Earphone showdown – Dollar store to brand name stuff!

The contestants

Klipsch S4 with Comply Active S100 foam tips

These are my primary earphones. They stay at home and are either connected to my computer or my Cowon X9 DAP, which also, stays at home.

Bought them on boxing day but if one were to buy them on amazon, it would be 70CAD. Comply foam tips are typically 10CAD for three pairs, but I got them for 2CAD for three pairs.

These are by no means the most expensive earphones on the planet. What they do represent is my limit in both the ability to tell the difference in audio quality and student budget.

These earphones will represent the 80CAD price-range

Denon AH-C50

These are my current “burner” earphones. I use them when I am outside connected to my Galaxy S4 or iPod Touch. The reason why I have another pair of earphones for outdoors is because I need it to be cheap, but yet deliver acceptable audio quality. Why cheap? Edmonton weather + typical on-the-go wear means any earphone that goes outdoor is automatically assigned a one year life span. I can’t afford to burn expensive earphones when they get chewed through like candy.

But Jacky, these are 50CAD earphones? Yup, however, I got mine on clearance and the box was damaged so I got them for 10CAD at a local BestBuy, value!

For the intent of this review, they will represent the 50CAD price range.

Cowon SE2

These are my backup earphone #1. They came with my Cowon X9 DAP; however, they are also avalible seperately. They are fairly inexpensive coming in at 15CAD.

They will represent the 15CAD price range.

Apple Earphones

These are my backup earphone #2. They came with my iPod Shuffle; however, they are also avalible seperately. Due to the fact they are the “last generation” design, you can find them on the internet for around 10CAD.

They will represent the 10CAD price range.

Electra Earphones

Probably the star of this review. These came from Dollarama (A Canadaian “dollar store”). They can be had for 1.25CAD. I bought them to see what kind audio quality can they deliver for the price. I don’t expect spetacular performance out of these, but as long as they deliver acceptable audio quality, I will place them accordingly in my list of earphones.

They will represent the 1.25CAD price range.

The approach

I am not an audiophile, so I will use words that will make any of them cringe. Sorry. Here we go:

Evaluation will be based on: Highs, mids, bass, sound stage, pleasantness, design and build quality. Rating each area out of 10.

Highs, mids and bass is fairly self explanitory. Sound stage will mean seperation between instruments and how much do I feel like I am “surrounded” by the music. Pleasantness will mean if the audio is harsh or not, basically can I tolerate the sound that they generate. Design will mean how it looks asthetically and how it fits physically in ears.
Build quality is how well it is built.

A picture, or should I say a graph, paints a thousand words

I think it is fairly self explainatory for most of the earphones. As we move down in price range, we see lower scores. But what happened to the electra earphones…?

I think I should explain what happened to the electra earphones…

Highs: They are there, but it is super harsh so 3/10
Mids: Its like a karaoke where the vocals are removed but there is a slight hint of it. Hence the -5/10
Bass: The bass is non-existent and potrayed by a snare like sound that bears no resemblence to the original track. -3/10
Soundstage: It’s like I am in a hollow cave and there is some music playing deep down in the cave somewhere. So I am justing going to say there is no soundstage? 0/10
Pleasantness: Listening to it for two minutes gives me a headache, by time a song is done (so 3~4 minutes) I want to pass out. I consider an earphone that makes a person pass out to exhibt negative pleasantness. -10/10
Design: Looks like they took a page out of Apple’s early earphone design and they did a pretty good job. 6/10
Build Quality: Non-existent, earphones feel like there’s nothing in them, the plug requires some fussing around before full contact 0/10


Some music is always better than no music? Not dollar store earphones.

Do not buy dollar store earphones, they provide negative utility.

Galaxy S4 i9505 running official CyanogenMod 13 for jfltexx

So, I’ve made the jump to CM13 after a month since the nightly builds started to rollout. So here’s how it went!

CyanogenMod 13, Nightly build, February 1st.

(The whites are yellow because I have Live Display activated to not mess with my sleep cycles as much)

Live Display deactivated for those who are concerned with the yellow tint.

The upgrade

I did a dirty flash, also known as an in place upgrade. On CyanogenMod, they heavily emphasized that you need to immediately update your GApps and other 3rd party applications you might have installed in one go. I did that, but I am not sure what happens if you don’t heed that advice.

Start = CM 12.1 SNAPSHOT from November 17th, 2015
Turn off phone
Boot into ClockWorkMod Recovery
Clear cache
Clear dalvik
Flash zip file containing CM13 NIGHTLY from February 1st, 2016
Flash zip file containing OpenGApps for Marshmallow (I used nano)
End = CM 13 NIGHTLY from February 1st, 2016

What seems to work completely

Phone calls – Sending and receiving
SMS – Sending and receiving
Data – Only tested HSPA, the i9505 does not have the LTE bands transmitted in Edmonton
WiFi – Wireless N and G seem to be OK
GPS – A little slower maybe? But accurate once lock is acquired
Display – LiveDisplay as seen above works (it’s night, so the screen gets a warmer tone), hover touches also work
LED notification light – As seen above, the red light means I have a text message
Sound – Speaker, earpiece, headphone jack, all OK
Sensors – Proximity, IR sensor (for gestures), Accelerometer, Magnetic, Gyroscope, Temperature, Barometer, RGB, Humidity, Gravity, Orientation all OK
Buttons – Power, Home, Volume up and down work

What seems to work partially

Bluetooth – I was able pair with my stereo Bluetooth speakers OK, but attempts at pairing with a Pebble has caused a soft reboot.

What seems to not work

So far none that I’ve discovered

What seems to be missing when coming from CM12.1 Nightly

– Ring targets when you drag up from the home button. Right now it is still the standard Google Now
– Quick setting tile customization. It kept the layout that I had from CM12.1 but I cannot configure it

So, how is it?

Overall very smooth. Noticeable speed / smoothness improvement when juggling between applications. There is hardly any lag when switching between things. Marshmallow is an “incremental” update from lollipop so the phone feels more refined but not “oh it feels like a new phone”.

Battery life is the same as CM12.1. That means I can get through a day as usual.

I don’t use Bluetooth nor do I have it turned on so the fact that it only works partially did not bother me.

Currently I have no problems in using it as my primary phone.