Preferred headphones store
Updated

The 7 Best Headphones under $100 - Winter 2019
Reviews

Best Headphones under $100
313 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
  • Easily comparable results
  • No ads; unbiased reviews
Learn more about our approach to product reviews here.

There are plenty of good options if you want an entry-level pair of headphones that deliver an above-average listening experience. The headphones in this list may not be the most comfortable or well rounded, but they offer a satisfactory sound quality and additional features like wireless Bluetooth and active noise canceling.

So far, we've tested 262 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best headphones under $100 you can buy in 2019. See also our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones under $100 and the best wireless headphones.

  1. Best Over-Ear Headphones under $100: Skullcandy Hesh 3

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.5
    Mixed Usage
    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:
    7.0
    Critical Listening
    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:
    6.4
    Commute/Travel
    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:
    6.9
    Sports/Fitness
    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:
    6.6
    Office
    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:
    5.7
    TV
    Score components:
    5.5
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    The best over-ear headphones under $100 are the Skullcandy Hesh 3.0. They have a simple and lightweight design that's easy to use, an amazing battery performance, and a strong, powerful bass that some fans of bass-heavy music genres will really enjoy. They also have a good wireless range and can be used passively when the battery dies with the provided audio cable.

    Unfortunately, they do not have the best build quality. While their plasticky design and tight fit on the head make them lightweight and stable, even for more demanding physical activities like the occasional jog, they do not feel as durable as some of the other wireless over-ears we've tested at or below their price range. They also feel a lot more fragile than other Skullcandy headphones like the Skullcandy Crusher Wireless or the noise canceling Skullcandy Venue

    If you have a bigger budget then the Crusher Wireless or the Venue may be a better choice. The Venue have the same overall design as the Hesh 3, but perform much better in noisy conditions thanks to their noise canceling feature; however, they are more than $100 which won't be as good a value for some as the Hesh 3.

    See our review

  2. More Versatile Alternative: HyperX Cloud II

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you mostly use your headphones for gaming but also want something versatile enough to use outdoors without drawing too much attention, then get the HyperX Cloud II. They do not have the wireless capability of the Hesh 3, so they won't be as convenient for all listeners, especially if you mostly use your headphones outdoors with a phone that does not have a headphone jack.

    On the upside, they have a solid build quality that's a lot more durable than the Skulllcandy Hesh and they also have a comfortable over-ear design that you can wear for hours without much fatigue thanks to the well-padded and spacious earcups. They also deliver a decently well-balanced frequency response that caters well to most tracks and an excellent, detachable boom mic that's great for gaming and taking calls.

    The HyperX Cloud Alpha, Logitech G433, and Creative SoundBlasterX H5 are all wired gaming headsets that perform about as well as the Cloud II for similar uses, but the Cloud II have the best build and comfort level for their price. 

    See our review

  3. Best On-Ear Headphones under $100: JBL E45BT

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.7
    Mixed Usage
    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:
    7.3
    Critical Listening
    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:
    6.5
    Commute/Travel
    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:
    7.0
    Sports/Fitness
    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:
    6.6
    Office
    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:
    5.8
    TV
    Score components:
    5.6
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a more portable and breathable option than the Skullcandy Hesh 3 but are not a big fan of in-ears, get the JBL E45BT. They're not as comfortable for everyone as the over-ears on this list and they're slightly less durable than the Skullcandy Grind

    On the upside, they have a longer battery life than the Skullcandy, and they're also a bit more portable since they have a collapsible design that will take less space in a bag. They're lightweight, comfortable, and deliver a decent sound quality that's balanced enough for most music genres.

    They do not have as many options as the Samsung Level On Wireless, which you can sometimes find on sale under $100, but overall the JBL E45BT deliver a solid performance and are one of the best on-ears you can get at this price range.

    See our review

  4. More Comfortable Alternative: Skullcandy Grind

    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you like the compact design of on-ears but do not find them as comfortable, then try the Skullcandy Grind instead. The Grind are not the most feature-packed headphones. They also do not fold like the JBL E45BT so they won't be as portable as other on-ear designs. However, they offer one of the best value for any headset we've tested. They have a comfortable fit that does not clamp your ears like most on-ears headphones. They also have a sturdy metal build that feels a lot more premium than their price would suggest. They have a solid battery performance, a good wireless range, and a well-balanced sound for casual and more critical listeners alike.

    They won't be the best headphones for sports and commute since they're not as stable as other on-ears and don't block a lot of noise. However, for everything else they do an admirable job, especially for their price, which makes them an easy headset to recommend for fans of on-ears.

    See our review

  5. Best Earbuds under $100: Jaybird Tarah

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.9
    Mixed Usage
    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:
    7.0
    Critical Listening
    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:
    7.4
    Commute/Travel
    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:
    8.0
    Sports/Fitness
    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:
    7.2
    Office
    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:
    5.2
    TV
    Score components:
    4.8
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you like the super compact format of in-ears and earbuds and don't want to spend more than $100, then get the Jaybird Tarah. The Tarah have a slightly limiting charging clip that you must have on you if you want to charge the headset (similar to most of the more recent Jaybird releases).  They also do not have as good a control scheme as the Jaybird X3 and X4 but on the upside, they deliver one of the better experiences you can get under $100.

    They have slightly more comfortable earbud-like tips that some will prefer over the more traditional in-ear fit of the X3. You can also customize their sound profile with the MySound app and they are a lot more portable and better suited for sports than the Skullcandy Grind or the JBL E45BT. They're also a bit more suitable for sports than some of the other Jaybird models, thanks to their official IPX7 rating.

    If the charging clip is not a deal breaker for you, the Tarah are one of the better options you can get under $100 thanks to their versatile sports design, decent and customizable sound, and good wireless range, especially if you have a Bluetooth 5.0 device.

    See our review

  6. More Comfortable Alternative: Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-Ear

    Type : Earbuds
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you find typical in-ears a bit uncomfortable but still want an ultra-portable headphone under $100, then get the Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-ear. They're wired, so they won't have the range of the wireless Jaybird Freedom 2. They're also not as well built as the 1More Triple Driver (which are an excellent alternative to the Bose).

    However, they have a slightly more comfortable earbud fit that most will prefer over the in-ears like the Jaybird and 1More. They also have a well-balanced sound that packs a lot of bass, and a good isolation performance that makes them suitable for commuting and the office. Overall, if you do not need any fancy features and just want a wired headset for most uses, then the Bose SoundTrue Ultra In-Ear are a good choice.

    See our review

  7. Cheaper alternative: KZ AS-10

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Balanced Armature

    If you want a more budget alternative and do not mind a wired design, then go for the KZ AS-10 instead. They have a more typical in-ear fit with bulkier earbuds than average, which won't be as comfortable for all users. They also do not sound as well balanced as the Bose.

    On the upside, they're one of a few budget in-ears that come with detachable earbuds and a replaceable audio cable, which make them a bit more durable than most. They also have a nice transparent design that looks a lot more high-end than their price would suggest. They have a decent sound that does well with most genres and packs quite a bit of bass. The KZ ZS-10 is a more budget alternative to the AS-10 with same cool design and detachable buds, but they are slightly larger and may not fit as well as the AS-10 in all ears.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • JBL E55BT. An over-ear alternative to the JBL E45Bt with a slightly better performance overall but a higher price. See our review
  • JBL Endurance Sprint. A sports headset with a decent enough performance for most use cases. a good alternative to the Freedom 2. See our review
  • Plantronics Backbeat Go. A budget and lightweight over-ear with a decent sound. Build quality feels a bit cheap and they do not outperform the Hesh 3. See our review
  • Cowin E7 Pro. Decent noise canceling but mediocre sound quality and slightly confusing controls. See our review
  • Logitech G533. A wireless gaming headset with lots of customization options. A good substitute to the Logitech G433. See our review
  • Corsair Void RGB. A good alternative to the Logitech G433 if you're looking for a wireless gaming headset. See our review
  • HyperX Alpha. A wired gaming headset with a sturdy build quality and a mobile-friendly design. Also a good alternative to the Logitech G433. See our review
  • Audio-Technica ATH M40x. Good audio quality, straightforward, wired design. Slightly plasticky and a bit cumbersome to use as casual headphones. See our review
  • Shure SRH 440. Well-balanced sound. Does not isolate well in loud environments and can be a little leaky at high volumes. See our review
  • Sony MDR-7506. Above-average audio quality and a decently comfortable design. Build quality feels a little plasticky and cheap. See our review
  • Jaybird X2. Good in-ears under $100 and an alternative to the Jaybird Freedom. A bit outdated and it doesn't have any app support. See our review
  • 1More Triple Driver In-Ear. Great build quality and good sound. A good alternative to the SoundTrue Ultra but their in-ear fit might not be as comfortable 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).

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. 

Discussions

LOG IN

JOIN RTINGS.com

Be part of the most informed community and take advantage of our advanced tools to find the best product for your needs.
Join our mailing list:

Create Discussion

Preview Back to editor Format guide

The editor uses special characters (aka. markdown).

To post formatted content follow these rules:

What you typeWhat it will look like
*italic text*italic text
**bold text**bold text
[link](http://rtings.com)link
> quoted text
quoted text
# header

header

- item 1
- item 2
- item 3
  • item 1
  • item 2
  • item 3

* Quotes and lists must be followed by a blank line