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Before we get into the Top 10 best headphones under $100, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
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What I will bring you in this review
I will briefly give a Summary of each headphone and then point to a more detailed review, with the exception of the first option which I believe to be the best all around. 🙂
- Introduction & Criteria
- Philips SHP9500
- AKG K240
- Sony MDR V6
- Sony MDR 7506
- Sennheiser HD280
- Sennheiser HD558
- Audio Technica ATH M40x
- Shure SRH440
- Grado SR80e
- Koss Porta Pro
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
Introduction & Criteria
Finding the best headphone for your dollar can be a daunting task. There are so many options available and sorting through the gimmicks, reviews, and hoopla is quite a task in itself. Luckily I have compiled a list of the models that you should consider above all else.
All headphones have flaws; you’re not going to get every thing you want and there will always bee some sacrifices to be made. However, if the pros outweigh the cons then the product is a worthy one. No piece of gear I’ve ever had has been perfect, but each one has benefited me greatly and been worth the investment without a doubt.
I have based this article on a few different factors as follows:
- Sound Quality
- Build Quality
- Detail Retrieval
- Studio Application
So with that, let’s look at the top 10!
The SHP9500 is a bit of a dark horse pic, and I personally own them and love them. They combine everything you need in a headphone: Comfort, build quality, balanced sound, soundstage, and detail retrieval into one complete package at under $100. If I didn’t know any better I would say this is the HD600’s little brother at an affordable price.
The overall sound signature of the 9500 is different than the HD600 in a couple of ways, but by and large I would call this about as even of a match-up as it gets when comparing an affordable headphone vs. an expensive one.
The clarity, detail, and quickness of the SHP9500 is excellent. It’s a very mid-range oriented can, with a great soundstage, a lean bass response and extremely good comfort. Don’t expect to take them off anytime soon! Just be aware that it’s not a bass heads headphone, but is remarkably versatile with just about any genre, as well as movies and gaming.
The cable and connectors are replaceable, but the ear pads aren’t. For under a benjamin though that’s easily overlooked here.
2.AKG K240 Studio
I won’t lie; when I first put this headphone on, I was underwhelmed. The sound was kind of boring and much too quiet for my tastes. It wasn’t until I plugged it into my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 that I began to understand.
Know that first off, this headphone needs amplification to sound it’s best. Coming out of your phone or portable device will simply not do it justice. It is meant to be used in studio and it’s sound signature is extremely flat, with a forward mid-range.
The good news is that it’s mid-range sounds absolutely fantastic. I came to love the 240 because of how articulate and detailed it is. Instruments and vocals really come to life, and there is just enough bass to keep you satisfied. Do keep in mind this isn’t a bass heads can, and it does feel a tad flimsy. But I’m including it because of it’s history and prowess in studio. There is simply not much better for this price in regards to mixing and mastering. It’s an industry standard and there’s something about it’s sound that really makes you smile. 🙂
Interested in learning more? Check out:
3. Sony MDR V6
Like the K240, the V6 has been around for decades and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon. It’s got a pretty similar sound signature to the 240, and does remarkably well in studio.
What stands out to me about the V6 is it’s longevity. So many reviewers claimed to have had this headphone for years and years without having to replace it. It’s definitely built for the long haul.
The only thing to watch out for is the ear-cups. They will deteriorate and peel over time, but luckily you can replace them if need be.
Interested in learning more? Check out:
4. Sony MDR 7506
The 7506 is pretty similar to the V6, except for the bass response. People liked the V6 but wanted something with a heavier emphasis on the low end. Sony responded with the 7506, which has become arguably more popular than it’s predecessor.
It has a pretty flat response with some extra high end sparkle. This means that while you do get quite a bit of detail, it does sometimes have a tendency to become sibilant. What does Sibilant mean? You may have to take more breaks because I can tell you from experience that they will tire you out. However, they remain an excellent studio staple and a can that I cannot recommend enough if you’re just starting out or even if you’re a seasoned pro. There’s always room for a 7506 in my studio. It’s just an accurate headphone that also works well for casual listeners.
Do keep in mind that like the V6, it’s ear-cups will peel over time. It’s also built pretty well, but I had issues with the ear-cup pad falling off completely. It’s not the end of the world but something to consider.
Learn more about them in my:
5. Sennheiser HD280
The HD280 is quite a difficult can to talk about. It’s frequency response is very flat, arguably flatter than anything I’ve written about thus far in this article. I’m including it because of it’s extreme rugged durability and even sound. This is a headphone that you will not want to carry around with you places. It’s just too big and bulky to be considered for a portable affair.
It’s also not a headphone you will get too excited about, but does it’s job admirably. The coiled chord is not detachable, and the clamping force can be a bit tight at first, but rest assured this beast will have you mixing down tracks masterfully.
Check out the:
6. Sennheiser HD558
The third open backed can to make the list, the 558 is an extremely valuable option in studio that does phenomenally well with classical and jazz. It comes with a replaceable cable and sports a nice soundstage. What is Soundstage?
They are pretty versatile, excelling in gaming, movies, and music. Keep in mind they aren’t as good with rap and hip-hop, and generally music that requires a lot of bass. It’s bass response is tight and clean, but rather lean. It’s more of an open, airy sound. The type of headphone you want to kick back and relax with.
A lot of people say that the HD558 is remarkably similar to the 598, but with a few subtle differences.
See more about them in my:
7. Audio Technica ATH M40x
The Audio Technica ATH M40x’s are a great set of headphones with a detachable cable and semi-tight fit. A lot of people complained of their initial clamp force but I didn’t have much of a problem.
Their sound signature is relatively balanced with an emphasis on the low end and treble. They are closed back, so you won’t get much of a soundstage. Closed back vs. Open back headphones. What I like about them is the attention to detail. I was hearing stuff in certain songs that I had not before. Keep in mind that you will want to play back higher quality source files with these to get the best sound from them.
They are very similar to their older brother, the M50x, but are a bit smaller and do not rotate and fold in all of the same ways. This may contribute to them breaking down as reviewers have pointed out. I have not had a problem thus far. The area I’m referring to is where the headband meets the ear cup. On the M50x, these rotate freely, while the M40x only rotates about halfway.
All in all, I would say these are the best if you’re looking for an all around closed back headphone that is portable and has a fun sound.
Interested in learning more? Check out my:
8. Shure SRH440
The Shure SRH 440’s build is lacking while it’s sound is arguably the best in this price range. A guy called Metal 571 called it’s signature a “passing resemblance” to the HD600. That’s mighty praise right there.
The sound isolation as well as the treble are the most prominent features of the 440. It is bass light, so don’t expect to be blown out. It’s got an even sound across the board similar to the HD280.
9. Grado SR80e
The clarity of these is unreal, which is why I had to add them. The build, again, suffers but people will replace these bad boys over and over again because their sound is just that good. Individual guitar plucks, lip smacks, fingers sliding up and down frets – all the classic signs of a magnificently detailed headphone are there. They excel with rock and metal extraordinarily well, but are open back so they will fare better inside your home.
Check them out in my:
10. Koss Porta Pro
What top 10 would be complete without the good old Koss Porta Pro? No list, that’s what. This headphone looks about as stylish as high waters on an adolescent, but it’s sound is just fantastic. In fact, people talk about these everywhere online. I hear about them all the time in my research. If you’re strapped for dough, this is one headphone that for around $40 competes with others that are much more expensive. It’s the budget benchmark man. They’re fun, simple, portable, comfortable, light, and great for gaming too.
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the top 10 best headphones under $100.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Which of these fits your criteria best? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..
All the best and God bless,
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