The best headphones under $100 offer superior sound for less than you’d guess

Everybody expects more for less these days, and headphones are no exception to the rule. Fortunately, the modern headphone renaissance that has taken place over the last few years has created a veritable explosion of options on the market, creating cut-throat competition between manufacturers, and crowning the consumer as king.

There’s no question that a few hundred dollars can easily procure you some cans that will transform your music collection into a revelatory experience. But if you don’t have that kind of scratch, there are still plenty of affordable options that offer a good ride – if you know where to look. To ease your burden, we’ve put together this list of value-packed ‘phones for $100 or less, all of which have our stamp of approval. So close those Amazon review tabs, settle in, and lock down your new headphone compadre.

Updated on 11-26-2015 by Will Nicol: We’ve added Plugged Crown, Sennheiser Urbanite On-Ear, and Jays A Jay Five headphones to the list.

The Best

Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear ($92)


The best headphones are rarely the cheapest, but they’re not always the most expensive either. Sennheiser’s Momentum on-ear, for instance, deliver the best sound of any headphone straddling the $100 mark. The minimalist pair of cans hit all the right notes, offering up rich bass tones and excellent instrumental spacing, within an ergonomic design that’s as easy on the eyes as it is on the ears. The integrated cushions provide plenty of comfort, conveniently compensating for the thin, harder layer of padding lining the band, while a pair of dynamic drivers make for a clear, accurate sound signature capable of achieving a claimed frequency range of 16-22,000Hz. We sung their praises when they cost $230 — and now they’re significantly less than half the price. Read our full review here.

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amazon best buy b&h

The Rest

Marshall Major II ($84)


Marshall Headphones has a knack for mixing excellent style, and solid performance, all in a package that’s easy on the wallet. The durable Major II are a perfect case-in-point, designed with a malleable headband and foldable earcups for maximum portability. The re-voiced 40mm drivers also deliver solid performance across the entire sound spectrum, namely in regards to their impressive midrange and low-end, with satisfying instrumental separation to match. The gold embellishments and ’70s-era, coiled cable only add some vintage flare to an otherwise modern pair of headphones. Watch our video review here.

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Amazon Best Buy B&H Newegg

Shure SE112 ($49)


The Shure SE112 sound twice as expensive as they actually are, partly owing to their special dynamic drivers and partly due to the passive noise isolation afforded by their robust silicone ear tips. A strip of soft rubber accompanies a thick layer of plastic comprising each earpiece, and though they’re intended to be worn inverted, they still manage to drown out the noise of the outside world regardless of which configuration you choose. However, the hallmarks of the SE112 remain their incredible sound, which exudes a commendable level of detail within a lucid, expansive soundstage known to excel in terms of both bass and treble. The rock-bottom price and solid construction render them the next best thing to the Sennheiser Momentum. Read our full review here.

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Amazon B&H Newegg

Grado Prestige Series SR80e ($99)


You won’t venture far on your headphone research journey without hearing about Grado cans. This Brooklyn-based family company is renowned for its penchant for retro-styling, quality construction, and excellent performance-to-dollar value. The SR80e offer a prime piece of Grado’s coveted can experience for the dough, but Grado’s open back design is a double edged sword: the style offers an airy, vividly clear sound signature, but the world will hear your tunes, and you’ll hear the world. That means they aren’t great for the bus, or public moments of revery with your Phil Collins Greatest Hits collection. Still a great sound for the cash, though.

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Amazon Crutchfield B&H

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro ($100)


There are plenty of choice selections from the ‘heiser under 100 clams, but for our second choice we went with the HD 280 for their rugged construction, studio-inspired coiled cable, and crystal clear sound that digs up subtle moments from deeper layers of the music. The company says these are built for the studio, and you won’t hear many cans at this price that even attempt that claim. Like the Stealth bomber, they come in black … and black.

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Amazon Best Buy B&H

Klipsch R6i ($99)


Priced right below the $100 waterline, these ‘phones just hit the sweet spot. We’re talking about clear treble response, a punchy midrange, and bass that hits almost too hard, but without quite crossing the line. Color options include black and gold, or white and silver, and they come with an iOS-compatible inline control microphone. The buds themselves are plenty comfy, and the longer we spend with them, the more they seem to earn their keep. Read our full review here.

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Amazon Best Buy Newegg B&H

Audio Technica ATH-M30X ($68)


The younger brother of the powerful ATH-M50, these affordable cans from the stalwart brand hold their own just fine. They offer a robust over-ear design that throws down a smooth, natural sound to play back your music collection with a steady hand. The fluid upper register is paired with ample bass response down below, and the ‘phones take on detail with an impressively sensitive touch for the price. I mean, it’s Audio Technica — what else would you expect?

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Amazon B&H Best Buy Walmart

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