A good pair of headphones can be hard to find. Especially with the sheer variety of products in the market. To find the best headphone with the perfect blend of audio quality, noise isolation and durability we spent over a week testing headphones.
We got an experienced sound engineer, Mr. Jacob Abraham from Rontek. The reason we worked with Rontek is they are not just audio consultants, but also manufacturers of speakers and amplifiers.
We tested four of the most popular headphones in the under Rs.3000 range and here are our best picks.
The Best Headphone under Rs. 3,000
Sony Extra Bass MDR-XB550AP On-Ear Headphones with Mic
The Sony Extra Bass MDR-XB550AP was the best sounding headphone in this category. Best the focus on extra bass, the headphone did very well at all frequencies. Being a Sony it was very well built with an elegant matte finish body, comfortable paddings and durable tangle-free cables. Noise isolation was also the best in the range despite being an on-ear headphone. For taking calls when connected, it has an in-line mic and a remote that can come in handy.
Boat Rockerz 510 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
The Boat Rockerz 510 was a feature rich headphone, boasting wired and wireless connection, on-headphone buttons and large 50mm drivers for improved bass. Being an over-ear headphone the noise isolation was very good and it almost matched the performance on the Sony XB550AP in this regard. With the padded ear cups and flexible headband, this headset ensured a comfortable fit leaving no strain on our ears for close to two and a half hours. It comes with an in-built mic which can be used for phone calls.
This is a really long post! Use the links below to jump around.
Why Trust Us?
To find the best headphones under Rs.3000 we spend over 1 week testing different aspects of the headphone. To do justice to the audio testing we partnered with Rontek, a company with over 20 years’ of experience in manufacturing high quality audio amplification systems and loudspeakers. At Rontek we measured the sound quality of each headphone subjectively & objectively.
Good sound quality isn't all that makes a headphone good, so we used each headphone for at least 2 & 1/2 hours to test their comfort. Similarly a noise isolation test was carried out to understand if external noise can seep through. Lastly we called up all headphone manufacturers to understand their warranty and service policies.
How we selected ?
Our search for the best headphones started with an initial list of 30,000 headphones, from Amazon and Flipkart. We started by removing all headphones with poor ratings and reviews. We finally selected the most highly reviewed and highly rated headphones online today.
The shortlisted headphones were:
BoAt Rockerz 600 Bluetooth Headphones
Mivi SAXO Wireless Bluetooth Headphones with hands free mic
Sony Extra Bass MDR-XB550AP On-Ear Headphones with Mic
Boat Rockerz 510 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones with Mic
How we tested?
For headphones, we give sound reproduction a high weightage but we also focus on the smaller things like comfort of the headphone, durability of the headphones and cables, sweat resistance, noise isolation and warranty.
Here is how we tested each of these parameters.
Sound Quality: The sound quality testing was done at Rontek with the help of Mr. Jacob. We split the sound quality testing into two parts, Objective and Subjective. The Subjective testing is where Mr.Jacob listens to a selection of songs from different genres and then grades each headphone for sound quality.
The Objective testing is where things get interesting. Objectively testing a headphone is much more difficult than a normal speaker. Still, with the help of Rontek we built our own test rig, which consisted of a box (see image above) to simulate the human head, fitted into which was a calibrated microphone to record sound. With this setup we managed to perform the LARSA test on all the headphones. LARSA test helps to plot the frequency response curve of the headphone which shows the frequency and loudness of the headphones.
Objective testing cannot be conducted on the Bluetooth only headphones as the calibrated microphone was designed to work with wired headphones only
Comfort: As we said before, we don’t want you to be stuck with headphones that hurt your ears. So, to test the comfort of each headphone our researcher wore each headphone for over two hours, looking out for any sort of pain in the ear, irritation, sweating etc.
Durability: Next we wanted to check the durability of the headphone padding. So we checked the sponge quality, softness, thickness of padding on each of the headphone. We also checked verified reviews on Amazon and Flipkart to assess whether people had problems with the padding.
Next we checked the cable quality to see if they were actually tangle-free. We tried tangling the cable and then tried removing the tangles.
Noise Isolation: To test the noise isolation, we sat down next to a TV and put the headphones on. We kept increasing the volume on the TV until the sound from the TV was louder than the sound from the headphone. We noted the exact point at which this occurred. We compared this with the performance of the other headphones.
Quality of Mic: We tested the mic by using it to make calls with different people and check for call clarity and volume.Warranty and Service: We called each headphone company to find out the warranty and service policy and process for getting a headphone replaced or fixed for each headphone.
Best Headphone under Rs.3000
The Sony MDR-XB550AP is the best headphone in its range boasting excellent sound quality, superb build quality and remarkable noise isolation.
Excellent sound reproduction with a good focus on bass
Good build quality
Very good noise isolation
Quality padding makes headphone comfortable to use for long hours
Tangle-free flat cable
In-line remote and mic for hands-free calls with good clarity
Sony Smartkey app lets you personalise the remotes call key
No Volume Control buttons
Headphones can't be folded for added portability
Quality of Sound: Reproduces Bass that is worthy of its name
Sony has made a name for itself for making affordable headphones that have a mix of great and clear sound but also having focus on the bass. Now bass is a tricky aspect to manage, have too less of it and the sound feels lacking, Have too much bass and well your not going to hear anything else clearly.
The Sony MDR XB550AP manages to beautifully manage the bass without it overpowering the mids and highs. Mr.Jacob loved that the headphone could deliver top-notch sound quality for its relatively low price. The warm sound reproduction also makes them great for not just music listening but also movie watching.
As far as noise isolation goes this headphone managed to suppress external noises to a great extent thanks mainly to the thickness and diameter of the padding.
Build and Comfort: Premium materials make it very durable
The Sony Extra Bass MDR-XB550AP being an on-ear headphone had ear cups that completely covered your ear, and were comfortable for extended periods of listening. Listening to the XB550AP for more than 2 ½ hours did not give us any strain on the ear. So you can easily watch a full movie without experiencing any discomfort.
Despite the design being similar to most Sony headphones in this price bracket, the MDR XB550AP manages to look more premium. This is because of the powder coated like finish on the ear cups, the beautiful satin chrome material on the headband, the body colored cushion on the ear cups and headband and the ribbed flat cables all ooze style and quality.
They ear-cups are not fully sweat resistant so they may not be your best bet for the gym or long term outdoor usage. Having flat cables completely prevents it from getting tangled. Despite actively trying to tangle the cable, we couldn't do it. This was further confirmed by lack of complaints about the cable quality or durability from online reviews.
This headphone has an inline mic and can be used for calling purpose, but no volume control buttons. The single call button can be customized to be used for other function from the Sony SmartKey app
Sadly this headphone can’t be folded completely, but the ear cups can be rotated.
Based on our extensive testing and with inputs of our sound expert, we can say the Sony XB550AP offers the best experience if you are looking for something that sounds very good, looks and feels premium and is comfortable to listen to for long hours.
Good Bass on a Wireless headphone
Supports Audio via Bluetooth and 3.5mm cable too
Soft foams cushion
Biggest ear cups diameter in this category
Decent battery life
A bit on a bulkier side due to built in battery
The buttons don't work over a wired connection
Cheap plasticky build quality
Quality of Sound: Surprisingly Good Audio
The Boat Rockerz 510 come in a close second in terms of sound quality. The sound is loud, well balanced and frankly quite pleasant to listen too. The 50mm drivers do boost the sound and low end significantly, but we found a significant sound leakage at high volume.
As far as noise isolation goes this headphone managed to suppress external noises as good as the Sony MDR-XB550AP.
Build and Comfort: Extremely Comfortable pair of cans with slightly plasticky build quality
With a design that seems to mimic V-Moda’s Crossfade headphone, this headphone surely tries to look different than the other headphones in its class. However the glossy red and black body is very plasticky and feels cheap, the buttons also don't have a nice feel to them. The Sony MDR-XB550AP despite being marginally more expensive feels much better in terms of build.
The quality of padding on the ear cups however, are very good in quality and give a good isolation from external noise. The quality of the ear cups was so good we felt more comfortable with the BoAt headphones than that of the Sony. The BoAt headphones also have the largest diameter of ear cups which can be great if you have big ears.
All the controls are on the right ear cup side and work flawlessly. The controls sadly do not work on wired connections. There is an inbuilt mic, micro usb port for charging and 3.5mm AUX input for wired music playback.
They have extra flat cables and it doesn't get tangled and can also be used as a wired headphone. There were almost no complaints about the cable quality or durability from online reviews.
Battery life: Decent battery life
Over a bluetooth connection the headphone about 9 hours. Charging the headphones takes approximately an hour. The headphones turn themselves off if left idle, thus saving battery.
Bluetooth range is as expected, and maintains good quality sound through a reasonable distance of 10 feet.
Given the pricing the Boat headphone packs in Bluetooth and Aux support while still maintaining a very good sound quality and decent battery life. With the Sony MDR XB550AP lacking bluetooth, the BoAt Rockerz 510 is the best sounding wireless headphone in this range.
A note on Warranty and Service
To analyze the warranty and service policy of each product, we called up all the given helpline numbers.
Sony: Sony has a 1 year warranty on all their headphones. For any issues with the product you drop off the product at the service center or ring up the customer care for assistance. Headphone replacement under warranty is valid only if the product is purchased from the following authorized sellers given below here. Make sure you check this list before you buy. If the product is brought from a different seller, the warranty will not be respected.
BoAt: BoAt headphones have 1 year of warranty from date of purchase for headphones. Initial registration of the product is required. They have only one office in Mumbai. Customer needs to log the complaint in their website. The headphone is picked by the company person from client location and an unique code is assigned. Once it’s found faulty, the replaced product will be sent to the customer. The products are only replaced and cannot be repaired. No technical assistance or service provided post warranty.
Those that didn’t make the cut
boAt Rockerz 600 Bluetooth- The boAt Rockerz 600 has a fantastic design, it certainly has the vintage charm to it, but look closely and its basically a look alike of the Marshall Master II. Given how good it looks we are not complaining.
But it lags behind our best picks in terms of sound quality. Also given the ear cup design the noise isolation is not very good and the ear cup damping is very thin which further degrades to listening experience. The only saving grace is the fact that it supports audio playback through Bluetooth and Aux.
Mivi SAXO Wireless Bluetooth Headphones - The Mivi Saxo headphones have a simple, pleasing design and good build quality. However the sound quality isn't as good as our best picks. We even felt hearing fatigue just 15 minutes into its usage.
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