The Best Cheap Studio Headphones Under $100

The Best Cheap Studio Headphones Under $100

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You can get some surprisingly good studio headphones for less than $100 these days. Our research shows that good performance can be had with as little compromise as possible from some relatively cheap headphones.

For our 2020 update, we feature an updated selection of the best affordable headphones in both the sub $50 category and the Sub $100 category.

Closed-Back studio headphones still reign supreme at 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 tend to accentuate the bass frequencies.

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. Still, there are a few semi-open back headphones that have high enough ratings to make the list. The semi-open back design 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

Best Studio Headphones Under $50

Samson SR850 - Semi-Open

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 1100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$44

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 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 found the trebles to be a somewhat harsh. Some users would have preferred the headphones had 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.

LyxPro HAS-10 - Closed-Back

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$45
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 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

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 1550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$49

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.

Sony MDR-7502 - Closed Back

85
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$50

While new to the this update, the Sony MDR-7502 is anything but. Originally released in 1991 along with its big brother the MDR-7506, the MDR-7502 is a common studio staple for those on a budget. The closed back design prevents sound leakage during tracking and the light weight prevents fatigue over long recording sessions.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 30mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response:60Hz-16kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 500 mW at 1 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 102 dB
  • Impedance: 24 ohms
  • Weight: 147g (5.2 oz), without cable and connector
  • Cable: 2.0 m (6.5'), Coiled, 1/8", 1/4" adapter

Pros:

Users note the light weight helps keep the headphones comfortable during tracking sessions while exerting the right amount of pressure to stay on during more energetic performances. The sound quality is exceptional for the price, with the midrange being upfront but clear. The closed-back design offers good isolation. Users that come from post-production and mixing backgrounds also note that mixes done or referenced on the units translate well across other systems and they can be used as a reference. Ear fatigue was a non-issue.

Cons:

Some reviews mention some durability issues. Breakage is rare but the plastic parts don't inspire confidence in handling.

Overall:

The MDR-7502 is a great affordable alternative to the MDR-7506. Get it if you want something easily replaceable but capable enough for tracking and mixing.

Best Studio Headphones Under $100

AKG K240 - Semi-Open

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 3350+ 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 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. 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 headphones 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. Their design might leak sound to your microphones.

Status Audio CB-1 - Closed Back

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$79
Status Audio CB-1 Closed Back Studio Monitor Headphones

The Status Audio CB-1 is probably not a brand or model you've heard of before. Status Audio sells direct via Amazon so if this the first time you've heard of them, you're probably not alone. That being said, the CB-1 by Status Audio is enjoying a cult following by studio engineers who need a big, chunky headphone for tracking and monitoring. Its 50mm Drivers put out big sound; uncommon at this price point.

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 50 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz – 30 kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1,600 mW at 1 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 97 db +/- 3 db
  • Impedance: 32 ohm
  • Weight: 13.2 oz
  • Cable: 3 m Cable, Gold, Stereo Unimatch plug 1/4" and 1/8"

Pros:

Most users are stunned by the build and sound quality of the CB-1 headphones and many praise the comfort offered by the large padding. Some have made comparisons to the Audio Technica ATH-M50 with a flatter midrange. This makes it good not just for tracking but checking your mixes as well.

Cons:

While overall build quality is excellent, some felt that the materials used feel cheap. Other reports of users who bought multiple pairs say that the build consistency is varied with some pairs breaking down after a few months. The pads are large which also means heat builds faster when worn; something to avoid when wearing them leisurely outside the studio. Some midrange bloat/muddiness has been an issue for some.

Overall:

The CB-1 is a cult favorite for a few reasons: It's affordable, has great sound quality (if you can tolerate what others note as a bloated midrange) and comfortable. Get it if you plan to stock your studio with headphones (they offer a bulk discount program) or need a good reference headphone that definitely punches above its weight class. Avoid it if you prefer offerings from brand name companies as there is not a logo to be seen anywhere on these cans.

Sony MDR-7506 - Closed-Back

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$90
Sony MDR-7506 Closed-Back Headphones

Over the last couple of years, these headphones have been very popular 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 swiveling 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:

"Clear" is the word that owners consistently use to describe the sound of these headphones making them great for tracking and monitoring while recording. Along with clear mids and highs they have a present yet not overpowering bass. The sound leakage from these headphones is fairly low and which also makes then a good option for tracking. Regarding the design, the headphones have a sturdy cable since they're reinforced with additional rubber. They also have an easily adjustable headband and are lightweight. Most people find these to be quite comfortable even for long recording sessions. Users agreed these are a good workhorse option in the studio.

Cons:

In terms of frequency response, there is a feeling that these are actually too bright and clear for mixing purposes, leading to mixes that sound too muddy on more neutral speakers or headphones. There are a minority who find the ear pads are uncomfortable for them as well as being flimsy and susceptible to tearing.

Overall:

If you want super clear sounding recording headphones at a reasonable price point, these headphones are a good choice.

Sony MDR-V6 - Closed-Back

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 3600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$98
Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones

First released in 1985, the Sony MDR-V6 became the industry standard headphones for studio use. And while there are newer models available, it still continues to be a staple in many home studios. At its core are two 40mm neodymium dynamic drivers that are designed to be flat and transparent, while the closed-back cans completes its studio friendly features. Finally, the MDR-V6 comes with a wide headband that spreads weight for a more comfortable fit.

Specifications
  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 40mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz - 30kHz
  • Maximum Input Power: Not specified
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB/mW
  • Impedance: 63 Ohms @ 1kHz
  • Weight: 8.11 oz.
  • Cable: 3M (Extended) Coiled cable

Pros:

Natural, clear and accurate are three adjectives that reflect overall market response to its sound. It also gets a lot of thumbs up for how it works well with different types of music. Reviewers range from those who just listen to music while on the go, to musicians, to home studio owners - most of which are happy with their purchase.

Cons:

There are a few who feel that build quality is not up to par to those made in the 90's. There are also some reports of the bundled cable failing after some use.

Overall:

With its long history, longevity and continued popularity, the Sony MDR-V6 is an easy recommendation.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x - Closed-Back

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 3900+ 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. It 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 a 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. 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:

As mentioned by some users, since they are not flat the low frequencies can sometimes overpower at high volumes. Some users mentioned that their build isn't as durable as they would have enjoyed; 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.

Things to Consider to When Buying Cheap Studio 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 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 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 referred to as 'laying down a track'. You wear headphones to hear the backing tracks while recording a new one with microphones.

    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

Originally published on May 25, 2017 by Denise Azucena and last updated by Raphael Pulgar on January 15, 2020.

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 38 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 January 2020. The data piled up to over 46,700 sources, and it was processed via the Gearank Algorithm. This resulted in a rating 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 this process see How Gearank Works

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.

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