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 180 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 Mixcder E9 Wireless. These decently well-built over-ears are very comfortable, making them ideal for long listening sessions. With an over 18-hour battery life, you can also use them when you're on the go.
Thanks to their accurate, well-balanced sound profile, they're ideal for a variety of music genres. There's even a bit of extra punch in the low-bass, which should please fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop. They also have active noise cancelling, though it doesn't block out background noise as well as some of the others we've tested.
Unfortunately, they have a mediocre microphone performance, so they may not be ideal for phone calls. Their build also feels a bit plasticky, though they have a more premium feel than some of the other models in this price range. That said, these versatile headphones have a good price-to-performance ratio that ranks them among the best budget wireless headphones we've tested.
If you're looking for a pair of headphones under $100 with an impressive noise cancelling performance, consider the Mpow H10. While their build quality feels a bit cheap compared to the Mixcder E9 Wireless, they're still comfortable enough to be worn for long periods. Their ANC feature does a better job cancelling out background noise, making them ideal for use while commuting or in an office setting. They also have an excellent 23-hour battery life, so you won't have to worry about recharging them every day. Overall, their sound profile is decently neutral and should be versatile enough for most music genres. Unfortunately, they aren't as stable as some of the other models we've tested, and they would likely fall off your ears during light physical activity.
If you want a better-built, slightly better-sounding pair of headphones, go with the Mixcder, but if you want better noise cancelling and longer battery life, choose the Mpow instead.
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.
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 Logitech G533. These wireless gaming over-ears are comfortable enough to wear throughout long gaming sessions and feel fairly well-built. They last about 17 hours on a single charge and function via a proprietary USB dongle that allows for low latency wireless audio.
Out-of-the-box, they have a slightly bass-heavy sound profile that should add extra emphasis to sound effects in more action-heavy games without totally overwhelming in-game dialogue or music. That said, if you're not a fan of their default sound profile, you can customize it via a graphic EQ in Logitech's G HUB companion software, which also grants you access to mic volume adjustment, surround sound options, and control remapping for the headphones' multi-function button. Meanwhile, their boom microphone delivers decent recording quality and does a great job of isolating speech from background noise.
Unfortunately, they aren't Bluetooth-compatible and don't offer any sort of wired support, so they can't be used with Xbox One consoles. They also leak a lot of audio and let in quite a bit of background noise, so they aren't the best choice for using in a crowded environment. Issues aside, these are a great option if you're looking for a highly customizable pair of gaming headphones for a relatively low price.
If you prefer the reliability of a wired headset, consider the SteelSeries Arctis 5 2019 Edition. These headphones aren't quite as customizable as the Logitech G533 Wireless Gaming Headset, but you don't have to worry about battery life, console compatibility issues, or latency. It also has a better-performing microphone, though not quite as good as the more premium and comfortable HyperX Cloud 2/Cloud II. The HyperX have unbalanced treble, however, and no sound customization options. The SteelSeries can be fine-tuned with the SteelSeries Engine software and are easier-to-use thanks to their simple in-line channel mixing dial.
Get the Logitech if you prefer a wireless design; however, if you prefer the simplicity of a wired headset that still has lots of features, you'll want to get the SteelSeries.
10/09/2020: Minor changes to the text for accuracy and clarity; no change in product recommendations.
08/11/2020: Added the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless as a 'DJ-Friendly Alternative'.
10/21/2019: Replaced Mpow H10 with Mixcder E9. Removed 'Better-Built Alternative'. Replaced 'More Customizable Alternative' with 'Alternative With Better Noise Cancelling'.
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 headphones reviews. 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.