Updated

Best Headphones under $100 - Winter 2017
Reviews

This price range is for listeners who want an entry-level headphone 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
5.9Mixed 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.
7.6Critical 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.
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.
5.4Office
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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.
7.3Studio Recording
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What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Sony MDR-7506 are simple and comfortable budget studio headphones. They have a good sound and don't leak much which makes them good for recording or critical listening. However, they're not the most versatile headphones. They won't be ideal for loud environments due to their poor noise isolation and they're not stable enough to run with.

See our review

Alternative

The Phillips SHP9500 are a great pair of critical listening headphones for under $100. They're well-designed, comfortable, and lightweight. Furthermore, the great audio quality they deliver is on par with much more expensive open-back models (check our article about Open-back vs Closed-back headphones). However, some aspects of the build quality feel a bit cheap and they're also not casual headphones you can use outdoors.

See our review

Best On-Ear Headphones under $100

Usage Ratings
6.5Mixed 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.
5.9Critical 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:
5.9Commute/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.
6.7Sports/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.
6.6Office
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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.
7.4Studio Recording
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What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Sony MDR-ZX550BN are a decent wireless option below $100. They're lightweight and stable and would be decent full sized headphones to use at the gym or while running. They also have a very low leakage so they won't be distracting in an office-like environment. Unfortunately, their sound is severely bass lacking, and their build quality feels a little cheap and plasticky. 

See our review

Alternative

 

The Marshall Major II have a unique look that's reminiscent of other Marshall-made accessories. They're suitable headphones for critical listening or recording thanks to their decent audio reproduction and low leakage. They're lightweight and above-average comfortable. However, they're not the most durable headphones and they don't isolate well in loud environments.

See our review

Best In-Ear/Earbuds Headphones under $100

Usage Ratings
6.4Mixed 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.
5.9Critical 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:
6.0Commute/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.
6.7Sports/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.
6.3Office
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.
7.2Studio Recording
Show Help
What it is How effective the headphones are in a studio recording environment. Therefore sound quality should be good, and leakage should be minimal, to not add noise to the recording. They should also be durable for continuous and repeated studio use.

The Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear have a sturdy and portable design. They're easy to carry around and have a great case that easily fits into most pockets. They're stable enough to jog with and they don't leak much, so you won't distract anyone around you. However, their sound quality is mediocre-at-best and the in-ear fit can be uncomfortable for some.

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
  • Bose SoundSport In-Ear. Open fit in-ear headphones allow you to monitor your environment. Good for sports but the poor isolation is not versatile for everyday use. 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
  • Skullcandy Hesh 2.  Lightweight and cheap wireless headphones. Poor isolation, mediocre sound quality. 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 under $100. Personal taste, preference and listening habits will matter more in your selection. 

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