If you’re looking for a quality pair of ‘buds you can easily end up spending hundreds of dollars. Audio gets expensive, and unless you’re going to be performing on stage and need a quality pair of in-ears, you probably don’t need to spend so much. When it comes to earbuds you can use every day on your commute or at work, the sweet spot seems to be at around $100. Earbuds in this price range are good enough that you can enjoy all of your favorite tunes without needing to bust open your piggy bank. All of the best 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.
One of the best earbuds around are the 1More Triple-Drivers
1More isn’t a legacy audio maker like some of the other audio companies on this list, but the company has made a splash in the in-ear market with the triple driver in-ears. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a best earbuds under $100 list that doesn’t include these somewhere on there. 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. 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.
1More Triple-Driver In-earsFull Review
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. Though they’re at the upper limit of the price range of this list, they manage to be value packed, putting them at the top of this list. The buttons on the control module aren’t the best and might take some getting used to, but if you can get past that, you shouldn’t have too many qualms about this purchase.
If you want good isolation, check out the SE-215 from Shure
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. Though its products are mainly aimed at the higher end of the audio world, Shure engineers occasionally take that expertise and bring it down to the consumer level with great results. 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 and you wouldn’t be wrong.
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.
Bassheads should get the Sony MDR-EX650 B
Sony MDR-EX650 B
If you fancy yourself a bass-head Sony is a company that makes plenty of products you might enjoy, one of them being the MDR-EX650 B. Sony hosts an entire line of headphones dubbed “extra bass” for lovers of low-end. Those products usually receive good reviews, so they know a thing or two about bass. Though they’re touted as headphones for the bass lovers, they also do a good job at maintaining decent mids and highs for a smooth overall experience. The housing is just right, which is good since too large of a chassis could be a problem if tiny earbuds tend to fall out of your ears. It’s probably a good idea to invest in your own ear tips for these.
If all you want is the best sound, look no further than the Focal Sphear
Focal is a name you’ve probably heard if you’re looking for high-end audio gear, but they’ve also been making some noise in audio products for the average consumer. One such product is the Focal Sphear earbuds. Focal is a company that values clear, unmuffled mid-range, so if you find yourself listening to plenty of podcasts as well as music, these might make sense for you as vocal quality is top notch. That said, a common complaint with these is the lackluster bass. If you’re looking for a strong low-end in your headphones, you might want to pass on these. As these were made for portability, they come with a small mic and remote so you can easily control your music, and the sophisticated design looks great in and out of the office.
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?
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 homeut. B if you’re on a crowded train or walking down the street, chances are you’re going to want something that’s a little easier to manage. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that earbuds are perfect for this. If you get the right pair you can get the sound quality you want with the portability that you need. Instead of carrying around a pair of over-ears or letting them hang awkwardly around your neck when you’re not using them, you can just roll up your ‘buds and stuff them in your pocket once you get to your destination.
What you should know
One of the biggest factors in determining whether or not a pair of ‘buds sounds good to you is their fit. If the ‘buds don’t fit correctly then you’re going to have poor isolation, which means that the outside noise you’re trying to avoid is just going to end up sneaking into the music you hear making it sound terrible. The way this happens is called auditory masking. You can learn all about it by reading our isolation explainer, but it basically refers to how the brain interprets what your ears hear. So a loud sound from nearby construction might make it harder to hear the bass line in your favorite song. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how much of an effect this has on your music. One way around it is just to make sure you have the right ear tips, which is why most pairs of earbuds come with a few different sizes so you can make sure you find the one that fits best. Our personal favorite here at SoundGuys is the Comply memory foam tips, which do a great job of blocking outside noise.
Do you need an amp or DAC?
No. Now there are times when you’ll need one or the other and to find out what those are you can dig deeper by reading our pieces explaining DACs and amps, but for anything on this list, you’ll be fine without either. The digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that comes built into your computer or smartphone should be more than good enough to deal with any streaming service you throw at it, and all of these earbuds were made with an impedance that’s well within the range of the average smartphone or laptop. So you won’t need any extra power to get the most out of them in the same way that you would with some more expensive open-back over-ear headphones.
Many times when you buy a pair of consumer headphones you’ll see the frequency response either on the box or on the website. It generally shows the range 20Hz – 20kHz which, frequent readers of SoundGuys know, is just the range of human hearing. But what does it actually mean? What are these numbers telling you? Rob Triggs wrote a great piece explaining all of the little details so if you want to really become an expert make sure to check that out, but for the purposes of the best earbuds under $100, there’s only one thing you need to know. Frequency response in the context of audio products is just a measurement of how well your earbuds can reproduce audible frequencies. It also shows the changes that are made to the signal on the way through. So even though almost all humans can hear notes between 20Hz and 20kHz (depending on your age and the damage you’ve done to your ears), the frequency response of a pair of earbuds doesn’t refer to your ability to hear the notes. It only refers to the signal going through the audio components.
Why you should trust us
In addition to the fact that this site is all of our day jobs, both Adam and Chris have several years of reviewing consumer audio products under their belts individually. Having kept a finger on the pulse of Bluetooth speakers for several years allows us to be able to figure out what’s good, and what’s best avoided. Considering Chris’ burning hatred for all things Bluetooth, if he approves of something, it’s damned special. In a similar vein, Adam has reviewed tons of these speakers over the course of almost three years, so he’s heard the best (and worst) of what the category has to offer.
We should also state that we regularly update these lists as items become available. However, we only add them if there’s a really solid reason for doing so. Usually, we have to use it first—unless there’s some mind-meltingly awesome feature or price-change that would deem a test or re-test unnecessary. As you can imagine, that doesn’t happen often.
These best lists may not always reflect your experiences, but they are our earnest attempt to get the right product onto your wish list. We do this because we genuinely want you to be happy with your purchases—none of our writers see a dime from partnership deals or referral purchases—and nobody here is allowed to benefit from steering you towards one product or another. While this site does make money from referrals, the individual writers are paid based on their work regardless of whether or not people clicked that “buy” icon. They’ll never even know if anyone did, though I suppose the site going under might be a good hint.
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