Headphones don’t have to be a pricey purchase. And going for the cheaper option doesn’t mean you need to accept tinny audio and a wimpy bass. But finding the best headphones on a budget can be tricky because there are a lot of bad ones you have to weed out. Luckily, we’ve done all the hard work for you. So whether you’re looking for a pair that is great to use while exercising or you want to tune out the crying baby on your flight, these top seven headphones under $100 will do the trick.
1. Shure SRH145m+
Shure has been making huge waves with its range of affordable headphones, and the SRH145m+ set is the cream of the crop. Plus, it has better features (an inline remote and microphone) and sound quality than its predecessor (SRH144).
Test the SRK145m+ headphones on a track with lots of sub-bass and you’ll get a reasonably powerful sound without distortion. The mid- and high- tones are pleasantly accurate, forgoing the current trend for over-intensity (read: Beats headphones). It has 100 dB SPL/mW with a frequency range of 25 Hz to 18 kHz, as well as an impedance of 34 Ohms.
The design is neat – instead of an adjustable headband, the earcups can slide up and down the inside of it, and hinges allow them to be folded for easy storage. The headphones are only .36 pounds and the dual-side five-foot cord gives you increased mobility.
To keep the price down there are no other accessories supplied, but SRH145m+ headphones are a great budget choice.
2. Audio-Technica ATH-M20X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
Most noise-canceling headphones under $50 are passive (i.e. they really only cancel out noise by trying to stop it reaching your ear at all through the use of thick earpads clamped to your head). Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23s are one of the few that perform active noise-canceling using software. A microphone in each earpiece picks up the ambient noise and a sound wave is created that merges with your music to completely cancel out the sound.
While this doesn’t work quite as well as the more expensive noise-canceling headphones from the likes of Bose, the background noise is still cut down by up to 90 percent. And it works best for continuous sounds like those from an air conditioner or an engine (and even comes with an airline adaptor). Sudden, unexpected sounds are more likely to make it to your eardrums.
The noise-canceling functionality is performed by the QuietPoint noise-canceling switch box that’s connected to the headphone’s cable, and has reduction up to 20dB. It’s lightweight but is an additional annoyance to carry around and also requires an AAA battery.
The sound quality is very good, and there’s superior clarity from the basses to the trebles. You’ll find the sound to be punchier with QuietPoint engaged. They have a sensitivity of up to 105 dB and an impedance of 32 ohms. Worth noting is the driving bass, which remains clear and undistorted even at high volume.
3. Skullcandy Uproar
Skullcandy is known for its budget headphones, and they offer the best set under $50. The battery life is 10 hours and at 10.6 oz., they’re pretty trim. And they come in seven different colors.
The sound quality is good, but not entirely accurate. The bass is boosted, so if you’re looking for reference sound then look elsewhere. This might be most noticeable on classical music. However, the bass doesn’t overpower the mids and the highs are well balanced. Basically, if you feel like other headphones often don’t have enough bass in the mix the Uproars are for you.
4. Ausdom Wireless Headphones
Name-brand audio companies like Bose and Sennheiser have spent a lot of marketing dollars to make sure consumers associate their brand with high fidelity sound quality. And while these companies do make impressive products, the price is usually passed on at checkout. But with imports available to U.S. consumers via online marketplaces, obscure companies like Ausdom are offering High Fidelity headphones for a fraction of the price of established competitors.
This over-ear headphone from Ausdom works either wireless with Bluetooth 4.0 technology or can be connected via 3.5mm audio cable. They have 3D surround sound, powerful deep bass, incredibly clear treble and a frequency response of 20Hz-20KHz. The volume will go as loud (and probably louder) than your ears can handle, all while maintaining clear and balanced sound quality.
In addition to the excellent sound quality, these headphones also have a battery life of over 20 hours, impressive long range in bluetooth mode, control for phone calls, and comfortable design with artificial protein leather that feels great on the ears. The Ausdom headphone proves you can get a top-shelf listening experience without paying name-brand price.
5. Photive PH-BTE70 Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds
PH-BTE70s give you the Beats Powerbeats 2 clip-on style without the Beats price tag. These earbuds also buck the in-ear exercise trend of garish colors for a minimalist black look, and there’s hardly any branding on them. The other important design choice is the PH-BTE70 earphones’ sweat resistant coating Liquipel.
The sound quality of the headphones are characterized by a wide spacious presentation – when listening to music you get dynamic acoustics, thanks to a design that keeps the buds in. As they are wireless headphones, you have compression to contend with, but Bluetooth 4.0 with apt-X is supported so you’ll still get high quality sound.
While the six-hour battery life is nothing special, the headphones’ on-board controls allow you to play, pause and skip tracks as well as answer phone calls by just reaching behind your ear.
6. Edifier H840
These wired over-ear headphones from Edifier deliver high fidelity sound in a comfortable and classic design. The headphones are engineered to deliver life-like audio quality at an entry-level price and do their job well. They include a powerful 40mm driver and have a frequency response of 20Hz-20Khz with an impedance of 32Ohm. The comfortable over-ear design provides a fair amount of noise isolation to support the sound. Volume could stand to be a bit louder, but the range and bass provides an impressive sound even at lower volume sound.
7. Runner Up, Best Wireless: Creative Sound Blaster Jam
For just $35, you’ll get the wireless Creative Sound Blaster Jams, which are lighter at 8.8 oz. and will give you up to 12 hours of battery life. Sound quality can’t match the Skullcandy Uproars. If you don’t switch on the bass boost, the bass is too weak, and with it engaged the sound can get distorted at higher volumes. The design, too, can’t match the Uproars; the earpads are not as comfortable and the headphones can’t be folded. However, overall they are a worthy choice if Skullcandy Uproars are too flashy for your taste.