Buying your first studio headphones is anything but a straightforward choice. Being a novice in the field of music production, you still don’t know what to look out for, which characteristics matter, and, if you’re on a budget, what product is really worth it in the long term. The truth is that you don’t need to have the most expensive studio headphones to obtain fantastic results. All you need is a pair which is reliable and neutral in the representation of the perceived sound. Our best studio headphones under 100 $ review compiles the pairs of studio headphones that will give you a general impression of what matters during mixing and tracking processes.

Reviews | Best Studio Headphones Under 100 $

1. Sony MDRV6 Review

  • 95% 95%
L

Balanced and neutral sound

L

Included 1/4-inch adapter

L

Included carrying bag

K

Fragile shielding of the provided cables

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Much like the higher end MDR-7506, the Sony MDRV6 is an industry standard and highly regarded pair for mixing and tracking processes. For novices, this seems to be a fantastic entry-level option. In terms of sound, the MDRV6 offer a detailed frequency response which is flat and satisfyingly wide (5 Hz – 30 kHz). The pair is a closed back model that won’t leak any sound during your sessions.

More specifically, the bass frequencies are not overrepresented, providing an honest and neutral sound signature. The bass is tight, clear, but certainly not overpowered. The neodymium magnets and 40 mm drivers make the sound powerful. This also applies to the mid and high-range frequencies where the clarity is pristine. With these ones, you’ll be able to tell the difference between a good and poor mix (no weird colorization).

Well-constructed, these headphones also have large and comfortable ear pads and their over-ear design provides comfort and outstanding reduction of external noises. In addition, the build quality makes these headphones seemingly resistant (time will tell). Other points to take into account are their low impedance which makes them easy to drive and a boasted “wired connectivity technology”. The only thing we can confirm is that both the oxygen free copper cord and the voice coil wire are very soft and flexible. The single downfall you should be aware of is the insufficient shielding of the cables. But then again, these are replaceable.

2. Sennheiser HD280 PRO Review

  • 75% 75%
L

Best at tracking

L

Flat response

L

Replaceable parts (included 1/4” adapter)

K

Not the best for mixing.

K

Long and heavy coiled cord

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Alongside the new model, Sennheiser still sells the old HD280 Pro and this should be indicatory of the longevity and undeniable quality of these headphones. Coming either with a case or without, these headphones are one of the best options for tracking. If mixing can also be done with these, it might lack the precision of some higher-end headphones. Starting with the sturdy design, Sennheiser has manufactured a lightweight, comfortable and resistant pair which contributes to an overall ergonomic construction.

The first thing you will notice is that these headphones are extremely light (285 g) and easy to carry around, except for their cord length. Their around-the-ear design permits an incredible 32 dB attenuation of outside sound. On top of that, most of the parts (ear pads, headband padding, and audio cord) are easily replaceable, making these headphones a great option in the long term.

Sound-wise the extended frequency response is warm and offers a natural sound reproduction. The signal is flat, meaning you will hear most details accurately. However, with time, when these “burn in”, they will undoubtedly sound better. Pertaining to sound properties, the HD280 Pro is anything but harsh as this won’t result in ear fatigue. The pair offers plenty of basses but isn’t bass heavy. Other than that, the sound is crisp and this applies to any music genre. Mids and highs are well represented with minimal audio coloring.

3. Audio-Technica ATH M30x Review

  • 85% 85%
L

Clear and neutral sound response

L

Solid build quality

L

Collapsible for space-saving portability

K

Uncomfortable around your neck

K

Cumulation of heat over longer sessions

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Probably not comparable to their bigger brother, the ATH M50x, the Audio-Technica ATH M30x still prove to be a good choice in the entry-level market. Possessing a fair share of similarities with the ATH M50x sound properties, the ATH M30x have crystal clear highs, solid lows, and smooth mids.

A justifiable concern for many music producers, the bass, is rich clean and detailed on these headphones. On the high part, however, these could lack a bit of emphasis. Other than that the sound quality is on par with the brand’s reputation. Audio-Technica is particularly proud of its mid-range definition and according to us, this is the best-defined range on this pair. The latter is probably emphasized by the 40 mm drivers, fabricated with high-quality components.

Extremely comfortable to wear and having a minor clamping force, this pair is a great option for long studio sessions. Moreover, the circumaural design contributes to excellent sound isolation in loud environments even though some heat can build up if you wear these for extended periods.

In addition, the ATH M30x has an attractive design and are extremely lightweight making them easily transportable and a great option for mobile producers. In a useful way, these are also collapsible (even more than the M50’s) and offer good space saving possibilities. Another satisfying feature is the convenient single-side cable exit. Overall, the ATH M30x offers a really good quality-price-ratio and a great bang for the buck.

4. Presonus HD9 Review

  • 80% 80%
L

Wide and clear frequency response

L

Comfortable pair

L

Present and well-defined miss and highs

K

Lacks frequency accuracy (especially bass)

K

Slight clamping force (noticeable during long sessions)

Click here to see reviews on Amazon

The Personus HD9 is another great option for music producers who are looking to add reference studio headphones to their setup. These closed-back headphones have a circumaural acoustic design with two-way 180° rotative ear cups. Speaking of the fit and comfort, the headphones are comfortable and the ear pads seem long-lasting. It should also be noted that the headband is adjustable.

Sound-wise the frequency response is wide (10 Hz – 26 kHz) and the low-frequency response is surprisingly accurate. Owing to its design, the pair is precisely tuned and allows high power handing (1800mW @ 40 Ohms, 900mW per channel). The overall tight, clean and crisp sound quality is in great part made possible by the 45 mm quality dynamic, neodymium drivers. Sensitivity is high and (96 dB sensitivity (±3 dB) this additional sound characteristic alongside others make the HD 9 a perfect option for mixing purposes.

Additional features include useful accessories such as a handy storage bag, a 10′ straight, single-sided cable with 1/8″  connector and a gold-plated 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter which is important for those of you that need a variety of connectivity options. Lastly, a semi-open version (HD 7), similar to this product is also sold by Personus.

Recommendations | Studio Headphones Under 100$

Features & sound properties: what matters?

If we won’t go into depth for the definitions of each sound specificity and why they matter, there are number characteristics you should consider; impedance, drivers, frequency response, noise isolation, connectivity, sensitivity. Impedance (the Ohms it takes to drive your headphones) frequency response, headphones sensitivity and the drivers being used are the ones that really matter when it comes to sound properties.

Sennheiser HD280 Pro Headphones

All of these characteristics should contribute to an overall neutral sound representation which is appropriate for both mixing and tracking, two of the most important music production processes. You want to have a signal that is honest and doesn’t overpower bass, mid or higher frequencies, because that could jeopardize your whole mix. The listed features and specificities also demonstrate why studio headphones are more suited for music production than hi-fi headphones.

In terms of features, you want to look at what items your headphones come with (cables, bag, adapters, etc.). Moreover, to determine the choice of which headphones you should buy, consider the studio usage you make of them. Keep in mind that different type of headphones (open, semi, closed-back) produce varying results. In this article, we mainly focus on closed-back headphones since these are the most convenient to use in all circumstances.

Manufacturing, Durability & Resistance

Entry-level studio headphones like the ones listed in this article are obviously not the most qualitative headphones in terms of manufacturing. But, when comparing headphones you realize that there is not one way to conceive a headphones pair. In the contemporary era, originality has no limits and designers will use the most unlikely components to manufacture studio headphones. However, even if the design can vary with the headphones that are listed below most of the models are made of solid plastic.

Presonus HD9 Headphones

Resistance is another keyword which you should keep in mind as you do want to have headphones that can go through some “tear and wear”. It doesn’t matter if you are a “mobile producer” or if you plan to use headphones only in the studio: the resistance of your headphones should matter.

The latter ties into durability. If these are probably the first studio headphones you will own, that doesn’t mean you don’t want them to be durable. Even if you have more qualitative headphones  (see article: best audiophile headphones), you can always keep these for future A/B referencing.

Transport & Comfort

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see artists touring for months. When they are on the go, music producers try to remain productive and work on new projects. Of course, they won’t be able to finish tracks when traveling but they benefit taking studio headphones with them for composition and arrangement processes. In that scenario, noise reduction, comfortable fit and the headphones not being “harsh” on their ears are all crucial considerations.

You are probably not a renowned international electronic music producer, but you do want a pair of headphones that are comfortable when you use it for longer sessions and light when you carry them around you wherever you go. Today, the advantage is that most headphones are light, being fabricated with top-notch materials. That being said, if you just want to use your studio headphones within the walls of your studio, there is no real necessity to consider transport. However, your comfort is an aspect you can’t avoid as there is no doubt you will be using your headphones for extended time periods.

Conclusion

Assuming the studio headphones you will buy are the first ones you will own, you should consider a sum of different characteristics like sound properties, manufacturing and design and the features of the headphones. In this article, we reviewed 4 different studio headphones which we believe are the best under the 100 $ price tag. The two headphones that particularly satisfied us based on the aforementioned criteria were the Audio-Technica ATH M30x and the Sony MDRV6 with a slight edge for the latter. In the end, you should consider your budget, the value for money and (if you have the chance) trying out the studio headphones before buying them.

1 Comment

  1. Jonathan-David Clark

    Great review I love the layout in the fact that you mention cons just wish you featured more headphones so I can have more to choose from thank you

    Reply

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