When you’re on a budget, looking for gear under $100 that’s actually worth the expense can be somewhat of a challenge. There’s a whole lot to consider.
How much can you spend? Do you want headphones for accurate mixing or for casual listening? Is comfortability the most important thing for you right now?
These are questions that we’ll aim to shed some light on, and hopefully lead you in the right direction so that you can have the power and knowledge to make the best choice possible.
1. Audio-Technica ATH-M40x
The best at $100
The ATH-M40x are closed-back headphones that have a lot in common with their slightly more expensive, better performing cousin, the ATH-M50x. These headphones are decently capable of noise cancellation, and as far as their profile is concerned, are fairly well balanced.
Some of the features of these headphones include earcups that swivel 90 degrees, a folding design that allows them to be easily transportable, and the addition of two cables (one coiled and one straight). These headphones have a frequency response of roughly 15 Hz – 24 kHz, which is rather impressive. For just $100, you really can’t wrong with a pair of these in your arsenal.
2. Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro
The best budget studio headphones
The Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro are fantastic headphones that are not only comfortable, but extremely precise. They have clean bass, a well defined midrange, and a detailed high end. Their frequency response is rather wide, running from 5 Hz – 35 kHz.
They’re lightweight and also come with a collapsing headband, making them easily portable. Their comfortability and lightweight also make them a great ally in long, extended sessions where other headphones could become cumbersome and fatiguing.
3. Shure SRH440
The best mixing headphones under $100
The Shure SRH440 are crystal clear, comfortable, and great for noise cancellation. They have a frequency response of 10 Hz – 22 kHz and maintain a relatively flat response curve.
To ensure the durability and longevity of these headphones, they have detachable earcup pads as well as a detachable cable, so if any of those aspects ever wear out, you can simply replace them. They also have a folding feature, which happens almost automatically when you place them down.
The one drawback is that they have a decent amount of bleed at higher volumes, but besides this, they’re a great choice.
4. Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
Since their release in 2003, the Sennheiser HD 280 Pros remain as one of the most popular pairs of studio headphones on the market – not an easy feat to go unnoticed.
With a wide frequency range of 8 Hz – 25 kHz, as well as an incredibly accurate sound profile, these are one of the best recommendations for studio monitoring on both intermediate and professional levels.
These headphones are designed for durability and portability, with a wide, collapsable headband, and swiveling earcups.
5. Yamaha HPH-MT5
A solid choice for anyone
These are an incredibly solid choice for nearly any situation, whether that be for casual listening or for editing your live mixes. They’re extremely comfortable due to their padded headband and lightweight.
Having a frequency response of 20 Hz – 20 kHz, they have a fairly balanced sound profile. To us it seems that the lack of detail in the high end was sacrificed in favor of more accuracy and low end, which is a trade off, but not necessarily an unwelcome one.
6. PreSonus HD9
Great option for critical listening
The PreSonus HD9 are comfortable, closed-back headphones which feature a high level of isolation, as well as two-way 180-degree cup rotation. This is great especially for DJs who prefer listening with one ear during performance.
They have an extended frequency response of 10 Hz – 26 kHz, providing exceptional depth and clarity throughout the frequency spectrum. These are highly accurate headphones, with phenomenal bass response and a relatively flat response curve. These would make a perfect choice for monitoring and critical listening.
7. AKG K240 Studio
The best open-back headphones under $100
As far as open-back headphones are concerned, the AKG K240 Studios are most likely the best budget option you’ll find. Their reliability in mixing, mastering, and monitoring applications are more than enough for the less experienced. They’re also extraordinarily light, weighing about 8.5 oz.
The open-back feature is quite critical when it comes to mixing, as closed-back headphones disallow you from hearing the effects of the room sound you’re working in – an important aspect of a good mix is fine tuning how it reacts within any given acoustic space. They have a range of 15 Hz – 25 kHz, with ample bass presence as well as a well-balanced midrange.
8. Koss Pro4AA
Strong, comfortable, colorful
While these headphones are a perfect choice for professionals and casual listening alike, when it comes to broadcasting and studio use – these are a fantastic choice. These headphones are unusually made of steel for durability, and a well-padded rubber headband and adjustable sides to help you remain comfortable.
They have a frequency response of 10 Hz – 25 kHz, although they have a certain retro coloration that may not appeal to some, and will also inevitably make accurate mixes that much harder to produce. Ultimately, they’re great headphones but you should try them out for yourself to see if they’re the right choice for you.
9. Audio-Technica ATH-M20x
The best headphones for under $50
Are these the best performing, or even the most comfortable headphones you can buy? Absolutely not. However, the M20x provide an insane value for what they’re worth.
These are the younger siblings to the ATH-M40x, and they share all of the same features and almost the same exact performance despite some more harshness in the high end. They’re just much, much cheaper.
They’re definitely worth the expense for beginners just starting out on their journey as engineers, and are just as great for casual listening.
10. Tascam TH-03
The best cheap studio headphones under $30
While these are far from the best headphones one could own, they’re by far the cheapest headphones you can consider buying for under $30. Yes, they’re cheap, but being inexpensive isn’t always the worst thing in the world.
While they have a frequency 18 Hz – 22 kHz, please don’t expect the quality of more upscale options. Still, they serve their purpose extremely well, and are the best studio headphones for their price range.
Well, there you have it. The 10 best budget studio headphones of 2021. While some may have more drawbacks than others, all of the headphones mentioned here are well worth the price.
The question is simply what your values currently align with. Ultimately, you have to choose the headphones that will perform for your needs, not what anybody else tells you to buy. Always buy with the intention to get the most out of your headphones – whatever that may mean for you.