A couple of weeks ago, we looked at a pair of headphones (Sennheiser PX 100 II) that sounded impossibly good for their price. It’s always great finding these phenomenal bargains and being able to upgrade your music listening experience for a short dollar. This week we’ll look at another incredible bargain. Anyone from budget conscious, casual listeners to audiophile music snobs will find something to like in the Monoprice 8320 earbuds.
I quickly ordered a pair of these Monoprice earbuds after one of my Twitter friends tipped me off to them after the Sennheiser column. I didn’t expect too much but was curious about them after a quick Google search seemed to confirm quite a bit of praise for these $7 buds. I’ve heard several great sounding earbuds for less than $10, including Sennheiser’s MX-271’s that we previously highlighted, and know that great sound CAN be had for cheap. However, NOTHING I have ever heard in the sub-$10 market even approaches Monoprice’s offering. Quite simply, these are supremely wonderful sounding earbuds at any price. Read on to learn a little bit more about these wonderful earbuds as well as a chance to get a free pair.
What I Love About These Earbuds Overall, the sound is fantastic with bright, crisp and well balanced tones. These are not adjectives you typically expect to describe cheap earbuds. Additionally, the bass is quite simply perfect and can be deep and thumping when appropriate but not artificial or overpowering when the mids & highs need to shine. In anticipation of the Medeski, Martin & Wood show in Boston last weekend, I listened to the band’s new release, Free Magic, in its entirety. It was really amazing picking up subtleties that I had previously missed listening casually with my speakers. Everything from Xylophone, strings, sultry piano work, deep bass, and percussion riffs all came through cleanly and crisply. Regardless of what else I played through them, the results were always quite impressive. Besides the incredible sound, another nice touch is a mesh corded cable which feels pretty high-end and resists tangling.
A couple of things to know about these earbuds:
- These are only designed to wear with the cord wrapped over the ear. Initially not knowing this, I was extremely discouraged that they never quite seemed to fit correctly and were grossly uncomfortable and kept falling out. I prefer ear-buds with cords that hang straight down, or ones that can be worn either way like the Ultimate Ears 600’s, but the minor inconvenience of having to wrap the cord around your ear is more than made up for in the price and sound quality. Once I figured this out, the fit and comfort was much better. BUT………..
- They were uncomfortable after wearing for an extended period. I realized that the tips were slightly too big for me. Proper sizing of tips with earbuds or in-ear-monitors (which I would say more closely describes these ear-buds) is CRITICAL for optimal sound quality. If the ear canal is not fully blocked, you will miss out on much of the sound and alter the way that they audio engineers designed for that particular device. And obviously, tips that are too big can lead to discomfort. This is why with any expensive pair of earbuds, you will be given several, or perhaps even a dozen different sizes and types of tips to not only ensure proper comfort but also for proper sound. At $7, you don’t get this luxury and they only come with a one-size-fits all tip. I had to buy a set of tips (that only cost $.01 plus shipping) that were a little smaller. These tips were perfect for me and allowed me to listen without any discomfort even after a quite lengthy listening session.
What not to expect with these earbuds:
- Any accessories. You get the buds with one size tip and that’s it. Packaged in a little plastic bag delivered in an envelope. Pretty spartan but what can you expect?
- Don’t expect them to replace $100+ earbuds but they do match up pretty favorably with scores of other sets costing $30, $50 or even $75.
- It’s just a straightforward cord. Does not come with a microphone, volume control, or adjustable slider.
Pro Tip: These Monoprice earbuds sound even better with HiFiMan HM 101 portable DAC. For $46, ($39 for the DAC) your sound can likely outmatch your friend’s system who spent several times more than you. Go ahead! Rub it in their face. Oh yeah- that reminds me. We need to announce the winner of our contest from last week. Congrats, thanks for reading & sharing the column, MARIO, you have won. Please get in touch with me from any of the contact info below to arrange for shipping.
Final Thoughts These are an outstanding value and an earbud that will give you a huge boost in sound quality from whatever earbud came packaged with your MP3 player or smartphone. After thoroughly being blown away by my first pair, I bought five more pairs: One for my son, two for my daughters, one for my backpack when I travel and one for YOU! Just leave a comment that you want a pair, and I’ll randomly pick a winner and send them to you.
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