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Best budget over ear headphones

Save some cash without sacrificing too much.
February 12, 2024
The Best
AKG K371
MSRP: $157.97
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Excellent sound quality
Comfortable with or without glasses
Plenty of accessories
Replaceable ear pads
Articulating ear cups
Isolation just ok
Sound leaks
Best sound
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
MSRP: $129.00
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Neutral mids
Fairly revealing headphones, suitable for mixing
Comfortable with/without glasses
No sound leaks
Cheap price
Can feel hot during long sessions
Not the best looking
Best features
Sony MDR-7506
MSRP: $99.99
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Good sound for mixing
Solid cable
Coiled cable is heavy
Not comfortable with glasses
Best over ears headphones
Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT
MSRP: $119.00
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Easy maintenance
Battery life
USB-C port
Wired listening
Ear pads
Can't fold
Bang for your buck
Anker Soundcore Life Q20
MSRP: $59.99
Check price
Excellent battery life
Fine noise canceling
Decent sound quality
microUSB port
Slightly small ear cups
No app

Sure, true wireless earbuds are all the rage, but don’t count out the age-old reliability of over-ear headphones just yet. If you think premium sound and comfort are beyond your budget, think again. We’ve scoured the market to bring you the best budget over-ear headphones that won’t leave your wallet crying.

What's new?

  • This list of the best budget over-ear headphones was updated on February 12, 2024, to add a section on the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 headphones and include MDAQS and frequency response charts for our top picks.
  • Interested in widening your options? You might also want to check out our curated lists of the best cheap headphones, the best wired headphones under $100, and the best on-ear headphones for more options.

  • People who have a habit of breaking things. We aren’t all capable of handling $500 headphones. It’s okay, we get it. This list is for you.
  • Anyone looking to save some cash. As much as we love great, premium quality headphones here at SoundGuys, we understand that everyone has different priorities. If you want the best for your money, you can’t go wrong with any of these options.
  • In some cases, anyone. The Sony MDR-7506 headphones, for example, are a tried and true pair of classic cans that have been around for decades and are repairable.

For our top five picks, you can find the isolation and frequency response charts at the end of each image gallery. You can learn more about how to read our charts here.

Why is the AKG K371 the best budget over-ear headphones?

A picture of the AKG K371 wired over-ear headphones on a nightstand in front of boxing gloves.

Folks looking to get some straightforward, good-sounding headphones ought to check out the AKG K371. These over-ear headphones have a nice frequency response that doesn’t exaggerate anything much and lends itself to most listeners. The size and weight of 255g are slim enough and not heavy. Plus, you can flip up the ear cups.

The AKG K371 scores high in timbre and distortion, with a slightly lower score for immersiveness.
Any way you slice it, the AKG K371 sounds pretty good.

Plus, the pressure is gentle enough with memory foam ear pads to accommodate people with glasses. In the package, AKG includes three different interchangeable cables, which ought to carry you through for quite some time. Isolation is pretty average for headphones without active noise canceling (ANC), but for budget headphones that just playback your music well, it’s a good pick.

AKG K371AKG K371
AKG K371
Excellent sound • Replaceable parts • Great sound
MSRP: $157.97
One of the best wired headphones on the market
The AKG K371 is one of the best over-ear headphones combining sound quality, comfort, functionality, and portability. The ear pads are rotatable and replaceable.

For the best sound quality, check out the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

A man wears the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro studio headphones in front of a brick wall.
Reasonably good clamping force helps you hear all frequencies best.

When it comes to audio, few companies are trusted as much as Sennheiser, so it’s no surprise its product ended up on the best over-ear headphones under $100 list. Sennheiser has decades of experience making some of the best headphones in the world. While the HD 280 Pro doesn’t sound as good as some of those upper-end models, it also doesn’t cost as much as a car, so I think it’s a fair trade. Regardless, the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro has dense padding all around the headband and ear cups, which makes them great for long listening sessions, and has an attenuation of up to 32 dB.

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It also folds easily at the hinges for easy transport and has a frequency response of 8Hz-25kHz, which means it can reproduce sounds even lower than the human ear can hear. Plus, the cable is replaceable, so should it happen to break at some point in the future, you can just replace the cable instead of needing to buy a whole new pair of headphones. Basically, despite being marketed as studio-style headphones, there’s more low-end volume that lines up with consumer headphones.

Sennheiser HD 280 ProSennheiser HD 280 Pro
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
Neutral mids • Fairly revealing headphones, suitable for mixing • Comfortable with/without glasses
MSRP: $129.00
The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro may be a little lightweight on bass, but if you're mixing or recording, it's a solid tool and offers a good value. It's not the most portable, but there's a spot in every studio where you could use it.

If you’re a creator, you want the Sony MDR-7506

The Sony MDR-7506 headphones sitting next to some of my favorite instruments.
I had no problem driving these headphones with cell phones or even a tiny synthesizer.

Then you have something like the Sony MDR-7506 headphones, which is arguably one of the best headphones under $100 period when it comes to anything to do with creating. You’ll find these headphones everywhere, from TV production studios to recording booths, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to change anytime soon.

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The lightweight plastic build is fairly comfortable, and it folds to a fraction of its size, making it easy to transport. Plus, the long coiled cable means you’re free to move around somewhat without pulling equipment off the table with you. It doesn’t give too much emphasis to any one area of the frequency response, which means that you get one of the cleanest looks at your raw audio as you edit in the business.

Sony MDR-7506Sony MDR-7506
Sony MDR-7506
Affordable • Comfort • Durable Design
MSRP: $99.99
The industry standard for a reason.
The Sony MDR-7506 might not be the best for enjoying your brand new listening station, but there's a reason this is a standard when it comes to audio production and mixing.

Cut the cable (or don’t) with the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT

A hand holds the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT shown from the side.
The ATH-M20xBT typically sells for about $70.

Frequently found for not much at all, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT is both wired and Bluetooth capable, and it’s one of the best over-ears under $100. At this price, you’re not getting touch controls but rather dedicated buttons instead. With a robustly built headband, you can easily commute with this pair, even though it doesn’t fold. On the whole, it sounds good, but a bit light on sub-bass. Nevertheless, it sounds great up through treble and just up the bass slider in your EQ app.

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Surprisingly, the onboard mics are pretty good, too, for calls. Now, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x is a stalwart budget studio headphone. Still, the added Bluetooth capability (AAC and SBC codecs) lends the budget-minded amongst us a bit of a two-in-one situation with the ATH-M20xBT over-ears. You can swap out the cable and the ear pads as well if you find you wear yours out.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBTAudio-Technica ATH-M20xBT
Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT
Wireless convenience • Decent microphone for calls
MSRP: $119.00
Affordable, ATH M-series headphones
The Audio-Technica M20xBT are the wireless version of the entry-level model in the popular ATH Mx series of headphones. Marketed as Studio Monitors, they seek a natural sound profile for your audio editing needs.

Get the most for your money with the Anker Soundcore Life Q20

The Anker Soundcore Life Q20 headset in full with the ear cups facing upward while resting on a wood surface.
You’re not paying much, but you get some premium features, like great battery and fine ANC.

The Anker Soundcore Life Q20 headset is a prime example of high value for a low price. It made some of the best budget over-ear headphones because it features a comfortable fit and straightforward functionality. Its battery reaches 51 hours and 50 minutes on a single charge, and it uses a somewhat outdated micro-USB port.

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Audio is transmitted either with a headphone jack or Bluetooth using AAC and SBC codecs. There’s no app, and your controls are buttons on the ear cups, which keeps things simple. Best of all, though, are the 40mm drivers that, when paired with pretty decent active noise canceling, deliver an enjoyable listening experience. It’s certainly cheap, but it doesn’t lack much, except some luxuries like multipoint.

Anker Soundcore Life Q20Anker Soundcore Life Q20
Anker Soundcore Life Q20
Excellent isolation • ANC • 50-hour battery life
MSRP: $59.99
Excellent isolation and battery life headset
Anker Soundcore Life Q20 headset has one of the best battery life in this price range. The ANC and the excellent seal around the head block the noise very well.

Pay a bit more for the slightly better Anker Souncore Life Q30

A man places the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 headphones on his head.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
At such a lightweight, the Q30 is comfortable to wear during long listening sessions.

The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 is another strong contender in the best budget over-ear headphones category, offering robust active noise cancelation (ANC) across low and mid-frequencies, a battery life exceeding 46 hours with fast-charging capabilities, and a comfortable fit. It also uses the more modern USB-C charging port.

A chart showing the MDAQS assessment of the Anker Soundcore Life Q30.
These are very impressive scores for a budget headphone.

This extended playtime, coupled with the convenience of fast charging—where a mere 5-minute charge delivers 4 hours of playback—makes the Life Q30 exceptionally suitable for users with active lifestyles or those who dislike frequent recharging. While the headphones do have some drawbacks, such as the lack of touch controls and water resistance, these are minor when considering the overall value offered.

Anker Soundcore Life Q30Anker Soundcore Life Q30
Anker Soundcore Life Q30
Comfortable design • 40-hour battery life • EQ customization
A reliable and affordable headset with ANC
The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 gives you 40-hour battery life with ANC on, all for a low price.

The Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO is a good budget enthusiast companion

The Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO headphones.
Velour pads and a flexible band make for a solid set of at-home cans.

Not particularly well suited to a commute, the Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO is staunchly in the at-home use department. It uses a semi-open back design, which keeps your ears cool while donning the velour ear pads. Its frequency response reflects a more studio-style sound as well, so bass heads be advised.

For the money, the DT 880 PRO is a great pick for the right user. Nobody here will suggest you take it with you on the bus, for example.

Beyerdynamic DT 880 PROBeyerdynamic DT 880 PRO
Beyerdynamic DT 880 PRO
Comfortable earpads • Good sound quality • Ease of use
MSRP: $184.00
A really good set of open back studio headphones often on discount.
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro headset is one of the best pairs of open-back studio cans on the market. The earpads are very comfortable, and the headset is rugged-built.

The best over-ear headphones under $100: Notable mentions

Open backed headphones don't block out sound well, so the Sennheiser HD 560S is not a good isolator.
Open-backed headphones like the Sennheiser HD 560S are best suited for at-home listening.

What you should know about over-ear headphones

Comparing the Audio-Technica ATH-GL3 (Closed Back) and Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3 (Open Back).
Closed and openbacks are important to consider.

People like all sorts of personal audio devices, but over-ears are the mainstay of high-performing headphones. There are many reasons for this, but it mostly boils down to the fact that it’s easier to make them, from the guts to the padding. If you want the most bang for your buck, it’ll come from any of the best budget over-ear headphones.

What are over-ears anyway?

If you’ve been searching our site looking for headphones, you may have noticed that we tend to talk about the different kinds of headphones separately. The most common that you’re probably familiar with are earbuds like the ones that come with your smartphone. Then there are Bluetooth earbuds, true wireless earbuds, on-ears, and finally over-ears.

To answer the question posed at the top of this section, over-ears are simply headphones that completely encapsulate your ears. The ear cups usually have a small indent in the padding for your ears to rest comfortably in. On-ears on the other hand, don’t completely cover your ears and therefore have slightly worst isolation in most cases.

Why is isolation so important?

A man plays guitar wearing the Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X.
With the headphones on your ears are safer with loud instruments.

Isolation is arguably the single greatest factor that impacts how you perceive music. If there’s a lot going on around you, your brain has a hard time picking out some of the frequencies that lie within the range of the outside noise. For example, if you’re on an airplane the low rumble or the jets will effectively draw the attention of your brain away from that smooth bass line you’re trying so hard to listen to. It’s how humans evolved to hear: we notice the loudest sounds above all else. The more you can separate yourself from the noises around you, the better your music will sound.

An added benefit of good isolation (and noise cancelation) is that you won’t be so tempted to increase the volume beyond what’s safe for your hearing in order to drown the environmental sounds out.

What’s a Bluetooth codec?

A photo of the Bluetooth codec options in Android.
Bluetooth codecs in Android are supported by wireless over-ear headphones.

Bluetooth has come a long way since it was first introduced as an alternative to wired listening. It still isn’t a perfect replacement for a reliable audio cable, but the advancement of the Bluetooth codec—how data is packaged and sent between two different devices over Bluetooth—has helped things a lot.

An easy way to think of it is like languages that Bluetooth devices speak. If they speak the same codec (or language), then more data can be transferred more efficiently. If not, they default back to the most basic codec which is SBC (or in keeping with our analogy, hand gestures). It’s not as efficient, but SBC is universal, so everything can at least fall back on it.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

A photo of a woman wearing the Jabra Elite Active 45e earbuds.
The ear hooks are easy to shape to the back of your ear for a secure, long-lasting fit.

We test every product that comes our way by way of recording objective measurements and using everything in a typical environment. While audio is a measurable science, we don’t neglect the importance of personal preference. Some people may really enjoy a bass-heavy sound, while others may be forever in search of their platonic ideal headset.

Here at SoundGuys, we try to account for every need and preference when collating the best lists. While our site does operate via affiliate links, none of our writers benefit from awarding one product over the other.

Frequently asked questions

Oh, do we have the list for you! Our best headphones under $1,000 compilation includes some good picks. With that said, there are plenty of excellent headphones that don’t reach those prices.

We like the Monoprice BT-600ANC for its great noise canceling, and the Sennheiser HD 350BT is a good performer too.

Honestly, the answer depends on what you’re looking for in a pair of headphones. These days, LG has focused more on true wireless earbuds, whereas Bose has over-ear and true wireless earbuds. For over-ear headphones, Bose is better than LG.

From this list, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT has surprisingly good onboard mics for calls for the price they go for.

Sennheiser, Sony, Audio-Technica, and Anker are just a few brands that make decent cheap headphones. Explore our best lists to find out which one is right for you.