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Best wired headphones under $100

If you were wondering what one Ben Franklin could get you, we've got the list for you.
By
June 17, 2022
Best All-Around
Audio-Technica ATH-M40X
By Audio-Technica
The Audio-Technica M40x studio headphones in black against a white background.
9.1
Check price
Positives
Sound
Build quality
Swiveling ear cups
Comfort
Negatives
Size
The Bottom Line.
Often overlooked by listeners looking for the ATH-M50X, the M40X is no slouch and is more affordable than its big brother.Read full review...
Best Workout
Jabra Elite Active 45e
By Jabra
Jabra Elite Active 45e product image on white background.
7
Check price
Positives
IP67
Always aware of surroundings
Bluetooth 5.0, reliable connection
Quick charging
Negatives
MicroUSB charging
Microphone quality
The Bottom Line.
While the Jabra Elite Active 45e won’t be winning any awards for sound quality, they keep athletes aware of their surroundings.Read full review...
Best sound
Grado SR60x
By Grado
Grado SR60x against a white background.
9
Check price
Positives
Excellent sound
Braided cable
Comfort
1-year warranty
Negatives
Cannot replace cable
The Bottom Line.
For listeners on the hunt for open-back cans but who don't want to spend a fortune, the SR60x is a great entry-level set of cans.
Best Studio
Sony MDR-7506
By Sony
The Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones against a white background.
8.4
Check price
Positives
Good sound
Comfortable
Negatives
Long cable
The Bottom Line.
Aside from the cumbersome cable, which is ideal for studio use, the Sony MDR-7506 is a reliable headphone with decades in the studio.Read full review...
Bang for your Buck
Anker Soundcore Life Q30
By Anker
The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 noise cancelling headphones in black against a white background.
8.6
Check price
Positives
Noise cancelling
Battery life
Wired and Bluetooth playback
Audio passthrough
Comprehensive mobile app
Bluetooth multipoint
Negatives
AAC only, no aptX support
The Bottom Line.
These headphones are ideal for commuters and casual listeners alike—featuring an ergonomic design, good noise cancelling and a 40-hour battery life.

If you’re a frequent visitor, you already know headphone prices can range from a mere $20 USD to “insurmountable college debt” level. Today, we’re talking about what lies between the two extremes—the best wired headphones under $100 USD. 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.

Editor’s note: this list of the best wired headphones under $100 USD was updated on June 17, 2022 to include a note on where to find the isolation and frequency response charts for the the products in the top five that we’ve reviewed, move the Razer BlackShark V2 to a highlight pick, and update the list of notable mentions.

For our top five picks that we’ve reviewed on SoundGuys, 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.


  • Anyone interested in delving deeper into the world of audio for less. We’ve listed everything from studio headphones to workout headphones to account for anyone interested in upgrading their current setup. Making the switch to headphones under $100 USD, rather than $50, opens a world of possibilities for a variety of audio preferences.
  • People who enjoy audio, but can’t have nice things. Listen, we get it. You’re not great with things that break. It might be easier to replace cheaper headphones, but we think $100 gives you a nice upgrade without eating up your wallet.
  • Gift givers. If you want to give the gift of music, this is a pretty decent price range to get a little something for someone you care about. Now if you really, truly love this person then you might want to check out this list.

Why is the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x the best wired headphones under $100?

The ATH-M50x is the top pick for many but the ATH-M40x easily keeps pace. From the enthusiast to the professional, the 40x will sate any hi-fi appetite. If you’re interested in either model, but want a wireless version, Audio-Technica offers that too.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40X
Audio-Technica ATH-M40X
9.1
Best headphones under $100: Audio-Technica ATH-M40x on Audio-Technica record playerThe Audio-Technica ATH-M40x on Audio-Technica record playerThe Audio-Technica ATH-M40x wired studio headphones on an Audio-Technica turntable.Best headphones under $100: The headphones flat on the chest while being worn around the neck. There is a thumbs up on the right side of the image.Best headphones under $100: A photo of the headphones headband to show off the A-T logo.The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x on a wooden shelf.The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x on Audio-Technica record playerThe Audio-Technica ATH-M40x studio headphone on an Audio-Technica record player.
Audio-Technica ATH-M40X
Audio-Technica ATH-M40X
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See review
See review

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-M40x provides more subtle bass reproduction than the ATH-M50x. This is ideal for mixing and makes it easier for sound engineers to register and remedy overemphasized treble, something that can fatigue products.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x is comfortable, durable, and reproduces only a slightly skewed sound signature.

Audio-Technica designed this headset with one purpose in mind: listening to music. Overall, if you prefer an ever-so-slight emphasis in the mids and vocals, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the ATH-M40x as our pick for the best wired headphones under $100.

Work out with the Jabra Elite Active 45e

Jabra makes some of our favorite workout earbuds, and the Jabra Elite Active 45e headset is a great option for all sorts of athletes. The IP67 rating denotes both dust and water-resistance, making it a great pick for rock climbers and runners alike. Unfortunately, it lacks onboard storage, so you can’t actually use it while swimming. If it happens to take a dip in the pool, though, you needn’t worry.

Jabra Elite Active 45e
Jabra Elite Active 45e
7
A picture of the Jabra Elite Active 45e worn by a woman in profile.A medium close-up of the Jabra Elite Active 45e microUSB input.A picture of the Jabra Elite Active 45e earbuds coming out of a beige fanny pack.A picture of the Jabra Elite Active 45e earbuds on a blue surface splashed with water.The Jabra Elite Active 45e earbuds hanging from a road bike tire.The Jabra Elite Active 45e frequency response chart depicts attenuated sub-bass notes, because of the unsealed ear tip design.
Jabra Elite Active 45e
Jabra Elite Active 45e
Buy now
See review
See review

The proprietary ear tips allow users to remain aware of their surroundings at all times, something any outdoor athlete must have in a pair of workout headphones. The downside to this safety feature is that sound quality takes a toll: external noises make it difficult to perceive musical detail. In this case, it’s not a huge deal, but is something we’d knock in a pair of studio cans.

Battery life is fine; you’re afforded nine hours of listening on a single charge. It’s a bummer that the Elite Active 45e uses microUSB, but at least it supports quick charging. Just 15 minutes of connection to the cable yields an hour of listening. If you want to go completely wireless, check out the Jabra Elite Active 75t true wireless earbuds.

For the best sound quality get the Grado SR60x

Ask anyone in the know about open-back headphones and they’ll likely utter the dual-syllabic company’s name: Grado. This is no coincidence; the Brooklyn-based company has been making open-back cans since 1953. It also has a wireless version of its beloved open-back cans. The SR60x is an entry-level set of headphones that sounds fantastic for the price.

Grado SR60x
Grado SR60x
9
Grado SR60x against a white background.
Grado SR60x
Grado SR60x
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The open-back design promotes a wider soundstage, and makes for a notably more engaging experience. It includes a one-year warranty and, while it would be nice if the cable was removable, it is wrapped in a braided sheath for protection. If you’re interested in open-back cans and want to experience your music in a completely new light, the Grado SR60x is a low-risk fan-favorite that’s sure to be in your audio arsenal for years to come.

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

In this corner, weighing in at 8.1 ounces, 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.

Sony MDR-7506
Sony MDR-7506
8.4
These come with a 3.5mm connectorThe MDR-7506 headphones lying on a tableThe Sony MDR-7506 headphones sitting next to some of my favorite instruments.The Sony MDR 7506 headphones in a bag.A frequency response of the Sony MDR-7506 headphones depicts an accurate response with an audible de-emphasis at the 200Hz mark.
Sony MDR-7506

Although it’ll 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 9.8-foot 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.

The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 will give you a little bit of everything

Anker is no stranger to making easy-to-recommend, budget-friendly products, so it’s no wonder the company made it onto our list of the best wired headphones under $100. The company rarely has the absolute best products, but it’s consistent. When you pair that with the company’s pricing habits, it has us wondering how Anker is still in business. The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 is a pair of cheap headphones, yet it offers features that give more premium headphones a run for their money.

Anker Soundcore Life Q30
Anker Soundcore Life Q30
8.6
A woman wears the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 headphones while dancing in the street.The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 noise cancelling headphones in black against a white background.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30
Anker Soundcore Life Q30
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With an ergonomic design, comfortable ear pads, and lightweight construction, this pair of headphones is perfect for any casual listener—from the daily commuter to the couch potato. A 40-hour battery life (with ANC enabled) ensures that even if you forget to charge your headphones overnight, you’ll have enough battery to enjoy your tunes for the day.

While it’s noise cancelling technology may not be on-par with higher-end headphones, it does a relatively good job attenuating low-frequency rumbles and general ambient noise. Sound wise, EDM fans will appreciate the low-frequency emphasis on this headset. Unfortunately, audiophiles may be a little disappointed with the lack of support for higher-quality codecs like aptX. Still, for less than $100, you’re getting premium features at a price that won’t cost an arm and a leg.

The Razer BlackShark V2 is a cheap and comfortable gaming headset

The Razer BlackShark V2 gaming headset sits on table in front of a window.
The Razer BlackShark V2 features a hardware volume knob.

The Razer BlackShark V2 is a gaming headset that comes complete with plush ear cups and amazing isolation performance. It’s are also comfortable to wear for long hours, thanks to its build that’s tailored for marathon gaming sessions.

The sound quality is good, but these cans don’t exactly follow our house curve all that closely. Overall, for less than $100 USD, you get a reliable wired gaming headset that also works for listening to tunes or taking calls all day.

The best wired headphones under $100: Notable mentions

A photo of the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless headphones with the zippered carrying case and a lens in the corner. These are formed in a triangle-shaped position to balance out the frame, and the headphones are elevated on a red Webster's Dictionary.
The Bose On-Ear Wireless are great for the studious and transient alike, due to their small footprint, pressure-reliving padding, and extended battery life.
  • AKG K240 Studio: This is a great option for anyone working on a shoestring budget 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.
  • Audio Technica ATH-M30x: For those looking to save some cash, this pair of headphones is the little sibling to the ATH-M40x, featuring a balanced sound signature for accurate sound reproduction on a budget.
  • Audio Technica ATH-M20x: This is Audio-Technica’s entry-level studio headphone—ideal for people who prefer a neutral sound without breaking the bank.
  • Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro: This pair of supra-aural cans, like the ATH-M40x, 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.
  • Jabra Move Wireless Style Edition: This set of headphones features an eight-hour battery life with a 12-day standby time. Sound quality is surprisingly clear given the sub-$50 price of these cans.
  • Plantronics Backbeat FIT 6100: If you’re looking for a pair of budget workout over-ear headphones, this IPX5-rated headset is for you.
  • Razer BlackShark V2 X: If you’re willing to trade THX Spatial Audio for traditional 7.1 virtual surround sound, you get almost everything that makes the BlackShark V2 a great headset, for just under $60.
  • Razer Kraken 7.1 V2: If you want a solid pair of gaming cans with 7.1 surround sound, Razer is a great pick; plus, it has a low-profile microphone.
  • Sennheiser HD 280 Pro: This pair of headphones attenuates external noise effectively and has a very neutral-leaning frequency response perfect for mixing music. Though some people find the clamping force of the headband to be a little much, if you’re looking for an alternative to the Sony MDR-7506, it’s an equally great-sounding pair of studio cans.
  • Sennheiser HD350BT: A modern pair of cans featuring Bluetooth 5.0, aptX Low Latency and AAC support, voice-assistant access and USB-C charging, all at a sub-$100 price tag.

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 wired headphones under $100 USD

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.

Bluetooth codecs can make a difference

SBC aptX aptX HD AAC LDAC bluetooth codecs profile audio
Represented is the max transfer rate (kbps) of each respective Bluetooth codec (greater is better). Each waveform depicts a transfer rate of 100 kbps.

This matters for anyone who values audio quality. If you have an iPhone, look out for AAC, because iOS devices don’t support other high-quality codecs. If you’re rocking Android, aptX and its many variants are your best bet. LDAC is fine but certainly not hi-res. If all of this alphabet soup is overwhelming, chances are your ears are too old to differentiate between codecs anyway, so no sweat. That said, if you want the best audio quality possible, stick to wired audio.

Bluetooth announced LE Audio and the LC3 codec at CES 2020, and once it reaches the consumer market, we’ll see a 50% increase in audio quality over SBC alongside more efficient performance. Not only will this benefit sound quality and connection stability, but those within the hearing-impaired community will experience additional functionality with compatible Bluetooth hearing aids. For instance, broadcast and multistream audio—not to be confused with Bluetooth multipoint—will allow more than one audio stream to be sent to a single headset. This technology will allow those with Bluetooth headsets to tune into relevant information-only at the airport, train station, and more. Now, those with hearing aids no longer have to strain to hear relevant announcements.

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

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, I had great luck with the Bose SoundLink On-Ear headphones when wearing glasses.

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 soundwaves.

Should you get closed-back or open-back headphones 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 Sennheiser PXC 550-II 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 will sound terrible when traveling or commuting. Quiet environments are where this breed shine.

Take the necessary steps to prevent hearing loss

Hearing loss comes in all varieties and can negatively impact an individual’s emotional wellbeing. 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 cancelling headphones as they further protect you from the chances of developing noise-induced hearing loss.

How we choose the best wired 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 directly test something. Fortunately, with this “best wired 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

Adam wearing the Sony MDR-7506, one of the best headphones under $100, while looking off to the left side of the image.
The Sony MDR-7506 isn’t insanely comfortable due to clamping force, but it gets the job done especially for a pair of headphones under $100.

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 with 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 wired headphones under $100 USD

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 its 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 because 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.