Best In-Ear Headphones: JBL by Harman J22i, Panasonic RP-TCM125

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2014 03:34 PM

By Nick Sanchez

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The best in-ear headphones for 2014 have been ranked by Consumer Reports, which tested more than 150 pairs.

In its preamble to the list, CR advised all consumers to consider what features they'll need or want, such as noise blocking, noise cancellation, integrated microphone, volume control buttons, call-answering button, and shirt clip. Beyond these, there are also in-ear headphones suited to specific music genres like hip-hop and house, considered bass-driven music.

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Coming out strong were the JBL by Harman J22i and Panasonic RP-TCM125 headphones. They took the "Best Buy" and "Top Value" slots, respectively.

The JBL headphones cost $60.

Consumer Reports said they have "very good sound quality and comparatively low price." The drawback, however, was, "Testers found the volume control a bit difficult to operate by feel." The JBL headphones come in black or white, "both with splashes of bright orange on the earpiece and the cord controls."

The very low-priced Panasonic RP-TCM125 headphones go for $10 each and offer noise blocking with their snug-fit rubber tips. The set also includes a built-in microphone for phone calls, and a call-answering button.

"Sound quality [is] as good as some much higher priced models," CR concluded. 

Popular electronics blog The Wirecutter also named the Panasonic ear buds its recommended choice for the under-$30 category after testing nearly 150 brands' headphones. 

"The Panasonic won because they sounded the best. Hands down. They were everyone’s top choice in terms of sound fidelity," the review team wrote in November. "They have a nice overall balance with airy, mellow highs and present-but-not-dominating bass. They sound just as good listening to acoustic guitar as they do hip-hop and rock."

In the $100 range, Consumer Reports recommended the Polk Audio Nue Era as its favorite lightweight pick.

"Our No. 1 in-ear headset, from the respected speaker brand Polk, has very good sound quality and, at only 0.4 oz. is the lightest of the models here. It’s also stylish — we love the tortoise-shell pattern, but you can also go with basic black if you prefer," the review said. 

Last but not least, Consumer Reports recommend the Bose QuietComfort 20i at $300, the only headphones on the list that offer true noise canceling, which they achieve by emitting noise-cancelling soundwaves.

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