When it comes to earbuds you can use every day on your commute or at work, the sweet spot seems to be around $100. Earbuds under $100 strike a balance between sound and build quality. So whether you’re looking for a go-to pair of ‘buds for the daily grind or something to keep in your bag as a backup, you can’t go wrong with any of these.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on June 17, 2019, to include the Soundcore Liberty Air and new notable mentions.
The best earbuds under $100 are the 1More Triple-Driver In-Ear
1More isn’t a legacy audio maker like some of the other audio companies on this list, but the company made a splash in the in-ear market with the triple driver in-ears. As the name implies, these have three drivers inside the tiny housing—two of which are tiny balanced armature drivers that act as tweeters. Then, there’s the third dynamic driver which takes care of the low-end.
1More Triple-Driver In-EarFull Review
They come with a small mic and remote, so you can control your music and answer phone calls. They can even reproduce frequencies up to 40kHz, which means they’re hi-res certified if you have a compatible device and source file.
Besides the headphones, you get six sets of silicone ear tips and three sets of foam tips, so chances are you’re going to find a good fit to help with noise isolation. The buttons on the control module aren’t the best and might take some getting used to, but if you can get past that, this really will serve as the best earbuds under $100.
If you want good isolation, check out the Shure SE-215
Many audiophiles have heard of Shure. After all, the company has been in the audio game since 1925 and has had a lot of practice when it comes to what makes great sound. The Shure SE215 is a prime example of that. Their pedigree can be traced back to professional grade in-ear monitors that are used for live performances. Naturally, you can expect them to sound great, hence why they’re some of the best earbuds under $100.
They feature an enhanced bass dynamic micro driver that provides a full sound with a more detailed low-end. This makes sense if you consider the fact that musicians performing live have a tougher time hearing the lows while on stage. Logically, the in-ear monitors they use have to make up for that. It’s also a good thing if you enjoy bass-heavy music.
As far as build goes, the cable is Kevlar-reinforced, so even if they do get snagged on something they won’t rip. If you’re the unlucky person that they do break on (or if you just wear them down), you can always replace the wires as they are completely detachable. Shure included a gold-plated MMCX connector with a lock-snap mechanism so that you can disconnect them from the ‘buds if they ever need replacement. This saves you $65 since the replacement cable is only $35.
Get the best sound quality with the Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd
The Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd earbuds retail for $89 and offer little in the way of features. That’s not a knock on the Soul Byrd, however, as it outperforms the competition when it comes to sound quality and clarity. While bass frequencies are emphasized they don’t mask vocals. In the same breath, the treble response is also a tad exaggerated but never sounds too harsh.
Beyerdyanic Soul ByrdFull Review
What’s more, when it comes to comfortable in-ears, these are nearly impossible to beat. The flat panels sit below the outer ear, making these a great option for late-night audiobook fans who listen from bed. That said, removing the earbuds can take a bit of effort. To remedy this, just grab the wire descending from either earbud rather than the housing itself. For earbuds under $100, the Soul Byrd provides excellent sound quality and a functional tangle-resistant cable. For listeners who want a wireless version, Beyerdynamic offers the Blue Byrd.
For the best true wireless earbuds under $100, get the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air
In case you missed the memo, Anker doesn’t just make charging cables and external battery packs anymore. The company has expanded its horizons to include some seriously competitive wireless audio products, and the Soundcore Liberty Air are the latest products to do so. These are true wireless earbuds that may not have the best build quality or design, but have rock solid features that put them toe-to-toe with true wireless earbuds two or three times more expensive (including the AirPods).
Soundcore Liberty AirFull Review
They sound surprisingly good considering what they are and their price bracket, as well as a crazy good battery life of 4.82 hours of constant playback. That’s second in our testing only to the Jabra Elite 65t in battery, which is surprising considering these are half the price. The included charging case provides an extra 15-hours of charge and works exactly as well as the case that comes with the AirPods, with magnets making sure everything snaps into place and stays there. The touch controls can be a bit hit or miss and these are super prone to fingerprints, but considering the price tag of only $79 the Soundcore Liberty Air is a steal.
On a budget? Go with the RHA MA390
These aren’t just one of the best earbuds under $100 you can find, they’re also one of the best under $50. For a pair of ‘buds that are stylish, sound good, and won’t break the bank go with the RHA MA390 Universal. If you missed the full review, the “Universal” in its name means that whether you’re on an iOS device or an Android phone, you’ll be able to control music playback with the built-in mic and remote. Though it’s worth mentioning that you won’t get volume controls and the microphone quality isn’t great. That said, these headphones only cost about $30, so if corners had to be cut somewhere, we’re glad it was there.
RHA MA390 UniversalFull Review
If you’re a fan of a strong low-end you’ll like these. The bass emphasis is good while commuting as lower notes tend to be easily masked by outside noises, so having a little extra oomph will help you hear your favorite bass lines better. Build quality is also impressive as the earbuds are made of aluminum, making them difficult to break. If you’re on a budget but still want a quality pair of earbuds in your back pocket, these are worth checking out.
Why should you get earbuds under $100 and what you should know
There’s really only one area where earbuds excel over any other kind of headphones, and that’s portability. Thanks to streaming services, music is more portable now than it has ever been, and the headphones you use should be just as easy to bring with you wherever you go. Large, open-back headphones are great if you’re going to be relaxing at home.
Isolation improves frequency reproduction by creating a cogent seal between the earbud and your ear canal. If you’ve ever tried to listen to music in a crowded area with cheap earbuds that don’t fit properly, you know why this is important. Outside noise makes it hard to hear your music because of something called auditory masking. This happens when your brain hears two sounds of similar frequencies. It will acknowledge whichever one is loudest because it perceives that sound as more important. And if your brain has to choose between your song or a roaring bus going by, it’s going to focus on the bus. Getting a good pair of ear tips to help isolate those outside noises can dramatically improve your experience.
Related: Where do sounds live?
Do you need a DAC or amp?
Consumers often worry that their phones aren’t enough to power their earbuds or headphones. While that might be the case if you’re spending hundreds of dollars on specialized in-ears and plan on plugging them into a computer form 1997, it isn’t necessary for anyone listening to music on a modern smartphone or somewhat recent computer. Especially with these earbuds under $100 that we chose. They were designed to be powered by the average electronic, assuming of course that your phone still has a headphone jack. You still won’t have any issues with power if you’re using a dongle, but it’s definitely annoying.
If you keep seeing the words “frequency response” everywhere and don’t know what it refers to, don’t worry you’re not alone. Frequency response denotes how well a pair of earbuds can reproduce audible frequencies; in the case of human hearing, this ranges somewhere between 20Hz-20kHz, assuming you haven’t damaged your stereocilia too much. Basically, it refers to the ability of each component in your headphones or speakers to accurately reproduce the signal that’s being fed into it.
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect so getting a perfect in and out signal isn’t yet possible, and it might not even be ideal considering our ears aren’t perfect either. This is why some manufacturers adjust the frequency response of their products to help compensate for our lack of hearing, or in the case of a company like Beats, to add some emphasis to lower notes.
- HiFiMan RE-400. These earbuds cost less than $50 and house 8.5mm titanium drivers.
- Bose SoundSport In-Ear. If you’re an athlete who prefers wired listening while working out, these sub-$100 earbuds provide a secure and comfortable fit. Plus it includes an in-line mic and remote for playback and call controls.
- Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear. These earbuds include a two-year warranty, stainless steel housings, and an in-line mic and remote. The earbuds feature a similar design to the company’s HD1 In-Ear Wireless.
- Thinksound ts03+mic: Thinksound ethically sources its materials and the ts03+mic. Despite its natural, laid back design, these earbuds produce plenty of low-end.
- Beats urBeats3: These simple in-ear headphones are a stylish option for listeners who don’t want to exceed a budget of $60. The tangle-resistant cable and magnetic housings keep the urBeats3 frustration-free.
- JLab JBuds Air Executive: These true wireless earbuds are very similar to the Soundcore Liberty Air. They allow access to volume controls directly from the earbuds and are a smart option for athletes who want a versatile pair of earbuds.
If you have a bit more cash to play with, check these out
- Sennheiser Ambeo Headset: Whether you’re an indie film director or horror film aficionado, the Sennheiser Ambeo Headset has something to offer. Each earbud is decked out with a microphone for 3D recording and they create a more realistic sense of spatial awareness when playing regular media.
- Etymotic Research ER3XR: These earbuds use an MMCX connector cable, meaning that if you buy the proper MMCX to USB-C cable, you can listen to them through a device that lacks a headphone jack. Generally speaking, sound isolation and quality are excellent, but they can get uncomfortable after a while.
- 1More Quad-Driver In-Ear: If you liked what you read about the Triple-Driver earbuds and don’t mind shelling out a bit more cash, then you’ll enjoy these ‘buds.
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Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check out these related best lists:
- Best Bluetooth earbuds
- Best Bluetooth headphones for running
- Best workout earbuds
- Best noise canceling earbuds
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