Elevate Your Sound Without Breaking the Bank

You’ve listened to your favorite tracks on a high-quality open-back headphone and now those airpods won’t cut it anymore. Unfortunately, quality audio is often associated with high costs. That’s why we curated a list of some budget-friendly audio gear that elevates your experience without draining your wallet.

Affordable audiophile gear to get started on your musical journey:

1. A music streaming service

There are several music streaming apps on the internet. However, a  handful offer lossless or high-fidelity files that offer the highest sound quality. Tidal, Apple Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited are viable options that have a vast library of songs in both lossless and high-resolution quality. If you are in the Apple ecosystem, Apple Music makes a lot of sense.

On the other hand, Tidal gives a bigger cut to artists while Amazon Music Unlimited provides the best value. Choose a service that suits you or go old school and download hi-res files on your phone, digital audio player(DAP), or computer.  

2. Headphones or IEM

Once you’ve decided on the streaming service of your choice, it’s time to choose a great pair of headphones or IEM(in-ear audio monitors). If you want the convenience of wireless, you would be making a bit of compromise on the sound. The manufacturer would be adding a Bluetooth transceiver, battery, and other electronic components while cutting down on driver quality or technology. 

With that out of the way, here are some of the best budget-friendly options you can buy:

  • Wireless Headphones – Audeze Maxwell Wireless
  • Wired Headphones – Sennheiser HD 660S
  • Wired IEM – Moondrop Blessing 2
  • True Wireless Earbuds – Sony WF-1000XM5

Wireless options usually come with additional features like noise cancellation. If it’s an IEM that’s portable and meant for use even while traveling, that’s a great feature. Otherwise, it’s best to stay away from additional features and focus on the drivers, comfort, longevity, and repairability of the device. All these headphones or IEMs cost less than $300 and can be found at a fraction of their price in the used marketplace. 

3. DACs/AMPS

Your headphone drivers respond to analog audio signals. However, almost every song streamed is in the form of a digital signal. While most phones have an inbuilt DAC(Digital-to-Analog-Converter) along with an AMP(amplifier) to convert the signal and amplify it for your headphones, they are substandard.

That’s where a dedicated DAC/AMP unit comes in. Again, if you listen to music primarily at your work desk, go for a desktop version. Otherwise, choose a portable unit. Here’s a couple of recommendations:

  • Desktop unit – iFi Audio Zen DAC V2
  • Portable unit – iFi Audio Hip DAC V2 Portable DAC/Amp 

Both these DACs are powerful enough to drive almost any budget-friendly headphones you can get your hands on. If you want to power speakers, you may need a dedicated amplifier for the job.

You can try out the above-mentioned recommendations or do your own research to land on the best options. I can’t stress enough about the importance of exploring used gear either. There are several thriving online communities where people take care of their audio gear with utmost care. You have a chance of scoring the best audio gear at a bargain and saving even more money.   

4 Must-Have Gadgets for Your 2022 Cart

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