Sound quality is an important factor when choosing headphones, whether you intend to use them beachside relaxing to Bob Marley, or in the library studying to Bach. But if you’re like us, cost is also a big factor. One that simply can not be ignored. Luckily though, sticking to a budget doesn’t mean you’ll be left listening to music through a pair of rusty soup cans. We’ve found the best headphones under 100 dollars then compiled this quick reference guide to help you decide which are perfect for you.
Here, we’ll share our favorites, explain their characteristics, and review our top five in detail. You’re not going to get tons of extra features; but you’re also not gonna break the bank.
Top 10 Headphones Under $100 Complete Chart[ws_table id=”33″]
Different Types of Headphones
Headphones come in a variety of styles. Each one offers a unique set of pros and cons depending on where you plan to use them.
- Over-ear or Circum-aural. Over-ear headphones feature large cans that fit around your entire ear. The cushion rests against your head creating a nearly complete seal. That seal does a good keeping pretty much all ambient sound separated from what you’re listening to. It also keeps what you’re listening to from seeping outside.
That’s are a great choice if you expect to be in noisy environments such as a gym where you want to make sure no outside sound filters in. They’re also an excellent choice for use in super quiet places like the library because your music won’t be able to disturb your neighbors.
- On-ear or Supra-aural. On-ear headphones, like their over-ear counterparts, have large cans and a thick cushion. These, though, fit a bit differently on your ear. The pads of on-ear headphones rest atop your outer ear instead of fully encapsulating them. This makes it possible for some sound to leak past the headphones.
We recommend using on-ear headphones when you need to be aware of your surroundings, like when running. Or when it’s okay for sound to leak through.
- In-ear or Earbuds. Unlike the other choices, these small devices fit directly inside your ear canals. But like the over-ear style, these also do an excellent job of keeping sounds separated. Since everyone’s canals are different sizes brands offer several different tips so that you can find the one that creates agood seal. Loose earbuds will leak and alter the sound; tight earbuds will pinch and become painful.
Earbud styles are a great choice when portability is crucial such as traveling. Once you find the right size eartip they’re another option when you really need to keep noise outside.
Open-back versus Closed-back
Headphones are characterized as open-back or closed-back based on the housing of the earcups. Each type affects the way sound is heard through the device.
Open-back headphones have slits or holes in the outside of the cans. This means that sounds and air travel freely through the headphones. They’re not appropriate if you’re going to use them when near other people. The sound of open-back headphones is akin to having a stereo playing in the same room you are in. You can hear the music around you, but you also hear everything else.
Closed-back headphones are opposite of their open-back counterparts. They have no slits to allow the transfer of sound making them perfect for most environments. Sound feels like it’s in your head because these block out outside noise. Listening to music through closed-back headphones is like nothing exists except the music.
Top 5 Best Headphones Under 100 Dollars Reviews
1. Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
The ATH-M40x satisfies your desire for professional sound but sticks to an amateur’s budget. It’s professional-grade construction and pleasing neutral soundscape help this set top our list of the best headphones under $100.
Audio-Technica started with a minimalist base, steering clear of flashy designs and paint schemes. Instead, they focused on things like extra-soft cushions to accommodate extended wear; stainless steel headband and pivots for increased durability; and detachable cables for easy storage.
After an initial break-in period of about a week these babies really shine. The neutral balanced sound is what you’d expect out of a much higher priced unit. The lows pulsate and aren’t muddied; the highs and vocals are crisp without being harsh.
If you’re looking for a set of professional-quality monitoring headphones but are strapped for cash then the ATH-M40x from Audio-Technica is exactly what you are looking for.
2. Brainwavz S5
Brainwavz S5 packs a mighty punch within a small device. The light yet durable construction combined with superb sound easily make the S5 a top product.
The S5 fits differently than other earbuds. Instead of its cord dangling under your ear, it wraps over the top and down the back. This comfortable arrangement distributes weight evenly so we never felt like the buds would fall out of our ears. Additionally, the cables are completely flat so they stay tangle free.
Brainwavz created a well-rounded soundstage suitable for a variety of music genres. It offers exceptional highs and vocals during acoustic and live performances, and its closed-back design means that they don’t sound like someone skimped on the bass.
Overall, the S5 from Brainwavz is a well-made, exceptional-sounding product.
3. Skullcandy Crusher
SkullCandy pulled out all the stops when they created the Crusher. These are powerful and clear.
The Crusher features a unique vibrating driver that pulsates with the bass beat. Its intensity is adjusted via a slider on the earcup. The great thing about this is that although it does require its own battery; the total weight of the device remains well balanced. Even after extended use.
Sound quality is generally pretty balanced but these are definitely engineered towards bassheads. Highs and vocals are clear but not prominent as you’d expect in headphones that didn’t focus on low tones. The low heavy tones of rap and dubstep really benefit from Crusher. When the extra driver is turned off the bass is low and growling but remains clear. When the extra bass is activated there’s still no distortion. And they form a good seal over your ear so none of that disturbs the people around you.
SkullCandy’s Crusher offers the same sound quality as higher priced headphones, plus has an extra bass driver. You really can’t go wrong with that combination.
4. Bose SoundTrue
True to form, Bose made sure its budget-conscious SoundTrue included impeccable sound quality and styling.
The SoundTrue comes in both around-ear and over-ear designs. But no matter which one you choose you’re met with a lush balanced soundstage. Bass booms when and where you want it with no distortion. High notes sparkle without sounding canned.
Bose stepped out of its usual subdued matte finish by offering these in mint, white, and black/mint combination. The earcups and headband are made of memory foam, and are adjustable, to assure a comfortable fit. A detachable cord makes storing these easy as well.
Bose really hit the mark with their SoundTrue. Its excellent excellent sound and variety of styles makes these suitable for anyone.
5. Ausdom M05
The wireless M05 by Ausdom fits a ton of great features into an affordable solid product.
Not many other devices in this price range can boast having all these useful features inside one product. The M05 is wired or Bluetooth capable. A full charge guarantees almost a full day’s worth of usage. And its earcups swivel 180° to fit any head shape.
Ausdom didn’t neglect sound quality of its M05 either. Bass tones were clear and appropriate. Treble was crisp without sounding overwhelming. We tested these on several genres of music with positive results.
Ausdom’s M05 robust set of features and true-to-life sound are perfect for anyone who needs a versatile product at a decent price.