This is a review of two models of Awei in-ear headphones I just got from DX.com
Even so I have been reviewing a lot of brand name headphones in a more pricey range, sometime I like to switch to a budget category to show you some amazing deals and quality you can get without breaking the bank. Usually those are no-brand name products from HK retailers, but in this case I'm actually reviewing two pairs of headphones from Awei, a brand name manufacturer I'm not too familiar with until this review which I found to be surprisingly good!
First one is Awei ES-Q3 (AWEI ES-Q3 In-Ear Earphone for iPhone/MP3 (3.5mm Jack/140CM-Cable) - Free Shipping - DealExtreme
) with a price tag of $4.99. While browsing on-line catalog of dx.com, these got my attention with a really cool look and 86 5-star reviews. For a price tag of $5 you can't expect too much, so I never set my expectations high. That works great when you get surprised after opening the package
So starting with a package, these looked very professional, not some cheap earbuds inside clear plastic bag you get from ebay. They came with 3 sets of different size eartips, pretty good silicone quality, and also a removable cable clip to attach headphones wire to your shirt if you need to. Looking at headphones, you notice right away the high quality of construction and material. The entire wire length is braided to keep it tangle free and to add more durability. Furthermore, the driver housing, 3.5mm connector sleeve, and cable splitter in the middle are all made out of aluminum painted in copper color. This is not a cheap painted plastic, but actually a lightweight aluminum with a good paint job since I couldn't even scratch it with my nail. There is no mic or remote, these are just audio in-ear headphones. Eartips create a good seal with your ear canal for passive noise isolation. The sound is not bad. It is bass heavy with some reduction in high frequencies, while maintaining decent mids. I was actually pleasantly surprised how I was able to raise the volume (you can get a loud sound out of these) and still hear the bass without distortion.
The next set of headphones completely took me by surprise. These are Awei ES900i in-ear headphones (AWEI ES900i Stylish In-Ear Earphone w/ Microphone for iPhone 4 - Black (3.5mm-Plug / 125cm-Cable) - Free Shipping - DealExtreme
) for $8.99. First of all, we are talking about premium quality packaging with a magnetic display window, 3 premium pairs of different size ear-tips, and a premium genuine leather pouch. Headphones itself have flat-noodle cable, the kind you find with most of the expensive headphones nowadays. I don't know why original description page from a link above says plastic material, because these are aluminum as well, headphone housing, cable splitter, and 3.5mm connector sleeve. Everything is crafted very nicely, and looks very durable. Also you get in-line remote with mic to handle your calls and a hidden button for play/pause while listening to audio/video and pickup/hangup calls while on the phone. With a free app like JAYS or MAVEN you turn this single click button into multifunction double/triple-click for playback control to slip next/prev tracks - it worked without a problem. But what set these apart is a sound quality. I thought previous pair for $5 was good, and I expected the sound quality of these to be the same with extra $4 covering fancier packaging, leather pouch, and mic/remote. Well, the sound quality of these are easily on par with some of the $50-$60 ones. It has an enhanced bass definition, clear mids and highs, and volume that goes up pretty loud without distorting the sound. I was VERY impressed with a sound!!! Again, it's not fair to compare these with audiophile headphones that cost over $100, but for $8.99 these sound too good to be true. Also, with a proper size eartips, they provide a good passive noise isolation, and don't forget you get in-line remote with multi-function button and mic for making calls!
Both of these Awei in-ear headphones sound good, have fantastic built quality, and eye catching designs. I will give ES900i an advantage in sound quality and a more modern design with a flat style cable and also in-line remote with mic and multi-function button. Overall, I definitely recommend both, especially ES900i which I found to have a very impressive sound quality.