When it comes to music production, the mix is just as important as the creation process. Unfortunately, without studio headphones, I find it near impossible to craft a balanced mix.
This is because studio headphones differ from commercial gear. Studio headphones give you a flat, balanced sound that’s fully representative of the mix.
Therefore, I’m able to get an accurate reading of my levels.
I’ve made the mistake in the past of not-investing in great headphones in the past. However, I quickly learned that my mixes suffered pretty harshly, so I’ve since made it a priority on my gear list.
Gear can get expensive, but studio headphones are worth the investment in my eyes since they play such an integral role. Luckily, all of these studio headphone options are under $100 and still get the job done.
Consumer Vs. Studio Headphones
So, what makes studio headphones so important?
In short, the accuracy.
A lot of headphones created for the average listener are enhanced in some way. Usually, this equates to a bass or high-frequency boost in sound. While this may sound great while listening to the mix, it’s not representative of the sound itself.
For example, let’s say you listen to one of your mixes using a pair of headphones that happen to boost the bass. As you’re mixing, the bass tones come through much louder and heavier than what’s actually in the mix. So, you end up adjusting the bass level to be too low in the mix.
You might also find the opposite with a different pair of commercial headphones. Sometimes, cheap construction makes it so the listener’s experience is distorted. Therefore, your mix might sound much messier than it is in actuality.
This can be extremely frustrating as a producer— Regardless of what you do, your mix will always sound unprofessional through sub-par headphones.
Headphones are like the lens we hear music through. So, it’s extremely important that the lens is clear so that your mix will translate properly to other listeners in the future.
This is another reason why it’s so important for producers to test their sound in a variety of mixing environments. Listening to your mix on a car radio, studio monitors, and of course, studio headphones, is generally regarded as good practice.
Consumer headphones can be great for listening to music after they’ve been fully processed. During the mixing process, it’s a good idea to find headphones that translate a true reflection of the sound itself.
Moreover, studio headphones have a larger overall frequency range. So, you’ll be able to hear more of your mix that you might not otherwise pick up. This can make it easier for you to bring out the great sounds in your mix that might otherwise be overlooked.
A wider range of frequencies can also help you analyze reference tracks in a whole new way. If you’re able to notice the leveling in an ideal mix, you’re much more likely to apply the same principles to your own mix.
Studio headphones are also great for musicians who travel frequently or need to mix while on the go. These headphones are usually built with some form of light sound isolation as well, making it easier for you to hear accurately even if you’re in an unfavorably noisy environment.
Lastly, studio headphones differ from average headphones in terms of durability. Though you may pay more upfront, studio headphones usually last much longer than headphones created for the average listener. I like to think of them as an investment.
Long story short, studio headphones are the most accurate headphones you’ll find on the market. They’re also more durable and provide more sound depth than other headphones.
While it’s not uncommon for a mix to sound better in high-quality commercial headphones, doing so can short change your mix. For music production, studio headphones are usually the best pick. For leisurely listening, commercial headphones will do just fine.
Best Studio Headphones Under 100
Without further ado, here are some of our favorite studio headphones under $100. With a variety of styles, sound ranges, and helpful features, there are plenty of great studio headphone options available.
These headphones are one of the most affordable studio headphone options available making them a great entry-level option for producers just starting out.
The closed-back headphones have a frequency range of 18 Hz – 22 kHz, so you can certainly hear the bulk of frequencies that you’d need to craft a balanced mix.
I like how these headphones are fully foldable and rotate up to 90-degrees on both cups. This makes it easy to take these headphones from one place to another— All I need to do is throw them in my backpack, and I’m good to go. The included cable extends out to about 10 ft., which is great for complicated routing systems.
Though these headphones may not feel as substantial as other more costly options, they provide an impressively clear mid-range response.
You can get by using these headphones for a couple of hours at a time. While the padding isn’t extensive, it’s not unreasonable for basic mixing or production sessions.
You can’t really beat these headphones for their price and their surprisingly well-balanced flat signal.
The headphones are great for live monitoring but also serve as excellent hearing aids for session vocalists and musicians. Since they’re so affordable, you can easily build up your studio’s arsenal with the headphones without having to sacrifice quality.
While they may feel a bit lighter than other brands, they’re still pretty durable and can withstand an occasional from the mic stand.
They fit pretty comfortably and will stay firmly put throughout a recording session. This set does have its shortcomings in terms of padding, but it’s still more than reasonable for the price.
Even if these aren’t your choice pair for mixing, they make great headphones for session musicians that come in and out of your studio. If you’re looking for great sound on a tight budget, these headphones are an excellent choice.
- Balanced sound quality
- Affordable price
- Super portable
- Padding is thinner than more expensive models
- Best used for shorter sessions
Unlike other studio headphones, this pair doesn’t have an overt logo giving it a classy versatile appearance.
These mid-range headphones are pretty comfortable with an impressive amount of padding for the price. While they do have a great low-end range, some might find that these headphones have a less flat signal than other studio options.
However, this can be a great benefit for producers and engineers who find themselves producing while in transit— The impressive low-end range can help compensate for a lack of noise isolation while traveling.
Since low frequencies are more difficult for the human ear to hear than higher ones, this set is perfect for staying productive while on the go.
However, it might be wise for you to check your mix on monitors just to account for the strong low end. This isn’t necessarily a setback, since most of the time, mixes are checked on multiple audio outlets as a standard practice.
The cable of this headphone set is fully removable, making it ideal for studio situations. These headphones are extremely comfortable and are great for listening to a wide variety of musical styles.
It’s worth noting that these headphones are a bit chunkier than other entry-level studio pairs. These might take up a bit more extra space in your backpack or gear bag, but the ultra-padded design is worth the slight compromise on portability.
Luckily, the headphones are also foldable, so they can be compressed to about half of their original size.
Overall, these headphones are a great choice for producers looking for a comfy, affordable pair of studio headphones. While the headphones have a slight imbalance of frequencies, it’s certainly not a dealbreaker— Especially if you plan on testing your mix on multiple platforms.
- Impressively comfortable for the price range
- Great balanced sound quality
- Removable cord for easy transport
- Not the most comprehensive sound isolation
- No in-line mic
These semi-open headphones are a great deal for the price and are made to offer dependable studio-quality listening at a fraction of the cost. These headphones have been available for an impressively long amount of time, and for good reason.
The AKG K240 headphones come with a detachable 10-foot cable along with a standard adapter.
While the set does have some design quirks, it’s still a great deal for the price, especially if you’re looking for truly clear, balanced signaling while mixing.
This pair isn’t the most sensitive on the market with an impedance rating at 55 ohms. However, that also gives you the reading to crank the volume a bit more with these.
There’s almost no added attenuation, so you can depend on a clear mix using this set. If you’re looking for headphones with a super boomy base, this might not be the right pair for your tastes.
One thing to note is that these headphones don’t offer a hefty amount of noise isolation. Therefore, you might find that they’re best used strictly in a studio setting.
Mixing while on the road might be difficult since these headphones are so open. On the other hand, these headphones shouldn’t give you a headache even after hours of listening.
The pads are comfortable and hold snuggly for a sound fit while listening. This also makes these headphones a valuable asset for conducting studio sessions with singers and other musicians.
The mini XLR adapter feels super sturdy to me which is perfect for secured listening. While the overall aesthetics of these headphones are a little outdated, their superior sound quality certainly makes up for it.
Ultimately, these are great headphones with an impressive articulation of mid and high-range frequencies.
If you seek boomy bass while mixing, this might not be the pick for you. However, for most producers, these headphones are an excellent choice.
- Comfortable, padded design
- Lightweight design
- Clear, flattened signal
- Headband is not padded
- Branding is super visible
PreSonus is known for making high-quality interfaces, so it stands to reason that they would offer a great pair of mixing headphones. These headphones have an impressive frequency range of 10-26,000 Hz. Like the AKG K240, this pair has an impedance of 40 ohms.
With the headphones, you’ll be able to hear a wide range of frequencies which makes this a great set if you plan on mixing a variety of genres.
Along with a standard interface set up, the headphones work well with phones and computers due to their impedance level.
The low end of these headphones is refreshingly balanced without unnecessary punches. The mid-range is just as impressive with a clean, clear-cut sound that’s perfect for accurate mixing.
While the high-end is slightly rolled off, they are exceptionally detailed without being overbearing or shrill.
I love how these headphones have two-way 180-degree rotating cups. The earpads are thick and cushy, making the pair pretty durable to withstand wear and tear over time.
These headphones are especially great for leisurely listening tunes. They’re undoubtedly a great multi-purpose pair.
These headphones also have a pretty solid build, so they’ll certainly be able to hold up well over the years.
While these aren’t the most detailed headphones, especially in the low-range area, they’re impressively clear in the mid and high areas. With a versatile sound range and super padded construction, this is a great all-purpose piece of audio equipment.
- Excellent value for the price
- Strong low-end frequencies
- Full cup rotation for easy storage
- High frequencies may feel somewhat imbalanced
- Might not be the most comfortable for extra-long sessions
This solid pair of headphones first came out in 1991 and is still in production today. This factor alone should give you a good idea of how reliable this set actually is.
With a fairly balanced signal, these headphones make for accurate and clear mixing. I love how these headphones have a closed-back design which is great for studio isolation.
While they don’t have a super substantial amount of padding, these headphones are still pretty comfortable. The headphones have a minimal look that fits well in a variety of studio settings. Also, the foldable cups are super convenient for safe storage while on the go.
One thing to note, although, is that the cable is not removable. This may make it more difficult to use the set if you’re far away from your interface or audio source.
However, this also comes with the benefit of having a secure connection. The headphones have an impedance of 63 ohms, so they might not be the most compatible with phones or other mobile devices.
These headphones have a frequency range of 10Hz – 20kHZ and provide one of the most balanced sound profiles available in this price tier.
Unlike other headphones, this pair lightly attenuates the mid and high frequencies. So while it might not be your favorite pair of leisurely listening headphones, this pair is great for mixing.
The headphones are great for field recording, studio recording, or mixing on the go. In fact, these are often regarded as an industry standard. Though these headphones may have an entry-level price, you get a notable bang for your buck.
- Dependable design
- Solid cable design
- Excellent sound isolation
- Plastic build can feel somewhat cheap
- No padded headband
Though all of these headphones are great in their own right, I believe the AKG 240 pair is the best pair for a clear mix.
While the studio headphones do have a somewhat limiting open design, the flattened signal is arguably the most important trait when it comes to finding a great studio headphone pair.
Many headphones distort the mixing experience by boosting the low frequencies, or simply don’t have as wide of a frequency range for appropriate mixing.
The AKGs won’t set you back by the cost, but will still offer a clear representation of where you need to adjust your mix.
When it comes to audio gear, you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to get a good sound. After all, a pair of studio headphones is only as useful as the producer who uses them.