These $16.99 ‘Urban Beatz’ Headphones from T.J. Maxx Are Pretty Awesome

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I have a $400+ pair of bluetooth-enabled Parrot Zik headphones.  Those are better than my new, $16.99 ‘Urban Beatz’ headphones that I bought from T.J. Maxx.

But the strange thing is that they’re actually not that much better.

The Urban Beatz headphones are clearly made of cheaper materials (they are $16.99), but their rubberized exterior and imitative design seems to be fooling people.  Actually, they seem to be fooling me: these supposedly crappy Beatz imposters have pretty decent sound quality and EQ range, not to mention satisfactory bass.  They also feature a pretty snug fit and an on-cord microphone that actually works.

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You can even control the volume on the go, with this handy volume adjuster that is attached to the microphone (and also works).  You see, it’s quite possible that these headphones are made in the same Chinese sweatshop that makes the other headphones: just recently, a report emerged that Dr. Dre is minting $100s of dollars per every Beats by Dre headphone sold, thanks to labor and production costs that are about… $16.99.

I looked the Urban Beatz headphones up online, on Amazon.  There were a lot of people who felt exactly the same way and didn’t want to pay $300 for a pair.

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That’s when I realized something: these Urban Beats Headphones are actually better in a number of ways.  For starters, I am not worried about them.  And when I inevitably crush, sever, submerse, or abandon my Urban Beatz in a taxi somewhere, I won’t be crushed for the next month.  You see, there’s tons more at T.J. Maxx, not to mention Marshalls.

The Urban Beatz headphones also have another advantage: cheap simplicity.  My Ziks are pushing the boundaries with things like side-touch music control (yes, you can tap the side of the right headphone to skip through songs), a companion iOS app with EQ control, and Bluetooth-enabled connectivity.  But unfortunately, it’s complicated, and I spend a lot of time plugging the Ziks in and fiddling around with bad Bluetooth connections.

And I’d never take an expensive pair out on a workout.  But my Urban Beatz?  I couldn’t care less about murdering these knock-offs with sweat and steam in a tough workout.  You see, I actually don’t mind destroying these things.  Even better, I expect them to destroy themselves in about six months, if that.  At which point, I’ll try another pair of Urban Beatz, this time in yellow.

Written while listening to the heavy riffs of Grave.

15 Responses

    • kristi

      this article is about Urban Beatz, a brand of cheap headphones that are sold on amazon and Wallmart like stores. He is not talking about the over priced Doctor Dre branded headphones. Though I am wondering about the legitimacy of it, since there is a lot of what I would call spin speak in the article and bolding of phrases and words that are usually not in real reviews, so this may be a payed covert ad post.

  1. Willis

    Beats are terrible headphones from a sonic quality standpoint. From the lifestyle, cool-factor angle, they are what people want (even though I think the AKG Quincy Jones cans are much cooler and better quality). I can’t see a buzz being started about any product from TJ Maxx.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      I doubt these will ‘take off’ in fashion-tech circles, to state the obvious. But watch out: there may be a serious opportunity to release a pair of headphones that are almost as good as Beats (or whatever $350 pair you like), or even just as good, for $89. And the reason I think goes back to the modes of production: it’s all coming from the same exploited workers in China, which introduces price differentiation based on intangibles like marketing and made-up things. The mark-up is really based on what the manufacturer can get away with, based on cool-factor, perceived quality, design, or whatever else.

      This could be a short-lived bubble, like so many other market opportunities in this space.

      • jw

        I’m convinced that most people buying Beats headphones wouldn’t opt for “better” headphones in the price range (like KRK or Shure or Grado) if they knew that competitive options existed & had the opportunity to try them before they made a purchase. If the better headphones were cheaper, I think most consumers would be even LESS likely to choose them over the Beats.

        The price tag contributes to the perceived quality of the headphones just as much as the celebrity endorsements do… it’s a matter of everything BUT fidelity. I’m sure you could find a handful of headphones under $100 that sound as good or better than Beats, but they don’t stand a chance at eating into that marketshare because they just don’t dress the part.

        I’m not sure that the average consumer can really discern sonic quality, but they’re probably going to be listening to compressed digital audio, anyhow.

        • Minneapolis Musician

          Good points, JW.

          Price sets the expectation of quality, even when the user cannot actually verify it with their ears.

          Plus, there is the status thing.

          • jw

            Just the same, you could say that any format through crappy headphones is going to sound crappy. You’re going to get better results listening to an mp3 through nice headphones than listening to a cd through earbuds… I think the hardware is limiting the fidelity of the playback more often than the format.

            The most subversive thing that Apple did was create those colorful ads of folks dancing with the white earbuds, making them a fashion accessory. And because the price was sky high for an iPod at the time, there was a perceived quality. And if they could sell the earbuds, they could skimp on the fidelity of the recordings because you can’t really hear the difference between 256kbps aac & full cd quality audio through them.

            Honestly, though… I think this is all a reflection of consumer priorities. The ’70s & early ’80s were a time when consumers cared about fidelity & that was the selling point. Currently consumers care about fashion & status, & so that’s what’s selling Beats headphones. But at least that’s moving in the right direction away from plastic earbuds, & the quality of digital music will ultimately follow.

            At least that’s how I see it.

  2. Harlin J

    I picked up a pair of these at TJM based on your review here. You must be smokin’ something. Not even close to being quality audio. Low volume, muddy sound, terrible separation. Sorry.

  3. Anonymous

    I just bought some of these today, wow im in love way better then most headphones great sound, great look everything i wanted to get my third pair of beats by dr.dre but now i wont im stuck with these for life going back tomorrow to get the rest of the colors

  4. Dj Vita Callins

    Sincerely Urban beats are the leading fakest heaphones in the universe…

  5. Pete Danger

    I have to say that I just bought a pair and I’m very happy with the quality of sound from such a cheap product. I think they are on par with the beats tour buds I used to own. I agree with not having to worry about them so much either since I picked up a pair for $8. I’ll buy more if these die. I had some comments while testing the volume from people near me saying they “sound loud”. And they do ! Audiophiles will always BE audiophiles but for the average listener just wanting some nice cheap earbuds. I would recommend these all day long.

    • Eliana

      Do you remember how to use the headphones when they are wireless I have these headphones but threw out the instructions

  6. Eliana

    How do you make these headphones wireless I threw out my instructions