Remarkably, these sub-$15 in-ear headphones don't suck. Not at all.

How would you feel about a pair of in-ear headphones you paid only $12 for? Confident, or happy to take whatever you get because you're not spending a lot of money?

What if I said you could have both a $12 price tag and quality sound? These in-ear headphones from Dodocool tick both of those boxes.

I was first attracted to these because of the "Hi Res Audio" label that comes with them. Surely you can't get such a thing without spending a lot, right? Wrong.

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What is Hi Res Audio?

From Sony, the pioneer of Hi Res Audio:

High-Resolution Audio refers to a collection of digital processes and formats that allow the encoding and playback of music using higher sampling rates than the standards used in CDs.

There is no single standard for High Resolution Audio, but the most commonly used specifications are 24bit/96KHz (3.2x more data transmitted than CD) and 24bit/192KHz (6.5x more data transmitted than CD).

The image above is a good way to see the benefits of Hi Res Audio. More sample points produce a wave form closer to that of the original recording. As such, you get more detail in the audio files, which in turn means they're much larger.

Having the Hi Res Audio badge doesn't automatically make a set of headphones better, though, as What Hi-Fi explains:

It's just a technical specification (and ultimately, clever marketing ploy - headphones have been capable of this bandwidth long before the Hi-Res Audio logo), and has no concern over balance, timing, dynamics, detail or anything else that makes a pair of headphones great.

Dodocool Hi Res in-ear headphones specs

  • Frequency response: 20Hz to ~45,000Hz
  • Mylar thickness: 6μ
  • Normal impedance: 16Ω±20% @ 1KHz
  • Normal power rating: 3mW
  • Maximum input power: 5mW
  • Output S.P.L.: 100±3dB SPL @ 1KHz
  • Input S.P.L.: 126mVrms SPL @ 1KHz
  • R/L Output Difference: ≦1.5dB @ 1KHz 1mW
  • Distortion: 2 percent (Max. 1KHz/1mW)
  • Buzze & Rattle: 50~3K Hz (0.28V)

These compare pretty favorably to a similarly priced pair of Panasonic in-ear headphones, for example, particularly the frequency response, which is one of the big differences here.

Are they any good?

Dodocool headphones

Specs on paper don't tell you whether or not they're worth any amount of your money. Using these headphones to listen to FLAC files and streams from Tidal, the sound quality is excellent. You still have to keep overall expectations in check, but to say I'm surprised would be an understatement.

When listening to regular, compressed music from something like Groove, they're less impressive, but so are the music files playing through them. The Hi Res Audio label on the sticker might be a bit of a placebo, but ultimately you're getting a very clear, balanced and punchy sound that isn't too heavy on the bass.

For $12. Hi Res or not, these sound superb for super-cheap headphones.

Not only is the sound quality exceptional for something so cheap, they're very comfortable and do a pretty good job isolating background noise. Besides the neat little carry case you also get a selection of tips to get the best fit for your ears.

The headphones themselves are very light because they're very plastic. But the little wings are just right to anchor them into your ears and you get an excellent seal.

The thing I'm not at all happy about is the cable. It's where you immediately know you're using cheap headphones because it feels nasty, thin and it gets tangled up far too easily. For $12 it's passable, but if these cost much more it'd be much less so.

The bottom line

Having the Hi Res Audio badge isn't what makes these Dodocool in-ear headphones good. I mean, meeting the technical standard might have something to do with it, but ultimately the sound quality is very good. Especially for this price point.

I can't think of another pair of cheap headphones I've used that sound so good. The Dodocools are on par with my own, much more expensive Audio Technica in-ear headphones. If you're a true audiophile you'll still walk away, but if you just want a pair of great sounding headphones that cost very little, you can't go wrong here.

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