The Best Cheap Studio Headphones Under $100

The Highest Rated Studio Headphones Under $100

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Most sub $100 headphones will not meet the strict requirements of professional studios, but there are some gems with good enough quality for home recording use.

Here we feature these great quality top rated headphones, divided into sub $50 and Sub $100 categories, based on updated data up to November 2022.

Closed-back studio headphones are still the most practical choice, since they can be used for both tracking and mixing. The closed construction offers better sound isolation, and prevents leakage to mics.

Open-Back and Semi-Open headphones give an experience closer to studio monitors, adding back ambience and space on to the sound you're hearing. This makes them viable for mixing and mastering duties, but the drawback is that they leak sound, and has less low-end depth.

The Best Cheap Studio Headphones - 2022.11

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

Samson SR850 - Semi-Open

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 7250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$35
Samson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Headphones
At publication time these were the Highest Rated Studio Headphones Under $50.

Cons

  • A bit bulky
  • Not for tracking

Pros

  • Deep bass and clean highs
  • Wide frequency response
  • Good stereo imaging
  • Comfortable fit for long sessions

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. It has a clear and detailed sound, with good stereo imaging. Just don't push the volume too high, to prevent harshness in the treble frequencies. Note that because of its semi-open back design, sound can bleed into mics when tracking.

The self-adjusting headband provides stability and comfort for long periods of listening sessions. It doesn't physically hurt the ears as much as others do, even after hours of mixing, editing and referencing. Note that it is a bit big, especially for those who are used to smaller cans.

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. It would've been better if it had detachable cables, but that's difficult to expect given the price.

These are a great choice at this price point if you are looking for headphones with a clean bass response for your mix.

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

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Audio Fanzine Intip 100/100
YouTube BubVisuals 96/100
YouTube Techkhamun 91/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Yamaha HPH-50 - Closed Back

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 1000+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$36
Yamaha HPH-50 Closed-back Headphones

Cons

  • Bass frequencies are a bit lacking
  • Not good for pro-level mixing

Pros

  • Neutral sound signature
  • Audible and clear vocals
  • Great for monitoring keyboards and edrums
  • Good general monitoring and tracking solution

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.

Being from Yamaha, it is popular among those who play electric piano, pianos and other classical instruments, because they sound lively and present. It also works particularly well for monitoring electronic drums.

The sound signature is fairly neutral and vocals are audible and clear, making the HPH-50 a good general monitoring and tracking solution for home studios. But note that you the bass frequencies are a bit lacking, which can be a problem when mixing.

Still, the Yamaha HPH-50 are great headphones for monitoring instruments like electric piano, electronic drums and synthesizers.

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'

Best Studio Headphones Under $100

Vic Firth SIH2 Stereo Isolation Headphones - Closed Back

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 1950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$88
Vic Firth SIH2 Stereo Isolation Headphones

Cons

  • Not suitable for mixing and mastering
  • Long sessions may be unpleasant

Pros

  • High SPL noise isolation (-25dB)
  • Great for tracking drums and guitar amps
  • Also viable for quiet tracking of vocals
  • Doubles as hearing protection

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. It is a great tracking headphones for drummers and guitarists who want to be in the room with loud amplifiers

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. Given its isolation capacity, it is a bit bulky and heavy, which can be uncomfortable when used for long sessions.

The isolation also becomes useful for tracking vocalists as there is 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.

Note that while it sounds clear and full for tracking and monitoring, frequency response isn't suited for mixing and critical listening.

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.

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

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Drummer Talk Dave Kropf 80/100
Parlor Live Editor XX/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Sony MDR-7506 - Closed-Back

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 25450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Sony MDR-7506 Closed-Back Headphones
At publication time these were the Highest Rated Studio Headphones Under $100.

Cons

  • The pads can get hot and are a bit fragile
  • Can be a bit trebly for pro-level mixing

Pros

  • Flat midrange and honest overall sound
  • Suited for both monitoring and mixing
  • Foldable for easy storage and transport
  • Versatile and portable

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.

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.

The MDR-7506 has a flat midrange and honest overall sound signature, and this makes it suited for both monitoring and mixing. This versatility is a rarity in headphones, and is the reason why the MDR-7506 continues to be a market favorite workhorse set of studio headphones. Note that it can be a bit too bright sounding for those who are used to more expensive studio headphones.

Being foldable, the MDR-7506 is easy to store and carry around, making it a good all-in-one headphones solution for musicians and studio technicians that are always on the move. Be warned that the pads need to be handled with a little more care, and they can also get hot if used for an extended period of time.

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.

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)

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Sound on Sound Hugh Robjohns 84/100
Audiofanzine Studio C&P 100/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

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 published on November 8, 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 29 sets of headphones. We then collected and analyzed ratings and reviews from retailers, forum discussions and expert recommendations, including the most recent ones up to November 2022. The data piled up to over 130,000 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

Alexander Briones: 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.