Many folks assume that the best studio headphones out there must cost an arm and a leg. Anywhere between $300 to in excess of $1,000, to give a more accurate figure. This is not true. Some of the older models do an excellent job of rendering neutral tones. They don’t have the bells and whistles of the newer or higher-end models, but they get the job done. The best part: you can find quite a few of the best studio headphones under 100 dollars. So without further ado, here are our top 10 studio headphones fitting under $100 budget for 2020.
Comparison Chart of Best Studio Headphones under 100 Dollars
The HD 280 Pro is almost 13 years old, but its performance has never dropped throughout the years. It uses an over-ear, closed-back design. That means minimal sound leakage, letting you use the HD280 Pro in quiet and noisy settings alike. More importantly, though, the audio is clean and accurate. It leans more toward the warm side, though the bass never gets overwhelming at any point. This lets you appreciate individual notes in the full frequency range for good mixing and editing. The padded earcups are easy on the ears as well, making the HD 280 Pro good for prolonged mixing sessions. The plastic headband feels a bit fragile though. You’ll need to be careful while handling this set. Please do not miss Sennheiser HD 600 review.
Sony’s MDR 7506 is an old name in the industry, being released way back in 1991. It stands the test of time though, providing clear and accurate audio. It uses a closed-back, over-ear design, meaning minimal noise leakage. Large earcups and generous headband padding make it comfortable to use for prolonged sessions. Do note that the MDR 7506 is a pretty bulky set of headphones. It’s durable, but it also hurts the portability of the devices. Not a bad tradeoff if you plan on leaving your headset in the studio. If you are a fan of Sony headphones, you might be also interested in the other model, Sony MDR V150 Review.
Audio-Technica’s ATH-M30x is another strong choice for DJ style studio headphones. They sport a sleek, sexy look that is good for impressing a crowd. It also sports collapsible earcups that can also swivel 15-degrees in any direction. This makes it easier to store and move around the headset. It would be better if the cables were detachable though, which is not the case here. A strong point for the ATH-M30x is how it produces flat, neutral tones. This neutrality makes it great for mixing music, with notes across the range coming out nice and clear. The generous over-the-ear cups and balanced clamping force offer extra bonus points for comfort. Do note, however, that heat tends to build up over prolonged periods of use.
The ATH-M40x are even better for portability than the ATH-M30x. First off, the audio quality is as crisp as you can expect from studio headphones. The notes are clear with reduced impact, letting you identify all the details and imperfections. The design of the ATH-M40x, however, emphasizes portability. The ear cups are foldable and can swivel up to 90-degrees in one direction. You have two detachable cables, one coiled and one straight. The closed-back, over-ear design also offers good noise isolation. There’s slight noise bleed, but not enough to disturb your neighbor on the bus. The headset itself is pretty light at 240 grams, but the build feels nice and sturdy. It even offsets some of the heating problems of the ATH-M30x. All these make the ATH-M40x easy to pack up and move about.
The AKG is a surprising entry in this list. It is one of the few studio headphones that utilize a semi-open design. It allows enough ambient audio in to improve soundstaging without blasting music over the entire place. Best used in a quiet setting, but they are quiet enough to use around coworkers. The notes are as clear as you would expect from studio headphones, with an emphasis on neutral tones. The bass is a bit on the strong side though, but it is not artificially boosted. This means you’ll get a bit more impact from bass notes without drowning out other higher notes. All this makes the K240 is a good choice for home use or in shared studios.
Pining for the classic 70’s headphones that were as tough and imposing as they looked? The Pro-4AA from Koss is just what you’re looking for. The core design is almost 50 years old, but the performance is just as solid. This beast of a headset clocks in at almost 540 grams, or 1.2 pounds. That’s pretty hefty, which hurts long-term use. However, its materials are extremely sturdy. The Pro-4AA will survive what would demolish more contemporary designs with more fragile materials. The tones do lean more on the warmer side though. This is good for punchier music, but can hide slight mixing flubs in the process. Still, the quality is sharp and clear enough for most studio mixing purposes.
Sleek, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive—these are what define the MDR7502. It adopts a closed-back, over-ear design that’s good at noise-isolating. It lets some noise bleed through, but it does a decent enough job. Audio quality is neutral and flat, which is ideal for professional studio mixing. However, the real draw is the 4-ounce weight of the MDR7502. You can barely feel the headset pressing down on your head. Good for long-term use. The design is also nice and sleek, with rounded angles that are just a pleasure to work with. The headband and some joints, however, are on the fragile side. You will want to be very careful with these headphones. One good drop is often enough to do serious damage.
The MDRV6 is the exact opposite of the MDR7502. Where the latter is about being light, the former is about being sturdy and durable. The MDRV6 is designed to take a beating and last for years on end. The folding design should oppose that, but the smartly-placed padding shields all the right spots. While not as rugged as the Koss Pro-4AA, the MDRV6 can still survive drops and bumps that would crack other models. This particular set also sticks to flat, neutral tones. This means sounds are natural and unmodified, coming out as they were recorded. Not so vibrant and dynamic for listening pleasure, but perfect for accurate mixing.
If you want a stylish studio headset that’s also good for DJing, the Project 50X has you covered. This particular model sports a sharp, solid design with its generous earcups and prominent headband. The collapsible design and detachable cables also help with portability. This is useful for DJs that want a set of cans they can bring to and fro the studio. If there’s one problem with the Project 50X, it’s the punchy bass. The punch is not strong enough to hide subtler notes, but its impact does hurt clarity. This may be a problem for composers working on softer, more complicated compositions. It’s not as much of an issue for DJs working with bass-heavy pieces, though.
SIVGA Over Ear Music Headphones, Premium Closed Back Studio Monitor Headphones, Wired Hi-Fi Deep Bass Wooden Headset with Mic, SV002 Walnut Wood
The SIVGA SV002’s strongest appeal is its use of walnut wood shells for its earcups. It’s a surprising move, considering most studio-level headphones use plastic for the job. Yet using wood for these closed-back, over-ear headphones is surprisingly effective. Noise cancellation is pretty good, screening out a lot of external audio. Not only that, but the wood is just so luxurious and pleasant to touch. The headset is a bit heavier as a result, which can be a problem for long-term use. As for audio quality, the tones lean slightly toward the warm side. They are, however, flat and clear enough for professional studio use. All this makes the SV002 a luxuriously indulgent set to work with, despite costing less than a hundred dollars.
How to Choose Best Studio Headphones
Now that you have a list of good studio-quality headphones to work with, which ones should you pick up?
First off, ask yourself what kind of mixing you plan to be doing. Let’s say you are working on punchy music with strong bass and relatively simple compositions. In this case, a set of headphones with warmer tones should do the trick. The extra bass will help without overpowering the composition. The opposite is true if you are working on subtle, complicated pieces. Flat and neutral tones are a must here. Too much emphasis on one scale and you risk missing harsher notes slipping in here and there.
Second, consider how you plan to use your headphones. Marathon recording sessions at the studio? A lightweight set with softer earcups will work. Need to move around a lot? Portable sets with foldable cups and detachable cables come recommended. Need precise soundstaging? Get a semi-open or fully open-back model.
And finally, take the time to admire the aesthetics of all these headphones. You may like smoother edges or sharper angles. Luxurious wood may appeal to you, or perhaps the solid metal is more your thing. Maybe you prefer discreet headsets, or higher-profile ones good for DJing. You would be surprised at how much personal taste plays into your choice of studio monitoring headsets!