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Best over-ear headphones under $100
While true wireless earbuds are taking off, it’s hard to beat a solid good pair of over-ear headphones. The problem is, all of the best ones with the newest features usually require some pretty deep pockets, but you can still afford some great features while maintaining an upper limit of $100. From Audio-Technica to Sony, we’ve picked out some of the best over-ear headphones for less.
Editor’s note: this list of the best over-ear headphones under $100 was updated on July 20, 2022, to include the AKG K240 Studio, update formatting, and update the notable mentions.
- 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, is a tried and true pair of classic cans that have been around for decades.
Why is the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x the best pair of over-ear headphones under $100?
If the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is the internet’s favorite headphones, then the ATH-M40x is the slept-on younger sibling. This headset is less flashy but just as capable; both share a similar design and build, which means the ATH-M40x is plenty comfortable and portable.
The headphones have folding hinges, plush padding to help with comfort and isolation, and a less bass-heavy sound than the ATH-M50x. If you’ve had your eyes on the ATH-M50x (or even the Bluetooth version) but couldn’t justify pulling the trigger on it, then the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x might be right up your alley as a more affordable alternative.
For the best sound quality, check out the Sennheiser HD280 Pro
When it comes to audio, few companies are trusted as much as Sennheiser, so its 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 headphones doesn’t sound nearly as good as some of those upper-end models, they also don’t cost as much as a car so I think it’s a fair trade. Either way, the HD280 Pro has plush padding all around the headband and ear cups which make them great for long listening sessions and have an attenuation of up to 32dB.
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.
If you’re a creator, you want the Sony MDR-7506
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.
The lightweight plastic build is super comfortable and it folds to a fraction of its size making it easy to transport. Plus, the long coiled cable makes 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. Not only is this one of the best over-ear headphones under $100, it’s one of the best pairs of headphones in general.
Listen comfortably with the AKG K240 Studio
The AKG K240 Studio is a great option for anyone working on a shoestring budget who can’t afford to compromise sound quality. This pair of studio headphones reproduces frequencies between 100Hz-1.2kHz fairly consistently, but it bass output is lacking due to the semi-open design. Anyone who is all about that bass should certainly look elsewhere. However, the benefit of the semi-open design of this headset creates what audio enthusiasts refer to as a “more open soundstage,” which is helpful if you are using the K240 Studio in studio applications. Of course, this means the isolation on this headset is very minimal and it should not be used outside of the studio or home.
The AKG K240 Studio has a comfortable, all-plastic build, making it super lightweight but also a bit less durable than other headsets. It doesn’t clamp down on your skull with any serious pressure, so you won’t get tired of wearing it for long periods of time. You can buy replacement ear pads and cables for pretty cheap if they wear out. All in all, this is a pretty decent pair of headphones for a pretty small cost.
Get the most for your money with the Anker Soundcore Life Q20
Anker is best known for its portable battery packs, but if you’ve been following us at SoundGuys for a while you know that the company also makes some pretty high value audio gear. The Anker Soundcore Life Q20 headset is a prime example of this. It made it as some of the best over-ear headphones under $100 because it features plush memory foam padding that provides both comfort and isolation, and it has a 40-hour battery life which isn’t bad.
Best of all though is 40mm drivers that when paired with active noise cancelling delivers an enjoyable listening experience. It still isn’t going to compete with the likes of something like the Sony WH-1000XM3 so don’t get your hopes up, but considering it can usually be found for around $60 it’s really impressive.
The best over-ear headphones under $100: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Vortex: This headset is a favorite amongst budget-minded listeners, featuring aptX support and a 20-hour battery life.
- Audio Technica ATH-M30x: These cans provide a relatively neutral sound for around $70, ideal for the budget-conscious bedroom producer.
- Philips SHP9500: Many listeners prefer the sound of open-back headphones for their ability to reproduce a more natural sense of three-dimensional space. Philips’ headphones do just that, but may be uncomfortable due to their bulky size.
- Sennheiser HD 350BT: If you’re willing to spend just a little over $100, you’re essentially getting an upgrade to the Sennheiser HD 4.40; with aptX Low Latency and AAC support, Bluetooth 5.0, and USB-C charging.
- Shure SRH440: This is similar to the Sony MDR-7506 headphones with slightly more plush padding on both the headband and earpads. The 40mm drivers are tuned to reproduce neutral-leaning audio much like the costlier Shure AONIC 50 ANC headphones.
What you should know about over-ear headphones
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 over-ear headphones under $100.
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?
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 a phenomenon called auditory masking, and it’s how humans evolved to hear. The more you can separate yourself from the noises around you, the better your music will sound.
What’s a Bluetooth codec?
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. If you want to learn more, read our great piece explaining everything.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
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 for their platonic ideal headset.
Here at SoundGuys, we try to account for every need and preference when collating 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 about cheap over-ear headphones
Oh, do we have the list for you! Our best headphones under $1,000 compilation includes products from Audio-Technica, HiFiMan, Beyerdynamic, Grado, and Audeze. If you’re fine with hitting the upper limit of your budget, pick up the Audeze LCD-2. Alternatively, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is a bit cheaper and sounds fantastic.
The Anker Soundcore Vortex is a great cheap pair of headphones with aptX.