As far as earbuds go, it looks like you are probably trying to hit the uppermost end of what’s on offer if you’re planning to buy at this price point.
The premium earbud market began as something of a contradiction in terms with many brands opting to compete instead with the stock, pre-packaged models that consumers find alongside purchases of new devices. But in the last few years, a real need has emerged for high quality, versatile devices which deliver an ‘as good as it gets’ audio experience while maintaining the portability, ease of use, and all round practicality of the earbud form factor. And companies, across the board, have delivered.
Top 3 Best Earbuds Under $300
Bose QuietComfort 20 Noise Cancelling Headphones
It’s no secret: we really like what Bose has done with the QuietComfort 20s. Combining an above-average (though below-excellent) sound-quality with a phenomenally innovative noise cancellation system, all in a familiar, portable form factor, these headphones are a truly stand-out entry and will be suitable for all manner of applications across the board.
Shure SE425 Sound Isolating Earphones
On the whole, the SE425s are a solid entry with a clear focus on audio quality above all else. If you’re willing to put up with a fairly dull design and live without the luxuries of an inline remote and integrated mic, the sound quality is good enough to make this a trade-off you won’t regret.
Klipsch XR8i In-Ear Headphones
With the XR8i series, Klipsch has done well to combine an attractive, striking, and functional design with a sound quality that is hard to fault for this sort of price range. With all the standard features you could hope for, this is a very strong entry into the $300 range.
Look, if you’re paying for the best, you’re probably going to get the best. It’s as simple as that. Mostly. Obviously, not everything that’s priced this highly is worthy of the price tag, but you should be sure to read as many reviews as possible to ensure that your eventual choice doesn’t disappoint.
At this price range, you’re going to be able to do one of two things. Each has its use, and there’s no strictly better choice. It’s a personal thing. Either you can find a truly jack of all trades affair which delivers a solid amount of features, a good design, and decent audio quality, or you can choose which of those three aspects matters the most to you and specialize.
There are, for example, a whole host of sports eardbuds, wireless offerings, or just your standard ‘general use’ earbuds to choose from at the $300 price point. The world is your audio oyster, whatever that means.
There are only two potential negatives worth discussing here and the main one is this: there is, no matter what brands would like you to believe, an absolute cap on the quality of an in-ear (i.e. earbud) listening experience relative to other form factors.
Now, this needn’t be a bad thing. Earbuds have a lot going for them: they’re highly portable, they usually come with a ton of useful features, and they tend towards a kind of plug and play, ‘it just works’ user experience that a lot of equipment designed for audio purists does not. But it’s absolutely worth considering before you drop $300 on earbuds if you specifically want an in-ear rather than over-ear experience.
The second negative, then, is aimed at audiophiles who, for whatever reason, have their hearts set on earbuds. At this price point, you’re going to be paying a lot of money for a form factor which can’t deliver the optimal listening experience. If audio is, above all else, your primary concern, you may want to look elsewhere.
What to Look For
Decide which of the two archetypes you wish to pursue and run with it. Are you someone who appreciates a robust feature set, an attractive design, and a good listening experience? Then pick a pair of earbuds which cover all those bases. But if you’re looking to prioritize one of the three, there’s plenty on offer for you to choose from as well.
If you’re about to spend $300 on earbuds, chances are you know what you’re looking for and you know how to find it. You don’t need us to tell you that there are trade offs in terms of audio quality even at the top end of the in-ear market, but it’s important to keep this in mind nonetheless.
Other than that, take your time before committing to your final choice. Remember that audio is a deeply personal experience, and try to get your hands (or ears) on a pair before buying. One person’s rich bass response is another person’s poorly defined mids.