Best Studio Headphones Under $100 of 2016

If you work with audio engineering or mixing, as a professional recording artist, broadcaster, or just a hobbyist, then you want the best studio headphones under 100 dollars you can find. You know that the quality of your final product depends on the quality of your equipment. A solid pair of studio headphones is a necessity, but you don’t have to spend a lot to get a good pair.

Some manufacturers choose to call a model of headphones “studio” when they really aren’t good enough for professional work, and other manufacturers make exquisite headphones but call them something else. But don’t worry, we have put together this complete guide to make it easy for you to choose among the best headphones for professional studio work under 100 dollars.

Top Studio Headphones Comparison Chart

PictureNameBack TypeRating (1-5)
PictureNameBack TypeRating (1-5)
1. Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm HeadphoneClosed4.7
2. AKG K 240 Semi-Open Studio HeadphonesSemi-Open4.5
3. Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones Closed4.5
4. AKG K 44 HeadphonesSemi-Open4.5
5. Superlux HD 681 Dynamic Semi-Open HeadphonesSemi-Open4.4
6. Shure SRH440 Professional Studio Headphones (Black)Closed4.3

Buying Tips

Of course the most important thing about a good pair of headphones is the quality of the sound that comes out of them. This can be hard to judge without actually listening through them before you buy them, especially when every pair on the market proclaims its quality sound. How do you recognize the best? A good rule is to look for a pair that can quantify its sound. Look for a description of the sound range measured in hertz (hZ) or kilohertz (khZ). Even if you’re not sure how wide a range you need, seeing the exact specifications is a sign that this pair of headphones was engineered by professionals, for professionals.

You’ll also see “closed-back”, “open-back”, or “semi-open” headphone styles.

  • A Closed Back means that the ear cup is completely sealed to block out external noise.
  • Open-Back headphones have no such sealing, and therefore let more outside noise through as well as “leak” more of the sound they produce. The advantage of this is that there is no “echo” off the inside of the cup. Many users, especially studio sound mixers, prefer open-back headphones because they more closely mimic the sound of a full-size speaker.
  • Semi-Open headphones are a difficult category to quantify. There’s no industry standard on what makes a headphone pair “semi-open”. Usually a pair listed as semi-open will have the ear cup of a closed-back pair, modified with vents or other openings. It gives the headphones the advantages of both open and closed backs.

Many pairs of headphones on the market also make a lot of noise about how lightweight and portable they are. This is an asset for the casual listener on the go, but you’re a professional! These types of headphones often sacrifice sound quality and range for portability. You need all the sound quality and range you can get, and you’re working in a studio, so you don’t care about portability at all.

Reviews: Top 3 Studio Headphones Under 100 Bucks

1. Sony MDR7506

Everything about this pair of headphones tells me that the engineers who designed it knew it would be used in a studio. The cord is 9.8 feet long, giving you mobility about the studio while still hooked up to the equipment. The plug is gold-plated for added conductivity and comes with a 1/4-inch adapter. Studio sound equipment often uses a 1/4-inch audio plug, but personal electronics rarely do. The frequency response covers a range of 10hZ to 20 khZ, and the speakers are built with neodymium magnets, a common component of high-end sound systems.

It’s not just the electronics that are expertly engineered. The ear cups are extra large and padded, for comfort during long recording sessions and extra sound insulation. The headphones even come with a storage case, to prevent damage when not in use. This recognition of, and commitment to, the needs of the audio professional is what earns the MDR7506 our vote for #1 best studio headphones under 100 dollars.

2. AKG K 240

This pair operates in a range of 15hZ to 25 khZ, slightly higher than the Sony MDR7506 but not significantly more narrow of a range. The headband is self-adjusting and the ear cups are padded, so comfort is also a priority here. These headphones are also semi-open, with a few strategically placed holes in the ear cups. Open-back and semi-open headphones are common among studio work, as their drawback is less important in a studio atmosphere while their advantage can help the engineer predict how the final product will sound during live performances or on home stereo equipment.

The only real fault to be found here is that it does not come with a 1/4-inch adapter included, but those can easily be bought separately. Most studios should have a few extras on hand anyway. The price may be a sticking point as well, since research shows that this pair was being sold at more than $100 until recently. Assuming the current listed price remains accurate to a reasonable degree, this shouldn’t be an issue, but some retailers may still be selling it for the original price. If you find a pair of these for sale and the asking price doesn’t scare you, this is definitely a pair worth owning.

3. Audio-Technica ATH-M30x

This is a headphone set designed not just for studio work, but also field recording. If you find yourself needing to capture audio “on location” for broadcasting or for live music recording, then you’ll want more portability and noise cancelling than you’d need from a headphone set that “lives at the studio”. The ATH-M30x can provide that, with closed-back design and hinges in the headband that allow it to fold up easily. They also deliver solid sound quality, with a focus on “mid-range” sound. This suggests that their highs and lows aren’t quite as impressive as some other pairs on the market, but the sound they deliver in the middle range will meet some very high standards.

The technical specifications don’t list an exact sound range for them, and the speakers are built with “rare earth” magnets instead of neodymium, but different studio conditions will require different studio needs. If the majority of your work is out in the field, then this may very well be your #1 pair, but for general studio purposes, we look for a little more engineering in the quality of the sound produced, and so we’ve given this the #3 slot on our rankings.

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