When it comes to a pair of headphones that won’t break the bank but don’t skimp on sound quality either, your options are surprisingly vast. While our top recommendation would have to be the 1More Triple Driver Headphones, we’re not going to stop there.
We’ve narrowed down our favorite picks to six choices, and included a variety of different models. Whether you’re looking for wireless or wired earbuds, here are our top recommendations.
If you are shopping on a budget, check out the best Black Friday headphone deals we found.
Best headphones under $100: 1More Triple Driver
Why you should buy them: They offer outrageously good performance for the money in a small and stylish package.
Who they’re for: The serious listener who wants incredible sound in a hyper-portable package.
Why we picked the 1More Triple Driver:
Chinese company 1More’s Triple Driver earbuds manage to deliver all the features of a high-end set of in-ear headphones at an affordable price, and in a package that looks and feels premium. Frankly, they make other headphones seem outrageously overpriced.
The Triple Drivers deliver clear, quality high frequencies, with 1More claiming a 40kHz maximum range on these puppies, as well as balanced-yet-weighty bass that is comfortably present, and never overwhelms the rest of the mix. That also lets you enjoy the sweet performance of the midrange and treble drivers above for a one-two-three punch of excellent sound.
The build quality is another noteworthy aspect of these headphones. The Triple Drivers have durable aluminum alloy casings that gleam with a coppery, sandblasted finish, while the cable is wrapped in triple-braided Kevlar — seriously high-class materials for headphones in this price range. You’ll also get a snazzy carrying case with your purchase, too. These headphones also feature an in-line mic and triple button controls, letting you take phone calls and control playback without needing to take your phone out of your pocket. There’s really no excuse for these to not be your mainstay earbuds.
For such a high-quality listening experience, it’s almost a shock that these earbuds are often offered well under the $100 price range. The 1More Triple Driver boast both material and performance benchmarks we’d expect from headphones that cost twice as much or more. For those with a shiny new iPhone, there’s even a Lightning version available for a slightly higher price, and a wireless version as well. There are very few ways to get better sound at this price point anywhere on the market, period.
Best headphones under $100 for Apple fans: Beats Flex
Why you should buy them: They sound great, they play nicely with Apple devices and they’re a bargain at just $50.
Who they’re for: Those who don’t want to worry about lost earbuds, while still enjoying wireless convenience.
Why we picked the Beats Flex:
Not long ago, the only way you were going to find a set of Beats headphones for less than $100, would be if you found them on sale. That’s why were big fans of the Beats Flex. Apple took what was essentially a $100 set of behind-the-neck wireless earbuds (the BeatsX) and cut the price in half.
And as far as we can tell, Apple managed to do it without sacrificing any quality at all. That might say something about the value of the BeatsX, but let’s not dwell on the past. The Beats Flex not only preserve the BeatsX sound quality, with authoritative bass and an excellent balance of mids and highs, it also improves on the in a few areas.
Battery life has been extended from eight hours to twelve, which makes them much more of an all-day companion. Charging is now done via USB-C (instead of Apple Lightning) — something of an acknowledgment that Android users like Beats products too.
The magnetically-latching earbuds can now automatically pause your tunes when they snap together and resume them when they’re pulled apart.
Meanwhile, call quality (which was always a high point on the BeatsX) has only been reduced fractionally, mostly because the microphone has moved further away from your mouth.
As a Class-1 Bluetooth device, you can walk an impressively long distance from your phone and still stay connected (up to 300 feet when outside), which makes the Beats Flex a good option for those who want to move a bit more freely.
As long as you don’t mind the tangle-free wires that come along with the Beats Flex, they’re an amazing headphone value.
Best wireless headphones for under $100: Jabra Elite 45h
Why you should buy them: They’re classy, comfortable, sound great, and have a huge battery.
Who they’re for: Those who want the best sound quality in a set of $100 wireless headphones.
Why we picked the Jabra Elite 45h:
Getting decent sound from a set of $100 wireless headphones is easier than ever, and we’ve featured several models in this category over time. But the Jabra Elite 45h are the new value king because they go way beyond great sound.
The biggest enhancement is battery life. With 50 hours of endurance, it’s hard to imagine a situation where these cans would run out of juice before you could find an outlet. But should that ever happen, a 15-minute quick-charge is good for 10 more hours of listening time.
They’re also supremely comfortable thanks to a well-padded headband and an unusual full cover over the earcups, which distributes pressure more evenly.
The controls are well laid out and easy to use despite their slightly unconventional placement higher up on the right earcup. This position means you use your index finger, not your thumb, to press the buttons.
EQ on the Elite 45h is pleasingly neutral. It doesn’t favor either bold bass or brights highs, settling instead for a middle-ground that works well with just about every genre of music. The Jabra Sound+ companion app lets you tweak this balance, so if a more bass-forward signature is what you seek, you can have it.
Another unusual feature you won’t find on most wireless headphones is the ability to pair the Elite 45h to two device simultaneously. This avoids the need to manually switch them from your phone to your computer and back again. Simply stop playback on the first device and start it on the second one and the Elite 45h happily pipe in the new audio.
Though they’re great headphones, two caveats must be mentioned: They don’t have an analog input for wired listening, and a tendency to shift around during movement makes them less well-suited to those who like to go for runs or workout with headphones.
If you don’t mind these two shortcomings, the Jabra Elite 45h will reward you with a great wireless headphone experience for the money.
Best true wireless earbuds for under $100: JLab Epic Air ANC
Why you should buy them: They’re loaded with features, sound great, and even offer basic noise cancellation.
Who they’re for: Those who want an affordable alternative to the AirPods Pro.
Why we picked the JLab Epic Air ANC:
If you were to try to find a set of true wireless earbuds with the most features for less than $100, it would be no contest: The JLab Epic Air ANC win by a mile.
They possess a gigantic battery life. The earbuds last eight hours with active noise cancellation (ANC) on, and twelve hours with it off — which puts them in the same category as Sony’s much more expensive WF-SP800N, while the charging case extends that to 32 hours (ANC on) and a huge 48 hours with it off.
JLab throws in five different sizes of silicone ear tips, plus a set of Cloud Foam tips — this should virtually guarantee a good fit, even for folks who normally have a hard time finding earbuds that are comfortable.
You get IP55 protection from water and dust — the same level of protection offered by Jabra’s $180 Elite 75t — and wear sensors inside each earbud let you automatically pause and resume your tunes when you remove or replace them in your ears.
JLab’s Be Aware mode, which lets ambient sounds in for conversations and phone calls, is superb and customizable. It can be tuned to let in just a little outside sound, or a lot — at the maximum setting it almost acts like a hearing aid.
Sound quality is very good on the Epic Air ANC, but we really like that you can tune the EQ to your preferred tastes using the JLab Air ANC app — a rare feature on true wireless earbuds at this price.
The app can also be used to make changes to the touch controls. Every command you need can be accessed with a few taps on the earbuds (like play/pause, volume up/down, track skip forward/back, and triggering your voice assistant) but you can choose which tap sequences initiate them.
Our only real criticism of the JLab Epic Air ANC is that their ANC feature isn’t that effective. This might simply be because the earbuds do such a good job of preventing noise from entering in the first place, but it’s worth noting you won’t notice a huge difference when ANC is on or off.
Best Headphones under $100 for gaming: Turtle Beach Recon 200
Why you should buy them: This single headset can easily cover all your gaming needs on any platform.
Who they’re for: Gamers who want an affordable option that will work across every platform.
Why we picked the Recon 200:
Even though a great pair of headphones can pull double duty as your go-to gaming cans, gaming headsets are simply a better option. They often include vital features for gaming — like a mic for online multiplayer communication — that normal headphones do not. They also need to support your favorite platforms, which is easier said than done. These extra features often result in higher price tags on gaming headsets than your average pair of headphones, especially if you’re looking for a high-quality pick.
Luckily, the Turtle Beach 200 can do all of the above for less than $100, despite looking and sounding like a headset two or three times as expensive.
Crucially, the Recon 200 supports every modern device you can play games on, including the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android, PC, and Mac devices. You’ll find the performance is best with PS4 and Xbox One since the headset was designed to work primarily with those two consoles, but you won’t find another headset under $100 that supports so many platforms and sounds better than the Recon 200.
The Turtle Beach Recon 200’s mic features adjustable controls that let you change how much of yourself you can hear played back in your headphones (often referred to as “sidetone”), as well as the dominance of chat audio in the mix. The only real way the Recon 200 hints at its price range is in its design, requiring some trial-and-error to find the most comfortable placement on our head. Still, even with that extra effort required, it’s easy to see why the Recon 200 takes the top slot for this category.
The best headphones for under $100 for mixing: Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
Why you should buy them: They offer great durability and excellently balanced sound at a great price.
Who they’re for: The podcaster, musician, or video editor who needs a pair of workhorse headphones.
Why we picked the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro:
There are plenty of options from Sennheiser under 100 clams that could pull mixing duty, but the HD 280’s design and feature set make them the best choice. The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro are the rugged mainstays you’ll see in the background of many radio stations, recording studios, and video-editing rooms for a reason: They sound great, take a beating, and their simple black aesthetic keeps them from nabbing too much attention.
These cans won’t fail you even in the most challenging studio conditions; Sennheiser has designed the HD 280 Pros with a rugged frame, and the coiled, one-sided cable mitigates wear and tear from everyday use. While they look like bruisers, they aren’t heavy, and the generous ear padding and rotating earcups make them comfortable for prolonged mix sessions. They’re even collapsible for easier storage, too.
Most importantly, the HD 280 Pro’s sound quality is excellent for their price. Their crystal-clear sound digs up subtle moments from deeper layers of the music, with a frequency response of 8-25,000Hz. They are closed-back, however, which is important to note in case you absolutely require an open-back option, but we’re still confident the HD 280 Pro will fulfill your editing needs — not to mention they sound excellent for casual listening, too.
The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro may not wow with style, but if you’re looking for some affordable over-ears that will last you many years of solid use, in or out of the studio, we suggest you start with these.
If you’re looking for a set of reasonably-priced open-back headphones, we think the Grado SR80e are just about perfect at $99.
Are headphones under $100 any good?
Yes. Especially for wired models, they can offer impressive sound quality from the right brands.
Do headphones under $100 have Bluetooth?
Yes, and with the proliferation of affordable true wireless earbuds, there are tons of choices. Also, check out our Bluetooth guide for an explanation of the tech and general tips for using wireless devices.
Do headphones under $100 have noise-canceling?
Yes, some do, but it typically isn’t very good. If noise canceling is what you’re after specifically, our list of the best noise-canceling headphones is a great place to start your search.
Should I buy over-ear, on-ear, or in-ear headphones?
That depends on how you will use them. If you’re planning to be out and about with your headphones, we generally recommend in-ear models. If you plan on using them at home or at work primarily, on-ear or over-ear models are generally better options.
Is spending more than $100 on headphones worth it?
We believe it can be if you’re someone who appreciates quality sound and superior features. If you have a little more money to spend and you thoroughly enjoy beautiful sound, headphones generally provide some of the best value in the realm of audio, period. Keep in mind that stepping up in price may be worth it, but we caution you: high-priced headphones aren’t always the best quality.
How we test headphones
We experiment with our headphones by using (and abusing) them the way many active people do.
Instead of examining headphones in a restricted environment, we test them in brutal, real-life situations. We test by playing content from a variety of sources in many different environments, from a bus, listening room, office, and everything in between. We acknowledge that many headphone listeners use them with their cell phones and listen to lower-quality MP3 tracks. So, we do the same.
Our team also tests various high-res audio files spanning different hardware. We plug headphones into PCs and Macs, try out USB DACs (digital-to-analog converters), and use the finest portable players and amps. When that’s all said and done, we make a final comparison to observe the differences between the headphones we’re testing to our favorites. We compare these based on class and price and push them a grade or two higher to see if they can still offer good quality when pushed past their limits.