Great headphones don’t have to cost a fortune. While more expensive models usually sound better and perform better, there are also some cheap headphones for under £100.
You don’t have to sacrifice functionality, either. All types of headphones including wireless, noise canceling and over-ear headphones for less than £100. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
Of course, even the best sub-$100 headphones won’t challenge models further down the chain—the smaller earphones suffer from some of the usual problems, including poor sound quality, spotty wireless connections that often drop, poor fit and poor manufacturing quality. But the best of them all do exactly what they set out to do: great headphones for those on a budget. We should know – we tested all the heat
1. Audio-Technica ATH M40x
The ATH M40x are a great pair of cans for those looking for an affordable option for studio work. Loyalty DJs or casual listeners are prioritized. These big, powerful cans feature 40mm drivers in well-cushioned cups that help boost the low end and extend transients in the precise mid-range, supporting a neutral but vibrant sound. Each pair comes with two detachable cables, one coiled and one straight, which terminate in a 3.5mm connector and a 6.3mm screw adapter for audio interface, mixing amplifiers, A/V receivers, and headphone amplifiers (sensitivity makes them ideal for any mobile or desktop device, regardless of power).
Sturdy yet flexible, with 90-degree swivel earcups and folding hinges for easy portability. Built for sound, the M40xs doesn’t include bells and whistles like active noise cancellation, wireless connectivity, or built-in microphones. They’re not quite for those looking for an ultra-compact, lightweight option, but they’re the best headphones under $100 if you’re looking for something that excels in physical durability and sound integrity. While they can retail for as much as $120, depending on the source, they can often be found new and refurbished under the C-Note.
2. Razer Barracuda Wireless
If you like to set things up as you go, check out the Razer Barracuda Wireless. These over-ear headphones are designed for mixed casual and gaming use, but have a very simple, minimalist design that blends in anywhere. You also have two separate companion apps, depending on which device you have connected. If you’re using a PC, you have access to THX Spatial Audio, which can make your audio sound even more immersive. In contrast, mobile app users can use Quick Connect, which lets you switch between known audio sources quickly and easily. Both apps have a 10-band graphic equalizer, so you can tweak the default warm sound to your liking.
These comfortable and well-made over-ear headphones support Bluetooth and proprietary wireless connectivity, so you can use a dongle to receive audio from your laptop while still staying connected to your smartphone. You also get over 46 hours of non-stop playback time, which is great for long stretches. You can leave them wired when not in use, and there’s an auto-off timer to save battery life if you forget to turn them off.
3. JBL Tune 760NC Wireless
The best over-ear Bluetooth headphones under $100 for calling features we’ve tested are the JBL Tune 760NC Wireless. If you want a headset that you can use to take video calls throughout your workday, these headsets have better microphone performance than the other options listed here. A built-in microphone keeps your voice clear and natural, and it does a good job of isolating it from surrounding noise, so distractions like traffic outside your window or a humming air conditioner don’t disrupt calls too much. Their built-in controls allow you to answer and end calls without pulling out your phone.
They have a comfortable fit, but may feel a little tight depending on the size of your head. Unlike most of the headphones listed here, they lack companion software and sound customization features. Their sound quality is well-balanced, with a neutral midrange that ensures vocals are detailed and clear. The headphones boast a long battery life of over 40 hours, allowing you to get through several workdays without recharging. Unfortunately, their ANC features don’t have the best performance, so they’re not ideal if you work in a busy office.
4. Sound Magic E11C
Listening to these wallet-friendly in-ears, it’s hard to believe that SoundMagic was founded in 2005. In that relatively short time it’s built a reputation for being some of the best headphones under £100. These are the best what Hi-Fi? Prizes awarded for 2021 and 2022. This is not an easy task.
They launched in 2018 – a headphone era – but given the best modern competition at this price point, they’re still the best. The sound quality is excellent, with precise timing, beautiful depth and warmth, and excellent clarity.
They’re wired, so you’ll obviously need an adapter to use them with most modern smartphones and tablets. But they do have an inline remote and microphone for hands-free calls. All this for around €50. incredible.
5. Sony WF-C500
When it comes to wireless earbuds, Sony has stitched a high-end offering with the WF-1000XM4. But can it do the same thing as the WF-C500 in the budget segment?
These won the 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award, so the answer is yes. The basics of the C500 are excellent, with support for Bluetooth 5.0 and compatibility with SBC and AAC codecs. Battery life is rated at 10 hours on the earbuds themselves and 10 hours with the charging case, for a total of 20 hours.
They’re paired with Sony’s well-established Headphones Connect app for excellent control and a host of extra features (such as a digital sound enhancement engine that boosts audio files to near ‘hi-res’ quality). There’s voice control via Google Assistant and Siri, and an IPX4 rating means they’re splash-resistant.
Sonically, they’re even and well-balanced, with well-structured bass notes. In short, they offer a lot of what makes Sony’s high-end headphones so compelling without sacrificing too much. Definitely one of the shortlist.
6. Sennheiser HD 250BT
Sennheiser doesn’t tend to release too many wireless earbuds at this cheaper end of the market, so we’re happy to report that these Bluetooth earbuds are great value for money. Great, we gave them 2022 What Hi-Fi? forgive.
The looks may be functional, but these are far from basic. There’s a Smart Controls app that comes with equalizer and EQ settings, as well as battery life notifications and firmware updates.
When it comes to sound, Sennheiser’s affordable and durable headphones don’t disappoint. Musically, the HD 250BT sound more nuanced, snappier, and more rhythmic across frequencies than you might expect.