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Best headphones under $100

If you were wondering what one Ben Franklin could get you, we've got the list for you.
By

Published onMay 2, 2024

The Best
JLab JBuds Lux ANC
MSRP: $79.99
8.2
Check price
Positives
USB-C audio
Sound quality
Comfort
Value
App
Negatives
Limited options
No IP rating
Best active noise cancelling
Monoprice BT-600ANC
MSRP: $99.00
8.1
Check price
Positives
Bluetooth 5; aptX HD and AAC support
Multi-device pairing
Noise cancelation performance
Battery life
Compact and folds into travel-friendly case
Negatives
Not very accurate frequency response
No companion app
No auto play/pause
Best style
Anker Soundcore Space One
MSRP: $99.99
7.7
Check price
Positives
Isolation and ANC
Companion app
Battery life
Wear detection
Bluetooth 5.3 with LDAC support
Negatives
No touch controls
Carrying case isn't hardcover
Over-emphasized bass and treble
No audio over USB
Best sound
Audio-Technica ATH-M30x
MSRP: $79.00
7.5
Check price
Positives
Price
Sound quality
Comfortable for most
Negatives
Can't easily switch cables
Not the most refined fit and finish
Bang for your buck
Sony WH-CH520
MSRP: $59.99
7.5
Check price
Positives
Decent tuning
Fast Pair
Lightweight
Negatives
Price
Difficult seal
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If you’re a frequent visitor, you already know headphone prices can range from a mere $20 to an “insurmountable college debt” level. Today, we’re talking about what lies between the two extremes — the best headphones under $100. Whether you’re looking to get some work done in a studio or just enjoy good sound quality for less, we have you covered with some of our favorite headphones.

What's new?

Anyone interested in delving deeper into the world of audio for less money or anyone prone to breaking nice things should check out these headphones for under $100. We’ve listed everything from studio headphones to wireless/wired headphones to account for anyone interested in upgrading their current setup.

For under $100, the JLab JBuds Lux are crazy good value

The JLab JBuds Lux ANC sitting atop a wooden desk.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The JBuds Lux is a compelling buy under $80.

The JLab JBuds Lux ANC punches well above its weight, offering exceptional value for under $100. These over-ear headphones feature active noise cancelation that does a decent job of hushing ambient noise, especially in the higher frequencies. While the ANC performance can’t match premium models, it’s impressive for the price.

The sound quality is quite good, with an overall MDAQS score of 4.5/5, lauding the headphones’ faithful timbre and immersive soundstage. They have an elevated bass response and boosted treble that helps counter environmental noise during commutes.

Other highlights include a 44-hour battery life, USB-C audio support, and a companion app with EQ and customization options. The JBuds Lux ANC may lack advanced features like head tracking, but they nail the fundamentals at a stellar price, making them one of the best budget ANC headphones you can buy.

JLab JBuds Lux ANCJLab JBuds Lux ANC
SG recommended
JLab JBuds Lux ANC
USB-C audio • Sound quality • Comfort
MSRP: $79.99
For under $100, these are crazy good value.
As far as inexpensive ANC headphones go, the JLab JBuds Lux ANC are one of the best of 2024. They focus on the fundamentals, and not fighting the spec wars.

Silence your environment with the Monoprice BT-600ANC

Monoprice BT-600ANC resting against plant
For some of the best ANC out there for under $100, Monoprice is a winner.

If what you really need is inexpensive headphones with ANC, the Monoprice BT-600ANC might be your best bet. Unlike the Anker Soundcore Life Q35, you don’t get an app to dial in your EQ, and honestly, the Monoprice BT-600ANC could use some EQ. However, they have some truly excellent ANC, even compared to some of the best out there.

They also boast Bluetooth codecs aptX HD (alongside AAC and SBC) for better quality audio and reduced video latency if you’re using Android. There’s also a wired option too. Touch controls are the name of the game here as well.

Monoprice BT-600ANCMonoprice BT-600ANC
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Monoprice BT-600ANC
High-res audio • Excellent ANC • 36-hour battery life
MSRP: $99.00

The Anker Soundcore Space One is great value

Anker Soundcore Space One headphones next to cloth case and cables.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
Along with the headphones, you get a cloth carrying case, USB-C charging cable, and 3.5mm auxiliary cable.

The Anker Soundcore Space One is a solid choice for consumers seeking noise canceling headphones under $100. The headphones have good isolation and active noise cancelation (ANC), wear detection, long battery life, and the inclusion of Bluetooth 5.3 with LDAC support. The companion app further allows customizable sound profiles and ANC adjustments.

The absence of touch controls and an audio profile that leans towards over-emphasized bass and treble may deter some users. Additionally, the lack of audio-over-USB functionality limits its versatility compared to some competitors. Despite these drawbacks, the overall value proposition remains strong, especially considering the headphones’ effective noise cancelation, sound customization options through the app, and robust battery life of nearly 43 hours.

Anker Soundcore Space OneAnker Soundcore Space One
Anker Soundcore Space One
Comfortable fit • Easy controls • Soundcore app
MSRP: $99.99
Luxury features at a budget price.

The ATH-M30x has great sound quality

A hand holds the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x in front of a window and an aloe plant.
Looking rather like its siblings, the ATH-M30x balances cost-cutting measures, like the ATH-M20x, with essentials like retaining some bass.

The ATH-M50x is a top pick for many, but the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x doesn’t fall too far behind. From the enthusiast to the professional, the ATH-M30x will sate most hi-fi appetites. If you’re interested but want the option of a wireless version, Audio-Technica offers that, too.

Thanks to the rotating ear cups, the headphones lay flat against the chest when inactive, which is always handy. Generally speaking, the headband is comfortable with just enough padding. However, if you aren’t into the synthetic feel, you may have a differing opinion. The ATH-M30x provides more subtle bass reproduction than the ATH-M50x. This strikes a balance between a more sound engineer-oriented frequency response and a consumer headset.

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Audio-Technica designed these headphones with one purpose in mind: listening to music. Anyone needing headphones with a built-in mic will want to check other picks or gaming headsets. Overall, if you prefer an ever-so-slight emphasis in the mids and vocals, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the ATH-M30x as our pick for the best headphones under $100. Listeners wanting something similar with more low-end should try the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro.

Audio-Technica ATH-M30xAudio-Technica ATH-M30x
Audio-Technica ATH-M30x
Affordable headset • Accurate sound • Simple to use
MSRP: $79.00
A straightforward pair of headphones with accurate audio
The Audio-Technica ATH-M30x provides an accurate sound for monitoring or tracking recordings at an affordable price.

The Sony WH-CH520 is your best bang for your buck

The Sony WH-CH520 sits atop a wood slab.
The Sony WH-CH520 might not be flashy, but they’re a very competent set of wireless headphones.

When it comes to dependable and affordable wireless headphones, the Sony WH-CH520 is our budget pick for just $59.99. With over 55 hours of playback time, you can forget about constantly having to recharge these headphones. This makes them an ideal pick for commuters or anyone on the go.

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Despite being an entry-level product, these headphones come with modern conveniences like Fast Pair and Multipoint support. Fast Pair allows for hassle-free connection to Android, Mac, or Windows devices, while Multipoint ensures you can connect to multiple devices without constantly fiddling with settings.

While they may not be the best choice for audiophiles or frequent flyers due to the absence of active noise cancelation, these headphones do a fairly good job at high-frequency noise isolation, provided you achieve an ideal fit. If you’re in the market for a straightforward, no-nonsense pair of wireless headphones that won’t break the bank, the Sony WH-CH520 should be on your radar.

Sony WH-CH520Sony WH-CH520
Sony WH-CH520
Decent tuning • Fast Pair • Lightweight
MSRP: $59.99
The Sony WH-CH520 are competent — if a bit boring — wireless headphones, aimed at the entry level. They work, sound decent enough, have an incredible battery life, and aren't uncomfortable. With features like Multipoint and Fast Pair, the Sony WH-CH520 are reasonably future-proof.

If you’re in the studio, grab the Sony MDR-7506

The Sony MDR-7506 headphones fit nicely into a backpack.
The MDR-7506 headphones have a plastic build with a are over-ear cans meant for production.

In this corner, weighing in at 230g, is the Sony MDR-7506. The 1985 inception of these classic headphones came out under the model number MDR-V6. Six years later, the world met the MDR-7506, which had slight aesthetic and functional changes from the V6. The MDR-7506 has proven it can keep up with modern standards while maintaining a retro, professional look. These are classic, which is why you’ll find them on many lists, such as best over-ear headphones.

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Although these work in any context, the Sony MDR-7506 is intended for studio monitoring and audio mixing. Fortunately, if you want to expose it to natural light, folding hinges make transport a breeze. In general, it’s a reliable and legendary pair of headphones under $100 with that “it” factor. The long 3-meter cable is great for studio use but may need tying up to avoid comical unwieldiness while out and about.

Over-ear headphones offer the best sound quality and soundstage, which is how headphones reproduce spatial cues, due to mammoth drivers.

If it seems like this pair of headphones is a bit out of place, it’s probably due to the fact that our staff has decades of experience with it, and it still holds up today. It can be found in classrooms, studios, and even some speech labs. If you’re looking for headphones under $100 that have proven many times over that it lasts for years on end, this is the pair of headphones to buy.

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.

The JBL Tune 660NC is small enough to fit in most bags

JBL Tune 660NC headphones on model
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
On-ear style headphones like the JBL Tune 660NC cause some pain depending on your ear shape.

Look, the JBL Tune 660NC won’t win awards for original design; they look pretty much like every other JBL on-ears with different colorways. However, the headphones do most tasks reasonably well, including the essentials like a decent frequency response curve.

Oversized buttons make up the majority of the controls on each earcup housing. The Tune 660NC headphones don’t offer anything in the way of an app, so that means you’re getting the finished product, but you can’t adjust anything beyond what your phone can do. Besides the basic AAC and SBC codecs, you also get a 3.5mm wired connection.

One of the main selling points of the Tune 660NC is that you have the portable advantage of on-ears paired with active noise canceling (ANC) capabilities. Rather surprisingly, the ANC attenuates more noise than you’d expect out of on-ear headphones. The battery lasts 37 hours and 9 minutes, which is pretty good for headphones that only weigh 166g, including the battery.

JBL Tune 660NC Wireless HeadphonesJBL Tune 660NC Wireless Headphones
JBL Tune 660NC Wireless Headphones
Active noise-cancellation • Fast USB-C charging • Bass-heavy
MSRP: $99.95
Proving that ANC headphones don't need to cost an arm and a leg
The JBL Tune 660NC are active noise-cancelling headphones. They have the distinct bass-heavy sound of JBL products and will last upwards of 40+ hours with ANC on. Fast USB-C charging will help you out if you run out of juice.

Go wired or wireless with the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT

Two hands holding a Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT headset

While the headphone jack remains the gold standard for audio quality, the truth is you’ll get more opportunities to use your headphones if you can go wireless, too. Enter the Audio-Technica ATH-M20xBT, which essentially upgrades the standard Audio-Technica ATH-M20x studio-style headphones and adds Bluetooth and a mic.

For the extra bucks, the ATH-M20xBT not only adds Bluetooth, but you can also remove the headphone cable and replace it if it busts, which the standard version doesn’t allow. You can also replace the ear pads, which is unusual these days. Plus, you gain button controls to control playback.

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The headphones roll off bass and dip in volume around middle C more than we’d like, but you can EQ this somewhat with a third-party app or a basic equalizer in Spotify. Otherwise, they sound pretty good. Unsurprisingly, these make our list of best over-ear headphones in the same price range too.

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.

The best headphones under $100: Notable mentions

An aerial photo of the AKG K240 Studio semi-open headphones on an open book.
While not the most durable option, it sounds good, and you can replace parts, if necessary, on the AKG K240 Studio.
  • 1MORE SonoFlow ($99.99 at Amazon): The 1MORE SonoFlow are good-sounding, feature-rich headphones that won’t break the bank. Commuters and travelers will enjoy the ANC, long battery life, and plush ear pads. Experienced listeners will enjoy decent sound and EQ options.
  • AKG K240 Studio: These are a great option for anyone working on a shoestring budget ($56 at Amazon) who can’t afford to compromise sound quality. The semi-open design promotes accurate sound reproduction. Low bass response is lacking, so if you want a more neutral response across the frequency spectrum, keep looking.
  • AKG K371: Costing just a bit more than the budget’s threshold ($176 at Amazon), these are excellent-sounding closed-back headphones.
  • Audio Technica ATH-M20x: These are Audio-Technica’s entry-level studio headphones — ideal for people who prefer a neutral sound without breaking the bank ($49 at Amazon).
  • Anker Soundcore Life Q20: These are on the cheaper end of the spectrum, and build quality is not the absolute best, but for only $59 at Amazon that they sound decent with some noise canceling is impressive.
  • Audio Technica ATH-M40x: For those looking to get the upgrade, this pair of headphones is the step up from the ATH-M30x, featuring a balanced sound signature for accurate sound reproduction for $99 at Amazon.
  • Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro: This pair of supra-aural cans is meant for the studio but doesn’t need to be confined there. The ear cups are small and light enough to take with you too. Find a set for $67 at Amazon.
  • Grado SR60x: These headphones are still made in Brooklyn and yet sell for only $99 at Amazon. With a surprisingly comfortable on-ear fit, the lightweight headphones relay your audio on a nice wide soundstage. However, the bass isn’t a major feature here, and the open-backs limit case use. Still, these are worth a look.
  • JBL Live 660NC: Usually, these sell for a few bucks above the $100 threshold ($149 at Amazon), but they offer some added active noise canceling alongside Bluetooth capabilities, which might be what you’re looking for.
  • Pioneer HDJ-CUE1BT: With the flexibility of wired or wireless connectivity, this no-frills set of headphones is oriented toward DJs with articulating ear cups and onboard mics. It sells for $99 at Amazon.
  • Sennheiser HD 280 Pro: This pair of headphones attenuates external noise effectively and has a very neutral-leaning frequency response perfect for mixing. However, some people find the clamping force of the headband a bit intense. Find it for $87 at Amazon.
  • Sennheiser HD 350BT: Not the newest kid on the block, the HD 350BT still offers some ANC and a solid selection of codecs. Some folks find the ear cups don’t have enough room to fit properly as over-ears. Still, for Sennheiser quality sound, check it out for $86 at Amazon.
  • Sennheiser HD 559: These open-back headphones have Sennheiser’s signature good sound and comfortable fit, selling for on the product’s website.
  • Sennheiser HD 569: Sporting closed backs, you can take the HD 569 out of the house without disturbing others. They do not fold down, but the price is reasonable ($99 at Amazon).
  • Skullcandy Hesh ANC: For the bass fans out there, these offer exaggerated bass frequencies, noise canceling, and wired or Bluetooth connectivity for a low price of $85.99 at Amazon.

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 headphones under $100

Headphones come in all shapes and sizes, but an uncompromising seal is necessary for proper bass. We’ve laid out the most important points covering the differences between on-ear and over-ear headphones. For more in-depth information, make sure to head over to our headphone buying guide.

What’s the difference between on-ear and over-ear headphones?

The JBL Tune 510BT being worn by a person looking at their phone.
Some on-ear headphones, like the JBL Tune 510BT, press your ears against the arms of your glasses.

On-ear headphones sit directly on your ears. They negotiate a healthy balance between portability and quality sound. As the name implies, they rest neither around nor within the ear, so they’re not as comfortable, and the seal isn’t the greatest. If you wear glasses, on-ears typically aren’t your friend. However, some do a better job than others, like the Koss Porta Pro Limited Edition.

Over-ears generally offer the best sound quality, thanks to larger drivers and a consistently good seal to your head. They also do the best job of reproducing spatial cues by using our ear anatomy in a natural way, by sitting around them and exposing the entire pinna to sound waves.

Should you get closed-back or open-back headphones for under $100?

A picture of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro open-back headphones which are too expensive to be a candidate for the best headphones under $100.
Open-backs typically mean you’ll get more accurate spatial cues from your music.

Closed-back headphones isolate well and are primarily used for commuting and travel or where outside noise would ruin your music. The closed rear chambers can cause unwanted resonances which cloud the midrange details. Cans like the Sony WH-1000XM5 do a great job combatting this. Conversely, open-back headphones do not isolate at all. This is fine if you’re listening in a quiet room, but it will sound terrible when traveling or commuting. Quiet environments are where this breed shines.

Take the necessary steps to prevent hearing loss

The back of Under Armour Project Rock by JBL headphones is shown being stretched out over the back of a man's head, about to put it on.
Noise-induced hearing loss can happen at any age.

Hearing loss comes in all varieties and can negatively impact an individual’s emotional well-being. In order to prevent this altogether, we suggest finding a proper fit with your headphones. Doing so will keep external noise out, making you feel less inclined to turn up the volume to dangerous levels. If you have a few more dollars to spare, you may want to consider premium active noise canceling headphones, as they further protect you from the chances of developing noise-induced hearing loss.

Do you need Bluetooth or a headphone jack?

Image shows Sony Xperia 1 with a set of Beyerdynamic headphones.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
It’s pretty rare you’ll find a headphone jack on a phone these days, although the Sony Xperia 1 V is an exception.

Let’s face it: Bluetooth is where the market has headed, and increasingly, we see headphones full of batteries, which isn’t great for the planet. At least those batteries can power helpful inventions like ANC. However, all that tech doesn’t change the truth that your headphone jack still relays the best audio quality. Granted, we know that cutting the cords feels liberating, and it’s useful since our phones generally don’t have any other particularly convenient means of connecting to headphones. Fortunately, every pick on our list that is Bluetooth capable can also plug in.

The myriad of Bluetooth codecs can be confusing, but the basic things you need to know go like this: if you have an iPhone, you want the AAC codec, and if you have Android, you ideally want aptX (or similar) or LDAC. Android devices still work with AAC, so don’t worry, but it’s just not always the best for sound quality and latency with Android. There’s more to it, and some exclusive codecs work best with specific devices, but that’s the short version.

How we choose the best headphones under $100

We do our best at SoundGuys to directly test as many audio products as possible, but alas, we, too, are only human. While testing every audio product in the world is nearly impossible, we research as many candidates as we can if we’re unable to test something directly. Fortunately, with this “best headphones under $100 list,” we were able to directly test each of the top picks, allowing us to speak candidly about our experiences here and in the in-depth reviews.

If a product made it as one of the best-wired headphones under $100, it’s because we earnestly feel it’s one of the best in its class.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

A man wearing the 1MORE SonoFlow headphones

We work day and night (well, the night part mainly because we work remotely) to ensure we’re able to keep tabs on the ever-changing world of audio. What’s in today may not be in tomorrow, and our collective years of experience empower us to easily distinguish the diamonds in the rough from, well, the rough.

It’s not just about the subjective experience here, though. Audio is both a subjective but also objective and quantifiable phenomenon. In recognizing that, we also perform objective, in-house testing on an array of audio products.

All we want is for you to enjoy what you’re listening to, and none of us see a penny, nickel, or dime from partnerships or referral purchases. What’s more, no writer at SoundGuys may benefit from guiding readers toward one product or another. If you’re interested, feel free to read up on our ethics policy.

Frequently asked questions about the best headphones under $100

Yes, DVD and CD players usually have a 3.5mm port. So long as your headphones have a 3.5mm cable, as most headphones do, you should be able to use them just fine.

The Audio Technica ATH-M40x offers several improvements over the ATH-M30x. For starters, the M40x features a detachable cable for easy headphone storage and transport—a well-loved feature by musicians who are constantly traveling. The M40x also features a greater frequency response range for improved treble clarity, allowing for a better audio mixing experience.

Closed-back headphones are characterized by their ability to isolate noise, allowing users to focus on their content—though at the expense of sound quality. Meanwhile, open-back headphones can reproduce sounds more accurately, with a stereo image that is comparable to studio monitors. However, open-back headphones don’t isolate any noise, which may be annoying for other people in the same room as you. For a more comprehensive explanation, check out Chris’ article explaining the difference between open-back and closed-back headphones.

The size of a headphone’s driver is only part of the equation. The reason larger drivers are generally believed to be better is that bass response is easier to reproduce, something that is welcomed by the general consumer market. The drawback to larger diaphragms is that the flexibility and rigidity become more variable the bigger the driver gets. Consequently, treble reproduction becomes an issue (in terms of accuracy). This is why it’s important to have good audio engineers who can account for this or completely different setups (e.g. balanced armature) altogether.

While $50 headphones might serve basic audio needs, stepping up to headphones under $100 opens a world of possibilities for a variety of audio preferences. So, they’re good, but not the best.

For truly premium audio quality and features such as active noise cancelation, you’ll need to look beyond the under $100 range. High-end models like the Sony WH-1000XM5 can offer a significantly superior listening experience but come at a higher price point.

Yes, pricier headphones often come with perks like larger drivers for better sound quality, better seals for bass reproduction, and potentially active noise cancelation. However, our list proves you can still get great sound and features for under $100.

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