The Best Cheap Studio Headphones Under $100

Studio Headphones

There are two main types of headphones for studio use: closed-back and open-back. Closed-back headphones are useful for a recording set-up because they prevent sound bleeding from the headphones to the microphones. Open-back headphones are used for mixing because they have less sound build up due to less isolation, and near neutral frequency response. There are also semi-open-back headphones, which are a halfway point between open and closed. They leak less sound compared to open-back headphones yet don't have as much bass build-up as closed-back options.

In the sub-$100 price range you'll have to chose between closed-back and semi-open options because open-back headphones are more expensive.

Contents

The Best Cheap Studio Headphones

Type Gearank Sources Street Price
Under $50
TASCAM TH-02 Closed-Back 84 900+ $25
Audio-Technica ATH-M20x Closed-Back 90 700+ $49
Samson SR850 Semi-Open 91 500+ $50
Sony MDR-7502 Closed-Back 81 200+ $50
Under $100
AKG K240 Semi-Open 88 2100+ $69
Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Closed-Back 90 1800+ $69
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Closed-Back 90 2850+ $99
Sony MDR-7506 Closed-Back 91 7550+ $100
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Closed-Back 87 4150+ $100

Studio Headphones Under $50

TASCAM TH-02

84
GEARANK

84 out of 100. Incorporating 900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$25

The EQ sensitivity and relatively flat frequency response (for headphones this cheap) of the TASCAM TH-02 provides a somewhat clear and balanced sound. The natural highs, clear mid-range, and rich lows are what make them comparable to some of the more expensive alternatives. Both left and right ear-cups have a full 90-degree rotation and their folding design allows for compact and easy transport. They are suitable for either studio use or casual listening to music.

Specifications

  • 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:

A lot of users praised these headphones for their great audio quality and flat frequency response that is close to neutral. In their user reviews, many of them mentioned how great they are when used for recording vocals and monitoring. They find the folding and rotating ear cups make them portable enough to take anywhere. Their design looks sleek and very professional for the price. They provide adequate isolation for basic home recording and some users have mentioned their low end response was fairly decent as well.

Cons:

A few users thought these headphones had a cheap build and don't feel durable enough. Their stock ear pads felt fairly uncomfortable to some after using them for a few hours, but that is often to be expected at the lower end of the price range.

Overall:

These headphones are a suitable choice for scratch tracking, or monitoring at home, if you're on a tight budget.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$49

The ATH-M20x are the most affordable headphones in Audio-Technica's M-Series range. These closed-back monitor headphones are built with a modern design and pro-grade durable materials. These inexpensive headphones offer tight-sealed ear cups for sound isolation with minimal bleeding. The circular ear pads give comfort during long sessions of listening.They feature 40mm neodymium magnet drivers that deliver the 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. It was mentioned that they provide minimal sound leakage while monitoring saying they have above average passive isolation. Many reviewers also commended their durable build and sturdy cable. The fitting is easily adjustable depending on user preference and are moderately comfortable. Sam Vafael, Marc Henney and Jean-Christophe Lamonagne mentioned in their Rtings.com review that the mid-range of these headphones have a very good level of performance overall. They also mentioned the frequency response is "virtually flat, but slightly overemphasized, meaning the overall sound of the headphones is slightly mid-rangy."

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

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50

The SR850 from Samson offer 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 secure 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:

A large number of reviewers thought these headphones were very comfortable. They mentioned how they were able to wear these headphones for hours without any discomfort while mixing, editing or referencing. Many users said they performed exceptionally well with clear and detailed audio. They also provided good stereo imaging. Most of these users agreed these headphones provide good value for its low price.

Cons:

Some reviews critiqued their design for how big they are in terms of fitting. A few reviewers said they give off harsh trebles while listening to high frequency ranges. Some users would have preferred the headphones to have detachable cables, but you can't expect too much when only spending $50.

Overall:

These are a decent choice if you are looking for headphones with a clean bass response for your mix.

Sony MDR-7502

81
GEARANK

81 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50

The MDR-7502 dynamic closed-back headphones from Sony are the lighter weight version of the MDR-7506. They feature gold connectors, an oxygen-free cord, and great quality sound production at a reasonable low price. They're designed for different applications, from being an alternative to consumer headphones, to sound monitoring in the field or in the studio. These on-ear headphones offer a closed-back design for sound isolation, making them suitable for recording and tracking.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 30 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 60-16kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 500mW
  • Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW
  • Impedance: 24 Ohms
  • Weight: 5.1 oz
  • Cable: Gold, Stereo Unimatch plug 1/4" and 1/8"

Pros:

In their user reviews, many people found these to be lightweight and comfortable to wear, also their size makes them quite portable. A lot of these users mentioned the sound quality is quite exceptional. They worked well when used for referencing a mix, post-production, and editing. Some users mentioned the sounds produced were accurate and caused very little hearing fatigue after using them for long periods of time. Others gave positive feedback on how they provide decent isolation.

Cons:

Some users thought the build of these headphones felt cheap and easily breakable due to the thin construction of the headband, however there were only a small number of reported breakages. These are the types of issues that are expected from time to time in the sub $50 price range.

Overall:

These headphones are a good choice if you are looking for a pair that's applicable to both casual listening and professional use.

Studio Headphones Under $100

AKG K240

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 2100+ 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, high sound levels, good sensitivity and accurate transfer signals. They offer light 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 the headphones' 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. In regards to 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 headphones weren't as loud as they expected due to 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.

Audio-Technica ATH-M30x

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 1800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

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

The ATH-M30x are another affordable pair from Audio-Technica's M-series range. They have a strong mid-range definition tuned for detailed audio monitoring. In terms of build, their circumaural design provides good sound isolation in loud environments. Their collapsible design provides space-saving portability and makes them ideal for field recording. The 40mm neodymium magnet drivers deliver accurate frequency response important for tracking or mixing.

Specifications

  • 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:

In their user reviews, many commended the ATH-M30x for having excellent sound quality considering their price. These headphones produce a detailed, rich and clean sound with a good amount of bass and tend to provide decent external isolation. In regards to design and build, they have good quality construction, are light-weight, and comfortable. Their clamping force is said to be comfortable even while wearing it for longer periods of time. They produce good results when used for studio tracking. These headphones are easily folded and have a bag that's included for portability purposes.

Cons:

Some users mentioned that the frequency response is not completely flat saying the bass and mids tend to be emphasized however this isn't generally an issue for monitoring while tracking/recording. They are no generally recommend for mixing.

Overall:

These headphones are a good choice if you want comfortable headphones for studio tracking.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 2850+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

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

The ATH-M40x offer precise audio monitoring across an extended frequency range and flat frequency response. The design is engineered with pro-grade materials and sturdy construction. They come with a detachable cable and swivel ear cups that make them suitable for one-ear monitoring which is an added bonus for DJs. Their collapsible design fits well with the carrying pouch, which makes it convenient to bring anywhere. These headphones are built with tight ear cups that provide exceptional sound isolation with minimal bleeding. These headphones are suitable for professional studio tracking, mixing, as well as 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. In regards to sound quality, the frequency response is flat enough but not extremely so. They also give great internal and external noise isolation.

Cons:

As mentioned by some users, since they are not completely flat the low frequencies can sometimes be overpowering at high volumes. Some users mentioned that their 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.

Sony MDR-7506

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 7550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Sony MDR-7506 Closed-Back Headphones

Over the 12 months prior to publishing this guide, these headphones have been the top selling option in this price range with our readers. These large diaphragm headphones have a flexible and foldable design allows you to take them anywhere. Their widely spaced ear cup design reduces ear fatigue and offers great sound isolation. Their fully adjusted headbands are firm yet not too tight which makes them fit for different sized heads. Their swivelling mounts allow you to choose which ear cups to use, making them also suitable for DJ use.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 40 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10-20kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1,000mW
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB/W/m
  • Impedance: 63 Ohms
  • Weight: 8.1 oz
  • Cable: Gold, Stereo Unimatch plug 1/4" and 1/8"

Pros:

These headphones yeild solid performance with consistent results by providing clear and distinct sounds when it comes to recording or playback. Their frequency response offers clear mids and highs, and a present yet not overpowering bass. Some said the sound leakage from these headphones are fairly low and can be used as monitors for mixing. In regards to design, the headphones have a sturdy cable since they're reinforced with additional rubber. They have an easily adjustable headband, lightweight and are very comfortable when worn. Users generally agreed these are a good workhorse option for all studio applications.

Cons:

Some users mentioned the ear pads were uncomfortable for them and a few said they can tear. In terms of frequency response, some users found them not completely flat mentioning they were a bit bright sounding and highs were somewhat harsh.

Overall:

If you want sturdy and good quality monitor headphones at a reasonable price point, these headphones are a good choice.

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 4150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Studio Headphones

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro's combination of robust construction with high-level noise attenuation make these headphones suitable for a professional environment. The 32dB noise isolation allows you to clearly monitor sounds with minimal external bleeding through the microphone when recording tracks.Their design includes soft earpads for a comfortable fit and their rotating and folding earcups make them convenient to bring along. These headphones provide a relatively accurate frequency response which is important for making mixing decisions.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: Not specified
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 8 - 25,000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: Not specified
  • Sensitivity: Not Specified
  • Impedance: 64 Ohms
  • Weight: 10 oz.
  • Cable: Single-sided cable

Pros:

Many users recommend these headphones for studio use. Their ear cups are tight enough for isolation purposes that there's minimal to almost no leakage while recording. Some users mentioned these headphones provide non-piercing, defined and crisps highs which cause less ear fatigue after using them for a couple of hours. They would tend to have a slight emphasis on mid-range frequencies and are not so muddy. In regards to construction, the wire connections and the headphones themselves are durable.

Cons:

A few users have suggested that they are too big for small sized heads.

Overall:

These headphones are a great choice if you want durable headphones with high level of noise isolation, which is very useful for tracking and live monitoring in loud environments.

Things to Consider to Get the Best Headphones for Recording

  • Tracking and Monitoring

    The ear cups of closed-back headphones have the best isolation which prevents the sound from bleeding into the microphone while recording. They also prevent external noise from affecting the perceived monitor signal.

  • Mixing and Mastering

    Sound quality often decreases as isolation of headphones increases. It's recommended to use open-back headphones to optimize sound quality 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 mix. It's important to have a flat frequency response in order to set and compare sound levels for achieving an accurate sound. Most headphones have a 20-20,000 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 tend to make better tone, responses and handling in the lows, mids and highs.

  • 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 lesser 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 refereed to as 'laying down a track'. You wear headphones to hear the backing tracks while recording a new one with microphones.

    Monitoring in this context usually refers to listening to backing tracks through headphones while tracking - note that this is slightly different from what people mean when monitoring using studio monitors for 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

We looked at all the popular headphones under $100 designed for studio use that were available from major music gear retailers in the USA and entered them into our music gear database. We analyzed reviews and forum posts by users and experts and processed this information with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the scores out of 100 you see above. We then recommend the highest rated options in this guide. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

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