In my recent review of RHA’s MA350 earphones I concluded a paragraph lamenting the vast and frankly overwhelming choice of budget headphones like this:
Limiting your search by price range, manufacturer/brand and so on obviously helps a great deal but you’re still left with hundreds of choices. Picking through them wasn’t a chore i was all that bothered about completing.
So, despite personally having settled on the RHA pods for now, I was very pleased to learn (via twitter) that somebody has actually put in the time and effort to perform this unenviable task for us. Hurray for the internet! If you’re in the market for a new pair of reasonably-priced headphones, go read The Wirecutter’s “Best In-Ear Headphones Under $30” piece. They’ve set some perhaps questionable criteria in order to quickly reduce the numbers involved but overall it is an excellent bit of work. I’m certainly not holding my breath waiting for something more comprehensive.
Sadly, the winning headphones – Panasonic’s RP-TCM125 Ergo Fit – don’t appear to be available in the UK, or at least they don’t go by that model number. On this side of the pond, RP-HJE125E look to have the same bud design and same specs, except there’s no mention of an inline microphone. Meanwhile, RP-TCM120 look like they have the correct single-button mic but the buds don’t look quite right. I’ve found no reviews of either of these and thus no clues to their quality, though the reception for Panasonic’s (again very similar) RP-HJE120-E1 on Amazon is pretty good. Best of all though, any of these Panasonic headphones can be had for well under £10. Probably worth a punt if you’re looking.
Update: The Wirecutter’s reviewer, Lauren Dragan, suggests that the Panasonic RP-HJE125 are the UK equivalent of the RP-TCM125. The uncertainty over a microphone remains but you can’t really complain when paying just £6.
Update, July 2015: I bought a pair of the RP-HJE125s some time ago, you can read my quick review here. Also, note that the above “Best In-Ear Headphones Under $30” link now re-directs to a newer, updated Wirecutter review. If you want to see the original review text I was referring to here, make use of the Wayback Machine.