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 traveller 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 under 1000 selling in the market right now. Last time we reviewed the best headphones under 1000 in India, we partnered with Rontek, an Indian company that has been in the audio technology field for over two decades, to run a series of blind tests for audio quality.
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 lot of tests, we’ve listed the best ones in each category.
With it being around a year since our article, we felt it would be right to make sure we update it with any new products currently available. So we surfed the internet for new picks, reading through reviews from reputed websites.
As a result of our testing here’s what we liked.
The Best Headphone under Rs 1,000
Motorola Pulse Max Headset with Mic
The Motorola Pulse Max with its superb sound quality, comfortable fit and light on the pocket price was also our best pick under Rs.2000. In terms of sound, it matches the much more expensive Sony XB450AP especially with its good balance of lows and strain-free mids and highs. Read more about the Motorola Pulse Max in our Best headphone under 2000 article.
The Second-Best Headphone under Rs 1,000
Skullcandy S5LHZ-J576 Anti Headphone
Skullcandy delivers effective sound quality, 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 decent noise isolation to reduce ambient noise. 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 MDR-ZX110 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 these links to jump around.
Why Trust Us?
To find out which headphone was the best in its class, we had partnered with Rontek, a company with over 20 years’ 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.
With almost a year being passed since our article we wanted to come back and update it with any new products that might have launched. This took us to other reputed websites in search of newer picks.
How we selected?
We had 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
As we said earlier we revisited this list of headphones to add anything we might have missed given that new products might have launched. So when we started our research we found that our best pick was no longer available and there weren't any new picks that felt better than our existing best picks. But with the price of one of our best picks under Rs.2000 touching Rs.999, we felt it would be best to add it as our best pick.
How we tested?
Our last headphones testing include a lot more than just sound quality tests, as we wanted to make sure the headphone you buy is comfortable to wear and more. Here are all the parameters we had 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 different 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.
The 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 a 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.
What makes a good headphone - inputs from our audio expert
Given how many headphones are available today the only two criteria many seem to care about is sound quality (especially bass) and price. This is why at the Rs.1000 price nearly all the headphones have bass-heavy sound with a serious lack of balanced sounding headphones. But sound quality is not what we will touch upon today, instead, we will talk about comfort and portability, something our expert, Mr Jacob really cares about.
In the quest for audio quality, we often forget about comfort, which includes padding quality, clamping force, portability and adjustability of the ear cups. This is exactly why we conducted a lot of experiments to check the comfort of the headphones after 2.5 hours of usage, where we found a few headphones that would give listening fatigue after only 15 mins, while others did not have great quality padding which can leak sound and even catch dirt easily. Comfort and portability becomes an even bigger factor if you are going to use the headphones on journeys where lugging around a huge headphone isn't always possible. Side note- our expert, Mr Jacob actually uses a Sennheiser PX80 due to its ability to fold into a small sunglasses-like box size. This he claims really helps him carry his music without the hassle of digging around his bag for a headphone. Here we would also like to stress upon the fact that you can always rely on headphone reviews to tell you about comfort and fit of a particular headphone. But again we will stress on something that we have told many times in the past- make sure you try out the headphones before you buy. This is especially important for people who wear glasses as there are quite a few headphones that clamp too tightly causing discomfort when worn with glasses.
Another bonus tip we have and something that our expert too agrees on is that one must not always base their buying decision on brands. Yes JBL, Sennheiser, Sony are big brands but they cannot always make great products, this is something we found while testing the best headphones under Rs.1000. Here we expected the JBL C300SI headphone to do really well, or at least better than the Motorola and Skullcandy headphones, but once testing was completed we found it was the last in terms of Sound Quality, in fact, been surpassed by a Motorola Pulse 2!. While at the same time we did not expect a lot from BoAt headphones, the BoAt Rockerz 510 pleasantly surprised us, so much that we even declared it as the winner in the Rs.2000 category.
Second-Best Headphone under Rs 1,000
Clear sound quality with deep bass,
The ear cups come with foam padding covered with faux leather
The ear cups 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 (our previous winner). 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 Moto Pulse Max despite being much larger in size does allow you to fold the earcups flat making them much easier to store than the Skullcandy.
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 make 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 on-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 doesn'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.
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
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 Motorola Pulse Max 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 can make the bass occasionally 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.
Honestly, the MDR-ZX110 isn't something we'd recommend if you're looking for great sonic clarity. However, if you’re looking for heavy bass and a great portability, 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 Moto Pulse Max 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 make 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 looks 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.
Who are our best picks for?
One thing we know about these headphones is that they are all three bass-boosted headphones, which is what is found in most products in this price category. But the key differences are in the design.
The Moto Pulse Max offers an over the ear design with large drivers that give it the best sound quality of the three. But with its large earcup size it's not the most portable, however, its earcups are rotatable and can be made flat. This limits it to home movie and music sessions.
The Skullcandy Anti is an on-ear design which makes it smaller than the Moto but the ear cups are rigid and can’t be rotated or made flat. You can still carry them if you have ample space in your bag.
The Sony ZX110 meanwhile offers the best folding mechanism which makes it a treat to carry while travelling. All you have to do is fold them and it can fit into your bag easily.
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.
Motorola: Motorola headphones have a 1-year warranty. The invoice or bill copy is the warranty card. They have only one office in Delhi. You can ship the product to their service centre along with the invoice copy and the reference address. If the product is found to be faulty, the replaced product will be sent to the customer. We found that they do not offer any services post warranty.
We faced some difficulties in reaching the Motorola helpline. We had to call them five to six times before we finally got through to their customer care rep. We were informed to reach a different helpline number or to write to firstname.lastname@example.org for service or warranty related queries. Our email was replied promptly with the proper contact details. The confusion is created as the Motorola headphones are not made by Motorola but, Binatone to whom the Motorola name is licensed for accessories.
Shyam Telecom Ltd, Naraina, Delhi is the authorized service centre for all India online Moto mobile accessories and all calls being routed through Delhi. For all future communication, speak to Manoj Kothiyal at the number: +91-9136008800 for all correspondence in future for delivery to Delhi/ replacement sent from Delhi
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 the 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 email@example.com. 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.
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 centres. 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 by 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 the bass. Though they have a great build and design, they fail to capture interest due to the poor tonal balance. These headphones can produce the sound of decent quality but lack low-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.
Philips SHS 390 /98 Wired Headphone: This headphone is an on-ear type which has no noise isolation. The listening comfort, sound quality, and durability were not up to our expectations when compared to our winners. In terms of design, these headphones cannot be worn for long periods of time, as this may cause discomfort. The quality of the padding on the ear cups is poor, and durability is an issue for both the padding and the cables. The design of the headband is such that it goes behind the neck, making it uncomfortable to use while laying down.
If you are overwhelmed by the sheer variety of products in the Rs.1000 headphone market than worry not, as our three suggestions will offer the best performance without putting a big hole in your wallet.
The Motorola Pulse Max despite its price, sounds superb, in fact, its sound is close to our best pick under Rs.2000, the Sony XB450AP. The Pulse Max does very well with mids and highs and shines in the lows. It, however, isn't the best when it comes to build-quality and noise isolation.
Skullcandy’s Anti meanwhile offers a stylish and funky alternative to other headphones. The sound like most headphones in this price is biased towards bass and it actually delivers it very well. You also get noise isolation that's as effective as on the Moto Pulse Max and for the price the earcups and headband are extremely comfortable.
The Sony MDR-ZX110A offers extreme portability at the lowest price here. While it's not as great as our two best picks in terms of sound quality, for the price its reproduce some great bass if that's what you prefer.