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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

Updates:

  • 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.

If you have any suggestions, just Contact me!

Thanks for stopping by!

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Be sure to check out my Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

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12 comments

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.

Reply
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?

Reply
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

Reply
Stuart Charles Black October 6, 2020 - 3:27 pm

Yes! You’re welcome man. Still love the 9500 as well. Just a bit different of a sound. Love that old school look and crisp sound. Let me know what you decide 🙂

Reply
Álvaro October 6, 2020 - 2:48 pm

Thank you very much, Stuart. Yes, I read that very good comparison. I will try to get the 9600.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black October 6, 2020 - 3:27 pm

Yes sir! Please let me know what you decide my friend! I’m listening to the 9600 right now with a FiiO BTR3K!!

Reply
Nayan April 16, 2021 - 3:31 pm

until knowing about your website i was lost in the audio file rabbit hole.
before watching your Phillips shp9500 reviews, I was convinced to buy koss kph30i rather than sph9500.

I have a budget to buy shp9500 (not more than this) but some audio files said
1.it was too grainy
2. no bass with harsh sounding some time
3. the distortion most of the time audible .
so I decided rather buy koss kph 30i and save some money.

is that a good decision?
after watching your review, I am again confused

should I buy kph30i or spend double money to buy Phillips 9500?

i am from Bangladesh and my brother loves your work. it’s very helpful. respect your work or say hobby 😁 from heart.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 16, 2021 - 6:05 pm

Hey man! Thank you! I will say that yeah the KPH30i will be making its way into this Budget King Series very soon. I just have to buy a Porta Pro, do the shootout, and then decide how to re-arrange.

And lmao at those “Audio Files” I love that you spelled it the RIGHT way (I’m being serious). Because those guys are kind of snooty about it. The 9500 is none of those things, although it can get hot at times (A bit too bright). Check this out: https://homestudiobasics.com/is-the-philips-shp9500-worth-buying/

It’s def worth reading that. I haven’t really decided if the 30i will unseat the 9500 for first place, but yeah it may edge the 9500 in terms of me not complaining about literally one single thing with the 30i. It’s just that good. Now the interesting thing is some may call it “cloudy” or too laid back in the treble. I say meh. Here’s my write-up of the 30i. And yeah, I am leaning more towards that nowadays. I never thought something would knock off the 9500, but the 30i just may. https://homestudiobasics.com/the-koss-kph30i-will-change-your-life/

Let me know what you think!

-Stu

Reply
pipeysh April 23, 2021 - 12:58 am

Your reviews helped me a lot in deciding whether to get the SHP9500 or not.
And boy am I glad i listened to you. All the other “Audio Files” are really throwing lots of crap on these cans. Maybe because they are too salty, that they spent a lot of cash for their gear only for some of those gears to be stumped by this.
Your impressions on the SHP9500 were all spot on. My Superlux HD668B can now take some rest.
I also picked up the KPH30i, and this one really should be up there with the budget king series. But whether this will unseat the SHP9500 at the top, it’s debatable.
This one is a different beast imo, and both of them deserve to be at the top.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 3, 2021 - 5:27 pm

Haha thanks m8! The 9500 can be fairly volatile as far as whether you love them or hate them. There isn’t much middle ground there.

I think that’s a good point. The 9500 does tend to dump on a lot of cans and Philips certainly threw a monkey wrench when they decided to manufacture it. I can’t really think of any other product that’s been so controversial over the last few years (besides the Mojo).

Yeah, I finally have all three here (Porta Pro, 30i, and KSC75) and will be deciding very soon which one knocks out the 60e. In fact, it’s going to be quite a shakeup since, as you’ve alluded to, the 30i to me is a perfect headphone and for that I may have to knock the 9500 off its pedestal! Pretty cool.

Def stay tuned for all of that.

Reply
Eric May 7, 2021 - 9:30 pm

Have had both KPH-30i’s and SHP9500s for almost 2 years now, and though I love the KPH’s for bass-heavy tracks and movies, but the SHP9500s can be worn for 8 hours straight with no issue. Like a lot of people, after a year of working from home now, I find I can wear the 9500s for 8, 10, 12+ hours a day with zero problem. They are extremely comfortable and are my preferred choice for long sessions. The KPH’s definitely are more…. ‘voluptuous’ in terms of mids and lows, but the highs don’t get drowned out either. I’d say the 9500s are a bit more detail-oriented, the KPHs will have a bit more punch.
It comes down to comfort, for me. Over ear is naturally going to be better for long term listening sessions.
After spending hundreds upon hundreds on other, more expensive headphones, I alternate between these. The KPH’s are my go-to when traveling or exercising, etc.

Stuart Charles Black May 8, 2021 - 3:37 pm

Yeah man and this is what’s going to make it so difficult to decide whether or not the 9500 gets dethroned by the 30i which I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. Regardless, the 30i will be on the list but I just can’t decide if it will be #1 or 2.

The 9500 is simply one of the most comfortable headphones ever made while the 30i can start to dig pretty quickly. And yeah I agree; in terms of sound, the 30i is a perfect headphone and thus why it should theoretically take top spot. There’s literally nothing I can point to about its sound and complain.

I think you’re also spot-on in that they make an excellent 1-2 combo/punch and complement each other amazingly well.

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