Best headphones under $100 of 2022

Best headphones under $100 of 2022

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Updated Nov 18, 2022 8: 27 PM

Headphones have become more than a luxury, they are almost a necessity. They allow you to listen to your favorite music privately or on the go. They also keep you connected during Zoom meetings, studio sessions, work calls, and other situations such as Zoom meetings. For podcasters, beat-makers, audiobook listeners, and exercise playlist lovers, headphones are an essential part to everyday life. You don’t have to spend a lot to get the sound quality you desire. Whether you’re looking for well-rounded sound, wireless connectivity, or built-in call features, our budget-friendly list of the best headphones under $100 has you covered.

How we chose the best headphones under $100

In order to find the best headphones under $100, I relied heavily on real-world experience; I personally use several of the models listed here both for professional work as a sound designer and as supplementary headphones for quick, on-the-go trips. I also did extensive research on first-hand user impressions, technical reviews by respected publications, and a lot more. Below you will find the results: many styles and connectivity options that can be used by a variety music makers and listeners.

Best headphones under $100: Reviews & Recommendations

While you may not be able to snag top-of-the-line tech, you don’t have to sacrifice satisfying sound, noise cancellation, wireless connectivity, or other features when picking from our selection of the best headphones under $100.

Best overall: Audio-Technica-ATH M40x

Why it made the cut: The ATH M40x headphones perform very well when it comes to satisfying sound with clarity suitable for use on recording, mixing, and mastering projects.

Specs

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Style: Over-ear
  • Frequency response: 15Hz – 24kHz

Pros

  • Sound Quality
  • Comfort
  • Suitable for the studio

Cons

  • Can be a bit bulky
  • No microphone

The ATH M40x is a great pair of cans for those looking for an affordable option for studio work. DJing or casual listeners who value fidelity. Large and in charge, these cans feature 40mm drivers in well-padded cups, which help reinforce low end and extend transients around an accurate midrange, supporting a neutral but energetic sound. Each pair comes with two detachable cables, one coiled and one straight, that terminate in a 3.5mm connector with a 6.3mm screw-on adaptor for use with audio interfaces, mixers, A/V receivers, and headphone amplifiers (the sensitivity makes these perfect for any mobile or desktop device, however, regardless of power). The build is sturdy yet flexible, with 90-degree swivel ear cups and collapsible hinges for increased portability. The M40xs are designed with sound in mind and do not include special features like active noise cancellation, wireless connectivity or a built-in microphone. They are not well-suited for those looking for a super-compact, lightweight option, but they are the best headphones under $100 if you’re looking for something that excels when it comes to physical durability and sonic integrity. While the retail price can go up to $120 depending on source, they can be regularly found new for under a C-note, as well as refurbished.

Best noise-canceling: Soundcore By Anker Life Q30

Why it made the cut: These budget-friendly Anker headphones will fool you into thinking they are high-end with all the included features.

Specs

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Aux
  • Style: Over-ear
  • Frequency response: 16Hz – 40kHz

Pros

  • ANC
  • Long battery life
  • EQ presets

Cons

  • No aptX support

If you’re looking for a pair of headphones with Bluetooth and any other additional fancy features, go for the Q30s. They have managed to pack in many of the draws a premium pair has but at a fraction of the price. They are ANC-equipped and have three modes: Transport, which reduces aircraft engine noise, Outdoor, which minimizes traffic sounds, and Wind, as well as Indoor, which silences typing and chatting (or Transparency mode if you need to be more aware of the situation). The 40mm drivers and Custom EQ feature contribute to a mix of clarity and kick. Bluetooth AAC codecs and SBC codecs ensure maximum compatibility with iOS and Android devices. However, there is no better aptX fidelity for Google OS users. A 40-hour battery life (60 hours with ANC turned off) will keep you connected for days at a time, and fast charging means you can get up to four hours of renewed life from just five minutes on the charger. Multipoint pairing allows you connect multiple smart devices simultaneously and allows you to switch from your phone’s music to your Zoom meeting. Snag it on the Soundcore website.

Best for podcasting: Sony-MDR7506

Why it made the cut: A studio staple, the MDR-7506 headphones have been used by professionals since the early ’90s and they won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

Specs

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Style: Over-ear
  • Frequency response: 10Hz-20kHz

Pros

  • Audio Quality
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Replaceable pads can degrade over time
  • Long Cable

The Sony MDR7506 headphones are an industry standard that won’t break the bank. Used in professional studios for decades, these cans feature 40m drivers, neodymium magnets, and a frequency response of 10Hz – 20kHz. The sound quality is excellent with support across all frequencies. This allows vocals and instruments to be heard clearly. This pair does not add or subliminally emphasize any frequency. The bass on “Monster”, Kanye, Jay-Z and Nikki Minaj are clear and present, but not too loud. Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner”, has crisp midrange vocals with a slight lift over the backing. Radiolab podcasts that are heavily design-oriented, such as Radiolab, have detailed effects. You can hear subtle reverb effects and high-frequency drones. I, personally, use this very pair (the very pair shown above) to mix and master audio for theatrical design, audio dramas, and podcasts.

The earcups are extremely comfortable and can be used for long work sessions. The closed-ear design reduces background noise and doesn’t affect your mix bleeding. You may need to replace your earpads after a few years, but it is easy to order new covers. If you want to improve passive noise cancellation, you might want new pads as soon as possible. The pair includes a 9.8-foot, braided cable with a 3.5mm-gold-plated plug. A 6.3mm threaded adaptor is also included. Although the cable is not too long, it’s not unruly and can be difficult to use on a commute. Although the build is mostly plastic, it can feel a little fragile. I still use the same pair that I bought six years ago.

While these headphones are not the best for production, they are sturdy and reliable for all your needs. At only $100, we wouldn’t hesitate to stock up so you can share with studio guests. If you’ve already spent a bunch on podcasting microphones and are still looking for studio-quality sound but want to spend a little less, check out the AKG K240, which is a workable solution but a little less of a workhorse.

Best wireless: Jabra Elite 45

Why it made the cut: The Jabra Elite 45 headphones deliver the most when it comes to wireless headphone battery life on a budget.

Specs

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Style: On-ear
  • Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz

Pros

  • Battery Life
  • Quick Charge
  • Custom EQ

Cons

  • On-ear design isn’t comfortable for all
  • No active noise cancellation

We all know the pain of having to commute in silence when our headphones die halfway through (or even overnight). If you are an all-day listener or, like us, often forget to recharge in a timely manner, the Jabra Elite 45 is likely the best option for an affordable pair of headphones. The 40mm drivers, wrapped in a compact, comfortable cushion, can get up to 50 hours of battery life from just one charge and, when you inevitably need a boost, a 15-minute quick charge can provide up to five hours of life. You can also listen to your headphones while they charge via USB.

In addition to the powerful battery, you also have access to Jabra’s “My Sound” app. This allows you to adjust EQ and choose from presets. Two microphones built in can handle clear phone calls and connect to voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. You can trigger them by pressing an onboard button. Most users report a super comfortable fit and feel, though some listeners simply don’t like on-ear models across the board and prefer the cups to surround the ear (if that’s your style, scroll back up to the Soundcore by Anker Life Q30).

Best open-back: Philips SHP9500

Why it made the cut: The Philips SHP9500 delivers impressive, clear sound that will transport you from a silent room to a symphony hall.

Specs

  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Style: Over-ear, Open-back
  • Frequency response: 12Hz-35kHz

Pros

  • 50mm drivers
  • Great sound quality
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Sound bleed, in both directions
  • Can be a bit bulky

These open-back headphones are great for serious listeners who value a high quality sound and portability. A purpose-built pair, the SHP9500s don’t concern themselves with built-in microphones, Bluetooth, EQ presets, or compatible apps; instead, they focus on transportive sound with large, angled 50mm neodymium drivers that deliver an impressive 12Hz-35kHz frequency response and a spacious soundstage. Open-back design provides better imaging and allows you to spread a track in a way that enhances your ability mix, master, or just enjoy music. The removable cable eliminates the possibility of failure and adds value to your investment. The ergonomic headband and breathable ear cushions allow for more listening time.

Remember, if you can hear outside, the outside world will likely hear you. Open-back headphones don’t work well for recording music or dialogue because of the possibility that nearby microphones will pick up your sound. But if you have a serene sanctuary available (and invest in a great DAC/amp or DAP), the SHP9500 can transform that airiness and help you become one with the music. These headphones are an affordable entry into the audiophile realm, and the precision of directional sounds adds authenticity and authority to gaming, as well (though you’ll need to add a standalone streaming mic).

Best budget: Urbanears Plattan 2

Why it made the cut: The Plattan 2 is a sturdy pair of headphones, with solid sound, easily making them some of the best headphones under $100.

Specs

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Aux
  • Style: On-ear
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz

Pros

  • Price
  • Multiple stylish colorways
  • Option for wired connection

Cons

  • Volume is limited
  • Onboard control knob is hard to use

The Plattan 2 from Urbanears is an excellent option if you don’t want to pay more than $65 for a stylish, sleek pair of headphones. These headphones have been great for me. They fit well and provide a solid audio experience. Although the bass may not be the best, the high end can sometimes be a bit muddy, but overall the headphones support all frequencies. These things will last you for at least 30 hours and can hold a charge even at high volumes. It can take some time to master the single knob on the board, but once you are, you will be able adjust volume, play/pause and skip songs as well as answer phone calls. The Bluetooth pairing mode can be activated by long pressing the knob. If you’re trying to connect to a non-Bluetooth-equipped player, like an airplane screen or handheld gaming device, you can use the included 3.5mm audio cable.

Things to consider before buying the best headphones under $100

Before you buy a pair of headphones at an affordable price, think about what you will be listening to and where. You should consider the features that you need, such as noise cancellation, studio-quality sound, and long battery life. Get specific: the best headphones under $100 for recording the next great murder mystery podcast might not work for the marathon-runner in training. Consider all the technical specs of the speakers you’ll strap to your head and take stock of any features before adding anything to your cart.

Hoping to leave wires behind?

There are many great, inexpensive wired headphones that will work for most people. Most people don’t want the hassle of finding an adaptor or remaining tied to their phones, despite the increasing availability of Bluetooth options and Apple’s decision to ditch the traditional headphone port on the iPhone. While an analog connection may be the best option for some, there are many wireless options available. Before you buy a pair Bluetooth headphones, think about connectivity range (i.e. how far you can be from your device without sound quality being compromised and you lose connection), battery life, and Bluetooth version. Bluetooth versions range from 4.2 to 5.3. The higher the number, the faster the connection and the greater range.

Diving even deeper, Bluetooth codecs describe how your digital audio data is encoded and decoded from a source device to your speaker or headphones. Your receiver and transmitter must be equipped with the same codecs to get the best out of these high-speed transfers. SBC is the most popular codec, and it’s supported by every Bluetooth device. Although it isn’t the best-quality codec, SBC is a reliable and universal way to transfer data. AAC, or Advanced Audio Coding, is a better option for iOS users who want to enjoy higher quality. For faster data transfer and greater dynamic range, choose a speaker that supports aptX/aptXHD/aptX adaptive (or LDAC) support if you have an Android smart phone.

Do you need to tune in, zone out, and turn off the outside world?

If you’re looking to drown out the din of your morning commute or simply need a little peace and quiet at home, a pair of headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC) might be the game-changer you’re looking for. ANC works by analyzing your environment and creating a reflection that counteracts the noise, allowing only your music to be heard. Although the science behind waveforms and phasing is complicated, you should know that active noise-cancelling headphones can drown out most of the noises in your environment. Some headphones have the ability to turn ANC off or on, so you can tap into your surroundings. A few affordable models allow you to customize your sound with preset listening modes and adaptive EQ. These options are more expensive if you have a larger budget. But don’t worry, we have a few that will give you premium features at a fraction of their price.

Are you a podcaster or producer?

If you’re looking for a pair of headphones to help you record music, mix a film, or master your podcast’s new season, pay attention to the technical specs and prioritize sound quality. You will need to give up wireless connectivity but you may have to compromise on a more practical, simple design that is comparable to studio-quality cans. Choose an over-the ear design with either a closed or openback. Closed-back headphones offer better passive noise cancellation and sound bleed, which can lead to cleaner recordings. Open-back headphones provide little or no cancellation. This allows the environment to be present and often achieves a more natural sound. You should look for a model with properly tuned, large, dynamic drivers and a wide frequency response range to ensure you hear every note and catch-breath.

Do you want to talk as well as listen?

Sometimes, on-the-go listening can be less about music than it is about the “meeting” that you are attending from work. If you find yourself stopping your music to answer a phone call or stop listening for a few minutes, you should consider buying a new pair with a built-in microphone. However, not all microphones are created equal. Some microphones have advanced technology that can isolate your voice and reduce background noise, making calls more clear for those listening. Some can be activated by voice to answer calls, while others can be triggered using touch-sensitive controls. Built-in microphones allow you to connect to voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa.

What can you get for under $50?

There is no shortage of wireless headphones available for $50 and under, but many of them can’t really compete with some of the more expensive options when it comes to fun features and support across the frequency range. You don’t have to settle for less than the best, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t solid headphones available. Do your research and focus on what is most important. For better audio quality, you may need to compromise on battery life or opt for passive noise cancellation instead of Bluetooth connectivity.

FAQs

Q: What’s the difference between open-back and closed-back headphones?

The difference is that open-back headphones, as the name denotes, have open (technically semi-open) earcups, typically covered with a perforated shield of some sort. This allows for a sound that can be described as airy but also allows for the sounds from the headphones to be heard outside. Closed-back headphones have a solid outer and seal the ear, providing passive noise cancelling. Open-back headphones produce a more natural sounding audio and better imaging. This is a benefit if you are mixing and mastering audio or listening to high quality files at home. Closed-back headphones can be used for casual listening, recording, and during commutes. They are less disruptive than the person next to you and have a higher low end that will drown them out.

Q: How much do headphones typically cost?

Headphones run the gamut when it comes to price, ranging between $10 to thousands of dollars. Your headphones should not be considered a tool you need to mix and record high-quality audio professionally. You don’t have to sacrifice audio quality. Just make sure you only spend what you can afford. If your budget allows you to make some upgrades, a more expensive pair retailing over $100 can certainly be worth it.

Q: Can headphones cause hearing loss?

Yes, if misused headphones can cause hearing loss, and children are the most susceptible, which is why many pairs of kid’s headphones have a built-in volume limiter. Most smartphones (as well as the Apple Watch Series 7, among other wearables) include an app or tool that can tell you if you’re listening at dangerous levels by monitoring decibels. You generally don’t want to listen to anything louder than 85 dB for a prolonged period of time.

Final thoughts on the best headphones under $100

Finding affordable headphones can be difficult with so many options. There isn’t much to lose financially, especially when you consider the hundreds of options available. However, there are many benefits to choosing the right model. Thankfully, so long as you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to weed out what you don’t need until you’re left with the best headphones under $100 for you. Consider where and when you will be using your headphones most often, and consider which features are most beneficial to your listening experience.

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