Professional equipment is often pricey. And the same goes for studio headphones. So, finding the best studio headphones under 100 is easier said than done.
That’s why we are here to help. After all, a daunting task for the average person is merely child’s play for those with years of experience. We already have a couple of great options at the tip of our tongue, so, without any further ado, let us get right into it!
- Sony MDR-7506: The best overall studio headphones under 100. Fairly neutral and closed-back without any serious downsides
- Audio-Technica M40x: Great alternative choice. But keep in mind that they are not as neutral as Sony’s offering. The bass is a bit boomy out of the box – which is something that some may like. But it’s arguably not the best sound signature for studio use
- Philips SHP-9500: The best open-back headphones for studio use. Just keep in mind that you get zero noise isolation due to the open-back enclosure
- AKG K240 Studio: A superb budget offering – as long as you don’t mind having little to no bass and very little noise isolation as well
- Shure SRH440: Another great closed-back option. It’s just about as good as our top picks with great comfort and build quality as well. Hard to go wrong with it
- HyperX Cloud Alpha: Headphones and headset combo in one for less than a hundred bucks. Great pick if you want not just something for the studio, but for chatting or gaming as well
- Sennheiser HD280 Pro: All-around a decent pair of headphones for monitoring – but keep in mind that its highs are a bit underemphasized out of the box
- Audio-Technica M20x: Your best bet if you want closed-back monitor headphones for less than $50
- Superlux HD 681: The best semi-open headphones that you can get for less than 100. They are neutral-sounding but a bit sharp as well
- BRAINWAVZ HM5: Probably the most comfortable closed-back headphones we’ve tried thus far – if only thanks to their very soft earpads
- Quick Peek
- 1. Sony MDR-7506: Best Overall Studio Headphones Under 100
- 2. Audio-Technica M40x: Best Alternative Pick
- 3. Philips SHP-9500: Best Open-Back Studio Headphones Under 150
- 4. AKG 240 Studio: Best Chill-Sounding Headphones
- 5. Shure SRH440: Great Closed-Back Headphones for the Studio
- 6. HyperX Cloud Alpha: Best for Mixed Usage
- 7. Sennheiser HD280 Pro: Best Sennheiser Studio Headphones Under 100
- 8. Audio-Technica M20x: Best Studio Headphones Under 50
- 9. Superlux HD 681: Best Semi-Open Back Headphones Under 100
- 10. BRAINWAVZ HM5: Most Comfortable Earpads
- Wrapping Up
First things first, let us point out that professional equipment is expensive for a reason. If you really want to do a professional-grade level of work at recording and mastering music, you will have to get professional-grade equipment.
The best studio headphones under 100 can’t possibly compete with monitors that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Do understand that our budget oferrings are nothing but a temporary solution for professionals or those who are on a budget – not an end-goal professional solution.
And with that out of the way, let us take a closer look at out top picks!
1. Sony MDR-7506: Best Overall Studio Headphones Under 100
We were stuck between choosing either the Audio-Technica M40x for our top pick or the Sony MDR-7506. But, in the end, we’ll have to go with Sony’s offering as it offers a more balanced audio signature – which is what most people are after when looking for studio headphones.
- Enclosure: Closed-back
- Features: 6.5mm adapter included
For just barely under 100 bucks, you can hardly go wrong with these headphones. They are fairly comfy, as balanced as closed-back headphones can get at this price point, and they also provide a bit of passive noise isolation.
That said, it’s worth keeping in mind that their noise isolation is only good under studio conditions. They can mostly block mids and highs. Low frequency sounds such as the rumbling of an engine will pass through the headphones uninterrupted.
That in combination with the neutral and unexciting sound signature make this a tough pick for mixed usage. If you want something that’s decent for both the studio and casual usage, the Audio-Technica M40x may be a more ideal pick. It’s just as bad in terms of noise isolation for outdoor usage – but at least the sound is more suitable for casual listening.
Comfort is a bit of a hit or miss with Sony’s offering. While the clamping force is just about right and won’t be a problem, the earpads are a bit stiff and generally a bit cheap-feeling. Whether that’s a deal-breaker or not comes down to personal preference.
Build quality is the biggest downside of these headphones. They don’t have a removable audio cable and the overall build doesn’t feel particularly sturdy.
- Fairly neutral sound signature
- Decent noise isolation in studio conditions
- Fairly comfortable if you don’t mind the stiff earpads
- Audio cable is not removable
- Mediocre build quality
2. Audio-Technica M40x: Best Alternative Pick
The M50x is a more ideal pick for studio usage due to its neutral sound signature. But it also costs more than $100. So, for under 100, we’d say that the M40x is the best alternative!
- Enclosure: Closed-back
- Features: Removable audio cable, 6.5mm adapter, and swiveling earpads
Its bass is a bit overemphasized compared to what most people want from studio headphones. But that also makes it ideal for casual listening.
One of the things we love about these headphones, though, is their build quality. Not only they feel very sturdy, but they also come with a removable cable. So, if anything happens to the original one, you can always just replace it with a new one without having to throw the whole pair of headphones away.
Speaking of cables, one thing we don’t like about its jack is that it uses some sort of proprietary locking mechanism. This is bound to make things harder when looking for a replacement.
Comfort is once again a bit of a hit or miss. The clamping force is a bit tight, so, if you have sensitive temples, you won’t be able to wear these for long periods of time.
The earpads, on the other hand, look and feel nice, but they are also a bit stiff. Thankfully, this is one of the few pairs on this list where you can easily find tons of 3rd party earpad replacements. Brainwavz earpads are among the most popular picks out there, in case you want some recommendations.
- Great build quality (But be wary of the joints)
- Sound signature sits in the middle – ideal for both a little bit of mixing and listening to music
- Removable cables are always great
- Its cable uses a proprietary locking mechanism
- Some may find it a bit boomy for studio usage
3. Philips SHP-9500: Best Open-Back Studio Headphones Under 150
When it comes to studio headphones, people usually prefer closed-back variants for their noise isolation and narrow soundstage as they make it easier to monitor and mix. However, if you prefer open backs, we’d say that the Philips SHP9500 are no doubt the best studio headphones under 100 that you can get.
- Enclosure: Open-back
- Features: Removable audio cable and swiveling earcups
Two of the biggest advantages that open-back headphones offer compared to closed-backs are soundstage and comfort. Since air can freely flow in and out of the headphones, that gives the various instruments a sense of space. They are not in your head but all around it.
And since your ears can breathe freely, that also contributes to greater comfort levels. Speaking of comfort, let us point out that these are probably the most comfortable headphones we’ve ever tried.
Their clamping force is little to non-existent and the earpads are huge as well. However, they also offer very little depth – which can be a deal-breaker for those with large ears.
One downside to having no clamping force, though, is that you also get zero stability. You can’t use for headphones for running or workouts, in general. You also can’t use them outdoors since there is no noise isolation – unless you want to be fully aware of your surroundings while taking a walk. Just keep in mind that everyone will be able to hear whatever you are listening to as well.
Last, but not least, it’s also worth noting that these are some of the most neutral-sounding headphones you can get – if only a bit weak in terms of bass.
- Sound signature that’s very close to neutral
- Extremely comfortable (Unless you have very large ears)
- Removable cables are always a plus
- Naturally a bit “Airier” compared to closed-back headphones
- Zero noise isolation by design
- Little to no stability due to its non-existent clamping force
- Not the sturdiest headphones we’ve tried yet
4. AKG 240 Studio: Best Chill-Sounding Headphones
Headphones are usually either open-back or closed-back. But a minority also comes with a semi-open enclosure to shape the sound and design of the headphones accordingly.
For less than a hundred bucks, we’d say that the AKG 240 are probably a one-way road for a good pair of semi-open headphones!
- Enclosure: Semi-open
- Features: Removable audio cable and adjustable headband
The first thing to keep in mind is that the semi-open design does not necessarily mean that you are getting the advantages of both open-back and closed-back headphones. While the soundstage is considerably wider than what you get with closed backs, noise isolation is almost non-existent.
The second thing to keep in mind is that while both the mids and highs are fairly accurate at this price point, bass is almost nowhere to be found. So, we definitely wouldn’t recommend those headphones for casual listening – unless you are mostly interested in classical music and other, bass-free tracks. That is precisely why we say that the AKG 240 Studio are chill-sounding headphones.
Comfort is generally nice, at least. While the earpads are not the most comfortable or of the highest quality, the clamping force is very light and the adjustable headband helps quite a bit as well.
Build quality could be better, though. It’s not that the headphones don’t feel sturdy. It’s that there a lot of moving parts and they don’t give the impression that they’ll last through the tests of time – or through a drop, for that matter. But at least we have a removable cable – which is awesome.
- Relatively cheap
- Fairly comfy
- Balanced mids and relatively balanced highs
- Wide soundstage
- Little to no noise isolation by design
- Very little to no bass
- Lots of moving parts that don’t feel particularly durable
5. Shure SRH440: Great Closed-Back Headphones for the Studio
If you like closed-back headphones for studio use but you are not satisfied with either Sony’s or Audio-Technica’s offerings, definitely check out the Shure SRH440!
- Enclosure: Closed-back
- Features: Removable audio cable, 6.5mm adapter, and a foldable design
Just because it’s lower on this list, that doesn’t mean that it can’t compete with our top picks. In fact, we’d say it’s just as good for Shure. (Sorry not sorry).
It’s very comfortable, neutral-sounding, fairly sturdy, and since we are talking about closed-back headphones, you get a bit of passive noise isolation as well.
But just like all studio headphones, its passive noise isolation is only good in the mid-range to high frequencies. Low frequency sounds such as the rumbling of an engine are going to pass through almost unrestricted.
One thing we love about these headphones is that despite their relatively low price-tag, their sound is fairly neutral. The bass is a slightly underemphasized while the highs are a bit overemphasized. So, that naturally makes for a pair of sharp and detailed headphones – which should be great for the studio.
Comfort is nice, too. There is plenty of padding, big earcups, and light clamping force. But the earpads are a bit stiff and the overall quality of the padding could be better – which is to be expected at this price point.
Build quality is also decent and the headphones feel sturdy. But one thing that’s slightly worrying us are the exposed cables.
- Neutral sound (If only a bit sharp)
- Fairly comfy
- Offers some passive noise isolation
- Uses a proprietary locking mechanism for its removable cable – which can make it harder to find a replacement
- The exposed cables are a bit worrying
6. HyperX Cloud Alpha: Best for Mixed Usage
The HyperX Cloud Alpha is actually a headset. But since its microphone is removable, you can simply use it as a great pair of studio headphones. And if you ever want to chat or play some multiplayer games, simply attach its microphone back on and now you have a headset.
That is why we consider this to be the best pair of headphones for mixed usage.
- Enclosure: Closed-back
- Features: Removable audio cable and a detachable microphone
Don’t let the gaming aesthetics fool you. Unlike most gaming headphones/headsets, HyperX Cloud series aims for a neutral sound signature. And that makes it a decent pick for the studio.
If the aesthetics are too fancy for you but you still want a headset that can also be used as a pair of studio headphones, there are also the Cloud 2s that have a more casual look. However, they are also slightly heavier, they don’t offer a removable cable, and their bass is a bit overemphasized. So, aesthetics aside, the Cloud Alpha is a superior pair for the studio.
Now, speaking of audio, it’s worth keeping in mind that while both the bass and mids are extremely well balanced, the highs are a bit underemphasized across the board. This means that you may have to use an equalizer to get more detail and sharpness out of the headphones – which isn’t an ideal solution when we are talking about the studio.
Then again, the same applies to the M40x with its overemphasized bass. So, your mileage may vary.
That aside, comfort levels are great and so is the build quality. No complaints there.
- Headset and headphones combo in one
- Removable cable with a standard 3.5mm port
- Very comfortable
- Very accurate mids and lows
- Offers some level of passive noise isolation by design
- Underemphasized highs
- Its gamer-y aesthetics may be a bit too much for some
7. Sennheiser HD280 Pro: Best Sennheiser Studio Headphones Under 100
Sennheiser is well-known for making some of the best open-back, audiophile headphones out there. But that’s not to say that they also don’t offer some great closed-back options. In fact, the Sennheiser HD280 Pro is one of the best studio headphones under 100 that you can get!
- Enclosure: Closed-back
- Features: Detachable padding and swiveling earcups
First things first, let us get the bad things out of the way. One of the main reasons why these headphones didn’t make it to the top of our list is due to the fact that they are not the most comfortable pair out there.
The clamping force is strong and the padding on top a bit thin. If you have sensitive temples, these headphones are going to tire you out very quickly. But at the very least its earpads are huge and well-padded.
The good thing about having a strong clamping force, though, is that you also get a bit more noise isolation. Since there is no ANC, the headphones block no low frequencies at all – but there is a decent level of passive noise isolation in the mid and high frequencies.
That aside, you get a reasonably neutral sound signature with slightly underemphasized highs. And that’s precisely what makes these headphones good for the studio.
Build quality is all-around great as the plastic feels sturdy. But it’s worth keeping in mind that the joints/swiveling earcups are a potential weak point, so, definitely pay attention to that.
- Above-average noise isolation
- Very accurate lows and mids
- The removable padding is a welcome addition
- Tight on the head
- Non-removable audio cable
- Highs are a bit underemphasized
8. Audio-Technica M20x: Best Studio Headphones Under 50
As you’ve already seen, there are plenty of decent studio headphones out there under 100. But, this, is to take it, even further beyond. If you want something for less than $50, the Audio-Technica M20x is one of the few options that come to mind.
- Enclosure: Closed-back
- Features: It costs less than $50
If you want something similar and slightly better, you can also check out the M30x. But at that point, you may as well spend a few more bucks and get the M40x, instead.
Now, for the M20x, surprisingly enough, both the lows and mids are very-well balanced. In fact, the bass is more accurate than what the M40x offers – which obviously results in a less exciting signature.
Things only get messy in the highs as they are severely underemphasized. That makes the sound somewhat dull and devoid of detail. So, if you have the money to get something closer to the $100 mark, we’d obviously recommend that instead.
And sound clarity is not the only thing you sacrifice to save 50 bucks. Build quality is also mediocre at best. While the headphones have a metal frame, we’d say it feels cheap and not that sturdy. Not to mention that the audio cable is not detachable and that its internal wires are exposed to moving parts.
Comfort is just okay. While the clamping force is not too much and the padding is not bad, the lack of swiveling joints make the headphones feel tighter than headphones that actually clamp more strongly.
- Cheaper than all of our other picks here
- Balanced/accurate lows and mids
- Fairly comfortable
- Decent noise isolation
- Non-detachable audio cable
- Mediocre build quality
- Highs are very underemphasized
9. Superlux HD 681: Best Semi-Open Back Headphones Under 100
The Superlux HD 681 are no doubt the best semi-open back headphones that you can get under 100. Unless you want something less intense with very little to no bass. In which case, check out the AKG 240 Studio.
- Enclosure: Semi-open
- Features: Adjustable headband
The HD 681 not only are incredibly cheap, but they also offer a balanced sound signature as well. Both the lows and the mids are incredibly balanced while the highs are a bit overemphasized. This means that you get accurate and detailed sound with the only downside that it may be too sharp for some people.
The adjustable headband is certainly a welcome addition. But it’s worth keeping in mind that it may also be detrimental to its build quality – which is already pretty bad, by the way.
These headphones feel rather brittle, plastic, and cheap. But that’s kind of tot be expected at this price point.
The comfort levels are not half bad at all. The clamping force is just right and the earcups should be large enough for most people. However, the earpads do feel a bit stiff and the headband doesn’t have adequate padding either. But we’d say that the headphones generally feel rather comfortable.
That aside, you should keep in mind that since we are talking about semi-open headphones, you get very little to no noise isolation. But on the upside, you also get a much wider soundstage than you’d otherwise get with closed-back headphones.
- Very cheap
- Neutral lows and mids
- Fairly comfortable and airy thanks to their semi-open design
- Very wide soundstage by design
- Very little to no noise isolation by design
- Non-detachable cable
- Bad and cheap build quality
- A bit sharp (But some may like that)
10. BRAINWAVZ HM5: Most Comfortable Earpads
BRAINWAVZ is known for making some of the best earpads out there. Many people often replace the earpads of their HyperX Cloud 2 and Audio-Technica M40x with BRAINWAVZ's offerings cause they are just that much more comfortable.
And so, it's no surprise that the BRAINWAVZ HM5 is one of the most comfortable closed-back headphones on this list!
- Enclosure: Closed-back
- Features: Removable audio cable and 6.5mm adapter
Its earpads are spacious, deep, soft, and the clamping force is not too strong either. However, the padding on top could definitely be better. It's not a deal-breaker by any means – but it's still a small downside.
As expected from a pair of studio headphones, the sound signature is mostly neutral in both the lows and mids while the highs can be a bit all over the place. But they still remain in what's considered an acceptable range for audiophile and studio headphones.
Build quality is just okay. While we are dealing with a metal frame, the plastic feels cheap and the hinges are not exactly strong points either. That's not to say that the HM5 are fragile headphones – but we've seen sturdier options out there.
The good thing about them is that they have a removable audio cable and that's a plus for durability. The bad thing is that it uses two mono cables for a stereo output instead of a single stereo cable like most headphones do. That can make the task of finding a replacement tougher and Sennheiser is guilty of this as well.
- Very comfortable
- Neutral sound
- Removable cables
- Decent noise isolation when indoors
- The dual cables make it tougher to find replacements
- Could use a bit more padding on top
- Build quality is a bit mediocre – especially on the hinges
What are the Best Headphones for Mixing and Mastering?
For under 100:
These are probably your best picks. But everything else on this list is also worth checking out and we mention in detail why.
Can you Use Studio Headphones for Listening to Music?
Absolutely! But keep in mind that some of them are not exactly exciting to listen to since they made for monitoring. Some of them, though, such as the Audio-Technica M40x, stand somewhere in the middle and can be used for a bit of both.
What Headphones are Best for Music?
If you want something for both music and the studio:
The M40x and Cloud Alpha may be particularly good picks as they are a bit bassy and exciting out of the box while the SHP 9500 is great if you want more soundstage while sacrificing noise isolation.
How do I Choose Studio Headphones?
Some of the most important things to consider are:
- Sound signature
- Noise isolation/enclosure
- Build quality
- And connectivity options as well
Should I get Open Back or Closed Back Headphones?
Depends on what you prefer. Closed-back headphones offer better noise isolation and usually a stronger bass as well. Open-back headphones offer more soundstage and an airier sound while they are often comfier too. So, pick your poison.
Do Headphones Sound Better than Speakers?
They sound different. But for less than 100? Probably, yes. Pro studios use very expensive monitors and you'd have a rough time finding headphones that can compete with them. But cheap headphones are often better or not much different than cheap speakers.
Are Closed-Back Headphones Bad for our Ears?
Only if they are too loud, yes. But it's not about closed-back vs open-back. It's about loudness. All headphones can be harmful when turned up too loud. Closed-backs may even be better on that regard since they block outside noises and so you don't need to turn them up more than necessary.
Is Open-Back Better for Gaming?
Yes. If you don't mind having no noise isolation, a pair of open-back headphones is going to deliver more soundstage and an airier sound – which offers a better experience when gaming.
Can Cheap Earphones Damage Our Ears?
Yes. And the same goes for expensive earphones/headphones. Just don't turn them up too loud for too long and you'll be fine.
Are Studio Headphones Better for Gaming?
It depends on what you are after. Headsets are more accessible and easier to use since they come with a mic – but most of them don't sound as good as studio and audiophile-grade headphones.
These are our top 10 picks for now. If you have anything else to add, feel free to let us and everyone else know about it in the comments section.