Posted on October 17, 2012 AT 09:17pm
If you’ve ever been to a general department store, a Wallgreens, the cheap sections at an electronics store or anywhere that claims to have anything electronic in their impulse buy section. You’ve probably seen the cheap-o headphones. They’re like 8 to 13 bucks and they usually sound TERRIBLE. Either super tinny like a mcdonalds toy speaker or super muddy like you tried to play movie audio through a 5 watt bass amp. They sound terrible and the only time anyone ever gets those things is when they’re too broke for good earbuds or they’ve got a relative they don’t want to spend much on. I know I’ve been in the former category, desperately needing some headphones to tune the world out with and settling for skullcandy earbuds… or something from a clothing store that just so happens to sell other things. (Burlington Coat Factory or Foreman Mills in the Lansing area… I’m lookin’ at you.)
However, you may never have to go to one of those godforsaken places for cheap headphones again. All thanks to the Monoprice 8320s you can experience the sound quality of $20-$30 dollar headphones for all of $7, $9 if you count shipping in the US. It sounds ridiculous but interestingly enough it’s made believers out of a forum of audio nerds. It’s absolutely strange, but considering what you’re getting for 7 bucks, it’s quite cool. The build quality of the earbuds is a fairly sturdy plastic so you’re not going to accidentally crush them by sitting on them or dropping them on a hard floor. It comes with a nice 48″ woven cord and a gold plated 1/8th inch plug. So it’s long enough for hoodie weather and the fabric cord is a nice touch though very easy to tangle. The oddball factor is the earbuds themselves. As you can see in the image below, they have these fins on them.
The fins are supposed to go up, so what you’re seeing isn’t a misprint. The R and L buds are actually supposed to go in your ears that way, with the cords going over and down as opposed to going straight down like most earbuds/headphones. This may be odd, but with time, they weren’t much trouble with me. The only issues I had with the form factor was that I would feel some discomfort during long periods of wearing them, mostly because of the tips. However, this can be fixed with some aftermarket tips. The drivers themselves are actually fairly large for cheap earbuds, at 14.2mm which gives them their sound but can also be a bit odd for those with small ears.
The sound quality is what really matters here, and as mentioned before, it is fairly surprising how good these dirt cheap in-ear monitors sound. You get a surprisingly clear sound and you can catch a majority of the details in what you’re hearing. I found that l was able to hear instruments clearly without anything sounding super flat. The highs are a bit sharp and bright without sounding tinny and the mids aren’t too ‘full chested’. The bass feels a little light, however, some have claimed that this can be remedied by using aftermarket tips to provide more isolation and bass presence. The weakness these earbuds have is in the sub bass department. A good pair of headphones can usually handle thick, obnoxious “trunk shaking” sub bass. The kind you could find in southern hip-hop and trap style production. However, the 8320 headphones tend to clip really badly when playing certain songs. Notably “Earl” by Earl Sweatshirt and B.S.D. by “Tyler, The Creator”, which were two songs I thought of with pretty obnoxious bass. Playing some of Big K.R.I.T.’s 4eva n A Day mixtape also exposed it’s weakness with slapping bass hits. It’s safe to say that if you are into that kind of music production, these headphones won’t be the most fun to have, unless you plan on keeping everything flat or bass reduced, EQ-wise.
Generally, most other styles of music won’t have much of a problem with anything, at least nothing that can’t be EQ’d to fulfill one’s needs. I found that listening to Metal was pretty fun and that everything was fairly clear. Softer variations of rock and folk music also sounded pretty good. The flaws of discomfort and bass distortion may be a bit off putting for some, but for 7 bucks, the overall sound quality definitely makes up for it. It’s definitely something to consider ordering for the holiday season, especially since buying more than one directly from the monoprice website makes the price each one cheaper. It’s safe to say that unless there are any headphones at this price range for a better value, the 8320′s are definitely the ones to go for.
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