Looking for a $10 pair of earbuds for work, school, exercise, or just some quiet listening? In a market saturated by tons of OEMs, most of them garbage quality and focused on flashiness over sound quality, it's easy to make a regrettable decision. Last year, I launched a project intented to put every sub $100 pair of headphones or earphones I could find to the test. After reviewing more than 25 headphones less than $5, I concluded that it's probably worth investing a tiny bit more money into your purchase. The Padear Pro earphones are the single best pair of earphones $40 or less I've tested out of a field of more than 50. And how much will they run you? Less than ten bucks.
First off, let's start with the company. Padear is a Chinese startup company focused on electronics– from that description, nothing really stands out. According to the person I got in contact with through e-mail, the company has been designing headphones for only about a year– but the development team is packed with talent, led by audio engineers who primarily worked with Bose.
The Padear Pro earphones are their first pair of earphones released in open production. Their MSRP is $10, available from Amazon as well as multiple Chinese vendors such as Aliexpress. According to their product page, these earphones boast “perfect low frequency performance, clear vocals,” and an “excellent soundproof design.” Big claims for a pair of ten dollar earbuds… but do they hold true?
The Pros come packaged in a simple plastic carrying case. Upon opening it up you're faced with the first indication of this product's uniqueness– a strong punch of perfumey sweetness. Yes, these headphones smell good. This is the first I've heard of this tactic and, I have to say, I like it. As someone who's allergic to most perfume and has a pretty sensitive nose, these headphones aren't overpoweringly pungent at all– in fact, it's a subtle detail that just points toward the quality of the product.
Starting from the bottom, you get a gold-plated headphone jack that's quadsectional due to the built-in microphone. Moving up, you get a reinforced jack sleeve– something rarely seen, and unheard of in budget models. This will prevent the wiring from being damaged near the jack– something rarely seen and dearly appreciated. The 1.2 meter wire itself is a transluscent gray that shows off a tricolor wiring system. Just when you thought innovation was impossible in a budget pair of earphones, there you go. It's eyecatching and certainly stylish.
Moving up further, you reach the microphone and controller. On one side, there's a call button which doubles as a play/pause function. On the other, a volume slider, very rare on earphones under $20, and a stereo/mono switch, almost unheard of on earphones in general. All three of these are helpful in daily use and certainly add to the feeling of quality you get from these.
The headphones split AFTER the microphone controller, which is rare. Usually, designers place this on the right side so the mic is in proximity to one's mouth. While structurally, this modification is beneficial, it's potentially problematic when it comes to the mic picking up voices. Luckily, this is far from the case. The sound quality of the microphone is great, and it picks up very little background noise, pointing to the possible use of higher quality Japanese mic drivers. While not too much more expensive, these components are tougher to find, pointing towards a really well thought out design process.
Coming to the earbuds themselves: they're straight and stout, which is good. Low profile is certainly commendable for headphones, but it causes extra design challenges in conducting sound. The eartips are extremely cushiony and the single best rubber ones I've worn– however, they can be substituted with others without a hitch.
Sound quality is, in one word, amazing. For $10, you get dynamic highs, full mids, and VERY punchy bass. The overall sound signature is balanced except for the very bottom end, which is throbbing and exciting. High/mid clarity is incredible, while bass clarity is almost as good. The soundstage is very above average for headphones of any price point, while the sound isolation is good, but not too much because extreme noise cancellation hurts the soundstage. When music is playing, the amped up bass tones do a great job of cancelling out noise. When music isn't playing, noise cancellation is moderate. This points to a good construction and top quality soundstage. It's really incredible these things are even being discussed on a $10 pair of earphones.
Overall, the Padear Pro headphones are a steal. I'd gladly pay $50 for these if they came with a fancier carrying case. Among the $10 price line, these stand out as the clear winners for bass lovers. If we expand the budget out to $50, these are among the top handful in terms of sound quality, and by far the most comfortable.
- The best sound quality available from any $10 headphones on the market
- Some of the most comfortable stock eartips
- Responsive microphone
- Reinforced headphone jack
- Volume control, Stereo/Mono control
- Balanced sound signature, bar the extra-powerful bottom end.
- Microphone is relatively low positioned– doesn't impact mic performance but impacts accessibility sometimes
- May be hard to find these sold, and some ship all the way from China