If you prefer the comfort, ease-of-use, and sound quality of over-ear headphones, you surely know how challenging it can be to find the best bang for your buck. There are tons of options out there, but how do they stack up? It depends on what you're looking for - some models are more versatile with noise cancelling and Bluetooth for added convenience while commuting. However, gamers will want something with lower latency, and audiophiles will focus most on sound quality and comfort. Fortunately, there's something for everyone, even under $100.
We’ve tested over 270 pairs of over-ear headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best over-ear headphones under $100. 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 for casual use that we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless. These well-built Bluetooth-enabled over-ears are equipped with a highly effective three-level ANC system that enables them to filter ambient noise to a remarkable degree. This ranges from the low rumble of bus engines to the high-pitched hum of an AC unit, not to mention ambient chatter from nearby coworkers.
They supply over 44 hours of continuous runtime on a single charge, so you shouldn't need to worry about charging them too often. Unusually for a pair of headphones in this price bracket, they're capable of pairing with two devices simultaneously, allowing you to chat with friends through your phone while remaining connected to your computer. While their default sound profile is very bass-heavy and could be overwhelming to some listeners, this can be adjusted to your liking via the graphic EQ in their companion app.
Unfortunately, they leak quite a bit of audio, which could annoy people nearby if you like to listen to content at a high volume. They're also quite bulky, which could make them a nuisance to carry around when not in use, though they do come with a fairly sturdy carrying case. Otherwise, their superb noise isolation performance and wide feature set help make them some of the best noise cancelling headphones that we've tested.
If you're looking for over-ear headphones that leak less audio, consider the Mixcder E9 Wireless. Their 18-hour-plus continuous battery life is much shorter than that of the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless, and their ANC system isn't nearly as effective, but they leak substantially less audio, so you can listen to your music at fairly high volumes without worrying too much annoying people nearby. Their audio reproduction is also less sensitive to fit, seal, and positioning, and they do a better job of staying in place when you move your head around. They have a much less bass-heavy sound profile than the Anker, which some users may prefer, though they don't have a companion app with a graphic EQ or even on-board EQ presets. They also aren't capable of connecting with more than one device at a time. Like the Anker, they aren't especially portable, though they do have a similarly sturdy-feeling hard carrying case.
Get the Anker if you want a broader feature set, a longer battery life, and superior noise isolation performance, but consider the Mixcder if you prioritize lower audio leakage and a more stable fit.
The best over-ear headphones under $100 for audiophiles we've tested are the Philips SHP9500. They offer a well-balanced, very neutral listening experience similar to that of more expensive alternatives, with an expansive passive soundstage that should allow you to immerse yourself in your music. They're also comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time, with a lightweight design, spacious ear cups, and generous amounts of padding.
While they have a somewhat underemphasized low-bass response that robs some EDM and hip-hop tracks of thump and rumble, the majority of their sound profile is very well-balanced, with clear, detailed vocals and lead instruments as well as bright, present sibilants. They're decently well-built for the price, with a mostly dense plastic construction and detachable, replaceable audio cable.
Unfortunately, they leak quite a bit of audio, even by the standards of other open-back headphones. The fabric used to line their headband and ear cups also feels somewhat thin and fragile and could tear or show obvious signs of wear following prolonged use. Still, considering their expansive passive soundstage and well-balanced sound profile, these are a great choice for audiophiles on a relatively tight budget.
If you want a closed-back pair of headphones with great audio reproduction, consider the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810. While they aren't as comfortable as the Philips SHP9500, they have a stable fit that helps them stay securely on your head. Their well-balanced sound profile makes them versatile enough for a variety of music genres, and they have a deeper, punchier bass than the Philips. Thanks to their closed-back design and active noise cancelling feature, they also do a much better job cancelling out ambient noise. You can even use them wirelessly, and with over 24 hours of battery life, they're ideal for listening when you're on the go. Unfortunately, because they're closed-back, their soundstage won't sound nearly as spacious and natural as open-backs like the Philips, which may be disappointing to some critical listeners. Some users have also reported that their unit's headband has cracked or broken over time.
If you're looking for open-back headphones with a more natural-sounding soundstage, go with the Philips, but if you prefer a more versatile pair of closed-backs, go with the Plantronics.
The best over-ear headphones under $100 for gaming that we've tested are the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air Wireless. These wireless gaming headphones come with a USB-A dongle that allows for low-latency transmission audio, so you shouldn't miss a crucial audio cue while you're gaming. They also supply roughly 16 hours of playback time on a single charge, which should be enough for a couple of long gaming sessions, and have an auto-off timer to help conserve charge when not in use.
They have default a well-balanced sound profile, so sound effects in action-heavy games shouldn't totally overwhelm dialogue or music. If you aren't a fan of the way they sound out-of-the-box, you can choose between a couple of EQ presets or fine-tune their audio reproduction via a graphic EQ in their Roccat Swarm companion software, which also features configuration options for their boom mic, including voice modification and voice clarity. That said, their boom mic does a good job of making your voice sound full-bodied, detailed, and mostly clear of background noise without any adjustment.
Unfortunately, they do a poor job of blocking out background noise, which could be annoying if you're gaming in a noisy environment. Their audio reproduction is also highly sensitive to their fit, seal, and positioning on your head, and their adjustable headband can loosen very easily. Otherwise, their low wireless latency and wide range of configuration features help make them one of the best wireless gaming headsets that we've tested.
If you prefer the reliability of a wired headset, consider the SteelSeries Arctis 5 2019 Edition. These headphones aren't as solidly built as the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air Wireless, but their wired connection means that you don't have to worry about latency, battery life, or system compatibility. Their boom mic also does a better job of isolating speech from background noise. Their SteelSeries Engine companion software allows for a similar range of adjustment, with a graphic EQ, EQ presets, and mic adjustment features. They also have a slightly more comfortable fit, though, like the ROCCAT, their audio reproduction can vary drastically depending on their fit, seal, and positioning on your head.
Get the ROCCAT if you prefer the freedom of movement that comes with a wireless design, but if you prefer the latency-free connection of a wired headset that still has lots of features, take a look at the SteelSeries.
Apr 06, 2021: Replaced Mixcder E9 Wireless with Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless as 'Best Over-Ear Headphones Under $100 For Casual Use'. Replaced Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless with Mixcder E9 Wireless as alternative to the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless. Replaced Logitech G533 Wireless Gaming Headset with ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air Wireless. Added Wyze Noise-Cancelling Headphones Wireless, Corsair HS60 HAPTIC Stereo Gaming Headset, and Logitech G533 Wireless Gaming Headset to Notable Mentions.
Feb 05, 2021: Removed the Anker SoundCore Space NC Wireless and the HyperX Cloud 2/Cloud II from Notable Mentions as the Anker isn't available and the HyperX is only available above our $100 price point. Added the Corsair HS70 Wireless, the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air Wireless, and the JBL E65BTNC Wireless to Notable Mentions.
Dec 08, 2020: Replaced Mpow H10 Wireless with Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless.
Oct 09, 2020: Minor changes to the text for accuracy and clarity; no change in product recommendations.
Aug 11, 2020: Added the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless as a 'DJ-Friendly Alternative'.
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.