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The best headphones under $100 to get
A good pair of headphones is a must for anyone who spends a significant amount of time listening to audio. Quality cans can get pricey, though, and with so many options out there, it’s hard to find affordable options that are still worth their salt.
In this list, we have included the best headphones you can get under $100. This is an amount of cash that shouldn’t break the bank, but will still get you a very decent pair of cans.
Editor’s note: This best headphones under $100 list was updated in May 2022 to add the Grado SR60x and Anker Soundcore Life Q30, as well as add the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x as an honorable mention.
Buying the right headphones under $100 for your needs
While the old adage is true: affordable doesn’t equate to cheap, companies have to make sacrifices to their products when they’re priced so affordably. You’re not going to find a pair of headphones on this list that can compete with something like the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, but they’re not supposed to. This list, instead, is for the budget shopper among us who just wants a pair of headphones that work without all the bells and whistles.
Wired audio outperforms Bluetooth audio
If you value sound quality above all else, you should get a pair of wired headphones. Not only does wired audio support lossless playback, but you tend to get better build quality because analog tech is still more economical than wireless. That’s why many of our picks today are wired, which shouldn’t be a problem for those who listen to music from their laptops or PCs, but mobile listeners may have to pony up for a dongle.
Take the time to find a proper fit
Fit matters tremendously when using headphones or earbuds, because a proper fit effectively blocks out background noise. If gaps form between the ear pads and your ears, outside noise will creep down into your ear canals. You may reflexively increase the volume to combat this effect, known as auditory masking, but that’s a short-term solution. Repeated exposure to loud volumes for extended periods of time can put your auditory health at risk, so you’re better off saving yourself the trouble and finding a pair of headphones that best fit your ears.
Best headphones under $100:
- The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X shares many of the same features as its bigger, more popular brother but is more affordable.
- The Jabra Elite Active 45e are a solid set of workout earbuds for athletes who want to remain aware of their surroundings.
- The Sony MDR-7506 have been around for ages and is a reliable staple in recording studios everywhere.
- The Grado SR60x are a great entry-level pair of open-back headphones with amazing sound.
- The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 are a great budget option with noise-cancelling and a long battery life.
Audio-Technica ATH-M40X: The best headphones under $100 for most people
Audio-Technica designed these with one purpose in mind: listening to music. 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. As far as sound is concerned, the ATH-M40x provides more subtle bass reproduction than the ATH-M50x. This is ideal for mixing, making it easier for sound engineers to register and remedy overemphasized treble, which could result in a fatiguing final product.
Overall, if you prefer an ever-so-slight emphasis in the mids and vocals, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the ATH-M40x.
Jabra Elite Active 45e: The best workout pick
Aside from being a workout-friendly pair of headphones under $100, the Jabra Elite Active 45e connect instantaneously to the designated source device. Connectivity is seldom interrupted, so long as listeners stay within the 10-meter Bluetooth range. Not to mention, battery is long enough to carry you through a week’s worth of workouts at nine hours on a single charge. If the headset does happen to completely drain, it takes just 15 minutes to quickly charge the ‘buds for one hour of listening.
The proprietary ear tips keep you aware of your surroundings at all time, a must-have for outdoor athletes. The downside to this safety feature is degraded audio quality, but most people aren’t critically listening to music during their workouts. Rather, athletes want strong bass and that’s something this headset delivers on.
Check out our full review to learn more about the Jabra Elite Active 45e.
Sony MDR-7506: The best studio option
Sony MDR-7506 headphones are intended for studio monitoring. In general, these are a reliable and legendary pair of headphones under $100 that has the “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 also: The best Sony headphones you can buy
Our friends at SoundGuys have 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.
Check out our sister site SoundGuys’ full review to learn more about the Sony MDR-7506.
Grado SR60x: The best sound quality
Ask anyone in the know about open-back headphones and they’ll likely mention Grado. These beloved open-back headphones also have a wireless version, but the wired SR60x are an entry-level set of headphones that sound fantastic for the price.
The open-back design promotes a wider soundstage, and make for a more engaging music experience. The headphones have a braided cable for extra durability, though it’s unfortunately not removable. If you’re interested in open-back cans and want to experience your music in a new way, the Grado SR60x are a low-risk fan-favourite that are sure to be in your arsenal for years to come.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30: A bit of everything for a low price
The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 are cheap, but they offer features that give more premium headphones a run for their money. With an ergonomic design, comfortable ear pads, and lightweight construction, these headphones are perfect for casual listeners, from commuters to couch potatoes. A 40-hour battery life ensures that even if you forget to charge them overnight, you’ll have enough battery to enjoy your music throughout the day.
They may not have best-in-class noise-cancelling, but they do a relatively good job at cancelling out low-frequency rumbles and ambient noise. EDM fans will appreciate the bass-emphasis on these headphones. They don’t support the high-quality aptX Bluetooth codec, but for less than $100, you’re getting great features that won’t cost an arm and a leg.
Best headphones under $100: Honorable mentions
- AKG K240 Studio: These semi-open headphones are great for audio engineers on a budget. The build isn’t the best but sound quality is accurate, with some de-emphasis across the sub-bass frequency range.
- Jabra Elite 45h: If you want a pair of portable on-ears with plenty of tech packed into them, the Elite 45h are a great pair of headphones. These boast more than 40 hours of playtime on a single charge, and let you control the sound profile through the mobile app.
- Razer BlackShark V2: Razer’s gaming headsets are everywhere, but you don’t have to spend a fortune for something good. The BlackShark V2 takes a bite out of the competition with its plush ear cups, excellent isolation, and very good sound quality.
- Sennheiser HD 350BT: Sennheiser puts audio quality first with its accurate-sounding wireless headphones. These Bluetooth 5.0 headphones support aptX Low Latency and AAC for high-quality playback from any device. These headphones often go on promotion for under $100, but typically retail for $119.
- Audio Technica ATH-M30x: For those looking to save some cash, these are the little sibling to the ATH-M40x, with a balanced sound signature for accurate sound on a budget.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
SoundGuys is the sibling site to Android Authority, and the team there have made it their goal to bring objective reviews and information to help educate people before they make a purchase they may end up regretting. How you listen to music and enjoy sound is subjective, but the technical aspects of a pair of headphones or a Bluetooth speaker can be measured objectively. That’s where we come in. Make sure to check it out if you have any interest in all things audio, and feel free to read up on their ethics policy.