How to spot fake headphones
In our real vs fake headphones article, we concluded that you're better off getting the original headphones if you want performance and sound quality and do not only care about design. However, you have to be able to identify the knockoffs from real headphones before you can judge performance. While the quality and accuracy of the imitations depends on the price you're willing to pay for the fakes, we've noticed a few reoccurring flaws that may help you spot the copies before even opening the package or trying the headphones.
The differences in packaging are most noticeable when comparing them side by side. However, as a rule, if the colors seem a bit off/faded on a brand new box, then they are most likely fakes.
For example, the real Beats Solo2 have a much deeper red color than the knockoffs. The color and font of the written text on the front, side, and back of the box, are much more legible with the real packaging than on the fakes.
The Beats X, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to tell apart since the box has a transparent cover and is mostly white.
However, the specifications on the back of the box are not translated in the same language and the spacing is a little different. Unfortunately, the difference in translation (which affects the spacing) could be attributed to different markets so it won't be a reliable way to tell the fake BeatsX from the real ones.
The real QuietComfort25 are a bit more obvious to differentiate from the fakes due to the slight discoloration of knockoff box.
Like the Beats Solo2, the faded color of the box is more noticeable if you have both the real and fakes side by side, but if you look closely at the back of the box of the fake Bose, you can see that some of the text is cropped out whereas all the text is legible on the real box.
The Fake Bose SoundSport's box is also slightly off-color when compared to the originals. It's not very noticeable though and resembles the slight discoloration that you would get if you left the box out in the sun.
However, inside the box, you can clearly see that the promotional image of the fakes is of much lower quality than the original. For example, you can see the fine details in the athletes' hair for the real box whereas the fake seems a little blurry and washed out. Also, the text font and format inside the box of the fakes differ from the real packaging, whereas the font on the outer cover does not.
The Apple Earpods are very hard to differentiate from the case alone. Only the slight blue tint of the plastic cover gives an indication between the fake and the real headphones.
Since it can be hard to distinguish real headphones from the fakes by packaging alone, if you get the chance, open the box and have a look at the accessories. In most cases, the provided accessories for the fake headphones are of lower quality and may be a different color that doesn't match the headphones color and packaging theme.
The fake Beats Solo2 have obvious noticeable differences in their packaging compared to the original.
The cable is completely red to match the color scheme of the headphones, unlike the fakes which have some black accents reminiscent of old Beats cable models. The fake carabiner hook is silver instead of black and does not have the Beats logo and the carrying pouch has a slightly different texture which may be due to a lower quality fabric.
We couldn't get the same grey color theme for the fake BeatsX as the real ones. However, as you can see in the images above, the lighting USB cable is slightly shorter and the Beats logo is etched into the real cable, unlike with the fakes that are just a print.
The case is also a lighter shade than the original, which shouldn't be due to the different color scheme, unlike the stability wingtips which match the color of the headphones.
The fake Bose QuietComfort 25 match the real headphones pretty closely. However, like most of the fake headphones in this comparison, the colors and texture of the fake accessories are slightly off.
As you can see in the pictures above, the airline adapter of the fakes does not have the gold plated jacks of the original, which is easily noticeable without a side by side comparison. The protective case of the fakes has a deeper shade of black and a lighter shade of blue for the materials coating the inside of the case. The fake case also has a blue zipper handle instead of a black one, like with the originals, but without the real QC25 in hand, they would be hard to notice.
Most of the accessories of the fake SoundSport are as good as the original. The carrying pouch for the fakes is a little smaller and doesn't have the charging logo on the inside pocket but feels the same in hand.
The most noticeable difference is the carabiner hook. The fake hook is two-tone black and grey instead of the all-black theme of the real one.
Lastly, the airpods do not have many accessories apart from their carrying case, which as stated in the packaging section of this article, is very difficult to tell apart unless you have both the real and the fakes side by side.
The most trustworthy way to identify fakes is by checking the serial number and trying to register the headphones with the manufacturer or retailer. Not all manufacturers or retailers give you that option but if you can find a serial number, always try to register the headphones just to confirm that it's new and unused. The serial number is often on the box but in some cases, it's hidden on the headphones itself as shown in the pictures above.
|Beats Solo2 Wireless||FL6RV6Y6G8PP||Passed|| FL6SL0S1HK2O
|Beats BeatsX||FTRTCDASHDQV||Passed|| FTRT41EZH18W
|Bose QuietComfort 25||065252Z52410475AE||Passed||065249288291756AE||Failed|
|Bose SoundSport Wireless||073134261160109AE||Passed||073134261630781AE||Failed|
*For the fake Beats headphones in this comparison, we noticed that the serial number on the box did not match the serial number on the headphones. This is not the case for the real Beats models. This means if you do get the chance to compare the serial numbers before purchase you could easily find out if the headphones are fake.
How to avoid buying counterfeits
Buy from verified and authorized dealers
An easy way to avoid buying fake or knockoff headphones is to buy directly from the manufacturer or from the brands' website. They tend to be a bit pricier than when sold by 3rd party retailers but there's also very little chance that they will be fake. This means if you want to get the Beats Solo2 or the Bose QuietComfort 25, then purchasing them directly from beatsbydre.com or bose.com will guarantee authenticity.
However, there are quite a few verified dealers and retailers, so here are some of our recommendations for purchasing the real headphones in this comparison.
- bose.com - for all Bose headphones
- beatsbydre.com - the newly released Beats headphones.
- apple.com - the more recent Beats headphones and all Apple headphones.
- amazon.com* - for most old and new headphones.
- bestbuy.com - for most old and new headphones that you can also pick up in store.
- bhphotovideo.com - for more recent and new headphones.
- wallmart.com - for most old and new headphones that you can also pick up in store.
*Make sure the headphones are sold and shipped directly by Amazon and not by a third party seller using Amazon as a platform.
Check refund and return policies
This step is somewhat self-explanatory. If you buy from an authorized dealer or directly from the manufacturer/brand, then they will most likely have a refund or return policy to protect their customers from fraudulent and fake headphones. Always check the return and refund section of websites before making any big purchases.
Lastly, price is often one of the easiest ways to distinguish a knockoff from the real thing. While there are sales that offer some deep discounts, if the price seems to good to be true, it probably is. Below are the prices at purchase for the models we compared in this article and the real vs fake headphones one.
(price at purchase)
|Real - Price
|Retailer||Fake - Price
|Beats Solo2 Wireless||195.00||Amazon.com||87.40||iOffer.com|
|Bose QuietComfort 25||258.84||Amazon.com||100.58||DHgate.com|
|Bose SoundSport Wireless||172.30||Amazon.com||59.54||DHgate.com|
|Apple Earpods||35.00||Apple Store||9.36||Amazon.ca|
Always check the actual price of the headphones directly from the manufacturer/brand website, and compare this price with some of the approved sellers. If it really is a sale, it will most likely be widespread and verifiable by cross-checking websites.
It's often difficult to tell the fakes from the real headphones without a side by side comparison, especially if you don't get a chance to listen to the headphones before purchase. However, below is a quick summary of the tips to help you spot fakes and knockoffs:
- Check the packaging - the fakes are often faded, worn or have a slightly different color form the real ones.
- Check the content of the box - the fake accessories are often spare parts that do not match the color and theme of the headphones.
- Check or register the serial number - the fakes often have a false S/N or have multiple S/N for the same headphone that do not match, which is an obvious red flag.
- Buy directly from the manufacturer/brand or an authorized seller - if you want new unused headphones, this is the best way to guarantee authenticity and a refund or return option.
- Lastly, check and compare the price - if it's a sale, it most likely won't be from a single retailer and if the price is too good to be true, then it probably is.