The Best Cheap Studio Headphones Under $100

Studio Headphones Under $100

Originally published on May 25, 2017 and last updated by Alexander Briones on Jul 10, 2018.

Here we present you with the best affordable studio headphones, updated for 2018. Featuring current market favorites in two price categories, the sub $50 and sub $100.

The most current data still shows Closed-Back studio headphones being dominant in the entry level tier, 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.

On the other hand, Open-Back headphones offer a more realistic and comfortable listening experience, but they are usually priced above this range. Still, there are a few semi-open back headphones that have high enough ratings to make the list. They are preferred because they leak less sound compared to open-back headphones, yet don't have as much bass build-up as closed-back options.

Contents

The Best Cheap Studio Headphones

Best Studio Headphones Under $50

Yamaha HPH-50 - Closed-Back

84
GEARANK

84 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$30
Yamaha HPH-50 Closed-back Headphones

The Yamaha HPH-50 is an affordable closed-back set of headphones with straightforward features that are meant to appeal to those with budget constraints, from casual listeners to home studio owners. At its core are 38mm neodymium drivers that work well with its closed cup design. It also comes with good swivel mechanism and velour ear pads, both of which are meant to make positioning easy and comfortable. For plugging in, it comes with a 1/8" plug and a 1/4" adapter.

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:

Most reviewers point to its balance of good quality and affordable cost as its main strength. And being a trusted brand for beginner musicians, many of these satisfied customers are plugging the HPH-50 to their portable keyboards or digital pianos for quiet practice. Its clarity and good balance of treble and bass are also well received by those who produce their own music at home.

Cons:

There are some who feel that the Yamaha HPH-50 is a little too quiet for their taste, while a few users outright complain about the sound being thin.

Overall:

If you're looking for something budget friendly for your practice and music production needs, check out the Yamaha HPH-50.

LyxPro HAS-10 - Closed-Back

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 500+ 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 months of use, but even those who complain have good things to say initially, especially about its sound.

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

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 1000+ 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 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 - Semi-Open

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ 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 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 at this price.

Overall:

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

Best Studio Headphones Under $100

LyxPro HAS-30 - Closed-Back

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$60
LyxPro HAS-30 Closed-back Headphones

With 50mm Neodymium drivers, the LyxPro HAS-30 gives you quite a lot of sound for the price. But it's not just about overall volume increase because these bigger drivers are meant to reproduce bass frequencies better, making it viable for electronic musicians and DJs, and for listening to tracks with more low end. To make it more road worthy, LyxPro opted for detachable cables, and they included both a straight and coiled cable in the package. Other features include replaceable ear cups, leather headband, and foldable design

Specifications

  • Type: Closed-Back
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Driver Diameter: 50 mm
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz-26KHz
  • Maximum Input Power: 1800mW
  • Sensitivity: 100 ± 3dB
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Weight: 10.4 oz
  • Cable: 9.5' Straight Cable and 4' to 10' Coiled Cable, 1/8" plug and 1/4" Adapter

Pros:

Market response to the LyxPro HAS-30 continues to be positive, with many reporting that it exceeds their expectation. Bang per buck seem to be a common thread in many reviews, while others appreciate its sound quality and good bass response. Improvements in monitoring, mixing and music production are also common, while others are happy with how the LyxPro HAS-30 performs in everyday music listening, quiet practice, and even podcasting.

Cons:

The downside to having big drivers is weight, and as expected, it caused some users to give lower ratings. There are also a few who are not too happy with its build quality, while others feel that the sound is a can get a little too loud, to the point that it sometimes leaks sound on to mics.

Overall:

The LyxPro HAS-30 is a good starting point if you're looking for a good bang per buck closed-back headphones in the sub $100 price range.

Audio-Technica ATH-M30x - Closed-Back

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 2050+ 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.

AKG K240 - Semi-Open

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 2550+ 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 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.

Sony MDR-V6 - Closed-Back

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 3350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$98
Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones

First released in 1985, the Sony MDR-V6 went on to become 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

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 3300+ 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. They 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 - Closed-Back

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 8200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
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:

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.

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 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.

    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

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 guitar retailers in the USA. For this update, we ended up with a short list of 35 headphones, all of which required us to gather around 35,000 reviews and ratings data. All these data were then processed via the Gearank algorithm, which gives us scores that reflect market sentiments. Finally, 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 needs and budget. 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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