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Looking for budget (<50-60€) wireless earphones with a neutral sound-signature

  1. Skyy
    Hello everyone! :)

    I feel a bit bad about joining when I only have one question since I didn't realize how dedicated this place is but I digress.

    I'm looking for help because I seek a new pair of earphones for jogging and commuting and while I'm not an audiophile at all I like to assume I have decent ears for spotting really bad audio atleast :p

    I'm jogging and commuting around two hours in total a day and since I like to listen to music when I'm outside by myself I've been using an iPhone 6S along with the bog-standard, wired Apple Earpods. I know they are likely not the greatest but I like how they sound, pretty neutral and natural to my ears and they fit great aswell. The only problem I have, the cable breaks, alot! On average I'm buying one new pair every year and while this doesn't really hurt with them costing 35€ it does start to annoy me.

    So with my latest pair breaking two days ago I thought: "Can I do better?" and sought out the help from various other online communities but I got so many wildly different opinios and suggestions, some which even contradicted each other that I feel a bit intimidated and I just thought I'll get another set of Apple Earbuds and be done with it but since I found the Head-Fi community and everyone here seems to be friendly and knowledgeable I thought I would ask here too before I make my decision.

    First I should probably mention I know the Apple Airpods exist and they are pretty much what I'm looking for but spending 150-180€ for two hours a day seems very overkill on my wallet so I wondered what my options are in terms of wireless budget earphones.

    Here is a small sample of music I tend to listen to:

    I tend to dislike bass-heavy sound and prefer something more neutral with focus on the mids I think. I've been researching on the sound-signature of Apple Earpods and this is what I found out:

    Are there any bluetooth earbuds that are atleast somewhat similar to this in the 50-60€ price-range?

    Here are some models I've been suggest so far:

    - Anker SoundBuds Slim+
    - KZ ES4
    - KZ ATE
    - KZ ZSN

    I heard claims like: "If the Apple Earpods are a 10 then the Anker SoundBuds are a 7 and any KZ-earphones are a 20" but sound is such a subjective thing that I want to be as sure as possible before I buy anything :p

    I don't want something that sounds exactly like the Apple Earpods, I know that's impossible sans the Airpods but if I would get into the same mid-level ballpark already I would be happy.

    I also know that my iPhone 6S only supports Bluetooth 4.2 but I'll upgrade to a Bluetooth 5.0 device next year, most likely a Xiaomi Mi 8.

    Sorry for the wall of text and thanks for any help in advance! :)
  2. Skyy
    Sorry to bump this up but really nothing on this? I was looking to buy something new tomorrow as today is a holiday.
  3. PaganDL
    HI @Skyy,

    Not sure if this is helpful directly but there are a few inexpensive alternative options (though it may potentially hit the upper limit of your budget especially when added together but it is an option) which may help you as sadly I am not aware of any decent IEMs bluetooth capable on their own in your price range or more accurately ones which you may be happy with.

    Shure 215 SE with 4.1 Bluetooth Cable (Bluetooth 5 Cable is available separately though don't think it's available in the UK just yet) (Also maybe your best option in terms of overal cost & durability)

    Otherwise, inexpensive IEMs like the following in no particular order can be paired with either the Shure BT cable on its own or with Fiio BTR 3.

    iBasso IT 01 (Shure BT cable compatible)
    Shozy Hibiki (Fiio BTR 3)
    Kinera Seed Yin (Fiio BTR 3)

    Apoloigies for not being able to help much more on this but these are what I have found helpful in a similar situation.

    Hope you have a great day !
  4. Skyy

    Thanks for the reply PaganDL! :)

    I'm well aware that my limitations are tough, I wasn't aware though that the Apple Earpods are seemingly quite okay for their price-class so now that I know this I find it no surprise they are hard to match on a budget when bluetooth gets involved. You are right that the iBasso IT 01 stretch my budget quite a bit but Shozy Hibiki and the Kinera Seed Yin seem great and affordable from what I saw! One question about the Fiio BTR 3 though, I just looked over it at a glance and will look into it more in-depth later but did I get that right that it basically acts as a battery-powered bluetooth receiver where I would plug in 3.5mm headphones with a cable? If that's the case this is a little bit less convenient than I thought but I could definitely live with this!

    For now I'll refrain from buying anything though as I might or might not get some earphones gifted. My birthday comes up relatively soon and a friend who knows about my wired earphone woes suspiciously asked me about Apple Airpods and eBay out of nowhere. I acted dumb and my friends know I don't like expensive gifts but if they plan to fetch me a used pair they know I wouldn't mind that if they manage to grab one for a low price :p

    I use my 2016 Earpods now with a broken in-line control and mic but at least the ear-pieces still work fine and I bought a new pair of wired Earpods but left them sealed for now for emergencies and will see what my birthday brings, if I get anything I'll return the new Earpods I bought :p

    In either case, no need to be sorry your help is much appreciated! :)
  5. PaganDL
    Hi @Skyy

    No problem, as said, happy to help & only sorry if I can't be of any help.
    Affordable bluetooth earphones still have a long way to go but things are slowly getting there so you never know...maybe one day you might find something you can actually use...
    Fiio's BTR 3 is both a transmitter & reciever so basically, you can connect any non bluetooth source to non bluetooth speakers or earphones or headphones & you should be good bluetooth wise.
    Yes, still having a cable if you use them for earphones is slightly less convenient but as you said, it is definitely not an issue.
    Aside from not having BT 5, the bluetooth codecs which matters are as follows :


    These all give high definition, full range audio, especially the latter mean you will get the best sound quality there is, though this depends how good your source quality is in the first place but that's another story...

    The good thing is if you do consider something like the BTR 3 at any point, any audio source &/or output can be used so if something wasn't bluetooth capable before, it can be, whether that's a good thing or not, depends.
    Not to mention, for your usage, up to 11 hours is a lot on one charge & it takes 1.5 hours to charge & the microphone seems decent enough.

    All three earphones I recommended are all great so it depends on your needs, you never know, maybe one day, any of these might be your next upgrade if you want to try something different but the choice is certainly up to you...

    Well, honestly, I would be extremely wary getting anything off ebay if possible, especially Apple related but hope your friends surprise you with something nice regardless.

    If you don't mind, be interested to know how things turn out for you regardless.

    Hope you have a great day !
  6. Skyy
    Thanks for the detailed explanation about Bluetooth and the BTR 3, regardless of my headphone woes I might get one for my Nintendo Switch! I use a wireless headset on my PC and whenever I play my Switch in handheld-mode in my home I either have to run a 3.5mm cable directly to my headset or into LINE-IN on my PC but if the BTR 3 can make the Switch audio bluetooth-sync to my PC that would be really convenient, the battery-life sounds great too! :)

    And I'll definitely keep any of these in mind for the future, from a few reviews I watched it sounds like the Shozy Hibiki might be right up my alley! You definitely have a good point about eBay too but aslong as you pay via PayPal you have full buyer-protection so even if you get scammed you can atleast easily get your money back so that's a plus. And thank you, I look forward to see what happens on my birthday now actually, it's still a bit though :p

    Also sure thing I will keep you updated, I hope you have a great day too! :)
    PaganDL likes this.
  7. PaganDL
    Hi @Skyy,

    That's a great idea for cross compatibility for BTR 3, hope it helps link your PC & the Switch together well...

    I use Paypal all the time so I'm well covered there, just don't feel like going to ebay any more on top of too many potential scammers to make a case against, not lazy, just personally have better things to do with my time but one never knows, maybe, if something comes up useful...

    Shozy Hibiki is a good choice overall though honestly I will say the M2 doesn't appeal to me as much personally & subjectively as the M1 though it is still good & I have a soft spot for the M1 but I intend to give the M2 more time very soon.

    Hope you find more things in the audio world useful to you but with this sort of thing, there is no real rush. :)
    By the way, if you're after other inexpensive audio gear which may appeal &/or be useful to you, I suggest looking into pro audio gear & if there are any pro audio dealers near you, they may also have good deals.
    For example, there are usb computer interfaces which act as good external soundcards &/or dacs with built in Digital Signal Processing (DSP), as well as have recording capability if necessary.
    Some to look into at some stage (as a good learning experience & perhaps curiosity) are as follows in no particular order :
    Lexicon Alpa
    Focusrite Scarlett Series

    Look forward to being appraised on your birthday outcome & whatever else you may find.
    Also feel free to PM directly if you like.

    Hope you have a great day !
  8. Skyy
    Thank you! :) Yeah that's my long-term plan now since it should work with my 3DS and Vita too, I just would have to get a new Bluetooth Dongle for my PC aswell as my current one is still an ancient BT2.0 one. And I'm sorry to hear about your bad eBay experiences, I'm a relatively new user and only have been scammed once so far but eBay quickly resolved that. But yeah you have to be careful :/

    Now you made me curious, what makes you like the Mk 1 more than the Mk 2?

    Hmm alright that sounds good, I'll look into these, thanks! :D I have to replace my current PC sound-card sooner or later anyway as, while I love my current Creative X-Fi Xtreme Gamer, it still runs over the ancient PCI interface, doesn't work with OSX86 and I would like something with one OPTICAL IN and one OPTICAL OUT port so I can keep using my headset and have my PS4 audio running into my PC over optical. USB-systems seem really handy from this from what I saw. Audio is definitely I want to prioritize more should money allow it :p

    And thanks! Like said I'll keep you updated and hope you have a great day too! :)
  9. PaganDL
    HI @Skyy,

    Just to clarify, had no bad experiences on ebay, just didn't want to use the platform any more.

    Regarding BT for PC, unless you're going to use the BTR 3 exclusively for the 3DS & Vita, unless you want to do streaming simultaneously, I suggest just swapping the BTR 3 between PC & your game devices when you need it.
    Unfortunately, there aren't many good BT transmitters to be found up to current spec.
    The only other way around it to find something with BT functionality like a DAC or DAP.

    Though unless you really need BT, I suggest again the computer interface devices, something with network capable audio, eg, Dante or just straight wifi which some DAPs can do now.
    Computer Interfaces like I mentioned usually have optical in/out as standard so shouldn't be a problem finding one with those connections.
    As said, a lot of good pro audio gear out there, which isn't too expensive & good quality, often lasts longer than most if not all consumer audio too.

    Depending where you are in Europe, it shouldn't be too hard to find a good pro audio place which can point you in the right direction for what you may need, not to mention there are a lot of good pro audio companies based in Europe so you could probably visit a retail space directly.
    Of course, there are people like myself & others who are happy to help your continuing journey in audio. :)

    Regarding the Shozy Hibiki M1 vs M2 is a matter of subjective & personal preference.
    I have a preference for good, almost full bodied midrange with a warm to smooth flavour & more often than not, I find a lot of IEMs with smooth over warm. (By the way, when I say smooth & warm, I refer to how the sound makes me feel, not necessarily the actual sound itself...if that makes sense...)
    This is not a bad thing though I would prefer more from both flavours in IEMs I have listened to over the years though that's not a bad thing either.
    While not a bass head, I like good, accurate bass response, the Hibiki M1 has that which is also full & well rounded up to & across all frequencies as well as the smooth I mentioned above, over the M2, which has slightly less bass fill but still good & accurate & slightly clearer highs, the latter not really being my preference but still likeable if not enjoyable though the last has more to do with source synergy than anything else.
    Hope that answers your question.

    Hope you have a great day !
  10. Skyy

    Ah okay :xf_eek:

    Wait but wouldn't I need two BTR 3's in that scenario, one as a transmitter from my handhelds and another as a receiver on my PC? I hoped I could use a BTR 3 as a transmitter and then have a generic BT 5.0 USB dongle as a receiver.

    And hmm thanks for the tip, so if I get you right there is something like network "wifi audio" now? That's very interesting and I had no idea, depending on how hassle-free and expensive it is that might solve most of my little annoyances, I'll definitely look around!

    I'm in Germany so I'm sure I can find a place somewhere, thanks for all the suggestions, you're really helpful and so friendly! :D

    Reading your explanation about the Hibikis and your preference it seems we have quite a similar taste for audio signatures. I also prefer full mid-range that sounds somewhat warm with less emphasis on bass aslong as it's good. And yeah I fully get what you mean, articulating sound preferences can be somewhat hard but I believe we have the same idea here! :) It seems I might prefer the Mk 1 too going by all that but yeah it's hard to tell as sound is subjective. It's really a shame that there is no easy way to try earphones out before you buy them but yes that answered my question!

    And thanks, I hope you will have one too! :)
  11. PaganDL
    HI @Skyy,

    Well, if you can find a good BT 5 or even BT 4.1/4.2 dongle, I would like to know too :)
    But having two BTR 3 is one solution among many so I suggest more research & try to find something which may help which is accessible for you.
    Being where I am, there are not many options without taking a stab in the dark & I'm not crazy enough to stab my wallet unnecessarily either :p

    Networked Audio & WI FI Audio are different but both tend to be better than BT, signal wise, as a general rule & have been around slightly longer than good BT, which was & is BT 3 APTX though it initially wasn't very common.
    Networked Audio usually requires at the very least an ethernet cable to connect to a network capable device, eg router, computer interface with ethernet port, etc.
    WI FI Audio is just basically using a WI FI network to transmit the audio signal as opposed to a wired or in your original case, BT.
    As mentioned, some DAP & devices support WIFI as well as BT though there are some audio devices which only 'prefer' to support WIFI for various reasons.
    Nowadays, you will find many speakers with either or both functions though if the device is considered a 'smart' device, I would err caution if you have privacy concerns as for most 'smart' devices, (not to be particularly paranoid) the microphone is more than usually 'always on' even when supposedly turned off but I digress...
    So cost wise, it depends on your needs & how well you wish to integrate it into your personal setup.

    As far as I am aware, sadly, I don't live in Europe but it is my understanding there should be no shortage for good audio places, both pro & consumer, not to mention various audio shows, both trade & consumer which may be helpful & likely willing to demo things you may be or even not interested in to get an idea for what is suitable for you.

    At the end of the day, as long as you can make an informed decision on your own, obivously the more you can demo, the better, if not, knowing what's out there & what it's worth to you helps a lot.

    Happy to help & have a great day !
  12. Skyy
    Okay will do! I need a good one anyway to connect all my gamepads, my current BT 2.0 one can handle my Dualshock 4 controllers and my SF30 Pro just fine but my Wii U Pro Controller doesn't want to connect to it and BT 2.0 isn't anywhere close to good enough for audio, I'll look into ASUS dongles, I heard they are supposedly good.

    Hmm I got that much, so theoretically I could attach a receiver to my router and then have a WiFi enabled mini-DAC connected to my devices on the fly? Then I guess the rest is handled via software on my PC? That would be quite a nice setup. But yeah so far I don't see the need for smart-devices like these speakers in my life yet, I mean "Hey Siri" is neat but I can still do everything faster manually :p I'll see what I can find! :)

    That sounds like a plan, yeah HiFi sections here are usually well stacked but I live in a small town so aside from the one or other shops there won't be anything big here but it's often the smaller, more dedicated shops that truly help you and don't just want to take your money in any way possible anyway.

    Yeah I see it the same, it's the same with food, people can tell you all the way how great something is but in the end it's your own taste that counts!

    And thanks, I hope you have too! :)
    PaganDL likes this.
  13. PaganDL
    Hi @Skyy,

    As said, basically networked audio is usually implemented via integrated hardware (it tends not to be just a reciever but dedicated all in one solution which is linked to the audio source via an ethernet cable) built into computer interfaces, eg, Focusrite's more advanced models are Dante capable in the Scarlett Series and in their Clarett Series.
    Scarlett also has a pro series which most non pros & even most pros would not necessarily need but is still potentially useful to have.
    Depending on a given setup, software integration is all dependant on necessity & what the user is trying to achieve & there may be very little software side control unless for specfic requirements, eg specialised Digital Signal Processing (DSP), sound compression &/or enhancement, etc.
    But as stated, these solutions are potentially cheaper & infinitely more useful than consumer audio counterparts in the mid to long term.

    Small town living for certain things does have its drawbacks but then I haven't really lived in any 'good' small towns to make any further comments, good or ill, :p

    Aside from hearing & taste, perception bias is often a big, very misunderstood factor, so the important thing is, as far as close to personal mottos go, no matter what it is, try to experience as much as possible in a given selection &/or criteria, hence lots of demos. :)

    Hope you have a great day !
  14. Skyy
    Okay that sounds all quite overkill for a beginner like me who just wants to get rid of cables where possible and convenient :p But given that my PC is the center-source for all my audio in my place I'll definitely take a look at some entry-level stuff as I already see that when setup properly these things can help making things better organized and easier to handle :)

    Ehehe well yeah a small town does have some drawbacks but I rather always would like to live in a small town with plenty of nature, it just eases my soul. Big cities are nice and great experiences in their own right but only for shopping trips and days off :p

    Now that's a stance I can agree with! :D And also never say you don't like something before you tried it unless it's close enough to something else you tried before that you are 100% sure you don't like :D :p

    And thanks, you too! :)
    PaganDL likes this.
  15. PaganDL
    Hi @Skyy,

    Yes, networked &/or WIFI Audio can be overkill which is why most don't use it a whole lot just yet & nothing wrong with well organised cables...

    PC is also my main source for all my audio so I completely understand.
    Though if you're after a more organised setup, especially where cables are concerned, I didn't mention before but there are such things called monitor controllers, eg Drawmer MC 2.1 (I use this but there are reasonable & less pricey alternatives with both pros & cons), which help streamline everything cable, speakers, head amp, etc which may be help for you down the road so I suggest looking into this down the line for your setup for making everything easier to handle.
    With monitor controller, I can also control Master Volume & Sound Levels & have Master Mute Functionality.
    Sidenote, cables aren't the tidiest at the moment as current desk doesn't allow good cable management, hopefully next desk will correct this in near future.

    Just to give you an idea, for me, set up is as follows :

    PC via usb to Lexicon Alpha Output 1 :
    Drawmer MC 2.1 Output Channel 1 to active speakers
    Drawmer MC 2.1 Output Channel 2 to Presonus HP 4 Passthrough Output to amplifier for passive speakers
    Lexicon Alpha Output 2 : Subwoofer
    Lexicon Alpha to Headphone Out : Splitter to several Head Amps

    Nature is great & hope you hold onto it for a good long time. :)
    Sometimes I miss nature !
    For me, sound, especially good sound eases my soul.

    Glad you agree, it's great isn't it to have constructive opinions through experience & knowledge though sadly in life, many don't work this way but I digress...

    Hope you have agreat day !

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