Best Headphones Under $100

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

48 Models Considered
9 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
223 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best headphones under $100

Last Updated September 2019

High-quality sound doesn’t have to be expensive. Your headphones should suit your listening preferences, lifestyle, and budget. Many headphones that cost less than $100 produce excellent sound and can be fairly durable and portable.

Inexpensive headphones come in a variety of styles and sizes. Over-the-ear headphones are comfortable but can be bulky. On-ear headphones have a lower-profile design but can be uncomfortable for some. Earbuds, the most portable option, can rarely match the sound quality of standard headphones. You should also consider whether you want wireless headphones or noise-cancelling headphones, both of which offer convenient listening experiences but typically require batteries.

Many headphones available for under $100 use high-quality materials for excellent sound and longevity. To learn more about the different types of headphones in this price range, continue reading, and take a look at some of the models that we think stand out from the rest.

Headphones for under $100 come in all of the designs of more expensive models, including wireless and noise-canceling styles.

Key considerations

You should choose headphones based on what you want to listen to and where you want to listen to it. Are you looking for an unobtrusive pair of earbuds that you can wear at the gym or a powerful over-the-ear design that blocks out the sounds of your morning commute? You can find a great pair of headphones for all of your music and podcast needs for under $100. You just have to know what to look for.

Headphone types

Just because you’re on a budget it doesn’t mean you can’t find the headphones you want. There is no “best” headphone type. The style determines how the headphones rest on or in your ears and how portable they are, but only you can decide which ones are the most comfortable.

Over-the-ear: This is the classic style and the largest option. If properly adjusted, these headphones can sit so they don’t touch your ears at all. The amount of padding determines the comfort level of the ear cups and their noise-isolation capability. For most over-the-ear headphones that cost less than $100, the padding is made of vinyl-coated foam, which is soft and comfortable. The padding may also be covered in a synthetic fabric.

On-ear: For a more compact option, on-ear headphones work well for many and may offer some noise isolation. The headphones should rest gently enough on your ears to avoid irritation, but they should also create a decent seal between your ears and the noises of the outside world. Like over-the-ear headphones, the padding is usually covered in a synthetic fabric or vinyl, which creates a better seal than fabric.

Earbuds: Call them in-ear headphones or earbuds, either way, most people are familiar with the tiny, generally inexpensive listening gadgets that can easily fit in your pocket or bag. Many earbuds have ear hooks to hold them in place, a great feature if you plan to exercise while wearing them. If you’re looking for earbuds for under $100, you’re in luck. Almost all earbuds fall within this range, and models closer to the $100 mark tend to be high quality and durable.

High-quality wireless listening

These moderately priced headphones feature a wireless design, active noise cancellation, and a built-in microphone, making them an ideal choice for commuters. The long charge time and comfortable fit make it easy to use these headphones for hours on end.

Wired vs. wireless

Both styles offer advantages and drawbacks. While wireless selections for under $100 are more limited, many wired headphones fall in this range.

Wired: Wired headphones that cost under $100 have cables that can very in durability. Some have volume control or a microphone built in to the cable (see below).

Wireless: Wireless headphones that cost under $100 use Bluetooth to connect to your phone. They rely on battery power and may be chargeable or use disposable batteries, so running out of juice is always a concern. Some earbuds might be advertised as “true wireless,” which means there is no wire connecting one earbud to the other, as is common with many wireless earbuds. If you’re looking for a pair of earbuds for exercising, true wireless models are the best option, though they can approach the $100 mark.

Noise cancellation

While you can find noise-cancelling headphones for under $100, you should take careful note of whether they feature active noise cancellation or passive noise isolation.

Active noise cancellation: This is when headphones use microphones to pick up outside noise and emit sound waves that negate incoming sound. This can create a truly isolated experience, which is ideal for those with noisy commutes or chatty officemates. Even with wired noise-cancelling headphones, a power source is required for the active component, usually in the form of batteries. While your headphones will still produce sound if the battery runs out, the noise-cancelling component won’t work.

Passive noise cancellation: Noise isolation is when the headphones create a seal against your ears or head and use padding to physically block out exterior sounds. Headphones with passive noise cancellation tend to be less expensive than active models, though they rarely do as good a job at creating a quiet environment for peaceful listening.

DID YOU KNOW?

Many inexpensive headphones can rival the sound quality of pricier brand-name models.

Headphone features

Shopping for headphones on a budget doesn’t have to mean settling for a cheap pair of headphones you won’t miss if they’re lost or broken. It can mean finding a collection of great features at the perfect price point.

Portability

Earbuds are very portable, even if the wired types can get a bit tangled, but other types of headphones can be cumbersome. Even in the under $100 range, many models are fairly compact and may even be foldable. For the best protection for your headphones, look for models that include a carrying bag or a hard carrying case. This usually increases the overall price, but it can be well worth it for the peace of mind, especially if you plan on throwing your headphones in your backpack.

Adjustability

Take note of how easy it is to adjust the band of your headphones. Some headphones adjust in notches, which keeps the band from loosening but can limit the range. Other models have sliding bands, which may loosen over time but often result in a more comfortable fit.

Durability

Plastic components and thin, flimsy wires are common in cheaper headphones. If you’re looking for headphones that will last, take note of any metal components and the quality of the padding in the ear cups. In most cases, one pair of headphones at $100 will outlast two pairs of $20 headphones.

EXPERT TIP

Though purchasing an inexpensive pair of headphones means you don’t have to be as worried about losing or damaging them, a cheap pair of headphones can still last for years if you take good care of them.


Staff  | BestReviews

In-line microphone

An in-line microphone is an excellent feature if you plan to use your headphones for phone calls. If you need headphones dedicated for phone calls, a headset with a microphone on a flexible boom is your best option.

Volume control

Volume control at your fingertips means you don’t need to fumble to get your smartphone out of your pocket when it’s cold or you’re on a cramped subway car.

Style

Though many inexpensive headphones are plain or bulky, that isn’t always the case. Headphones and earbuds come in a variety of colors, sizes, and looks. If you just want something simple, you’ll have no trouble finding a pair that suits you. And if you want your headphones to make a statement with bold colors or a sleek design, there are many colorful and unusual options for less than $100.

Headphone prices

Inexpensive: Headphones that cost $5 to $25 are often basic in design and use mostly plastic components, making them lightweight but prone to breaking. These can be wired or wireless, but wireless models in this range can be unreliable.

Mid-range: In the $25 to $50 range are headphones in a variety of styles, including on-ear, over-the-ear, earbuds, and wireless. A few active noise-cancelling models can be found in this range, too.

Expensive: Headphones for $50 to $100 are usually made with higher-quality components and are likely to last for several years. Most active noise-cancelling headphones in this range work well. If comfort and sound quality are necessities for you, this range has the most to offer.

Your headphones should be well suited to your environment. Headphones that sound good at home might not be able to handle the noise of a plane or subway.

Listening tips

When searching for high-quality sound, there’s no one answer. Different types of sound create distinct listening experiences and might be better suited to different media like podcasts, shows, or music. You might encounter reviews talking about sound qualities like “dark” or “bright.” These refer to the specific balance of bass, middle frequency, and treble sounds.

  • Bass-heavy headphones create a rich and deep sound well suited for listening to music in loud environments.
  • Well-balanced headphones that produce a “flat” sound work well for listening to spoken-word media or acoustic music.
  • Headphones with strong treble and bass can handle a range of media and work well for most types of music.

Affordable noise cancellation

For an inexpensive pair of wireless headphones with active noise cancellation, these are an excellent choice and compatible with a range of Bluetooth devices. These headphones stand out for their excellent battery life and sleek style, too.

Other products we considered

While our we think our top recommendations represent some of the best headphones available for under $100, there are a few other products worth mentioning for their excellent sound and construction quality. For a professional-quality pair of headphones just under the $100 mark, the Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphones come from a trusted brand and are made of durable plastic parts. Customers love the comfort and passive noise isolation, and defective products are very rare. For a slightly less-expensive model, the Audio-Technica ATHM40X Professional Monitor Headphones are collapsible and have a comfortable over-the-ear design. The lightweight design makes it easy to wear these headphones for hours on end, and the sound quality rivals far more expensive models.

Earbuds are well suited to use while exercising because they’re easier to clean and less likely to slip than on-ear or over-the-ear headphones.

FAQ

Q. Can ear pads or cups be replaced?
A.
That depends on the manufacturer. Ear pads are likely to wear out over time, and replacing them usually represents an additional cost.

Q. How common is noise pollution with inexpensive headphones?
A.
While inexpensive headphones are more likely to leak sound, a well-made pair of headphones should not. Read customer reviews to see if noise pollution will be an issue with the pair you’re considering.

Q. How long should inexpensive headphones last?
A.
If treated well, even cheap headphones can last for five years or more. Their lifespan depends primarily on your lifestyle. The wire and ear pads are the parts most likely to wear out first.

The team that worked on this review
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    Eliza
    Production Manager
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