Sennheiser Momentum 2.0
The best headphones are rarely the cheapest, but they’re not always the most expensive either. Sennheiser’s Momentum on-ear, for instance, deliver the best sound of any headphone straddling the $100 mark. Technically, the model has recently crept just above the $100 line recently, possibly due to demand. But these are so good, we had to keep them atop the list. The minimalist pair of cans hit all the right notes, offering up rich bass tones and excellent instrumental spacing, within an ergonomic design that’s as easy on the eyes as it is on the ears. The integrated cushions provide plenty of comfort, conveniently compensating for the thin, harder layer of padding lining the band, while a pair of dynamic drivers make for a clear, accurate sound signature capable of achieving a claimed frequency range of 16-22,000Hz. We sung their praises when they cost $230 — and now they’re less than half the price.
Marshall Major II Bluetooth On-Ear Headphones
Marshall Headphones has a knack for mixing excellent style, and solid performance, all in a package that’s easy on the wallet. The durable Major II are a perfect case-in-point, designed with a malleable headband and foldable earcups for maximum portability. The re-voiced 40mm drivers also deliver solid performance across the entire sound spectrum, namely in regards to their impressive midrange and low-end, with satisfying instrumental separation to match. The gold embellishments and ’70s-era, coiled cable only add some vintage flare to an otherwise modern pair of headphones.
Shure SE112-GR-A Sound Isolating Earphones
The Shure SE112 sound twice as expensive as they actually are, partly owing to their special dynamic drivers and partly due to the passive noise isolation afforded by their robust silicone ear tips. A strip of soft rubber accompanies a thick layer of plastic comprising each earpiece, and though they’re intended to be worn inverted, they still manage to drown out the noise of the outside world regardless of which configuration you choose. However, the hallmarks of the SE112 remain their incredible sound, which exudes a commendable level of detail within a lucid, expansive soundstage known to excel in terms of both bass and treble. The rock-bottom price and solid construction render them the next best thing to the Sennheiser Momentum.
Grado SR80e Prestige Series Headphones
You won’t venture far on your headphone research journey without hearing about Grado cans. This Brooklyn-based family company is renowned for its penchant for retro-styling, quality construction, and excellent performance-to-dollar value. The SR80e offer a prime piece of Grado’s coveted can experience for the dough, but Grado’s open back design is a double edged sword: the style offers an airy, vividly clear sound signature, but the world will hear your tunes, and you’ll hear the world. That means they aren’t great for the bus, or public moments of revery with your Phil Collins Greatest Hits collection. Still a great sound for the cash, though.
There are plenty of choice selections from the ‘heiser under 100 clams, but for our second choice we went with the HD 280 for their rugged construction, studio-inspired coiled cable, and crystal clear sound that digs up subtle moments from deeper layers of the music. The company says these are built for the studio, and you won’t hear many cans at this price that even attempt that claim. Like the Stealth bomber, they come in black … and black.
Chinese company 1More’s Triple Drivers manage to deliver all the features of a high-end set of in-ear headphones at an affordable price, and in a package that looks and feels premium, no less. The Triple Drivers deliver clear, quality upper frequencies, with 1More claiming a 40 kHz max range on these puppies, and balanced-yet-weighty bass. For such a high quality listen, it’s almost a shock these are only $100.
Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones + Slappa Full Sized HardBody PRO Headphone Case (SL-HP-07)
These affordable cans from sonic stalwart Audio Technica are an upgrade from the ATH-M30X model, and serve as the younger sibling to the pricier ATH-M50X. The ATH-M40X offer a robust over-ear design that throws down a smooth, natural sound to play back your music collection with a steady hand. The fluid upper register is paired with ample bass response down below, and the ‘phones take on detail with an impressively sensitive touch for the price. After all, it’s Audio Technica — what else would you expect?
SOL REPUBLIC 1140-01 Shadow Wireless In-Ear Headphones
The promise of wireless functionality always comes with compromises, yet Sol Republic’s Shadow Wireless keep said compromises to a minimum. The necessary hardware is stowed within a halo band that conveniently rests on your shoulders, providing the Bluetooth-enabled earphones with up to 8 hours of runtime ( +/- based on volume level) per charge. Sol Republic’s lifetime supply of free ear tips is also a standout, as is the sound, which dishes out a healthy serving of bass and finds grounding within a textured midrange and treble devoid of sibilance. They even feature an integrated microphone and on-board controls, with a solid wireless range to boot.