Whether you’re in the market for gaming, critical listening, or more casual headphones, you’ve probably considered over-ears. Over-ear headphones, also known as around-ear headphones, have large ear cups that fit over and around the ears. They can be a little bulky when compared to in-ear or on-ear headphones, but over-ears are known for their comfort. They can get pretty expensive, with some models costing hundreds of dollars, but you don’t need to take out a small loan to get a decent pair. There are lots of options under $100 that are worth considering, even for more specialized needs.
We’ve tested over 180 over-ear headphones and below are our recommendations for the best over-ear headphones under $100 in 2020. If you’re looking for our top picks for other over-ear headphones, check out our recommendations for the best over-ear headphones for working out.
The best over-ear headphones under $100 that we've tested so far are the Mixcder E9 Wireless. They may not be the best in any particular aspect, but for such a low price, you're still getting a full-featured pair of headphones that still manages to perform decently. Even though they're mostly made of plastic, the overall build quality is acceptable, as the headband and hinges are reinforced with metal, giving them a very sturdy feel. If durability is a concern, there's a hard carrying case that's included in the box to keep them safe for transport.
When it comes to sound, budget wireless headphones have become increasingly better over time, and these headphones are no exception. They're somewhat bass-heavy, but they don't sound boomy in any way. The mids and the treble are a bit uneven and lack detail, but the overall sound signature is quite pleasing and should satisfy those who like bass-heavy music. Unfortunately, without any mobile companion app support, the sound can't be customized. Mixcder did manage to squeeze in active noise cancelling, though, and they're not bad. The ANC is able to block out noise across the entire frequency range, with only the mids slightly underperforming. This feature will cost a bit of battery life, however, but you'll still get over 18 hours of continuous use on a single charge, and they can be used while charging.
All-in-all, getting a decent pair of headphones at a low price is possible, and these definitely fit the bill.
If noise isolation is an important feature and you need something that performs better than the Mixcder E9, check out the Mpow H10. The ANC performance is significantly better here, especially in the mid-range, which makes them great for office use, as they're more effective at blocking out ambient speech. With ANC enabled, these headphones are able to last an average of 23 hours of continuous playback and they even have an auto-off feature to help further extend it. One thing of note, though, is that the headband is quite large and may not fit smaller heads, but for those who are able to find a proper fit, they're comfortable and can be worn for long periods. As for sound, they're well-balanced, but there's a slight recess in the mids, which causes vocals and leads to sound further back and the treble may sound a bit sharp for some.
Overall, the Mixcder have better build quality and fit, but if noise isolation is your top priority, then the Mpow are a better choice.
The best over-ear headphones under $100 for critical listening that we’ve tested so far are the Philips SHP9500. They’re very comfortable open-back headphones that feel reasonably well-made, especially for their price. They come with a detachable cable and have a simple, utilitarian aesthetic that works well overall.
They have a well-balanced, neutral sound with good bass, a nearly flawless mid-range, and great treble. Some may find they sound a bit bright, but those who like classical, jazz, or rock music may prefer this. They have a spacious soundstage and are comfortable enough to wear for hours, which is great.
Although they're balanced enough for most music genres, fans of EDM or hip-hop may find them lacking in thump and rumble due to their open-back design. The Superlux HD 681 have a semi-open design which can create a bit more bass, but they feel very cheaply made and aren’t as comfortable as the Philips. Although these headphones don’t feel as premium as some of the higher-end critical listening headphones out there, they feel better-built than the Superlux and are overall very good critical listening headphones for their price.
If you like the Philips SHP9500 but prefer closed-back headphones for your critical listening needs, consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x. They’re comfortable studio headphones that sound very good with deep, yet well-balanced bass, an excellent flat mid-range, and very good treble. They’re well-suited for mixing audio, DJ monitoring, or just listening to your favorite tracks at home. They’re fairly well-built and come with a regular and a coiled audio cable for added versatility. Like most critical listening headphones, these have poor noise isolation, and while their closed-back design isolates better than most open-back models, but they’re still not designed to be used in noisy environments. They also don’t have a microphone or any control options, so if you’re using them with your smartphone, you’ll have to take calls and control your audio on your phone directly.
Get the Philips if you prefer their semi-open design, but if you prefer closed-back headphones that offer a similarly well-balanced sound profile, go with the Audio-Technica.
If you’re a PC or a PS4 gamer looking for the best over-ear headphones under $100 for gaming, then get the Logitech G533. They’re comfortable, well-built gaming headphones that utilize a USB dongle to provide a low-latency wireless experience.
These are great-sounding over-ear headphones. They do a very good job of reproducing video game soundtracks and effects accurately, which is helpful especially if you enjoy multiplayer games. These headphones are compatible with the Logitech G Hub, which provides numerous customizable features like an EQ, surround sound effects, and microphone settings. Their battery lasts for 17 hours of continuous playback and they have an auto-off timer that can be adjusted in the G Hub.
While a wireless design is great for gaming, it’s a bit disappointing they can’t be used wired. They have a decent microphone, but it doesn’t perform as well as that of the wired Logitech G433. They're also rather bulky and don’t feel like the sturdiest headphones. That said, they’re still a good choice for gamers who like to be able to customize their gaming headset and don’t mind a wireless-only design.
If you don’t like having to worry about battery life and prefer wired gaming headphones, consider the SteelSeries Arctis 5 2019 Edition, one of the best over-ear headphones under $100. They’re well-rounded gaming headphones that sound very good, have a great boom microphone, and are highly customizable when paired with the SteelSeries Engine on PC. They come with a USB adapter that has a channel mixing dial for PC and PS4 gaming and a 1/8” audio jack for the Xbox One or use with your mobile devices. While they feel decently well-made for the price, if you’re looking for better-built wired gaming headphones, the HyperX Cloud II are worth checking out – they feel much more durable and are among the most comfortable gaming headphones we’ve tested so far.
Get the Logitech if you want a great-sounding, well-rounded pair of wireless gaming headphones, but if you prefer a wired headset, go with the SteelSeries.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best over-ear headphones under $100 to buy for most people. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones 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 of over-ear 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.
12/20/2019: No changes in picks; verified text for accuracy.
10/21/2019: Replaced Mpow H10 with Mixcder E9. Removed 'Better-Built Alternative'. Replaced 'More Customizable Alternative' with 'Alternative With Better Noise Cancelling'