the best bet for gym use.
We also found the lightweight plastic body to be quite sturdy. The three-metre long cable was thick, unlike several headphones that had very thin wires that are prone to breaking easily. The cables didn’t tangle easily either. While checking verified reviews online, we found almost no complaints about cable quality or durability. Lastly, the ear cups can be moved a little bit to the sides, giving it that extra bit of adjustability.
The device comes with an additional jack, primarily for musicians (typically for playing the guitar). From our tests, and based on Mr Abraham’s opinion, we can confidently say that it would be perfect for studio use. The quality of the sound reproduction means that you can listen to the playback of a vocal or instrumental track almost exactly as it was recorded. This is quite a nifty feature for artists trying to play over a recorded track. It also helps that the headphone is an over-ear design, enhancing sound accuracy. However, the comparatively low volume and bass could make it harder for you to concentrate on the track while you record. But, if your intention is to just do a few vocal exercises and practise with an instrument, then these headphones can still be considered.
In addition to the minor flaws we mentioned earlier, there are some bigger things that need to be taken into consideration. The headphone doesn't have an inline mic or remote control, so it cannot be used to make calls. Also, the ear cups are not foldable. If you’re looking for a great audio experience and don’t intend to carry around the headphones much, these will be a great fit.
Based on our overall findings, we can confidently say that the Sennheiser HD180 is the best product in its price range, if you’re looking for a headphone with sturdy build quality, clear and accurate sound, and a comfortable listening experience. Though other headphones like the Sennheiser PX 80, and the Sony MDR-ZX110 have better portability and slightly louder sound, but they’re more limited in terms of sound quality (check out our ‘Those That Didn’t Make the Cut’ section). The performance of the HD 180 is truly unparalleled in this segment.
Second-best Headphone under Rs 1,000
Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576 Anti Headphone
Clear sound quality with deep bass, but not better than the Sennheiser HD180
The ear cups come with foam padding covered with faux leather
The ear cup are not rotatable
Lacks a head cushion, but that doesn’t really hamper comfort
Quality of Sound:
After running both our sound tests, we concluded that the Skullcandy was the second-best among the headphones we tested, as far as sound quality and clarity of audio are concerned.
Mr. Abraham said that the sound quality of the Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576 was good, but it just couldn’t reproduce audio as well as the Sennheiser HD180. On the flip side, it was the loudest of the headphones that we tested. It easily managed to produce high quality audio, even at loud volumes. The bass is amplified to an impressive level, but manages to not affect the quality of the mids or the treble. All of this makes for a brilliant listening experience.
As far as noise isolation goes, these headphones were able to significantly suppress external noise, but the effect wasn’t as good as in the Sennheiser HD180. So, though these headphones are incredibly loud, expect some ambient noise to spill in.
Build and Comfort:
The ear cups come with foam padding that is covered with faux leather. Because they are so light, these headphones are also comfortable to wear over long periods. We used it for more than two hours without experiencing any discomfort or pressure. However, the angle of the ear cups is not adjustable—this may cause some problems for those with unusually large ears. The faux leather feels partially sweat-resistant, and like it’s made of a more premium material than in the Sennheiser HD180. This model has a thin round cable, and the connectors at both ends look sturdy. The design and thickness makes the cable partially resistant to getting tangled. While going through the online reviews, we found no complaints about the quality or durability of the cable, or about the padding.
On the design front, the S5LHZ-J576 looks streamlined and stylish, with an over-ear design. The Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576 is very lightweight, and you barely feel it while you’re wearing it. However, we weren't too impressed with the build quality. The headband is made of plastic, and it don't look as elegant as the Sennheiser HD180, or the Sony MDR-ZX110 A. As with the Sennheiser, these headphones don’t have an inline mic or remote control, so they cannot be used for making or taking calls.
In Short:Based on our research, the Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576 offers the second-best audio experience in its range. If you’re looking for headphones that produce clear and loud sound, deep bass, and provide a comfortable listening-experience for long hours, then the Skullcandy S5lHZ-J576 is the best bet for you.
Best Budget Headphone
Sony MDR-ZX110A Wired Headphone
Ear cups are not very durable, and will become dirty easily, with rough usage
Sound quality is good, but not for the mids
No mic, cannot be used to make calls
Quality of Sound:
Based on the tests we ran to evaluate audio quality and clarity, we found that the Sony MDR-ZX110A did not perform as well as the Sennheiser HD180 and the Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576, but it was the third-best in our test.
The problem is that the Sony MDR-ZX110 emphasises low-end frequencies, which means that the bass can occasionally be overpowering. However, since all that extra bass has been tuned towards promoting the lows, it makes for a very warm sound. This also shows in the lower-mid ranges. But, there is a clear drop in sensitivity towards the upper end of the frequency range. So, while the Sony headset is quite impressive in rendering lower frequencies, it underperforms as we moved up the range. In the LARSA test, the headphones managed to produce a frequency response range from 30 Hz to 20 KHz, with great bass, optimised mids, and lowered treble.
Honestly, the MDR-ZX110 isn't something we'd recommend if you're looking for great sonic clarity. The Sennheiser HD180 offers superior audio detail at a little extra cost. However, if you’re looking for heavy bass and a great look, these headphones may be what you’re looking for.Coming to noise isolation, the Sony managed to suppress ambient noises to a large extent, but it didn’t even come close to the Sennheiser HD180 and the Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576 in terms of performance in this regard.
Build and Comfort:
The ear cups have slight padding, making them far more comfortable than any of the on-ear headphones. The headband doesn’t have any cushioning, but it is well-designed and feels secure and comfortable to wear. One feature that we appreciated in this model was that it had a thick, tough cable that looks like it could take a fair bit of strain. The design and thickness also makes the cable semi-tangle resistant. On analysing certified reviews, we found that though there were very few complaints about the cable quality or durability, the ear cups were more of a problem. They appear to be not very durable, and will get dirty after a period of rough usage.
The Sony MDR-ZX110 scores well on aesthetics, though. It looks fancy and expensive from a distance, with a combination of matte- and gloss-finishes on the body, giving it a more premium look than any other device at the same price range. However, on closer inspection, it feels like a strictly-budget device, mainly because the plastic is of average quality. It also doesn’t look or feel like it can take too much abuse, so it’s advisable to be careful while handling it.
The headset also has a rather unique folding mechanism that allows the ear cups to twist inwards, into the headband. This makes it easier to store the MDR-ZX110 when it’s not in use. Additionally, the MDR-ZX110 doesn't have an inline mic or remote control, so it cannot be used to make calls.
To summarise, the Sony MDR-ZX110 is a surefire hit if you like your headphones to be powerful on bass, and aggressive. While the detailing and audio clarity suffers a bit, the premium look somewhat compensates for it. For its price range, it’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for something that’s light on the wallet, but a good device nevertheless.
A note on Warranty and Service
To analyse the warranty policies of each brand, we spent a day calling their customer care services. That way, we were able to gather data on the service policies for each of the headphones on a similar set of parameters.
Some of the brands were hard to reach, as they hadn’t mentioned their contact details in the packaging. We’ve encountered several companies like this, where they offer warranties, but fail to pick up the phone, or provide a means for the customer to claim the warranty.
Skullcandy: Skullcandy was a little difficult to get on the line. We had to call them five to six times before we finally got through to their customer-care representative. Generally, Skullcandy products have two years of warranty from date of purchase. Brandeyes.in is the sole distributor of Skullcandy headphones throughout India. If a product malfunctions, the user is advised to call the customer-care number mentioned on the box, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. No initial registration is required. The invoice/bill copy of the purchase doubles as the warranty card. They have only one office in Noida (UP). To claim the warranty, the customer needs to ship their product to the service centre. They have to enclose a copy of the invoice and the reference address. Once the service centre verifies that there is a fault in the product, a replacement will be sent to the customer.
No technical assistance or service will be provided, post-warranty.
Sennheiser: Sennheiser provides two years of warranty from the date of purchase, for their headphones.
If the headphone stops working within the warranty period, then you can get in touch with the customer-care number mentioned on the box, or pay a visit to one of their four service centres (Kolkata, Haryana, Mumbai, and Bangalore) in India. No initial registration is required. Again, the invoice/bill copy serves as the warranty card. The customer needs to ship the product to the service centre along with the invoice copy and the reference address to claim the warranty. Once they’ve identified the fault, a replacement will be sent to the customer.
Post-warranty, the customer can get the device repaired for a small fees.
Sony: Sony headphones come with just a year’s warranty. If the device stops working within the warranty period, the customer has to call the after-sales service number on the box, or visit one of their service centers. Sony operates a wide network of service centres across India for customers’ convenience. However, malfunctioning headphones, even under warranty, will be replaced ONLY if they were purchased from authorised dealers. The list of authorised dealers can be seen here.
If the headphones were bought at a different dealer, Sony does not provide any warranty for the product. In this case, the warranty is to be claimed from the seller on Amazon/Flipkart.
Those that didn’t make the cut
Sennheiser PX 80 Over-Ear Headphone: These sports headphones are small and lightweight. The model is highly portable, and it easily fits in the compact box provided along with the headphones. It’s ideal for activities like running and working out. However, it lacks in sound quality, and overall comfort and durability.
JBL C300SI Wired Headphone: These headphones aren’t very suitable for those who want headphones that are thick in bass. Though they have a great build and design, they fail to capture interest due to the poor tonal balance. These headphones can produce sound of decent quality, but lacks top-end bass, and instead have a loud treble.
Motorola Pulse 2 Headset with Mic: These headphones simply don’t measure up in terms of sound quality. The body of the music is missing, giving it more bass than required. It also lacks tonal balance, with some vocals missed in the mids. However, it does come with a mic. So if you’re looking for headphones that can be used to make calls, these can be considered. Also, we could not find any clear-cut details on the warranty policy. Nor could we reach the company’s after-sales service, despite repeatedly following-up over email. We did not receive any response to the customer-care service numbers as well.
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