Headphones Under $15 to Take to College: Which Pairs Make the Grade?

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With college just around the corner, here are a few budget friendly headphones for campus life.

We found nine of the most popular pairs of headphones and earbuds, all going for less than $15 dollars. Some would make you look cool on the subway, some would make you look like a time traveler from the early '90s. But on the contrary, it's not all about the looks. Some of the flashiest pairs produced the poorest sound and some of the simplest looking earbud models fared best in our scoring system.

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Speaking of which, all pairs were graded in four areas -- sound quality, comfort, style and bleeding -- with the latter referring to how badly the sound projects beyond the listener's ears (i.e. will the rest of your office be able to hear your song choice?). In all categories, the higher the score the better, with all four categories averaging into a final cumulative score.

In the end, a handful of pairs tied for our highest score, so we'll leave it up to you to decide which best fits your needs. You won't likely find a $100 value in this bargain bin, but at the rate you probably lose or break headphones, why not pick up a few pairs and give them a shot? You might find out you don't need that fancy pair after all.

Syba CL-AUD63032 Circumaural Over-Ear Stereo Headphone

PRICE: $11.79 

This lesser-known brand should appeal a style-over-substance types -- the big purple 'phones look expensive, but the pesky noise bleeding will let everyone around you know you should have invested in better bass.

Samsung Replacement EH64AVFWE 3.5mm Premium Stereo Headset

PRICE: $6.04

Looking for a cheaper alternative to Apple earbuds? Here you go. Sound holds up decently well until you push the volume high and though the bass is weak, the treble holds its own.

Wicked Audio WI1853 IN-EAR DEUCE EARbuds

PRICE: $3.89

The packaging has this pair's "Sound Score" set between "sweet" and "awesome," but this is just the type of over-branded, flashily-packaged earbud that will catch the eyes 8-year olds and have the audiophiles running away.

Panasonic RP-HT21 Lightweight Headphones with XBS Port

PRICE: $7.49

This pair looks like it's from 1992 and it bleeds sound like noise-canceling technology is part of the distant future. But if you're looking for cozy pair for work that you won't lose -- and without the compressed sound of cheap earbuds -- you could do worse.

Wicked Audio WI2002 HELIX EARbuds

PRICE: $5.80

These earbuds come with around-the-ear latches, giving them workout-friendly support that the other buds on this list lack. They're among the best options on this tally, though they're not conducive to an environment where you'll have to take them on and off constantly.

JVC HAS160B FLATS Lightweight Headband Headphones (Black)

PRICE: $12.86

These old timers look only slightly more modern than the Panasonic over-the-head model. They get the job done and their sound is more expansive than what you'll get from earbuds. It's just too bad everyone in your office will know what you're listening to, as these bleed like a pair of speakers.

Sony MDR-ZX100 ZX Series Headphones (White)

PRICE: $14.84

Sturdy and durable, Sony's economy-level headphone model is just about the best you can do for under $15.  The wiring and input jack are reinforced as well or better than any pair on this list and unlike some of the other over-the-ear models, these look (gasp!) somewhat modern!

Panasonic RPHJE120K In-Ear Headphone, Black

PRICE: $9.10

With some of the most legit bass and all-around sound quality you'll find in cheap earbuds, these little guys deliver just about everything except an eye-catching look on the street.

Sony MDREX10LP/BLK In-Ear Headphones

PRICE: $9.99

Sony's economy earbuds are a near pound-for-pound match for Panasonic's, though they come up slightly short in bass, loudness and overall fidelity.


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