The Final E500 are a budget set of in-ear headphones with premium sound quality.
- Manufacturer: Final
- Model: E500
- Price: £19.99
- Supported Platforms: (3.5mm Jack) Console, PC, Mobile, VR
- Reviewed on: Windows PC, Android Phone, Xbox One
- Supplied by: Manufacturer
Buying a cheap set of in-ear headphones is a minefield. There are hundreds of supposed bargains out there, often with questionable and even fake-reviews offering spurious claims about stunning fidelity and performance.
When I was offered the E500 headphones to review, I was interested to see how they would perform. We have covered everything from cheap and cheerful gaming headsets all the way up to audiophile quality speaker setups, so we’ve got a good baseline to work with.
Final is a company you may not have heard of, but they produce some seriously credible headphones. When you have a company that manufactures audiophile-grade headphones, it’s worth taking their cheap ones a bit more seriously.
So, is it possible to get good quality audio from a sub £20 pair of headphones?
Unboxing and accessories
It’s safe to say you aren’t going to be excited looking at the packaging. Ensconced in a plain white box, with a manufacturers logo on the front and a few tech specs on the back, it’s the very essence of value-focused design.
Opening up the box, you’ll find a few plastic bags containing the E500 headphones, a warranty card and a bag of changeable headphone tips. Kudos to Final here, as there are five different sizes of tips included, ranging from extra small to extra large. The medium tips that came as standard were ideal for me, and very comfortable.
Design and build
The headphones themselves are a plain black cylindrical affair, manufactured in sturdy black plastic. Final have etched their branding along the sides, along with the L and R indicators, but it’s almost impossible to read. I literally had to shine a torch on them to make out which was which. Ever resourceful, I’ve added a tiny square of electrical tape to the right ear-bud to help identify them, but it’s a step you shouldn’t have to take.
It’s a very simplistic design, but they are lightweight at just 15 grams including the cable, and they are remarkably comfortable. The tight-fitting tips mean sound isolation is excellent, doing a great job of blocking outside noise and allowing the bass to resonate properly.
The cable is a reasonable size at 1.2m, but it’s thin and prone to tangling. The right-angled jack is well manufactured, though, and provides a solid, noise-free connection to your devices.
Overall the design isn’t going to set the world on fire, but they are well made and very tasteful, especially for the price.
The packaging may look cheap, and the headphones themselves may look plain, but when you put them into your ears, the quality is shockingly good. Not just good, great. Far better than any £20 set of headphones should be able to sound.
Spacial awareness is excellent, despite the fairly narrow soundstage; Centralised sounds are clearly distinguished from sounds on your periphery. Playing FPS games, it’s incredibly easy to pinpoint not only the location of sound but the distinction between individual sounds such as footsteps and gunfire. This brilliant sound separation and spatial performance makes them ideal for VR gaming.
Now that mobile gaming is far more prominent, with the Nintendo Switch and Xbox Game Streaming in particular offering games with great audio and soundtracks, the E500 are a discrete and competent way to get the audio quality your games deserve.
The bass is very clear, but it’s not as pronounced as on a large set of cans. You don’t get the rumble from big explosions, but the clarity is superb. Where the E500 excel is in the mid-range. Many headphones are tuned with an emphasis on bass and treble, and the mids get lost in between.
The E500s have fully realised mid-tones, and it gives the sound a richness that you don’t expect from cheap headphones, with crisp but not piercing treble rounding out the sound. Final have fitted some very capable drivers in these headphones. As a go-to headset that performs just as well for gaming as it does music or movies, the E500 is ideal. They are certainly as good or even better than most headsets bundled with mobile phones.
Music quality is equally good. Listening to Toxicity by System of a Down, the vocals take centre stage with the percussion, while the bass and guitars are still present in each ear, but the spacing is exceptional. As with gaming, there isn’t quite the heavy drive to the bass you may want, but it’s more than compensated for by the rich mid-range frequencies. I found myself picking out details in sounds that I hadn’t noticed on headphones costing literally twenty times the price.
If you were to put these headphones in my ears and let me do a blind sound test, I’d have guessed they cost closer to £100 than the asked £20. I can’t emphasise enough just how good they are, especially for the price of a round of beers.
It’s a shame there’s no microphone, as this would have made the E500 a viable gaming headset, but it’s hard to complain at this price point. Regardless, they lack the utility a dedicated gaming headset has, so if you rely on in-game comms you may find they aren’t suitable.
The Final E500 produce a sound that headphones costing far more wish they could match. Exceptional clarity, rich and balanced sound and a very comfortable fit make them easy to recommend. Indeed, I’d recommend these headphones as a bargain for £50, let alone £20.
As a replacement for headphones bundled with a phone, for gaming on a Switch or for playing Xbox Game Streaming, these headphones are perfect and just as good for music and movies as they are games. The only thing letting these headphones down is a lack of punch in the bass.