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The Budget Kings Series

by Stuart Charles Black
The Best Headphones for Under $100

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The Best Headphones for Under $100

The Best Headphones for Under $100

Full Guide

Individual Reviews

  1. Koss KPH30i Review!
  2. Philips SHP9500 Review!
  3. Sony MDR-7506 Review!
  4. Creative Aurvana Live! Review
  5. AKG K240 Studio Review!
  6. Status Audio CB-1 Review!

Navigate the Site!

  1. Headphone Reviews & Comparisons
  2. Microphone Reviews & Comparisons
  3. Amps, DACs, and Audio Interfaces
  4. The Budget Kings Series (You Are Here)
  5. Studio Monitors
  6. Beats, Production, & Turntables
  7. Gaming, Movies, & Pop Culture
  8. Build a Home Studio Guide
  9. Best Of
  10. Resources


  • 6/4/20. Replaced the V6 with the 7506 as the V6 was discontinued by Sony after 35 years! R.I.P. Sony MDR V6 (1985-2020).
  • 12/29/19. Replaced the Audio Technica ATH M40x with the Creative Aurvana Live! The CAL is a more balanced headphone and also more comfortable. The M40x, while a good headphone, is outclassed by the more focused, less metallic sound of the CAL. There are also no mid-bass issues on the CAL. The 40x tends to be a bit “bump happy” around 100 – 200Hz.
  • 6/2/19: Replaced the Samson SR850 with the venerable AKG K240. The SR850 is a great headphone, but suffers from a sibilant, somewhat harsh treble. While I do love it for Gaming and Movies, and it does sound great for Rock, the K240 just does everything better. The quintessential studio headphone deserves a spot in the Budget Kings series for sure.
  • 3/30/19: Replaced the Sennheiser HD558 with the Samson SR850. Reason being that the 558 is no longer budget and was discontinued. It’s going for roughly $200 as of this update. The 850 is also a phenomenal value and seemed like an easy decision/replacement given how much I’ve recommended it lately and how much I love it. It’s a perfect Gaming headphone as well and has a fantastic Soundstage. What is Soundstage? The SR80e was also replaced with the 60e because after demoing both again, I found no audible differences between the 2. The 60e is a true under $100 headphone also, while the 80e toes the line at around $99 most of the time.
  • 5/20/21. Made the 30i #1 Budget King.

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Álvaro September 27, 2020 - 12:44 pm

Thank you very much for everything you teach on this page. Sorry if the question is out of place but you could advise people with a rather limited budget like me (about 100-130 dollars). I am listening to classical music, always in a quiet place, with my cell phone and a Sony mdr-xb450 that I try to equalize by raising mids and highs to the maximum. How is the best way to improve the audio quality: investing everything in a headset, or in a simple dap like the E10k and a headset? What headphones do you recommend (I think the phillips sph-9500 are good, others I have seen recommended are the Superlux HD 681 or 668; Sennheiser HD-518 or 559, Ath-m40x; Grade SR80e or 60, AKG K240)? As you can see I am a newcomer and I am quite lost. Thank you very much.

Stuart Charles Black September 28, 2020 - 2:53 pm

Hey man! For Classical, I actually like the SHP9600 a bit better than the 9500 in that price range because Classical tends to go from quiet to loud in a hurry and the 9600 isn’t as sterile sounding. I do think you should invest in a good Amp/DAC to go a long with it, but that would put you a bit out of price range. Something like an E10K is perfectly fine and sounds fantastic, but you don’t necessarily need one right away. Did you see my comparison of the 9500 vs. 9600?

Álvaro October 5, 2020 - 6:33 pm

Thank you very much. I did read that comparison, very good. I will try to buy the 9600 even if they are a little more expensive, if not, the 9500 is still a great option