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Best on-ear headphones under $100

Listen up for less than $100.
By
May 3, 2022
Best All-Around
Jabra Elite 45h
By Jabra
A product render of the Jabra Elite 45h on-ear headphones in black against a white background.
7.5
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Positives
Battery life
Good app with custom EQ
Microphone quality
USB-C charging, quick charge
Google Assistant and Alexa support
Compact
Negatives
Finicky Bluetooth multipoint connection
No headphone jack
The Bottom Line.
If you're in the market for affordable wireless on-ear headphones, the Jabra Elite 45h offers excellent battery life and a portable build.
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Best semi-open
Koss Porta Pro Limited Edition
By Koss
7
Check price
Positives
Integrated mic and remote
Sound quality
Folding design
Negatives
Durability
Discomfort with glasses/long hair
The Bottom Line.
Though the retro design might not be for everyone, the Porta Pro is definitely a head turner and a classic.
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Best versatility
Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT
By Pioneer
The Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT headphones in black against a white background.
7.6
Check price
Positives
Wired listening with Bluetooth 5.0; SBC, AAC
Ear cups lay flat
Portable and lightweight
Negatives
No manufacturer's app or EQ
Discomfort
The Bottom Line.
The Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT offers more than 47 hours of battery, which is better than most other options out there.
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Best budget
JBL Tune 510BT
By JBL
Product image for the JBL Tune 510BT.
6.8
Check price
Positives
Portable and compact
Bluetooth multipoint
USB-C quick charging
Simple to use
Good microphone
Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC and AAC
Negatives
No headphone jack or aptX
Discomfort with glasses
The Bottom Line.
The Tune 510BT isn't too special but it is a solid set of entry-level on-ear headphones with wireless features like multipoint connectivity.
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Best aptX
Sennheiser HD 250BT
By Sennheiser
The Sennheiser HD 250BT in black against a white background.
Check price
Positives
Bluetooth 5.0; SBC, AAC, aptX LL, aptX
Mobile app with custom EQ
Fairly neutral sound
USB-C charging
Lightweight and portable
Negatives
No headphone jack
No fast charging
The Bottom Line.
The HD250BT is a great option from Sennheiser if all you want is a portable headset that sounds good.

The good thing about headphones is there are plenty of styles and options to choose from. Earbuds are the most portable, while over-ears usually offer a few more features (and better battery life if they’re wireless). However, if you want the best of both worlds, go for a pair of on-ears. Usually, the best headphones are going to cost you a fortune, but that isn’t the case. These are some of the best on-ear headphones you can get for under $100.

Editor’s note: this list was updated on May 3, 2022, to add the JBL Tune 510BT, Sennheiser HD 250BT, and Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT among the top five picks. We also added a disclosure box regarding old test data and expanded the Buying guide.

Why is the Jabra Elite 45h the best on-ear headphones under $100?

The Jabra Elite 45h rocks an attractive minimalist design. The buttons can be a bit difficult to differentiate, but you can always activate the Google Assistant button to make basic voice-directed playback controls and perform simple tasks.

Jabra Elite 45h
Jabra Elite 45h
7.5
The Jabra Elite 45h on-ear Bluetooth headphones next to a Samsung Galaxy S10e smartphone and wireless car keys on a white table.A picture of the Jabra Elite 45h on-ear Bluetooth headphones being worn by a woman in profile to illustrate how the headset fits.An over-the-shoulder picture of the Jabra Elite 45h on-ear Bluetooth headphones connected to the Jabra MySound+ application on a smartphone held by a woman.A picture of the Jabra Elite 45h on-ear Bluetooth headphones halfway inside the included neoprene carrying case that's resting on a windowsill.A picture of the Jabra Elite 45h on-ear Bluetooth headphones right ear cup to display the onboard button controls and Bluetooth toggle.A picture of the Jabra Elite 45h on-ear Bluetooth headphones being placed into a sling bag by a woman.A picture of the Jabra Elite 45h on-ear Bluetooth headphones on a wooden surface with journals; the left ear cup is rotated so the interior padding is visible to the viewer.A picture of the Jabra Elite 45h on-ear Bluetooth headphones next to a Samsung Galaxy S10e smartphone with the Jabra MySound+ application open.A chart depicts the Jabra Elite 45h (cyan) frequency response relative to the SoundGuys Consumer Curve V2 (pink), revealing the 45h's amplified bass response.A chart depicts the Jabra Elite 45h isolation performance, which is okay but lets in a lot of low-frequency noise.
Jabra Elite 45h

The Elite 45h has one of the best battery capacities in the business, permitting an insane 54 hours of constant playback before requiring a recharge via the included USB-C cable. It supports AAC and Bluetooth multipoint, but the multipoint connection is a little dubious.

Assuming you’re able to get a proper fit with the on-ears, the neutral leaning frequency response adapts well to a variety of music types. Unfortunately, external noise attenuation isn’t great, but that’s the case for nearly all on-ear headphones. The mic quality is good on the Jabra Elite 45h, and Jabra offers a nifty two-year dust and water damage warranty.

The Koss Porta Pro is a solid set of portable on-ear headphones

Looking for the best on-ear headphones with the most portability? The Koss Porta Pro is a classic pair of headphones, and the limited edition variants add important features along with new color options. The retro design hasn’t changed since its first release, and it’s just as practical now as it was then.

Koss Porta Pro Limited Edition
Koss Porta Pro Limited Edition
7
Koss Porta Pro Limited Edition headset resting on a white table.Adjustment slider of the Koss Porta Pro Limited Edition headset.The in-line control module of the Koss porta Pro Limited Edition headset.The Koss Porta Pro Limited Edition next to the original designed headset.A woman wears the Koss Porta Pro semi-open headphones worn by a woman.
Koss Porta Pro Limited Edition
Koss Porta Pro Limited Edition
Buy now
See review
See review

The headphones have a thin, lightweight frame and plastic ear cups that fold down to a more compact size for travel. It has a switch on the side that adjusts the firmness of the ear cups for a more comfortable fit. The unique adjustable design with ear pads and then a space with another set of padding on the side of the wearer’s head makes it one of the best on-ear headsets for individuals who wear glasses. Unfortunately, it isn’t the most durable pair of headphones but it comes with a hardshell case for protection during transport. What’s more, the limited edition models have a small mic and remote for use with mobile devices.

One thing to note is that the Porta Pro is an open-back headset, so you’re probably not going to want to use it during your commute unless you want everyone to hear what you’re listening to.

The Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT is a solid choice for DJs

The Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT is a great headset for casual music listeners and DJs alike. While there’s nothing completely remarkable about it, it’s on of the few on-ear headsets with Bluetooth and analog connection options. You get Bluetooth 5.0 and support for the SBC and AAC codecs, providing reliable high-quality audio to iPhone owners. Unfortunately, there’s no aptX support which would be better for Android phone owners but again, you can always revert to lossless streaming via cable.

Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT
Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT
7.6
The Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT lying on t able with its earcups oriented vertically.The Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT lying on a laptop connected via a coiled wire to the laptop's headphone port.The Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT lying on a closed silver laptop next to a smartphone on its left.The Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT shown in three shots form left to right on a person's head. The first shot shows the left cup, then a head-on view, then the right cup.The Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT lying on table with the inside of its ear cups facing up.The frequency response chart showing the the performance of the Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT in cyan next to the SounGuys in-hourse reference curve pink. The headphones show a boosted bass response and some deviations in the highs.The isolation performance chart for the Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT showing that it only attenuates sounds begininning in the mids and into the highs.
Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT
Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT
Buy now
See review
See review

It’s fairly heavy at 246g but you get a durable build that comes with the heft along with ear cups that swivel so you can rest the HDJ-CUE1BT against your chest when not in use. The ear cups are easy to remove and wash should you gunk them up with sweat. You can even customize the look of your headset and buy different colored ear pads.

Battery life is what really makes this headset stand out as it lasts more than 47 hours before you need to recharge it. The sound is pretty bass-heavy with sub-bass coming through almost twice as loud as mids. While this is typical for DJ headphones, it may not be your cup of tea and you, unfortunately, can’t EQ it in a mobile app. There is no mobile app for the HDJ-CUE1BT. Still, we think this is a solid headset for the price and one that will withstand regular use.

Cut the cord with the JBL Tune 510BT wireless headphones

The JBL Tune 510BT is a solid set of on-ear headphones with very little flare to it. There’s no headphone jack, and instead, the Tune 510BT connects to your phone via Bluetooth 5.0. You have your choice between the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs—no aptX here.

JBL Tune 510BT
JBL Tune 510BT
6.8
The JBL Tune 510BT headset on a wooden table, showing the volume buttons and ear cups.The JBL Tune 510BT on a white table next to a phone with Spotify open.The JBL Tune 510BT being worn by a person looking at their phone.The USB-C port on the right ear cup of the JBL Tune 510BT.The JBL Tune 510BT laying on a white table on its side.The JBL Tune 510BT, folded into its compact position.The isolation chart for the JBL Tune 510BT.The frequency response chart for the JBL Tune 510BT.
JBL Tune 510BT

JBL’s onboard controls allow you to control playback, field calls, and access your preferred voice assistant. There’s no mobile app for this set of JBL headphones, so what you see is what you get. If you want to lessen the bass response, you’ll need to download a third-party EQ app or use the EQ in your streaming service.

The battery life is very good at 40 hours and you can recharge the headset with the included USB-C cable. Just five minutes of charging provides 120 minutes of playtime from the headset which is quite good. You get a microphone built into the Tune 510BT too, and while it’s not professional quality, it gets the job done. For less than $50 USD, you can’t go too wrong here.

The Sennheiser HD 250BT is one of few options with the aptX Bluetooth codec

For around $50 you get a wealth of codec options from the Sennheiser HD 250BT, including AAC and the even less common, aptX Low Latency, which is great for Android phone owners who stream video. It is pretty utilitarian, however, without any padding on the crown so it may not feel super comfortable over long periods.

Sennheiser HD 250BT
Sennheiser HD 250BT
A person wears the Sennheiser HD 250BT on-ear headphones in black while they ride an escalator.The Sennheiser HD 250BT in black against a white background.
Sennheiser HD 250BT
Sennheiser HD 250BT
Buy now

The HD 250BT silhouette is very similar to the famed Sennheiser HD 25 headset for DJs, though the Bluetooth version doesn’t have the split headband design of the wired option. We like the HD 250BT for its 25-hour battery life and USB-C charging port (no, you can’t use it for passthrough USB-C audio).

In the Smart Control app (iOS/Android), you can customize the EQ, check the battery, and update the headset’s firmware. This is common with most wireless Sennheiser headphones but a nice feature nonetheless. You also get an integrated omnidirectional microphone for phone calls.

The best cheap on-ear headphones: Notable mentions

The Sennheiser HD 350BT Bluetooth headphones folded slightly on a table in front of an off-white wall.
The HD 350BT is a great pair of no-nonsense wireless headphones that is technically billed as “over-ear” but fits like an on-ear headset for many.
  • Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT: This does not have the newest technology, as evidenced by the microUSB port, but it does have a decent neutral leaning sound from the 40mm drivers. The headset folds flat, which is nice when you leave it around your neck but doesn’t have articulating arms to make it more portable.
  • Monoprice Hi-Fi Lightweight On-Ear: Headphones for $15? Heck yes. Build quality may leave something to be desired, however, the sound surprisingly delivers.
  • Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet: Whether you want headphones for your kid or you just have a smaller head, this is a great-fitting pair of cans. It also has active noise cancelling and a volume limiter to help protect those precious ears.
  • Sennheiser HD 350BT: This may technically be a set of over-ears but it fits most of the population like on-ear headphones. If you can accept the fit, you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck here.
  • Sennheiser HD 25 Light: Sennheiser is known for its top-tier audio quality, and that reputation holds true with the HD 25 Light. The cord is detachable so you can easily replace it rather than buy a new headset.
  • JBL TUNE 500: For around $30, fanciness probably isn’t as important. The TUNE 500 brings that pedigree to a bargain-level price.

Hold up! Something’s different:

Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).

Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.

What you should know about the best on-ear headphones under $100

How should on-ear headphones fit?

The JBL Tune 510BT being worn by a person looking at their phone.
On-ear headphones are hard to fit just right and may get knocked out of place, subjecting you to auditory masking.

Getting the proper fit is just as important for on-ear headphones as in-ear or over-ear models. Unfortunately, since on-ears sit, well, on the ear, it’s more difficult to achieve this. Often, we consumers run into one of two issues: either the headset is so tight that it hurts to wear for longer than 20 minutes, or it’s so loose that it falls forward when we go to tie our shoes. Bespectacled listeners should jump ahead to over-ear headsets like the Shure AONIC 50 or even the AKG K371, or stick to the Koss Porta Pro. Once you get it right, the benefits of proper isolation will allow for optimal bass response and clarity.

Do on-ear headphones block out background noise?

Unfortunately, the fact is that most on-ear headphones do very little to block out background noise because they sit on your ears, rather than encompass them. This means that the barrier between your ear canals and the outside world is very tenuous and subject to “break” with a slight ear wiggle. All this is to say that on-ear headphones have poor isolation and if you want to really block out the world around you, you need to check out the best noise cancelling headphones or the best noise cancelling headphones under $100 USD.

Bluetooth audio or wired audio?

If you’re looking at any of the wireless models, bear in mind that wired still trumps Bluetooth with regards to audio quality. Of course, sometimes you just can’t put a price on the convenience of cutting the cord. If you’re a die-hard Bluetooth fan, keep an eye out for high-quality codec support. Android users should look out for aptX or LDAC headphones, while iPhone users will benefit most from AAC headsets. See, Android doesn’t play well with AAC across devices and iOS doesn’t support aptX or LDAC.

Graph of Bluetooth Codec Latency by Android Smartphone
Android has a latency problem whereby Bluetooth codec latency is inconsistent across devices.

If you’re streaming from a basic music service like YouTube Music or Spotify, high-quality codec support is still important for connection quality and reduced latency, but it won’t turn crappy headphones that happen to support aptX into an audio miracle. You still want to make sure you’re using a well-engineered headset to get the most out of your music.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

A photo of the Beats Solo Pro on-ear noise cancelling headphones being worn by a woman using the right ear cup controls.
We test as many headsets as possible, so you don’t have to.

Each writer at SoundGuys has accumulated years of experience reporting on the consumer audio market, and our staff adheres to a strict ethics policy. We never use ads or sponsored content on the website, so you can trust that our opinions are true. SoundGuys’ survival depends solely on readers enjoying their purchases. We pride ourselves on transparently outlining objective facts, while accounting for the subjective experience to contextualize an audio product’s performance. When we do misspeak, we correct and own up to it.

Frequently asked questions about the best on-ear headphones under $100

Open-back headphones aren’t meant for travel since they leak noise like crazy, and allow external noise in. That said, it’s really more of a feature than a drawback since it facilitates a more realistic perception of sound. Sure, it’s not quite 3D sound, but it’s better than traditionally closed cans. We recommend relegating your Grado headset to the home and picking up something more sealed off for travel.