By default, Malaysians are handicapped when it comes to high quality headphones and audio gear. We have a paltry easily-available selection, and we are grossly overcharged for products that do not reach our shores via official channels. This makes owning medium to high-end gear ridiculously expensive, forcing us to be on the lookout for affordable yet uncompromising options. To simplify your life, we have cooked up a list of headphones under MYR400 that are worth buying. Please note that not all of these headphones are easily available locally. However, one only needs to use the power of the internet to find local distributors.
Shure SRH440 (MYR390/USD89)
The SRH440 is Shure’s take on a reasonably priced pair of over-ear, closed monitoring headphones. Built mostly from high quality plastic, the 440’s feel sturdy and premium-like, considering the price. The SRH440 provides clear, balanced sound that make it an ideal pair of monitoring cans. The neutrality may come across as bland to some, but the flat sound signature provides an accurate depiction of recorded music, something rarely found in the Beats age we live in. If you’re into something more exciting, scroll on!
Sennheiser HD 201 (MYR120/USD55)
The cheapest on the list, the Sennheiser HD 201’s are the go-to pair of headphones for people on a tight budget. Its ridiculously cheap price of just over MYR100 combined with its respectable sound signature earns the 201’s a level of respect unheard of in this price range. Build quality and comfort is adequate, but is limited by its on-ear nature. However, the 201’s provide clear, vibrant sound, with slightly recessed mids. All in all, these are an easy recommendation for someone in search of a cheap but significantly above average pair of headphones.
Superlux HD668B (MYR189/USD40)
The most open pair of headphones on the list(even though they’re officially semi-open), the HD668B’s are one of the highest-rated “cheap” pair of headphones around. Often compared with headphones five times its price, these sub-MYR200 headphones provide as much bang for buck as one could wish for. While the HD668B’s aren’t exactly comfortable (in fact, a pad change is quite necessary), once playing, it cannot be faulted. These headphones provide an extremely wide soundstage, making them especially good for gaming, while retaining clear mids and bass. The highs are slightly elevated initially, but are tamed by burn-in and a pad swap. Overall, extremely recommended; especially for newcomers to open-back headphones.
Koss PortaPro (MYR269/USD35)
The PortaPro is a semi-open pair of headphones that look like they belong on the set of Back To The Future. These retro-modern on-ear headphones have been around for 30 years, with the design largely unchanged. The PortaPro is legendary for its indestructible nature, often lasting more than a decade (only needing a pad change after 5 or so years). Sound-wise, the PortaPro trades blows with high-end audiophile headphones in a manner that defies belief. This is true only to an extent, with the PortaPro excelling in the mid to high ranges, but not quite holding its own in the bass department. Regardless, these headphones are built to last, sound incredible, are comfortable enough, and goes for under MYR300.
Superlux HD681 EVO (MYR158/USD40)
Superlux is once more on the list with its closed-back HD681 EVO, offering giant-killer sound at a paltry price. Before we get into the sound, I must confess that these headphones are not well-built. In fact, they are uncomfortable and plasticky over-ears that will likely disintegrate in under five years. However, priced at well under MYR200, these headphones offer listeners some of the best closed-back sound one could wish for. The highs are clear and controlled, the mids are present, and the bass on these would render any dubstep enthusiast delirious. All in all, these are worth getting for someone looking for a gateway into the high-end, closed-back audio world.
Audio Technica ATH-M30x (MYR299/USD69)
Overshadowed by its somewhat overrated big brother (M50x), the M30x deserves an honourable mention. At roughly MYR300, these closed-back, over-ear headphones offer comfort levels identical to the M40x and M50x. This translates to hours of comfortable listening, assuming the ever-so-slim pads do not bother you. When it comes to sound, the M30x provides extremely balanced and controlled sound, with punchy bass, crisp highs, and slightly recessed mids. Soundstage is on the narrow side, but imaging is still detailed. These headphones offer listeners accurate sound while retaining Audio Technica’s higher-end line’s build quality. Verdict? Totally worth the moolah.
AKG Q460 (MYR300/USD40)
Going for RM300, the Q460 is the birth child of AKG’s collaboration with jazz legend, Quincy Jones. Like most celebrity-developed products, there is no guarantee the final product will live up to expectations. However, these on-ear fashion cans offer the stylish listener a compelling option. The headphone is well-built and small, comes in multiple colours, and is designed for daily commutes. The on-ear nature does not jeopardise comfort, yet provides sufficient isolation. When it comes to sound, the Q460 is a mixed bag. Highs are clear, lows are more than sufficient, but the mids tend to be rather fatiguing, depending on music selection. Ironically, these headphones are ill-suited for jazz, and instead works well with hip hop and EDM. Overall, these are excellent headphones for people on the move.
Making a headphone-buying decision is no trivial matter. Some individuals require portability, while others require isolation. On the other end of the spectrum are avid listeners who have no need for either, and instead are fixated on squeezing out the best sound for the least coin. All of these headphones fulfill unique requirements, rendering an individual pick of the lot pointless. However, if you’re looking for the most exciting and eye-opening sound, the open-back nature of the Superlux HD668B makes it the obvious choice. Happy hunting!
If you’re into headphones, don’t miss out on Closed or open: The Headphone debate