When AirPods were released at the end of 2016, most people laughed at them. They were certain that without a cord to keep them attached, buyers would lose their latest expensive Apple product. But taste evolved, as it always does. Now, Airpods are a common — if not expected — sight on the University of Maryland’s campus.
However, at more than $150, they’re an expensive item for a college student on a college budget. If you’re like me and can’t spend that kind of money — or refuse to pay the high price because you’ll surely lose them — then you’ll need to find some other device for listening to music to make your commute to class a little more exciting. Here are five (relatively) inexpensive earphones and headphones that don’t compromise on sound quality.
My current pair of wireless earphones, the Anker SoundBuds Slim, have been very reliable. They’re simple and only available in three colors, but they have a pretty good battery life. The backs of the earpieces are also magnetic, making it easy to wear them around your neck when the music is paused.
I’ve had a similar pair of SoundPEATs before, so I can definitely stand by the sound quality of its products. These earbuds are completely wireless, in-ear, and come with a storage case. The fear with these is the same as with AirPods — you’ll take them out and lose them immediately.
My biggest gripe with some in-ear wireless models is that they are too chunky and stick out of your ear, but these are decently sleek and come in black and white. There are built-in microphones in each earbud, although I’m a little concerned about the microphone quality given the distance from your mouth.
If the SoundPEATS were trying to be AirPods, then these SENSO ones are trying to be the around-the-ear Beats by Dre. They only come in black, but you have a few different options for accent colors.
One of my least favorite things about wired Bluetooth headphones is the long cord that hangs around the back of your neck. That’s solved with this pair: It has a cable adjuster button that allows you to tighten or loosen the cord.
I’ve never found the around-the-ear style of headphones comfortable because I always end up adjusting them so much, but they’re fairly popular and perfect for working out given that they’re waterproof.
While these headphones are the cheapest pair on the list, they are hardly throwaways. The brand name also carries a lot of weight here, as Panasonic usually makes solid electronic products. These headphones go over the ear, meaning more comfort thanks to the padding, and they’re corded — meaning you don’t have to worry too much about battery life.
Even though these Panasonics are not as noise-blocking as Bose, nor as high-quality as Audio Technica, they get the job done. Because of their size, you’re not going to want to wear these to the gym, but they’re a go-to pair for studying.
At some point in the past three years, online tastemakers made it less cool to wear wired headphones. Let’s change that. You could buy five pairs of these for the price of one pair of AirPods. The regular, wired Apple EarPods are still decent headphones with good sound quality — plus they’re a lot harder to lose.
If you’re an iPhone user, you know what you’re getting and the durability of these EarPods is worth appreciating. It’s not just about the sound — the microphone records at a shockingly high quality. Older stuff always comes back around to be in style again, and this time you’ll be ahead of the trend.