You don’t have to pay a fortune for a good pair of headphones. While the luxury and studio market for headphones continues to prosper and support options that sit high in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, there’s a natural level of diminishing return. Technological and manufacturing advances mean that you can get a quality pair of headphones for under $100, and you won’t necessarily have to sacrifice quality for the sake of your bank account.
Many of the more expensive headphones on the market are designed with professionals in mind, and you can find options that combine quality, comfort, and durability without having to spend a fortune. Here are ten of the best headphones under 100 dollars.
- The Best Headphones Under $100
- 1. Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
- 2. Sennheiser HD280PRO
- 3. Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones
- 4. Sony MDR7506 Professional
- 5. Grado SR80e Prestige Series Headphones
- 6. Skullcandy Hesh 3 Bluetooth Wireless
- 7. TaoTronics TT-BH060 Noise Cancelling
- 8. Jabra Move Wireless Stereo Headphones
- 9. COWIN E7 Pro Deep Bass Headphones
- 10. iJoy Bluetooth Headphones
- Best Headphones Under $100 Buyer’s Guide
The Best Headphones Under $100
1. Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
Audio-Technica is one of the most well regarded brands for studio professionals, so it's somewhat surprising to find a pair of their headphones within the $100 price range. Fortunately, they don't skimp on the quality for which they're known in pursuit of bringing down pricing. The exceptionally neutral sound performance they offer means that they're perfectly suitable for producers or DJs working on a budget, but they're a great choice for casual users as well. The sound quality on the ATH-M40 is exceptional, but comfort was also a high priority in their design. If you're a fan of over ear headphones, you can count on them to fit snugly on your head without pinching or overheating. These are big headphones with 40mm drivers built in to the cans, but the lack of Bluetooth connectivity, mic, or remote means that they may be missing a few conveniences casual users are expecting.
2. Sennheiser HD280PRO
The Sennheiser HD280PRO may skirt the $100 limit for this list, but these studio headphones are designed with the needs of professional and semi-pro producers and DJs in mind, and that makes these over ear headphones a promising option that combines durability with exceptional sound reproduction. This isn't Sennheiser's best sounding headphones, but they comfortably push the boundaries of what you can expect from over ear headphones in this price range. It offers a neutral and balanced sound signature that's ideal for professionals, but it will sound just as great in your living room or on the commute. Assisting with the latter is the fact that the HD280PRO offers great noise isolation. That's in large part due to the tight seal of padding that serves around each of the cans. This padding also creates a pair of headphones that are both durable and incredibly comfortable.
3. Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones
The first thing you may notice about these wireless headphones may be their stylish design and their selection of seven bright colors, but Mpow's attempt at creating the best over ear bluetooth headphones under 100 is a lot more than just a pretty face. While the battery offers a talk or listening time that clocks in around 20 hours, you can also listen to them indefinitely through the use of the included and detachable cord. A 40mm neodymium driver is installed in each ear. That, along with the power of the CSR chip, allows for balances and crisp sound. These headphones are further powered by cVc 6.0 technology to minimize the effects of background noise, and they're crafted from protein leather to offer a comfortable but secure fit on any head. The Bluetooth support makes streaming your favorite songs from practically any service an easy process.
4. Sony MDR7506 Professional
The lack of Bluetooth compatibility in Sony's MDR7506 model means that it's not suited for commuting or the gym, but these are some immersive headphones that are perfect for the studio or your home's entertainment center. If you have a source device for them, their foldable structure means that you can pack it easily in your luggage and take it with you on vacation or business trips. Their frequency response of 10 to 20,000 Hz delivers crystal clear sound quality from the lowest bass to the highest treble, And while these headphones don't actively cancel noise, their larger design and firmly closed earmuffs can isolate sound very effectively. They aptly combine sturdiness and comfort, and they make use of equalizers to adjust the tonal wave rather than artificially modeling sound for cleaner and crisper sound performance.
5. Grado SR80e Prestige Series Headphones
None of the headphones in this list have quite the unique style of the SR80e Prestige Series. It's a reflection on their manufacturer. New York City-based Grado is a smaller family-owned company, and the amount of love and attention they put into their headphones is admirable. That's no less true with the SR80e, which packs very strong sound quality into a frame that evokes the classic era of radio. These offer some of the best bass on our list, but they really excel in terms of treble and midrange performance. While they offer little in the way of sound isolation and they aren't the most comfortable headphones around, they more than make up for it with the sheer depth of sound they offer. But if exceptionally high sound performance is your top priority, these are the best cans you'll find on our list.
6. Skullcandy Hesh 3 Bluetooth Wireless
The Hesh 3 is a pair of headphones you can pack up and count on to provide you with the performance you need without having to seek out chargers. Whether you're going on a long hike or dealing with a hectic workday, their 22 hour battery life is a valuable asset, and if you need a quick recharge, you can get four hours of playtime with just a quick ten minutes. The design of these headphones may be a bit understated, but there's some powerful performance tucked away into these cans. The bass is stronger than what you'd expect from more flat studio headphones, but it's never overwhelming, and the treble and midrange can hold their own admirably. Four different color options are available, and each comes in an optional matte finish to create an understated but expressive look.
7. TaoTronics TT-BH060 Noise Cancelling
The design of these Taotronics headphones are sleek, seamless, and intuitive. They sport a clean and efficient look that's not ostentatious, and all of the necessary controls are comfortably built into the left ear cup. The right offers a USB cord for easy charging at home, in the studio, or on the go. And while these aren't the most comfortable headphones you'll find on the list, they're well cushioned and perfectly suitable for ongoing studio work or long flights. The sound quality isn't flat, but that's both a good and a bad thing. It makes it less perfect for studio work, but if you like headphones to have strong bass, the Taotronics can scratch that itch. The inclusion of Bluetooth 5.0 gives them longer legs in terms of staying ahead of the technological curve, and these headphones also promise a stronger battery life than much of the competition.
8. Jabra Move Wireless Stereo Headphones
While in ear headphones tend to be the popular choice for active use at the gym or on the go, Jabra's Move headphones offer a comfortable and lightweight design that lets them stand strong against the best earbuds under 100 dollars. These sporty wireless headphones are built specifically with the needs of fitness buffs in mind, and they offer a competitive price that makes them a viable alternative to the best earbuds. Despite their small size, they can stream some pretty powerful music directly into your ears and can hold its own against high-end sets significantly above the $100 range. Increasing their versatility as travel headphones is a strong battery life. Pairing is a simple one touch affair, and these headphones can be connected to two separate Bluetooth-enabled devices at the same time thanks to the 4.0 technology powering them.
9. COWIN E7 Pro Deep Bass Headphones
Cowin's E7 headphones can't hold their own with some of the contenders on this list in terms of sound performance, but they're still of pretty respectable quality, and their Bluetooth range is some of the best for earphones within this price range. Around the board, the E7s are consistently average. These are noise cancelling headphones, and in that regard, they do a pretty decent job. Leakage is low, and you can count on them to get the job done during your daily commute or in the office. Just don't expect them to stand up to the demands of studio work. Also worthy of note is the high battery life which offers an astounding 30 hours of performance per charge. While the build quality isn't the best around, these are some very nice looking headphones, and their secure padding lends them a comfortable fit as well.
10. iJoy Bluetooth Headphones
The iJoy headphones are affordable even by the standards of our list. Despite coming in at under $20, you shouldn't write these off as cheap and disposable. These headphones are compatible with Bluetooth 4.1, but they also include an FM radio receiver and the rare opportunity to play music directly through an SD card. A built-in mic allows for outgoing calls, while the five button interface allows you to control your music, movies, and video games effectively without having to wrestle with an unwieldy control scheme. Active noise cancellation isn't directly built in, but the over ear design maximizes noise isolation, making them ideal for crowded public transit and other noisy situations. Comfort was also a clear priority with the iJoy. The memory-protein that forms their earmuffs and the snug but adjustable headband combine together to accommodate the needs of most wearers.
Best Headphones Under $100 Buyer’s Guide
Value vs. Price
In our buying guides, our general approach is to evaluate value over pricing. We don’t want to guide buyers to the cheapest items on the market but rather to the items that offer the greatest ratio of quality to price. The $100 limitation gave us a narrower range to work with, but the variety of headphones below that price point gave us a decent amount of options to work with. These are the factors we took into consideration when evaluating these headphones.
Sound Quality: While some of these headphones work hard to create the flat sound sought by producers and others offer more variance between bass, midrange, and treble, they all offer above average sound quality. Even the most economical of our options can provide you with strong sound reproduction.
Noise Isolation: Noise cancelling was one of the specs we evaluated on these headphones, but they weren’t the only noise dampening traits we took into consideration. The ability to listen to music anywhere is an important consideration if you want a pair of versatile headphones, and most of the selections on our list offer some sort of sound isolation, be it a professional digital solution like cVc or simply a structural advantage that comes from padding.
Mobility: Bluetooth and NFC offer a big advantage when you want a mobile set of headphones because they don’t require a source to be plugged directly into. The ability to connect wirelessly (and do so with ease) was a point of consideration in our headphones, but you’ve probably noticed that a few of our options are corded. That’s typically because the studio-level features they offer makes up for the lack of mobility that Bluetooth affords.
Understanding “Flat” Sound
A number of the headphones on our list tout the flatness of their sound. It’s a characteristic of particular value in studio headphones, but it’s not necessarily the right choice for everyone. In general terms, “flat” frequency response means that what goes into your headphones is what comes out. The flatter the sound, the more accurately the music will resemble what the artist intended. That’s an important value for producers because it allows them to identify flaws in the recording and edit them accordingly.
That said, flat sound isn’t a universal positive. If a producer missed something in the editing process, those flaws will shine through more clearly with flatter sound, and the ideal sound is a largely subjective thing. If you prefer more thumping bass, something like the Taotronics TT-BH060 might be more to your liking.
What is Active Noise Cancellation?
One of the major components we assessed when evaluating these headphones was whether or not they actively cancelled noise, but you’ve likely noticed that this sort of technology was the exception rather than the rule where our selections are concerned. While ANC can be a great feature for high-end users who are looking to monitor a studio recording, they aren’t the be-all and end-all for the quality of a pair of headphones.
That’s not to say that noise cancellation doesn’t have its uses outside of the professional sphere. If you’re looking to drown out the sound in the office or gym or during an international flight or daily commute, there’s no better option than a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Rather than rely solely on conventional components like padding and over-ear design, they use a microphone that analyzes ambient sound, produces a waveform that’s the exact opposite, and weaves it into the music you’re listening to. If noise cancellation is a big deal for you, you may want to keep an eye out for cVc cancellation. This tech is regularly recognizes as one of the best standards in the industry.
There are a few distinct disadvantages to noise cancellation. One is that it tends to cost more, and given that we’ve limited ourselves exclusively to headphones underneath $100, that often means denying yourself other features for the sake of noise cancellation. They also tend to drain your battery more quickly. Noise cancellation can be a genuine game changer if you use your headphones in public spaces often, but you’ll want to carefully consider whether it’s worth your time or if the more conventional noise isolation offered by some of these headphones might suit you better.
Related Post: Check out our guide to noise cancelling headphones under $100.
Some audiophiles believe that truly appreciating music to its fullest requires hundreds of dollars worth of investment into headphones. That’s no longer the case. The headphones on our list are generally good choices for all-around headphones, but many of them also offer the sort of features that make them work admirably for specialized purposes like studio recording. Whatever your reason for investing in a pair of headphones, there’s sure to be something on the list that meets your needs, and you can count on any of these headphones to last you a good long time.