After reviewing dozens of cheap models, we determined the best earbuds under $100 are Audio-Technica's ATH-CKS990iS. We chose these earphones due to the sleek design, competitive features and high performance for the price.
Coming in a close second was Sony's H500A H.Ear in 2 earbuds. These offer similar features with slightly smaller drivers for around the same price.
Those looking to spend as little as possible within this budget, Bose's SoundSport model is likely best suited for you. At well under $100, these earbuds offer competitive specs and look great.
A sleek and affordable pair of earbuds from one of the best names in the professional audio.
Audio-Technica is best known for their higher-end microphones and microphones, but their ATH-CKS990iS model shows they aren't afraid to enter the low-budget market. Sporting an ultra-sleek look mixed with a great headphone design, solid performance and full in-line support for taking calls or controlling a compatible mobile device.
A simple pair of earbuds from Sony offering high-resolution sound performance.
Offering a more basic design Sony's H500A H.Ear in 2 are another model to consider if don't like the Audio-Technica's listed above. You will however have to settle for a single-button for in-line controls as well as slightly smaller drivers for supplying the audio performance.
*Pricing as of 4/16/19
Best On A Tight Budget
Originally $99.99 when they first launched, these earbuds offer great value at well under $100.
Bose is one of the biggest names in consumer audio accessories and their SoundSport earbuds are loved by many consumers. With a unique headphone design that has extended inserts to hold onto your ears, you'll get reliable and consistent noise isolation regardless of any physical activity.
*Pricing as of 4/16/19
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When in the market for a decent pair of earbuds under $100, we know there are many questions or concerns you likely have. We recommend that you take the time to read all of this guide. Doing so will help you better understand the lower-end earbud market before making a decision.
If you still have any further questions or concerns then use the comments section below this guide. Our staff will provide some helpful advice or answers to your earbud related question as soon as possible!
What To Expect When Using Earbuds Under $100
For many, spending up to $100 on a pair of earbuds might sound like hefty investment. Unfortunately, in a headphone industry that focuses on craftsmanship and sound quality, this type of budget won't get you very far.
We are NOT telling you that you shouldn't buy a pair of cheap earbuds or feel upset about trying to save money. We are simply trying to prepare your for what you can expect in return for earbuds at this low price. It is important to not have too high of standards or expect the “best of the best”, but there are still some great earbuds under $100.
Headphone Design & Craftsmanship
A lower price-point means manufacturers will likely have to skimp on the quality of their earbuds. That isn't to say that these earphones will feel overly cheap. Although, chances are you'd be able to tell the difference between a pair of earbuds priced under $100 compared to a $200 model upon first impression.
Based on a lot of the reviews of these earbuds, you will need to be careful with the cords as they seem to be the weakest link. Proper care of the earphones will help determine the lifespan of the product.
To get the best longevity of your earbuds, we recommend keeping them clean from dirt or grime by wiping them down with a cloth frequently. It is also important to store them properly such as in their included carrying cases when not in use.
You might not feel as though the fit is perfect for your ears upon your first time wearing your earbuds. All of these models will allow you to interchange the rubber or silicone tips at the end of each headphone.
By choosing the correct tips for your ear shape and size, you'll ensure a comfortable fit when in use. This will also help keep your earbuds from accidentally falling out. Having this happen can result in damage especially when working out or being active.
Features & Sound Performance
As much as we'd like to, you can't expect the best quality audio performance from $100 earphones. However, the headphone performance can differ between models. This is because some manufacturers would rather focus on craftsmanship over performance. Others may put more emphasis on sound quality over earbud design or build quality.
If you fall within this budget, we'd guess most of you won't consider yourselves “audiophiles”. Given this, the performance will be relative to your listening preferences. At this price-point, the internal audio components of the earphones may differ slightly. However, the average user likely won't notice a difference in audio performance.
This is the lower-end of the headphone market so don't expect the best when it comes to the quality of the resulting sound. The hard reality is that some of you won't be satisfied with the audio performance of any earbuds under $100. In this case, we'd recommend saving up for a more expensive pair that offers greater sound quality.
What To Consider Before Buying Cheap Earbuds
When it comes to buying affordable earbuds, everyone's needs differ. Some users care more about look and overall durability than sound quality. Others may seek the best audio performance without much care for appearance.
Some users seek the most “realistic” audio profile from their earbuds. Others may prefer unrealistic elements such as overbearing bass or uneven tonal ranges.
Below are some of the criteria we look at when reviewing the earbuds mentioned in this review along with a brief explanation:
- Brand – there are a TON of cheap Chinese brands (or even name brand counterfeits) earbuds sold at this price-point, choosing a reputable manufacturer will ensure quality and longevity due to reliable warranties.
- Price – earphones often fall under the “you get what you pay for” mantra, don't expect the best quality on the market for under $100.
- Frequency response – total range of bass, mids, and treble as a measure of equal frequency reproduction. A wider range is technically best, but the standard for most consumer-grade headphones is 20 to 20,000 Hz.
- Sensitivity – a measurement in decibels which indicates how loud the earphones can get. This attribute is relevant to the output capabilities of the source device (such as your phone) and isn't a significant factor in this style of headphone.
- Impedance – a measurement in ohms which shows the opposition to the flow of the current. Lower levelneedre less power to deliver high audio levels. At this price-point and headphone type, this attribute won't make much of a difference.
- Open or closed – headphones generally follow two types of designs (both over-ear and in-ear). Closed headphones are designed to keeping your music or audio private as well as help block out external noise. Open designs offer the best sound quality while sacrificing listening privacy and lack isolation towards outside noise.
- Noise Isolation – with the closed headphone concept, all the earbuds listed in this guide offer some sort of noise isolation. This helps you focus on your music or sounds while drowning out any outside distractions.
- In-line Controls – refers to button(s) located on the headphone cord to carry out actions like controlling playback of your music (with supported devices). Keep in mind, these controls may be specific to iOS or Android so make sure the model of earbuds you choose are compatible with your smartphone before buying if you plan to use this feature.
- Microphone – whether the earbuds offer an in-line microphone which when paired with the controls allow you to answer phone calls without touching your phone.
- Interchangeable tips – refers to the earphones themselves which may come with replacement tips. These tips are either identical (for replacing under heavy use) or offer multiple sizes to customize the sizing to fit your specific ears.
- Carrying case – unnecessary to some, this references whether the earbuds come with a carrying case for safe and secure storage.
Comparing The Top Earphones Under $100
|Model||ATH-CKS990iS||SE215-K||H500A H.Ear in 2||R6i II||Momentum In-Ear||SoundTrue Ultra|
|Frequency Response||5-28,000 Hz||22-17,500 Hz||5-40,000 Hz||10-19,000 Hz||15-22,000 Hz||N/A|
|Sensitivity||104 dB/mW||107 dB/mW||103 dB/mW||110 dB/mW||118 dB/mW||N/A|
|Impedance||50 ohms||17 ohms||16 ohms||18 ohms||18 ohms||N/A|
|Open Or Closed||Closed||Closed||Closed||Closed||Closed||Closed|
|Connection||Wired (3.5mm)||Wired (3.5mm)||Wired (3.5mm)||Wired (3.5mm)||Wired (3.5mm)||Wired (3.5mm)|
Best Earbuds Under $100 (2019)
Coming in as our top pick for this guide is the CKS990iS in-ear headphones from Audio-Technica. Using machined aluminum housings paired with dual 13mm magnetic-field drivers, you get great frequency response from 5-28,000 Hz. They also excellent bass reproduction via the venting system.
The cabling offers separate star-quad cables for improved isolation and the in-line controls are compatible with music and video playback. There is also an integrated in-line microphone for taking calls.
Keep in mind the 3.5mm stereo plug is L-shaped meaning that it won't protrude straight out from your device. This is a nice feature but it can interfere with an oversize case on your smartphone. You can get around this with a cheap adapter, but it isn't an ideal solution.
The look is desirable with availability in the brand's signature black/red finish as well as a black/gold option (that is priced much higher). There are four sizes of silicone tips included for matching different consumer's ears ranging from XS to L.
One of the most reputable brands in consumer electronics. Sony has released their H500A H.Ear in 2 model for providing high-resolution audio for consumers on a budget. Harnessing 9mm high-sensitivity drivers, you can get some of the best frequency range of 5-34,000 Hz at this price-point.
The design is rather bland with a range of pastel finishes that some may love while others may hate. The build quality of this pair is cheaper than that of Audio-Technica's CKS990iS. Several consumers have complained that the cables are thin and fragile.
Beyond the potential cable woes, the in-line control is lacking compared to many of the other models. It offers only a single button that can be used to take hands-free calls or pause your music. This means that there is no way to adjust the volume without reaching for your mobile device.
Bose is another big dog in the consumer headphone market. Their SoundSport model has been a favorite for many in the past few years. Released back in 2015 with a price-point of $99, these ear buds have dropped significantly with the current price coming in under half the initial MSRP.
From a design standpoint, this model has two unique attributes that make it stand out. First off, this version has been further improved to be “weatherproof” and sweat resistant. This doesn't mean that it is waterproof. The manufacturer has stated that these earbuds can handle small amounts of moisture during regular active use.
There is a unique “fin” design that protrudes from behind each earbud. This helps to offer increased comfort and a better overall fit. It also helps to keep the tips directly into your ear thus allowing more consistent noise isolation.
You may not have heard of Shure before, but they are another well-known brand in the headphone market. This $100 model focuses on providing optimal noise isolation and accurate enough to properly monitor audio.
The design doesn't look all that appealing, but they do offer two unique attributes. First off, the angle of the nozzle for each earbud is designed to keep a low profile and rest comfortably in your ears.
Each can be detached from the cord for replacement or for upgradeable purposes. The stock cord at this price does NOT include any form of in-line mic or controls. You can buy an aftermarket one as well as a Bluetooth-enabled cable down the road if you wish.
Klipsch is a company based in the US (Indianapolis) which offers consumer audio products at all price-points. Their R6i II earbuds is the same as their cheaper R6 model, but with iOS support. This allows the in-line microphone and controls to be compatible with iOS which was missing from the original headphone.
The design is rather basic with patented oval ear tips and options for both a black or white finish. With a three-button remote plus a mic, there is support for iOS devices with this model. You'll need to buy the R6M if you want to use these features with an Android device.
The Momentum line from Sennheiser covers many variations of headphones. Designed for lower budgets, these earphones offer a wired construction with in-ear noise isolation. They use high-quality transducers which allow high sound output levels while minimizing distortion.
The cosmetic appeal is pleasing to the eye. Crafted out of custom machined, low resonance stainless steel with black and red finishes offered. There are dedicated versions for both Android and iOS.
We hope you found this article valuable in our search for the best earbuds under $100. Our team believes that our top headphone choice Audio-Technica's ATH-CKS990iS will be an excellent option for the majority of our readers.
If you've made it this far then you should have a solid grasp on the budget earbud market. We know all of this information can be a lot to take in. We recommend bookmarking or saving this guide to revisit for future reference if you aren't ready to buy any of these models right now.
We hope we have already cleared up any areas of confusion for you regarding your future headphone purchase. If you have any further questions or concerns then you can use the comments section below to talk with our staff who will help answer any questions.
We hope you found this great guide helpful in finding the best $100 earbuds.
As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and our Managing Editor, Colt loves testing out the newest tech products/services. His goal is to help better educate other consumers to ensure the most satisfying purchases decisions on consumer electronics and services. When he is not working on creating new content, Colt enjoys spending time with his two Australian Shepherds, Mia and Zoey.