Updated

Best Headphones under $100 - Spring 2017
Reviews

This price range is for listeners who want an entry-level pair of headphones that delivers an above-average listening experience. This means the headphones in this list may not be the most comfortable or well-rounded. However, they offer a satisfactory sound quality and additional features like wireless Bluetooth and active noise canceling at a decent price. Below are our recommendations for the best headphones under $100 we have tested so far.

Best Over-Ear Headphones under $100

Usage Ratings
5.4Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
8.1Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
4.3Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
5.0Sports/Fitness
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What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
4.3Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The best headphones under $100 are the Philips SHP 9500, especially if you care about sound quality. They sound as good as much pricier headphones and have an above average build quality that’s not typically found on open headphones at this price. They’re comfortable and have an open and wide soundstage, which makes them particularly good for critical listening but not for other use cases. Like most open headphones they’re no meant to be used outdoors

See our review

Runner-Up

If you want a more versatile alternative to the SHP9500, then get the Skullcandy Hesh 2. They’re less comfortable and have a worse sound quality than the Philips, but they’re wireless and closed-back, so you can use them for commuting or as your everyday headphones. They have a good battery life, are not too leaky, and they also come in a variety of color schemes to best suit your style and preferences.

See our review

Best On-Ear Headphones under $100

Usage Ratings
6.1Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
7.1Critical Listening
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What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
5.5Commute/Travel
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What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
6.0Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
5.9Office
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What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

If you want a more compact format and do not find in-ears comfortable, then get the Marshall Major II. They have a decently comfortable on-ear fit and they’re stable enough to run with. Their build quality feels a bit weak and they don’t isolate well against ambient noise. However, they are sufficiently portable to fit into most bags, they sound decently well balanced and do not leak much even at higher volumes.

See our review

Best In-Ear / Earbuds Headphones under $100

Usage Ratings
6.6Mixed Usage
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What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
6.5Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
6.4Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
7.0Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
6.7Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The best in ear headphones under $100 are the Sennheiser Momentum. They’re portable enough to fit in almost any pocket and their sufficiently stable to go jogging with. They also block a lot of ambient noise passively which is good if you’re often on public transit or in noisy environments. However, they do not have the best audio reproduction so more critical listeners may not like the dark, bass-heavy sound quality.

See our review

Runner-Up

If you’re often running or jogging outdoors, then the Bose Soundsport in-ear may be a better fit for you. They have an open design which allows you to monitor your surroundings for cars or other runners. Additionally, they have stability tips that prevent the earbuds from easily falling out of your ears.  However, the open design also means they won’t be ideal for commuting or loud, noisy environments and makes them sound bass-light.

See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones under $100 to buy for most people. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

A few examples of headphones under $100 that didn't make the cut:

  • Sennheiser HD 518. Great audio quality, a good substitute for the Phillips SHP9500 but a bit less comfortable. See our review
  • Grado SR60e. Above-average and open audio reproduction. Poor build quality and uncomfortable fit. See our review
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M40X. Well-balanced sound. Does not isolate well in loud environments and can be a little leaky at high volumes. See our review
  • Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 On-Ear.  Lightweight, sturdy design and good sound. Poor isolation and leaky headphones. See our review

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones under $100. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference and listening habits will matter more in your selection. 

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