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5 Best Headphones Under $100

by | Headphones | 1 comment

Finding a pair of great-sounding headphones under $100 can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Inexpensive, high-quality headphones are hard to find since the budget headphone market is flooded with lots of poor-quality products.

Poor-quality headphones, with their tinny sound and uncomfortable earpieces, make listening to your favorite songs and music unpleasant and unsatisfying.

A great pair of headphones, however, can make any listening experience more enjoyable, whether you’re listening for fun or working on recording or mixing some music tracks.

So, I’ve reviewed the best headphones under $100 to help you find the diamonds in the rough.

Here are the best headphones under $100:

Review Criteria

All headphones included in my reviews were selected based on their widespread use and reputation in the professional music community and from personal use and knowledge.

I’ve also added my insights gained from my 25+ years of experience running a very successful music production company, plus working with dozens of composers and thousands of tracks for my Audio Addiction Music Library, a production music library with global distribution.

Best Headphones Under $100 Reviews

Closed-Back Headphones

Closed-back headphones are designed to cover your ears, so they help keep out background noise better than other headphone designs.

Introduced back in 1991, the Sony MDR-7506 closed-back headphones have long been a favorite amongst audio pros with their well-balanced sound.

I’ve had a pair of the MDR-7504s (a previous model) for many years.  They still sound good after probably 20 years of use!

You’ll find the MDR-7206s in countless recording studios, audio post houses, video production companies, and more because they sound great and are very reliable.

Priced well under $100, they’re one of the best-selling pro headphones on the market.

These full-size headphones are designed for neutral, detailed, and accurate representation of music. Because they’re made for studio/ professional use, they’re not designed to hype your listening material by boosting frequencies.

Compared to many consumer-grade headphones, some users feel the bass is a little light.  So, if you love heavy bass, then these headphones may not be right for you.

The MDR-7506s are very lightweight which is a big plus. I’m able to wear my 7504s for extended periods without any discomfort.

They fold down into a compact size and fit into an included soft case for storage or travel.

They come with a coiled 10-foot long cable that’s not detachable.  The downside is that coiled cables are not nearly as practical as straight cables; the cable starts to pull at the headphones when stretched.   However, for use at home or commuting this should not be an issue.

The earpads are replaceable, a plus since they are usually the first thing to deteriorate on headphones as they age. However, the pads on my 7504s are still usable (though looking a bit worn!) so this probably won’t be an issue for many years.

The cable has a standard 3.5mm connector for connecting to smartphones, tablets, or computers. A 1/4” adaptor is also included for connection to stereos or studio gear.

Wrap Up

All in all, the Sony MDR7506 are great-sounding headphones that easily outcompete some of the pricier headphones out there. With excellent sound and long-term reliability, they’re a fantastic value for well under $100.

PROS

  • Frequency response is 10-20,000 Hz
  • Accurate audio reproduction
  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Replaceable earpads
  • Comes with a soft case
S

CONS

  • Coiled cable

Sony MDR-7506 Closed-Back Headphones

Check Price:
AmazonGuitar Center | zZounds

Sennheiser is one of the most reliable and best-known headphone manufacturers. They consistently receive highly-rated reviews for their sound quality and features.

The HD280 PRO headphones are closed-back over-ear headphones with top-notch audio quality. They are meant for professional studio listening, and so their overall sound quality is neutral and balanced.  With a wide soundstage, they make music sounds bigger and broader.

However, while the bass response is accurate and tight, some users feel they are a little bass light.  In actuality, they faithfully represent the music as it was recorded in the studio.  If you’re used to consumer headphones that tend to hype the bass, these will be a revelation to listen to.

The HD280 PROs, though they weigh in at only 7.8 oz, are solidly built.  Because they are lightweight, they are very comfortable headphones to wear, with large soft earpads.

The earpads are replaceable, which is a nice feature!

Due to their large earpads and closed-back design, they have very good noise isolation (32dB attenuation) which keeps outside noise out of your listening experience. This makes them suitable for DJs and for producers who need to mix in noisier environments.

The HD280 PROs come with a 10-foot coiled cable with a gold-plated 3.5mm jack that connects to smartphones, tablets, and computers, plus a ¼” adaptor for connection to stereos or studio gear.

Wrap Up

If you are looking for excellent studio-quality headphones for home or travel use, then you can’t go wrong with the Sennheiser HD280 PROs.  Highly recommended!

PROS

  • Frequency range is 8-25,000 Hz
  • Lightweight
  • Solid construction
  • Replaceable earpads
S

CONS

  • Coiled cable
  • Does not include carrying case

Sennheiser HD280 PRO Closed-Back Headphones

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Amazon | zZounds

Audio-Technica is another well-known name in professional audio.  Their ATH-M30x closed-back headphones are an excellent value at a price well under $100.

The ATH-M30xs are professional-looking headphones with Audio-Technica written across the top of the headband.

Despite their large size, they are quite lightweight (7.8 oz).  The headband is adjustable and very comfortable to wear for extended periods.

Overall the sound is defined by a neutral flat response, excellent bass, and a clean and detailed midrange. They deliver a wide, immersive soundscape with very good detail and dynamics.  They almost make the music sound better than it really is!

Their large earcups provide very good sound isolation which will be highly appreciated when using in noisy locations.

They come with a 9.8-foot straight cable with a standard 3.5mm jack that connects to smartphones, tablets, and computers, plus a ¼” adaptor for connection to studio gear home stereo systems.  The straight cable is a major plus if you need to use them at a distance from their audio source.

They have a sensitivity of 96db and an impedance of 47 ohms, meaning audio sources such as phones and mp3 players can drive them easily without distortion.

Their sturdy build makes them great for travel and holding up to everyday wear and tear.

Wrap Up

The Audio-Technica ATH M30x are excellent headphones for well under $100. Their high-quality neutral sound, solid construction, noise-reducing design, and straight cable make them a top contender worthy of consideration.

PROS

  • Frequency range is 15-20,000 Hz
  • Well-balanced overall sound
  • Straight cable
S

CONS

  • Cable is non-detachable

Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Closed-Back Headphones

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Amazon | zZounds | Guitar Center

Semi Open-Back Headphones

While semi open-back headphones fully cover the ears, their design allows more exterior noise to enter than closed-back headphones.  They are best used in areas that are pretty quiet.

AKG has been making the K240 headphones for over 40 years, and they are an excellent choice for anyone looking for professional headphones.

The semi-open back AKG K240 headphones are found in countless recording studios around the world.   I own two pairs and have used them in my studio for many years.

Semi open-back headphones are best used in quiet areas. Noisy environments will almost certainly make it difficult to hear music clearly, and that will significantly detract from the listening experience. Besides, these headphones are designed for critical listening and therefore are best suited to a quieter studio environment.

The K240s produce an accurate non-hyped sound that is ideal for recording, mixing, or any other critical listening uses.  Being semi open-back phones, the sound is very detailed and open.

They have frequently been described as “analytical.”  That means that they do not boost certain frequencies, especially the mids or bass like many consumer-grade headphones do.  You’re hearing what the music producer intended you to hear!

That said, if you love to listen to bass-heavy music like EDM or hip-hop you may be disappointed with these phones.

The K240s are very comfortable to wear, though they are a little heavier than other headphones reviewed here.  I’ve worn mine for hours sometimes and they don’t bother me, especially if I take some short earbreaks from time to time.

They come with a cable that is replaceable which is major plus, as the cable usually wears out before the rest of the headphones.

Their earpads are replaceable too, another great bonus.

Wrap Up

All in all, the AKG K240 are great-sounding professional headphones at a price well under $100.  With a detailed, spacious sound and a replaceable cable and earpads, these are top headphones that deliver professional quality sound.

AKG K240 MKII Headphones

AKG also has an AKG K240 MKII version.

It offers upgraded drivers, updated earpads and comes with a straight and a coiled cable.  It retails for a little over $100.

I prefer the MKII version which are the headphones I own.

PROS

  • Airy, spacious sound
  • Replaceable earcups
  • Replaceable cable
S

CONS

  • None

AKG K240 Semi Open-Back Headphones

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Amazon | zZounds | Guitar Center

AKG K240 MKII Semi Open-Back Headphones

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Amazon | Guitar Center

Open-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones by design allow air and sound to pass out of the cups and earpads.  Because the sound is not trapped by the headphones, music sounds larger, more open, and spacious.  The sound is frequently referred to as “realistic” by users.

Open-back headphones need to be used in very quiet environments.  Also, because people can easily hear what you are listening to if they are close by, it’s best not to use them in libraries or other places that are designated quiet zones.

The Grado SR80e phones one of the few open-back headphones available for under $100.  These headphones produce excellent sound quality that matches many of the much more expensive premium headphones available.

Open-back headphones, due to their construction, offer minimal sound-isolation, so they are best used in very quiet environments.  However, the flipside is that their audio reproduction quality is significantly more spacious and natural sounding, with an overall better soundstage.

The SR80e headphones are on-ear headphones, meaning they sit on your ears.  And with soft foam earpads, they are very comfortable to wear for extended periods.

The SR80e has excellent sound quality with well-defined lows and highs with a flat even midrange. There’s not a lot of hype with these headphones, so what you hear is very accurate to the source.   They add a sense of spaciousness to the sound, making music an experience to enjoy.

The headphones come with a straight cable (not coiled) that has a standard 3.5mm plug for connecting to phones, tablets, and computers, and a ¼” adaptor for connecting to home sound systems or studio equipment.

Wrap Up

The Grado SR80e headphones are excellent open-back headphones for those who want accurate, transparent sound.  However, as mentioned above, the open-back design does make them less suitable for noisier environments.

PROS

  • Airy, spacious sound
  • Very comfortable
S

CONS

  • Does not come with carrying case
  • Must be used in very quiet environments

Grado Prestige Series SR80e On-Ear Open-Back Headphones

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Amazon

 

Final Thoughts

No matter the type of music or audio you want to listen to, a pair of great-sounding headphones is a must.

All five headphones reviewed here are excellent products for under $100, and all have many 4- and 5-star user reviews.

They are all very popular models with thousands of happy users, and should provide many years of reliable use.

Enjoy your new headphones!

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