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10 Earphones Under $100

Sony MDR-V300: Pro Lightweight

Called "Studio Monitor" and described as DJ headphones, the V300 set is still fairly compact and can be used on-the-go. The long, rather thick cable doesn't work all that well with the compact design. As is de rigueur for a model aimed at sound monitoring, it's of closed design and has reversible earcups so that one can be turned out - a common practice when checking the sound that's going out. Naturally the closed design doesn't ensure a high degree of acoustic isolation. In fact you could even say it's low. I also didn't find the set very comfortable to wear. Try them first if you plan to listen for long periods.

Technical Characteristics

  • Type: closed supra-aural
  • Frequency response: 16 Hz - 22 kHz
  • Nominal impedance: 24 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB/mW
  • Cable length: 3 m (9.8 ft.)
  • Plug type: 3.5 mm mini /6.35 mm (1/4 in.) phone
  • Weight: 115 g (4.06 oz)

Good Bass And Linearity

The response favors the bass, with attenuated extreme lows. The midrange shows good linearity. The extreme high frequencies are visibly less in evidence. In other words, the essential part of the audio spectrum is well reproduced, but the extremes are attenuated.

The response favors the lows a little, but the overall profile is very linear, though with significant attenuation of the two extreme ends of the spectrum.

The V300 can put out very high volume without weakening and its sensitivity makes it compatible with all players.

Efficiency: approximately 104 dB/V

Listening Test

The Sony V300 is designed for DJ and monitoring use, but is usable on-the-go. However its closed design won't ensure optimum comfort for long listening sessions. The overall balance clearly favored the lower end of the spectrum. Some may find that the rest of the range suffers a little and that there's a slight lack of definition, undoubtedly due to the attenuation of the extreme high frequencies. That's largely a matter of taste. Especially since the midrange delivered faithful timbres, as a set of monitoring phones must. Naturally, the deep, ample bass will be this model's main attraction. Especially since it seemed to go down very low with no problem, despite what the audio measurements might have led us to think. To sum up, the V300 is a very good model if you're looking for affordable, non-bulky monitoring earphones. In my opinion, it's less suited to long-term and portable use, but that a matter of choice.

Conclusions

The Good

  • ample, deep bass
  • high volume capability

The Not So Good

  • lacks extreme high frequencies
  • not very comfortable

Conclusions

Two models especially appealed to us because of their features and suitability for use on the go: the Sennheiser CX300 - a very affordable set of intra-aural earphones whose frequency response is significantly wider and more regular than that of its competitors - and the Koss KSC75, which gives you most of the qualities of a benchmark model like the PortaPro in a form that's even more compact and suited to portable use. The former provides fairly good acoustic isolation, the latter none. That means they won't be ideally suited to the same situations. More sedentary or professional users will find better choices elsewhere among the earphones I evaluated. And if you're looking for an intra-aural model, do look at two models I reviewed earlier, the Creative Zen Aurvana and the Shure E2c.