STUFF ESSENTIALS - In-ear headphones

Did your MP3 player come with headphones? Rubbish, aren't they? A proper pair of in-ear headphones can make the crucial difference, and won't cost a f

Did your MP3 player come with headphones? Rubbish, aren't they? A proper pair of in-ear headphones can make the crucial difference, and won't cost a fortune. Take your pick from this little lot...

Goldring GX200 £50

www.goldring.co.uk

Your ears will feel completely full, but the GX200s (above) aren't uncomfortable. They sound open, perky and weighty, and despite the snug fit aren't fatiguing. Useful, if not complete, sound isolation too.

iSkin Cerulean X1 £70

www.iskin.com

These weighty and eye-catching buds form a nice snug fit with their various sleeves. Sound isolation is fine, but what initially seems a punchy, attacking sound is swiftly revealed as just overstated bass. 

JVC HA-NCX77 £60

www.jvc.co.uk

They don't feel the most robust, but these JVCs fit in your ear without causing aches and produce a precise, airy and musical sound. As they're a noise-cancelling rather than sound-isolating, you're lumbered with a battery pack – iffy on the move but fine on a flight.

Jays q-Jays £130

www.jays.se

Lightweight, snug and tiny, yet still packing two drivers per ear, the q-Jays summon surprisingly forceful, widescreen sound with efficient isolation. The only bum note is the optimistic price.

 

Philips SHN7500 £70

www.philips.co.uk

A detailed, chunky sound from lightweight, secure buds (right). Only the noise-cancelling system – which works well, but means you have to carry a unit around your neck – spoils the elegant design.

Koss KEB/79 £50

www.koss.com

A rare and successful foray away from the cheap'n'cheerful for Koss. The KEB/79s don't look or feel anything special, but they fit comfortably and isolate external noises well. Best of all they sound neutral, poised and completely believable.

Sennheiser CX300 £40

www.sennheiser.co.uk

A benchmark for upgrades and cost-effective sound isolation, the excellent-sounding CX300s are available in a range of colours (including pink, which is a relief) and fittings – a 2.5mm version is available for use with mobiles.

Etymotic ER6i Custom Fit £150

www.customearphones.co.uk

These ER6is are fitted to your ears. Fit is intrusive, but sound isolation is flawless and performance is superb. You can hear every instrument, breath and nuance – so they're brutal to low bit-rates.

Shure SE110 £70

www.shure.co.uk

Impressive across the board, the Shures are comfortable and secure and, thanks to a range of different earbuds, isolate noise brilliantly. They're sturdy and sound detailed and punchy, providing you don't crank them.