The Best Cheap Studio Headphones Under $100

The Highest Rated Studio Headphones Under $100

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At first glance, $100 doesn't seem much when looking at the greater sphere of available studio gear out there. For studios on a budget, it could mean the difference between ending up with a good mix that translates and an unbalanced mess. Choosing the right headphones at this price point is very crucial as there are sub-$100 headphones out there that are not designed for critical listening.

In this 2022 edition we look at great quality headphones in the sub $50 and Sub $100 categories.

Closed-Back studio headphones are the most common at this price point. They are versatile enough to be used for tracking and mixing. For tracking, the closed design keeps leakage to your mic to a minimum. With closed back headphones, low end monitoring and balancing is easier done than on an untreated room and studio monitors.

Open-Back and Semi-Open headphones give an experience closer to studio monitors. Not all open-back designs are the same as it takes some level of research and development to make chambers that keep the sound neutral. Semi-Open headphones also still fall under this category. 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

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Best Studio Headphones Under $50

Yamaha HPH-50 - Closed Back

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$36
Yamaha HPH-50 Closed-back Headphones

At publication time these were the Equal Highest Rated Studio Headphones Under $50 along with:

The Yamaha HPH-50 is marketed as affordable studio monitoring headphones. Despite being affordably priced, they feature 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.

Specifications

  • 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 are great headphones for monitoring instruments like electric piano, electronic drums and synthesizers.

LyxPro HAS-10 - Closed Back

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 1600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$40
LyxPro HAS-10 Closed-back Headphones

At publication time these were the Equal Highest Rated Studio Headphones Under $50 along with:

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 so handle them carefully.

Overall

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

Samson SR850 - Semi-Open

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 5900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
Samson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Headphones

At publication time these were the Equal Highest Rated Studio Headphones Under $50 along with:

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

These headphones give 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.

Specifications

  • 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 said these headphones were very comfortable. They mentioned how they could wear them 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 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

Audio-Technica ATH-M30x - Closed Back

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 5500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$79
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.

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

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 set of headphones 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 11200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$75
AKG K240 Studio Professional Headphones - Semi-Open

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 quite 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

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 them 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.

Vic Firth SIH2 Stereo Isolation Headphones - Closed Back

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 1400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$88
Vic Firth SIH2 Stereo Isolation Headphones

Hearing protection and studio sound don't always go together. The Vic Firth SIH2 Stereo Isolation Headphones were designed to be a monitoring headphone for high SPL environments.

While primarily designed for drummers, the -25dB passive noise isolation from outside sounds make them a great tool for monitoring while placing microphones around drumkits and guitar amplifiers to find the sweet spots.

The isolation also becomes useful for tracking vocalists as there will be little to no leakage from the headphones on to the mics. This is great for quiet passages that need the singer/speaker to be up close to microphones.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed
  • Driver Type: Mylarcon Dynamic Speaker
  • Driver Diameter: 50mm
  • Magnet Type: Not Specified
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: Not specified
  • Sensitivity: Not specified
  • 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

Users regard the SIH2 as the best tracking headphones for drummers and guitarists who want to be in the room with loud amplifiers. Many users also found great success using them for vocal tracking. The isolation also helps in positioning mics to get the "sweet spot" for drums and amplifiers.

Cons

Their frequency response isn't suited for mixing and critical listening.

Overall

If you're looking for a pair of headphones for tracking loud instruments, the SIH2 by Vic Firth should be on the top of your list.

Sony MDR-7506 - Closed-Back

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 21400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Sony MDR-7506 Closed-Back Headphones

At publication time these were the Highest Rated Studio Headphones Under $100.

Not to be confused with the DJ oriented MDR-V6, the MDR-7506 is essentially its studio version with minor changes in aesthetic and wiring (individual ground on the 7506 vs common ground on the V6) giving a slight imaging and frequency response difference between both.

The MDR-7506's flat midrange and honest overall sound signature is suited to monitoring and mixing.

MDR stands for the Micro Dynamic Receiver tech they developed for the headphone series. Sony changed the magnets to Neodymium from Samarium Cobalt sometime along the model's nearly 30 year production run so far.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 40mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 10 - 20,000 Hz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1,000mW
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB/W/m
  • Impedance: 63 Ohms
  • Weight: 9.52 oz.
  • Cable: 9.8 ft. coiled cable Connection, 1/8" Gold plated stereo jack plug and 1/4" adapter (6.35 mm)

Pros

Durability and flat frequency response were noted to be the top reasons users gravitate towards these headphones. Portability was also noted to be a plus as the MDR-7506 is foldable. The frequency response makes them ideal for both tracking and mixing; a rarity in headphones. These qualities cement their status as a workhorse set of studio headphones.

Cons

Users note that the pads can get hot and get easily worn out. On their frequency response, some users found them a bit too bright for making critical mixing decisions on the treble side.

Overall

Looking for one set of headphones to use for nearly all music production tasks? The MDR-7506 is tough to beat at this budget level especially for versatility in the studio.

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 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 generally 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 current edition was publish on January 18, 2022.

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 mid January 2022. The data piled up to over 111,200 sources which were 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

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Some of the recording gear I use in my studio includes the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Samson QH4 Headphone Amp and Cloudlifter CL-1. My mics include Aston Origin, Aston Element, Shure SM57, Rode NT1, Rode PodMic and MXL V67G.

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.