The best headphones under $100.You’re in the market for a new set of headphones – but you don’t know where to start. We’ve got you covered with this list of the top 5 best headphones under $100, all reviewed by our expert team. Whether you’re looking for something for working out or just want some simple earbuds that are easy on your wallet, we’ve got it right here!
Read on to find out more about these awesome products and what they have to offer…
- [Top 5] Best Headphones Under $100 Reviews in 2021
- What you should know about headphones under $100
- Work out with the Jabra Elite Active 45e
- For the best sound quality get the Grado SR60x
- The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 will give you a little bit of everything
- Headphones under $100: notable mentions
- How we choose the best headphones under $100
- Frequently Asked Questions
Who should buy cheap headphones?
- Anyone interested in delving deeper into the world of audio for less. We’ve listed everything from studio headphones to workout headphones to account for anyone interested in upgrading their current setup. Making the switch to headphones under $100, rather than $50, opens a world of possibilities for a variety of audio preferences.
- People who enjoy audio, but can’t have nice things. Listen, we get it. You’re not great with things that break. It might be easier to replace cheaper headphones, but we think $100 gives you a nice upgrade without eating up your wallet.
- Gift givers. If you want to give the gift of music, this is a pretty decent price range to get a little something for someone you care about. Now if you really, truly love this person then you might want to check out this list.
[Top 5] Best Headphones Under $100 Reviews in 2021
The best headphones under $100 are the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
The ATH-M50x are the top pick for many but the ATH-M40x easily keep pace. From the enthusiast to the professional, the 40x will sate any hi-fi appetite. If you’re interested in either model, but want a wireless version, well Audio-Technica offers that too.
Thanks to the rotating ear cups, the headphones lay flat against the chest when inactive which is always handy. Generally speaking, the headband is comfortable with just enough padding. However, if you aren’t into the synthetic feel, you may have a differing opinion. The ATH-M40x provides more subtle bass reproduction than the ATH-M50x, which is ideal for mixing and makes it easier for sound engineers to register and remedy overemphasized treble, something that can fatigue products.
Audio-Technica designed these with one purpose in mind: listening to music. Overall, if you prefer an ever-so-slight emphasis in the mids and vocals, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the ATH-M40x as our pick for the best headphones under $100.
If you’re in the studio, grab the Sony MDR-7506
In this corner, weighing in at 8.1 ounces, are the Sony MDR-7506. The 1985 inception of these classic headphones came out under the model number MDR-V6. Six years later the world met the MDR-7506, which had slight aesthetic and functional changes from the V6. The MDR-7506 have proven they can keep up with modern standards while maintaining a retro, professional look.
Although they’ll work in any context, the Sony MDR-7506 are intended for studio monitoring and audio mixing. Fortunately, if you want to expose them to natural light, folding hinges make transport a breeze. In general, these are a reliable and legendary pair of headphones under $100 with that “it” factor. The long 9.8-foot cable is great for studio use but may need tying up to avoid comical unwieldiness while out and about.
Read on about: The 5 Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $300 for 2021
Over-ear headphones offer the best sound quality and soundstage, how headphones reproduce spatial cues, due to mammoth drivers.
If it seems like these headphones are a bit out of place, it’s probably due to the fact that our staff has decades of experience with them, and they still hold up today. They can be found in classrooms, studios, and even some speech labs. If you’re looking for headphones under $100 that have proven many times over that they last for years on end, these are the headphones to buy.
What you should know about headphones under $100
Headphones come in all shapes and sizes, but an uncompromising seal is necessary for proper bass. We’ve laid out the most important points covering the differences between on-ear and over-ear headphones. For more in-depth information, make sure to head over to our headphone buying guide.
Bluetooth codecs can make a difference
This matters for anyone who values audio quality. If you have an iPhone, look out for AAC, because iOS devices don’t support other high-quality codecs. If you’re rocking Android, aptX and its many variants are your best bet. LDAC is fine but certainly not hi-res. If all of this alphabet soup is overwhelming, chances are your ears are too old to differentiate between codecs anyway, so no sweat. That said, if you want the best audio quality possible, stick to wired audio.
Bluetooth announced LE Audio and the LC3 codec at CES 2020, and once it reaches the consumer market, we’ll see a 50% increase in audio quality over SBC alongside more efficient performance. Not only will this benefit sound quality and connection stability, but those within the hearing-impaired community will experience additional functionality with compatible Bluetooth hearing aids. For instance, broadcast and multistream audio—not to be confused with Bluetooth multipoint—will allow more than one audio stream to be sent to a single headset. This technology will allow those with Bluetooth headsets to tune into relevant information-only at the airport, train station, and more. Now, those with hearing aids no longer have to strain to hear relevant announcements.
What’s the difference between on-ear and over-ear headphones?
On-ear headphones sit directly on your ears. They negotiate a healthy balance between portability and quality sound. As the name implies, they rest neither around nor within the ear, so they’re not as comfortable and the seal isn’t the greatest. If you wear glasses, on-ears typically aren’t your friend. However, I had great luck with the Bose SoundLink On-Ear headphones when wearing glasses.
Over-ears generally offer the best sound quality, thanks to larger drivers and a consistently good seal to your head. They also do the best job of reproducing spatial cues by using our ear anatomy in a natural way, by sitting around them and exposing the entire pinna to soundwaves.
Should you get closed-back or open-back headphones under $100?
Closed-back headphones isolate well and are primarily used for commuting and travel, or where outside noise would ruin your music. The closed rear chambers can cause unwanted resonances which cloud the midrange details. Cans like the Sennheiser PXC 550-II do a great job combatting this. Conversely, open-back headphones do not isolate at all. This is fine if you’re listening in a quiet room but will sound terrible when traveling or commuting. Quiet environments are where this breed shine.
Take the necessary steps to prevent hearing loss
Hearing loss comes in all varieties and can negatively impact an individual’s emotional wellbeing. In order to prevent this altogether, we suggest finding a proper fit with your headphones. Doing so will keep external noise out, making you feel less inclined to turn up the volume to dangerous levels. If you have a few more dollars to spare, you may want to consider premium active noise cancelling headphones as they further protect you from the chances of developing noise-induced hearing loss.
Work out with the Jabra Elite Active 45e
Jabra makes some of our favorite workout earbuds, and the Jabra Elite Active 45e headset is a great option for all sorts of athletes. The IP67 rating denotes both dust and water-resistance, making these a great pick for rock climbers and runners alike. Unfortunately, they lack onboard storage, so you can’t actually use them while swimming. If they happen to take a dip in the pool, though, you needn’t worry.
Jabra Elite Active 45e
The proprietary ear tips allow users to remain aware of their surroundings at all times, something any outdoor athlete must have in a pair of workout headphones. The downside to this safety feature is that sound quality takes a toll: external noises make it difficult to perceive musical detail. In this case, it’s not a huge deal, but is something we’d knock in a pair of studio cans.
Jabra Elite Active 45e microphone demo:
Battery life is fine; you’re afforded nine hours of listening on a single charge. It’s a bummer that the Elite Active 45e uses microUSB, but at least it supports quick charging. Just 15 minutes of connection to the cable yields an hour of listening. If you want to go completely wireless, check out the Jabra Elite Active 75t true wireless earbuds.
For the best sound quality get the Grado SR60x
Ask anyone in the know about open-back headphones and they’ll likely utter the dual-syllabic company’s name: Grado. This is no coincidence; the Brooklyn-based company has been making open-back cans since 1953. It also has a wireless version of its beloved open-back cans. The SR60x is an entry-level set of headphones that sounds fantastic for the price.
Read on about: 5 Best In Ear Monitors for Drummers in 2021
The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 will give you a little bit of everything
Anker is no stranger to making easy-to-recommend, budget-friendly products, so it’s no wonder the company made it onto our list of the best headphones under $100. The company rarely has the absolute best products, but it’s consistent. When you pair that with the company’s pricing habits, it has us wondering how Anker is still in business. The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 are cheap headphones, yet they offer features that give more premium headphones a run for their money.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30
With an ergonomic design, comfortable ear pads, and lightweight construction, these headphones are perfect for any casual listener—from the daily commuter to the couch potato. A 40-hour battery life (with ANC enabled) ensures that even if you forget to charge your headphones overnight, you’ll have enough battery to enjoy your tunes for the day.
While it’s noise cancelling technology may not be on-par with higher-end headphones, it does a relatively good job attenuating low-frequency rumbles and general ambient noise. Sound wise, EDM fans will appreciate the low-frequency emphasis on these headphones. Unfortunately, audiophiles may be a little disappointed with the lack of support for higher-quality codecs like aptX. Still, for less than $100, you’re getting premium features at a price that won’t cost an arm and a leg.
Headphones under $100: notable mentions
This is a great option for anyone working on a shoestring budget who can’t afford to compromise sound quality. The semi-open design promotes accurate sound reproduction. Low bass response is lacking, so if you want a more neutral response across the frequency spectrum, keep looking.
For those looking to save some cash, these headphones are the little sibling to the ATH-M40x, featuring a balanced sound signature for accurate sound reproduction on a budget.
This is Audio-Technica’s entry-level studio headphone—ideal for people who prefer a neutral sound without breaking the bank.
These supra-aural cans, like the ATH-M40x, are meant for the studio but don’t need to be confined there. The earcups are small and light enough to take with you, too.
These cans feature a compact design with swivel ear cups, allowing you to easily take these headphones anywhere. It also offers great microphone quality, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support, and 50 hours of playtime.
This set of headphones features an eight-hour battery life with a 12-day standby time. Sound quality is surprisingly clear given the sub-$50 price of these cans.
If you’re looking for a pair of budget workout over-ear headphones, these IPX5-rated cans are for you.
This gaming headset is one of the best you can buy for under $100—complete with plush ear cups, amazing isolation performance, and a relatively neutral sound profile.
If you’re willing to trade THX Spatial Audio for traditional 7.1 virtual surround sound, you get almost everything that makes the BlackShark V2 a great headset, for just under $60.
If you want a solid pair of gaming cans with 7.1 surround sound, Razer is a great pick; plus, it has a low-profile microphone.
These headphones attenuate external noise effectively and have a very neutral-leaning frequency response perfect for mixing music. Though some people find the clamping force of the headband to be a little much, if you’re looking for an alternative to the Sony MDR-7506, these are an equally great-sounding pair of studio cans.
A modern pair of cans featuring Bluetooth 5.0, aptX Low Latency and AAC support, voice-assistant access and USB-C charging, all at a sub-$100 price tag.
How we choose the best headphones under $100
We do our best to directly test as many audio products as possible, but alas, we too are only human. While testing every audio product in the world is nearly impossible, we research as many candidates as we can if we’re unable to directly test something. Fortunately, with this “best headphones under $100 list,” we were able to directly test each of the top picks, allowing us to speak candidly about our experiences here and in the in-depth reviews.
If a product made it as one of the best headphones under $100, it’s because we earnestly feel it’s one of the best in its class.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a way to plug wired headphones to a DVD/CD player?
Yes, DVD and CD players usually have a 3.5mm port. So long as your headphones have a 3.5mm cable, as most headphones do, you should be able to use them just fine.
Is the Audio Technica ATH-M40x that much better than the ATH-M30x?
The Audio Technica ATH-M40x offers several improvements over the ATH-M30x. For starters, the M40x features a detachable cable for easy headphone storage and transport—a well-loved feature by musicians who are constantly traveling. The M40x also features a greater frequency response range for improved treble clarity, allowing for a better audio mixing experience.
Why would I want open-backed headphones over closed-back headphones?
Closed-back headphones are characterized by its ability to isolate noise, allowing users to focus on their content—though at the expense of sound quality.
Meanwhile, open-back headphones can reproduce sounds more accurately, with a stereo image that is comparable to studio monitors.
However, open-back headphones don’t isolate any noise, which may be annoying for other people in the same room as you.
Are bigger headphone drivers better?
The size of a headphone’s driver is only part of the equation. The reason larger drivers are generally believed to be better is that bass response is easier to reproduce, something that is welcomed by the general consumer market.
The drawback to larger diaphragms is that the flexibility and rigidity become more variable the bigger the driver gets. Consequently, treble reproduction becomes an issue (in terms of accuracy).
This is why it’s important to have good audio engineers who can account for this, or completely different setups (e.g. balanced armature) altogether.
Final Thoughts on best headphones under $100
Audio purists know that there are a lot of intricacies in music and songs, so the best headphones to pick for this type of listening is not an inexpensive option.
However, most popular brands usually come at around $150 or more which may be out your price range.
But if you’re looking for something under this amount but still want decent sound quality then sub-$100 options will suffice as well!
They offer a satisfying audio experience with versatility; their only downside being they might not last very long because they don’t put enough time into durability when putting them together.