Best Headphones under $100 of 2019

By Michael Desjardin, TJ Donegan, Julia MacDougall, Brendan Nystedt, and Chris Thomas, December 19, 2018, Updated January 17, 2019

Headphones come in all shapes and size, and the prices vary more than with any other gadget. With cheap earbuds costing less than $10 and super expensive, audiophile-approved options retailing for over $1,000, it can be easy to get lost. Don't worry, though, we've got you covered.

For under $100, you can pick up a great all-around pair of headphones for work, home, the gym, or whatever. These are the best we've found so far, and the ones we'd recommend to our own friends and family. Our favorite right now, the 1More Triple Driver earbuds (available at Amazon), offer high-quality sound and a fresh design.

(If you're looking to spend less money on earbuds, but still want to get the most for your money, be sure to check out our article about the Best Affordable In-Ear Headphones.)

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Updated January 17, 2019

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1More_Triple_Driver Best Overall
Credit: Reviewed.com / TJ Donegan

1More E1001 Triple Driver

Product Image - 1More E1001 Triple Driver
  • Best of Year 2017

1More E1001 Triple Driver

Best Overall

The 1More Triple Driver in-ears have the looks and sound of earbuds that cost twice as much. They really make a point to emphasize the bass notes, which really help bring your music to life, whether it's rap music or classical music. If you're worried about durability, the cord is reinforced with nylon and kevlar, so you're not going to find them jumbled up in a big knot at the bottom of your bag (the included case will also help with that).

The fit can really make or break a pair of earbuds, so we were especially pleased with the ear-tip options with these headphones: 6 sets of silicon ear-tips, and 3 sets of memory-foam ear-tips. If you want to be able to jam with your music on the go, and look cool doing it, the 1More Triple Driver in-ears are the earbuds for you. Read the full review.

How We Test

head_and_torso_simulator
Credit: Reviewed.com / Julia MacDougall

We test all of our headphones on a head and torso simulator (HATS), which replicates how sound bounces around in the human body.

On our head and torso simulator (HATS), we put these headphones through our usual battery of headphone tests: frequency response, distortion, tracking, leakage, and isolation.

Headphone manufacturers are typically aiming for either a flat or a curved sound profile. A curved profile is most common, and most curved profiles are trying to replicate the Equal Loudness Curve (ELC). The human ear hears higher tones more easily than it hears the bass tones, so for a human to perceive highs and lows at a similar volume, the headphones boost the volume of the lows, and moderate the volume of the highs.

A flat profile is usually found in "studio" headphones; the highs, mids, and bass tones have the same volume. However, as I just mentioned, we don't hear all tones at the same volume, so the bass notes sound softer, and the highs sound louder. Some people prefer studio headphones because of their audio fidelity—they are hearing the music exactly as the producers intended them to hear it. Also, as implied by the name, studio headphones are used in studio recordings to help mixers figure out what, if any frequencies, they should boost or reduce.

In addition to the more scientific testing, we also wear each pair of headphones around town to get a sense for their features (like extra amps or noise cancellation) and short- and long-term comfort.

In-ear vs. On-ear vs. Over-ear

You've probably seen a bunch of different headphones in your every day life, but what you may not realize is that headphones, while they have a number of different selling points, are primarily categorized into three types: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.

headphone_types
Credit: Reviewed.com

Three popular types of headphones: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.


Plantronics Backbeat Sense

Product Image - Plantronics Backbeat Sense
  • Editors' Choice

Plantronics Backbeat Sense

If you love the portability of in-ear headphones, but want the something a little heftier that can stand up to every-day use, the Plantronics Backbeat Sense Wireless on-ear headphones are a great way to dip your toe into the on- and over-ear headphone pool. These wireless headphones are lightweight, cushy on your ears, and come with a sound profile that nicely balances both the bass tones and the higher notes.

With a battery life of 15-20 hours, and a recharge time of only ~2 hours, these are perfect to take on a long train or bus ride; you can spend quality time relaxing and enjoying the trip, rather than hunting around for a wall outlet. While we had some trouble consistently operating the touch controls, the rest of the experience is good enough that we'd still recommend these headphones to friends and family. Read the full review.

Decibullz Contour

Product Image - Decibullz Contour
  • Best of Year 2015

Decibullz Contour

Isolation, or the ability of a pair of headphones to block out the outside world in favor of the music coming through the headphones, is usually a hit or miss prospect with earbuds. Either the ear-tips fit perfectly, and you don't hear anything but your music, or they don't fit right, and the earbuds fall out when you so much as twitch your nose. Up until recently, the only guaranteed way to solve the fit problem, if you couldn't find ear-tips that worked for your ears, would be to spend upwards of $1,000 for custom ear molds. Not anymore!

Newcomer Decibullz has a much more affordable option in its debut headphones, the Contours. Instead of a visit to a professional, all you need is hot water and 15 minutes of your time. The result? Brightly-colored, custom-molded ear-tips that stop unwanted interference in its tracks, and can be re-molded multiple times. In addition to potentially being the solution to your earbud fitting woes, the Decibullz Contours have a neat carrying case, and provide a lot of bass for such a small pair of earbuds. Read the full review.

JLab Audio Epic Sport Wireless

Product Image - JLab Audio Epic Sport Wireless
  • Editors' Choice

JLab Audio Epic Sport Wireless

The JLab Audio Epic Sport earbuds are billed as an "upgrade" to the popular JLab Audio Epic2 Bluetooth Wireless headphones, despite typically selling for about the same price.

The Epic Sport comes with JLab's signature bendable earhooks, multiple eartip sizes, and three types of cush fins to help the buds stay in place. The inline controls consist of a streamlined remote with three buttons.

The audio can still sound a bit tinny and lacking in bass, especially if the fit isn't perfect, but JLab Audio has really gone the extra mile by building in three "sound profiles": one that augments vocals and bass, one that has a flat profile with no extra enhancements (best for those looking for studio-like audio), and one that boosts the bass notes.

With an IP66 rating (able to withstand both dust and "powerful water jets"), the Epic Sport should be able to withstand rigorous workouts. Another high point is the relatively long battery life which, in our experience, clocks in at over 12 hours. The skinny wires may make it easy to break the headphones, so be sure to pack up these earbuds in their case when not in use.

Overall, we were impressed by the JLab Audio Epic Sport earbuds—especially their ability to connect from the first floor to a phone on the second floor. A few customers didn't appreciate the proprietary charging cable (which cradles the remote and isn't merely a micro USB to USB cable), but we think that the Epic Sport is a solid choice whether you're walking in the woods or cranking through reps at the gym.

Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless

Product Image - Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless

Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless

A relative newcomer to the audio game, Decibullz made its mark with affordable earbuds you could custom mold with just a microwave and a cup of water—a process that usually required hundreds of dollars and a trip to an audiologist. We loved the company's first model, the Decibullz Contours, when they first debuted, and it's great to see the startup tackle the burgeoning wireless game.

The Contour Wireless feature the same thermoplastic custom molds, but with a wireless 'bud. That means you’ll get a fit that’s unique to you and affords top-quality sound isolation—perfect for losing yourself to the music. However, there are some downsides. The cable was a bit too long—often getting snatched on shirts or in hair—and the battery life was an anemic 4-5 hours per charge.

The Decibullz also have an additional inline box that houses the Bluetooth hardware; some users appreciate the symmetry and balance of this box to counter the weight of the inline remote, and others prefer to just have the inline remote.

Jlab Audio Fit 2.0 Sport Earbuds

Product Image - Jlab Audio Fit 2.0 Sport Earbuds
  • Best of Year 2017

Jlab Audio Fit 2.0 Sport Earbuds

JLab Audio has made a splash in recent years with both their wireless and wired headphone options; the JLab Audio Fit 2.0 are a great, cheap way to be introduced to the brand. They have an IPX4 rating, which means that they are rated to survive being splashed with water (and presumably, sweat). In fact, the directions advice you to actually rinse the earbuds off after an intense workout.

Because these earbuds are meant to be used outside or in the midst of an intense workout, it's not surprising that they emphasize the bass notes much more than the high notes; those lower notes are much more difficult to hear when you're pounding pavement outside. Even better, these earbuds are great at both isolation (blocking out ambient noise) and leakage (preventing your music from disturbing your neighbors). For a pair of cheap headphones that can survive a tough session at the gym, look no further than the JLab Audio Fit 2.0.

Jlab Audio Epic Executive

Product Image - Jlab Audio Epic Executive

Jlab Audio Epic Executive

For those keen on less intense workouts or casual, around-town usage, be sure to check out the JLab Audio Epic Executive Wireless Earbuds.

The Epic Executive Wireless earbuds are proof that good things come in small packages. For the same price as the JLab Epic Sport Wireless and the Epic2 Wireless, these earbuds have plenty of eartip options, a pretty good sound profile, solid noise cancellation, a long battery life, and a wired adapter for when you run out of juice.

The active noise cancellation (ANC) on these earbuds does a great job at blocking out lower frequency sounds like air conditioners and trains. We wore these on the train, and while we could still hear the screeching of the train hitting the tracks on tight curves, the overall train hum sounded like the train was miles away, rather than just beneath our feet.

In our case, playing music and fiddling around with the ANC fully drained the battery after 9.5 hours—more than enough time to get you through a cross-country plane trip. As a bonus, a regular 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter has been included in case the battery dies unexpectedly; the cord and adapter together are long enough that the Epic Executive Wireless can basically double as a pair of wired headphones, where the battery powers the ANC.

The removable neck band is another bonus. Neck bands aren't the greatest earbud configuration for any exercises done on your back, and even without the neck band, the wires are a bit long for anything involving arm movement, but it's a comfortable way to wear them in your downtime.

Customers were very pleased with the ANC, but had some connectivity issues between the earbuds and their phone. Like the other JLab Audio earbuds, the Epic Executive Wireless have very skinny wires, so be sure to store them in the included case when they're not in use.

Jaybird X3

Product Image - Jaybird X3

Jaybird X3

The Jaybird X3 Wireless earbuds are the noteworthy successor to the Jaybird X2 Wireless earbuds. There's nothing really fancy-looking about the Jaybird X3, but these earbuds boast a number of neat features and accessories, the main one being a customizable sound profile.

Like the X2, the Jaybird X3 can be worn with the wires hanging over the ear or hanging straight down. Because there are so many tip, fin, and earbud configurations, it will probably take a while for you to find the right fit. For those with small ear holes, we recommend the smallest size of Comply memory foam tips, which make for a better fit, better isolation, and better sound clarity. Once you have a good fit, the 8-hour battery life will get you through a work day of calls and music with no trouble.

One sticking point is the remote. The controls rely on the wearer holding buttons down for a certain amount of time, rather than sequential button presses. It's different from the way wireless earbuds usually operate and can be frustrating to use while running, but it's manageable with a bit of practice.

Other helpful accessories include clips that can adjust the length of the cable, a shirt clip, and an exciting new feature that allows you to customize the sound profile. After connecting the X3 earbuds to the Jaybird app (Android, iOS), you can use your fingers to boost or reduce the volume of highs, mids, and lows. You can save your profile for future use, or choose from a few preprogrammed audio settings with names like "Signature" and "Bring the Bass". (In our experience, if you really want to boost the bass, reduce the highs and increase the lows at the same time.)

Many customers agreed that finding an ideal fit for the X3 earbuds is a significant time investment, but is ultimately worth it. Gym-goers were very happy that the X3 stayed in place despite a variety of exercise types and positions, and everyone really appreciated the quality of the sound. The main complaints users had were about the proprietary charging cable, defective products that failed to hold the stated 8-hour charge, and terrifyingly sudden battery updates. We do not recommend listening to classical music or horror movies towards the end of the X3's battery life; having a lady shout "BATTERY LIFE: 20%" or "CHARGE ME" will surely scare the daylights out of you.

Sol Republic JAX

Product Image - Sol Republic JAX
  • Editors' Choice

Sol Republic JAX

Entry-level headphones typically leave you holding a broken tangle of junk if you buy cheap enough. The real tragedy is that it doesn't always take all that much more to get a set of headphones that will keep you satisfied—and the Sol Republic JAX in-ears are exemplary of this: they're great for the price.

They have a flat, tangle-free cord, an inline mic, and come in a satisfying array of colors. Even better, the JAX actually walk the walk and talk the talk with respect to their well-advertised isolation, or the ability to block out noise from the outside world. They do only come with three ear-tip sizes, though, so if you typically have trouble wearing in-ears, these may give you the same trouble other earbuds do. Read the full review.

JLab Audio Diego

Product Image - JLab Audio Diego

JLab Audio Diego

The JLab Audio Diego earbuds are another great budget option if you're looking for headphones to keep up with you while you're on the go. With four ear-tip options, two cush fins, and an inline microphone, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck with these earbuds.

With the Diego earbuds, you should be able to hear both the highs and the lows with no trouble, whether you're on the train or in your room. There's only one caveat: JLab Audio says that the Diego earbuds are best for those with small- to medium-sized ears; if you have bigger ears, these headphones may be a poor fit for you, both physically and metaphorically.

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