Last I checked, there were roughly 4,400 earbuds and in-ear headphone listings on Amazon in the $25-to-$50 segment. That’s ridiculous.
How is anyone supposed to know where to start when there are that many options? Sure, you can go with top-rated products, but user reviews will only get you so far — I’ve received plenty of top-rated products that wound up being a huge disappointment. Going with a brand name is usually a good idea, but those highly recognized brands know they can charge more, so you’re rarely getting a “deal.”
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How do you find that diamond in the rough? Frankly, I think it comes down to luck, and that’s why I feel darn lucky that the ADV.Sound M4 crossed my desk, because they are astonishingly good for an in-ear under $50. In fact, they’re great for an in-ear under $100. At this point, I’m willing to say the M4 are the best-sounding in-ear headphone I’ve heard under $50 in a very long time.
Any time a tag line like “designed for musicians” is on the box, I get wary. Of course you want something that would satisfy a picky professional musician. Problem is, that’s rarely what you get. However, as a professional musician and a professional audio reviewer, I can say with confidence that I believe most musicians I know would be pleased with the ADV.Sound M4 as an every-day listener. They aren’t professional in-ear monitors, nor do they put out an especially “upscale” sound. But for the price, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something that sounds anywhere close to as balanced, detailed, and rich as the M4.
On the plus side, the M4 offer a robust tangle-resistant cable, a convenient circular carrying case, an in-line, single-button control mic, and ton of eartips, including one pair of Comply foam tips already installed. As if that weren’t enough, the M4 utilize an extremely light machined aluminum housing, which made the in-ear headphones extremely comfortable for this reviewer.
No headphone is perfect, however, and the M4 do require a bit of compromise: The cable, while robust and tangle-resistant, is also unwieldy — it doesn’t like to conform to your desires, and that can make for some inconvenient moments. Bit if that isn’t a turn-off, then the M4 are probably the best you’ll do in the under $50 segment.
You can buy the ADV. Sound M4 at the company’s website here.
A version of this post first appeared on our “brother site” Digital Trends.