I'm forever on the lookout for inexpensive headphones that sound good and are comfortable to wear. As part of that quest, I purchased a pair of JVC Flats for $11.99 and took them for a spin.
I came away pleasantly surprised.
At first glance, the Flats look like a slight upgrade over a pair of headphones you might get on the plane. Under closer inspection, they're a couple notches up from that but they still look and feel like inexpensive headphones.
But they are lightweight and should offer a comfortable fit for most people. They're an on-ear model, so the earpads sit on your ear and don't entirely cover it. People with bigger ears -- and bigger heads -- may find these a little too small. But I had no problem with them.
As far as extra features go, there really aren't any. They don't come with a carrying case or have an inline remote with microphone. The headphones are all you get, and while they don't fold up, as their name implies, they do fold flat. They're designed to be slipped into a bag, but I advise you to keep them in some sort of cover or case if you want them to last a while. The glossy finish on the earpieces -- they come in multiple color options -- will get scuffed up over time and the headband doesn't seem incredibly sturdy. But to reiterate, I paid a little over $12 (with tax) for the Flats, so I wasn't expecting too much.
Aside from their price, the best part about them is their sound -- for the money, anyway. These sound as good as many $30 to $50 'phones I've tried. Their sound is well balanced -- they don't push the treble or bass -- and they're fairly clean and detailed. The bass isn't huge but it's ample. I was able to wear them for an hour without experiencing any listening fatigue, which I consider a good sign.
The headphones do have their limitations. You'll get a little distortion in the high and low ends, especially when you crank the volume. In other words they're not that clean-sounding. But hey, for $12 they sound pretty darn good.
Steve Guttenberg, our resident audio guru, agreed. I had him try the headphones (without telling him the price) and he said he liked them. After I told him they were $12, he was shocked. "That's all?" he asked. "That's all," I said.
If you're someone who's on a very tight budget and wants headphones that sound decent and are relatively comfortable and lightweight, you can't miss with the JVC Flats. They're also a good choice for kids and people who are prone to losing headphones. Cosmetically, I like them better than the Panasonic HT-21s, which are also a good low-budget pick at $5; the Flats also sound a little better. By contrast, the
To be clear, however, the Flats don't have the sound or build quality of more-expensive headphones that cost closer to $100. But at $12 to $14, depending on the color, they're definitely a bargain. I may just pick up a second pair.