The Best Cheap Studio Headphones Under $100

The Highest Rated Studio Headphones Under $100

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Being on a budget doesn't have to mean settling with below average gear. You can get great headphones for less than $100 these days and many of them can last you for quite a while.

In this 2021 edition of the Best Cheap Studio Headphones Under $100, we look at great quality headphones in the sub $50 category and the Sub $100 category.

Closed-Back studio headphones still dominate this price point, thanks to their viability for home recording. The closed cup design keeps background noise at bay when monitoring and prevents sound from leaking out to microphones when recording. They also tend to accentuate the bass frequencies but in a more controlled manner versus having a pair of monitor speakers in an untreated room.

Open-Back headphones offer a more realistic and spacious sound stage which is closer to listening via studio monitors, but they are usually priced above this range because of some level of engineering is required to make open back headphones sound great. There are still great open-back headphones that made it to this selection. Some semi-open back designs allows less sound to leak compared to open-back headphones which can make them just viable for tracking, yet they don't have as much bass build-up as closed-back options.

The Best Cheap Studio Headphones

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Best Studio Headphones Under $50

TASCAM TH-02 - Closed Back

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 5950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$29

The TASCAM TH-02 is an affordable but surprisingly excellent closed back headphone.

Featuring a foldable design, padded and stitched headband and a custom engineered driver and chamber, TASCAM spent over a year integrating tech and components that could compete with more expensive headphones.

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 50 mm
  • Magnet Type: Not Specified
  • Frequency Response: 18 Hz – 22 kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 600 mW
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB ± 3dB
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Weight: 15 oz
  • Cable: 9.8ft (3m) when fully extended

Pros:

Many users were surprised at the almost neutral frequency response and say they are great for monitoring during recording. The folding and rotating ear cups were also praised for giving the headphones great portability. On a minor note, aesthetics was also praised as they look like they belong in a higher price bracket.

Cons:

Build quality and materials could be better according to some users, but doing this would raise the price. Others complained about the earpads being uncomfortable after a while.

Overall:

After a two-year absence, the TASCAM TH-02 returns on our recommended list as a great affordable pick for tracking and monitoring.

Yamaha HPH-50 - Closed Back

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 475+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$33
Yamaha HPH-50 Closed-back Headphones

The Yamaha HPH-50 is marketed as an affordable studio monitoring headphone. Despite being affordably priced, it features great build quality as expected from a major manufacturer like Yamaha.

Sound is produced via 38mm neodymium drivers that are tuned to the closed earcup design. A swivel mechanism and velour pads round out the headphone for comfort and fit.

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 38 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1000 mW
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB
  • Impedance: 35 Ohms
  • Weight: 4.64 oz
  • Cable: 6.5'

Pros:

Many reviewers who got the headphones to use with electric piano found that the sound was also great for general monitoring and tracking in the studio. The sound signature is fairly neutral and vocals are said to be very audible and clear while monitoring with them. Pianos and classical instruments were noted to sound lively and present. Others found they make great tracking and monitoring headphones for e-drums.

Cons:

Some felt the bass frequencies to be lacking for mixing.

Overall:

The Yamaha HPH-50 is a great headphone for monitoring instruments like electric piano, electronic drums and synthesizers.

LyxPro HAS-10 - Closed-Back

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 1350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$40
LyxPro HAS-10 Closed-back Headphones

The LyxPro HAS-10 is designed to meet the frequency requirements of today's home studios and DJs.

And to do just that, it comes equipped with 45mm Neodymium drivers that can handle the extended lows that many popular music styles require.

More importantly, it does all of this while retaining a very comfortable profile and reasonable price tag.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 45 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz-26kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 500mW
  • Sensitivity: 98 ± 3dB
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Weight: 10.4 oz
  • Cable: 3M Cable plug 1/8" and 1/4" Adapter

Pros:

The LyxPro HAS-10's good build quality and bang per buck gets the most commendations. The unit's good low-end handling is also well received, ideal if you're mixing or producing contemporary musical styles.

Cons:

There are a few reports of the LyxPro HAS-10 failing to work after only months of use.

Overall:

The LyxPro HAS-10 is the ideal budget headphone for those looking to produce or mix songs with heavy bass emphasis.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x - Closed-Back

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 10350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$49
Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Closed-Back Studio Headphones

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Set Of Studio Headphones Under $50.

The ATH-M20x is the most affordable in Audio-Technica's M-Series range of headphones, yet it is built using durable materials, and it doesn't look cheap.

These inexpensive headphones offer tight-sealed ear cups for sound isolation with minimal bleeding. The circular ear pads provide comfort during long sessions of listening.

They feature 40mm neodymium magnet drivers that deliver an accurate frequency response suitable for both recording and mixing.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 15 - 20,000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 700 mW at 1 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB
  • Impedance: 47 Ohms
  • Weight: 190 g (6.7 oz), without cable and connector
  • Cable: 3.0 m (9.8'), straight, left-side exit

Pros:

Many reviewers commented positively about these headphones' sound clarity and fairly flat frequency response for the price. There were no instances of bass or mid range peaking reported. They have have reasonable passive isolation, allowing for minimal sound leakage while monitoring. Many reviewers commended their durable build and sturdy cable. They are easily adjustable and moderately comfortable. Sam Vafael, Marc Henney and Jean-Christophe Lamonagne mentioned in their Rtings.com review that the sound reproduction of these headphones are above average and the mid-range and bass are quite good.

Cons:

A few reviewers said they found them to be uncomfortable after wearing them for an hour or so. Some users preferred having a shorter cord, but many people find this to be quite a useful feature.

Overall:

These are a great choice if you want a pair of headphones good enough for live monitoring and tracking at an affordable price.

Samson SR850 - Semi-Open

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 3750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50

The SR850 from Samson sports a semi-open-back design at an affordable price. Making them semi-open-back allows a wider sound-stage and better stereo imaging.

These headphones give a deep rich bass and clean highs with a wide enough frequency response. The 50mm drivers provide depth and low-end resolution.

The self-adjusting headband provides security and comfort for long periods of listening sessions.

They come with a 1/8" to 1/4" gold adapter which is handy allowing you to switch between using them with studio and consumer gear.

  • Type: Semi-Open
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 50 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz - 30 kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: Not Specified
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Weight: 0.95 oz
  • Cable: 1/8” (3.5 mm) with 1/8’ (3.5 mm) to 1/4” (6.3mm) adapter- gold-plated

Pros:

Many reviewers thought these headphones were very comfortable. They mentioned how they could wear these headphones for hours with no discomfort while mixing, editing or referencing. They performed exceptionally well with clear and detailed audio, providing good stereo imaging. Most of these users agreed the Samson SR850 provides good value for its low price.

Cons:

Some reviews critiqued their design for how big they are in terms of fitting. A few reviewers found the trebles to be a somewhat harsh. Some users would have preferred detachable cables, but you can't expect too much at this price.

Overall:

These are a great choice at this price point if you are looking for headphones with a clean bass response for your mix.

Best Studio Headphones Under $100

At publication time all headphones below were the equally highest rated options between $50 and $100.

Audio-Technica ATH-M30x - Closed Back

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 6500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$69
Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Closed-Back Headphones

The Audio Technica ATH-M30x is positioned at the middle of the M-series range.

With strong mid-range definition tuned specifically for monitoring, the ATH-M30x is a great companion in the studio for tracking.

M Series headphones are known for their isolation and portability. The collapsible design makes them great for use for live monitoring and field recording.

Equipped with 40mm neodymium magnets, they deliver great frequency response and transient reproduction.

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 15 - 22,000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1,300 mW at 1 kHz
  • Sensitivity:96 dB
  • Impedance: 47 Ohms
  • Weight:7.8 oz
  • Cable: 3.0 m (9.8'), straight, left-side exit

Pros:

The ATH-M30x provides more detail and clarity than its lower priced siblings as well as giving us enough of a taster for the upper tier offerings like the M50x without deliberately making it feel lacking. Isolation is noted to be excellent by several users and mic positioning while recording loud electric guitars was a breeze for many. Others love that they are foldable and have a carrying bag.

Cons:

The bass and mids being emphasized may be useful for tracking and monitoring but not for mixing. Many users found the mids to be too forward for mixing, leading to mixes that are starved of midrange and low frequencies after compensating too much.

Overall:

For tracking, The ATH-M30x is an excellent headphone with its forward and midrange-focused sound signature. The clamping force is enough to stay on especially for drummers.

AKG K240 - Semi-Open

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 8400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$69

These are semi-open studio headphones designed for studio use such as playback, mixing and mastering.

Their over-ear pads offer comfort for long wearing sessions. Their self-adjusting headband makes them a flexible fit for anyone.

The semi-open design delivers a solid bass and clear highs.

Their XXL transducers, with patented Varimotion 30mm diaphragms provide a wide dynamic range, good sensitivity and accurate frequency response. They offer lighter and more responsive transducers compared to other affordable headphones.

Specifications

  • Type: Semi-Open
  • Driver Type: Not Specified
  • Driver Diameter: 30mm
  • Magnet Type: Not Specified
  • Frequency Response: 15 - 25000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 200 mW
  • Sensitivity: 104 dB SPL/V
  • Impedance: 55 Ohms
  • Weight:8.4 oz
  • Cable: Stereo plug – 3.5mm (1/8-inch) with 6.3 mm (1/4”) screw-on adapter

Pros:

A lot of reviewers gave positive feedback for sound quality. These headphones provide very flat, clean, accurate and balanced sound, and also provide a very open sound-stage. Their mids and highs are clear and they have a tight low frequency response. Their relatively flat frequency response makes them suitable for monitoring, editing and mixing. Regarding construction, many reviewers found them to be comfortable and light-weight. Many people were glad the cord is detachable.

Cons:

A few reviewers mentioned these weren't as loud as they expected because of their high impedance. Their semi-open construction means they are not suitable for recording or tracking since they have less sound isolation.

Overall:

These headphones are a great choice for mixing and mastering because of their balanced sound. AKG usually caters to the headphone audiophile movement or "headphiles" but the K240 were designed to be more neutral for reference purposes. Get it if you need a good pair of headphones for mixing on the go or if you're just starting out and can't afford studio monitors yet. Aside from the impedance (which is remedied by using a good audio interface or headphone amp) there is no reason not to get these except if you plan on tracking vocals with them because their design can leak sound to your microphones.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x - Closed-Back

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 9350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Closed-Back Headphones

The ATH-M40x offers precise audio monitoring across an extended frequency range with a flat frequency response.

They are engineered with pro-grade materials and sturdy construction and come with a detachable cable and swivel ear cups that make them suitable for one-ear monitoring, which is a bonus for DJs.

Their collapsible design fits well with the carrying pouch, which makes it convenient to take anywhere.

These headphones are built with tight ear cups that provide exceptional sound isolation with minimal bleeding. They are suitable for professional studio tracking, mixing, and monitoring.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 15 - 24,000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1,600 mW at 1 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB
  • Impedance: 35 Ohms
  • Weight: 8.5 oz
  • Cable: Includes two interchangeable cables: detachable 1.2 m - 3.0 m (3.9' - 9.8') coiled cable and detachable 3.0 m (9.8') straight cable

Pros:

Many reviewers compare these headphones favorably to the more expensive ATH-M50x from the same manufacturer. They mentioned how they feel lighter and more comfortable when worn compared to the ATH-M50x. They have more padding on ear cups and stronger headband adjustment. Some of these reviewers preferred these headphones because of the detachable cord that locks in place once attached. Regarding sound quality, the frequency response is neutral enough. They also give great internal and external noise isolation.

Cons:

Some users mentioned that the build isn't as durable as they would have liked; warning that they could break if you accidentally twist the ear cup in the wrong direction.

Overall:

These headphones a good choice if you want a light-weight option with a detachable cable that has a flat enough frequency response for monitoring and tracking.

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro - Closed Back

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 7950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Studio Headphones

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro has been on the market for nearly 2 decades. It has grown to be a favorite among studio audio engineers, live sound engineers and audiophiles alike.

The HD 280 Pro owes its market longevity to great construction and materials, good passive isolation and portability.

  • Type: Closed Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 40mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 8 Hz to 25 kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 500 mW
  • Sensitivity: 102 dB
  • Impedance: 64 Ohms
  • Weight: 0.95 oz
  • Cable: 1/8” (3.5 mm) with 1/8’ (3.5 mm) to 1/4” (6.3mm) adapter- gold-plated

Pros

Many consider the HD 280 pro as the rival of the Sony MDR-7506 though the Sennheiser has an edge over the Sony for its smoother high end and better isolation.

Cons

Some concerns on fit were brought up by users with varying experiences. The limited adjustability of the headband may be the cause of these remarks.

Overall

The HD 280 Pro shows no sign of stopping with its inclusion in this guide as one of our top recommendations. For a tried and tested studio headphone on a budget, the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro is an excellent and consistent choice.

Things to Consider to When Buying Budget Studio Headphones

  • Tracking and Monitoring

    The ear cups of closed-back headphones have the best isolation which prevents sound from bleeding into the microphone while recording. They also prevent external noise from affecting the perceived monitor signal. Open-back headphones may leak too much sound back into the microphone. There have been some cases of open-back headphones actually producing feedback because of this.

  • Mixing and Mastering

    Sound quality often decreases as isolation of headphones increases. It's recommended to use open-back headphones to optimize sound quality and space over isolation when mixing. Closed-back headphones are not recommended for mixing and mastering because they tend to have sound build up, especially for lower frequencies. You want the least amount of sound accumulation and a flat distribution of frequencies in order to have a clear and accurate mix for mixing and mastering.

  • Frequency Response

    Studio headphones are often used for critical listening, such as monitoring a tracking session. It's important to have a flat frequency response to set and compare sound levels for achieving an accurate sound. Most headphones have a 20 to 20,000 Hz frequency range since this is the range the human ear can hear. Although, some headphones have an extended frequency range providing deeper responses. Wider range frequencies make better tone, responses and handling in the lows, mids and highs. If you produce music or record instruments with a lot of bass, it's better to go for a pair with notable low frequency response.

  • Comfort and Durability

    Recording a lot of takes, and mixing and mastering takes up a lot of time. This involves wearing headphones for long hours that may cause too much pressure on your ears or your head. It's important to look for studio headphones with a comfortable fit. Factors such as ear pad comfort, headband comfort and weight need to be taken into consideration. Ear-pads with soft materials and which are well-ventilated are best for prolonged usage. The headband should be tight enough to keep the ear cups at the right position over your ears. They shouldn't be so rigid that they won't clamp down properly on your ears. Lighter headband-style headphones are usually more comfortable than heavier ones. The lower the weight of the headphones, the better you will feel over long hours of usage.

  • Headphone Specific Terminology

    Tracking is the process of recording a new track in a multitrack recording, sometimes referred to as 'laying down a track'. You wear headphones to hear the backing tracks while recording a new one with microphones.
    Monitoring is listening through headphones when recording and to a lesser extent, mixing.
    Sound stage refers to the positions and directions sound appears to come from while listening. Headphones with a large sound stage are good at representing these subtle effects

Cheap Studio Headphones Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 and the latest edition was publish on January 27, 2021.

This guide focuses on top-rated studio headphones in the sub $100 price range, and as always, we do our best to ensure that we only include those that you can readily buy from major music retailers in the USA. For this update, we ended up with a short list of 34 headphones for closer examination. We then collected and analyzed ratings and reviews from retailers, forum discussions and expert recommendations, including the most recent ones up to late January 2021. The data piled up to over 93,800 sources, and it was processed by the Gearank Algorithm which resulted in rating scores out of 100 for all the short-listed headphones. We divided the list into sub $50 and sub $100 price categories to make it easier for you to find the headphones that fit your budget and selected the highest rated ones to recommend above. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Aside from endlessly window shopping and watching hours of gear reviews for leisure, he enjoys playing competitive FPS games, MMORPGs and caring for his 5 cats. He is primarily influenced by guitarists like Kurt Ballou and Paul Gilbert. His favorite pieces of gear are his Ibanez RG550RFR, Orange Brent Hinds Terror amplifier and EQD Acapulco Gold fuzz.

Contributors

Denise Azucena: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: By Gearank.com based on a photograph in the public domain.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

Comments

First and foremost love the

First and foremost love the site and great article. I have the AT M20s and feel they out-perform their bigger brothers! However about this: "Monitoring in this context usually refers to listening to backing tracks through headphones while tracking.." ?? I've never heard the word used in that context, and I've done a lot of tracking. Monitoring and tracking are two different activities. If you're recording, you're tracking; you are not "monitoring." Just because you're listening to music while doing so (which is almost always the case) doesn't make it monitoring. No offense but IMO to say otherwise only invites ambiguity and confusion to the term (and God knows there's more than enough of that with insider terminology as it is, ha).

Thanks for pointing that out

Thanks for pointing that out Joe. I had meant to remove that during editing but it slipped through - it's fixed now.