Cheap earphones are not hard to come by, but finding a pair that also offers decent construction and solid sound quality can be a bit more of a challenge--especially if you only want to spend about 20 bucks. For this reason, we're always pleasantly surprised to come across a pair like the MeElectronics M9 sound-isolating earphones. This set sells online for $19.99, and though it doesn't offer the cleanest or richest sound we've come across, the combination of good design, useful extras, and passable audio make it a top choice in this price range.
The MeElectronics M9 earphones are easy on the eyes but not in your face in terms of style. You can choose from two color options, silver or black, both of which are fairly low-key but offer a bit of jewelry-like appeal thanks to the slightly shimmery cables coated in clear plastic. The earpieces are a little shiny and are compact overall, though the apertures are on the large side and may cause a bit of discomfort for some users. We found them to be comfortable for an hour or so before the pressure began to cause some cartilage pain.
On the plus side, we achieved a secure fit and good seal with the ear using one of the four sets of silicone tips (three standard sizes and one double-flanged model are included). However, it's worth noting that the noise from the cable moving across the body is noticeable. The nice thing is that the cord of the M9 sound-isolating earphones is reasonably thick and flexible, which bodes well for long-term durability--a rarity in headphones at this price. Also, cable connections at the earpieces and the angled, gold-plated plug are reinforced and there's a slider at the Y junction to prevent tangles, all of which should help the earphones last longer.
Another surprise for earbuds at this price: MeElectronics includes a fair amount of handy extras. In addition to the aforementioned tips, there's a cable wrap, a shirt clip, and a dual-pronged airplane adapter. Plus, you get a nice, zippered carrying case with an internal pocket. The only thing that's missing is an earwax cleaning tool.
If there is but one thing of which we can assure you, it's that the MeElectronics M9 earphones will blow your stock MP3 player earbuds out of the water in terms of sound quality. Not that that's much of a challenge. Still, the M9s provide impressive audio for the money. Lows tend to be a bit muddy at times, but there is plenty of oomph for the bass addicted among us. The mids are warm and encompassing, though not as smooth as what you would get from a pricier pair. The high-end comes in last, which means classical fans won't be impressed--but then if that's you, you should be spending a lot more than $20 on headphones. Highs here are at least not brittle or overly sharp, and there is noticeable detail representation. All in all, you're getting a great value with the M9 sound-isolating earphones.