If you’re an audiophile or simply a music lover, you probably know this type of audio equipment. ‘Over-the-ear’, circumaural or full size headphones are just that, (crafted to fit comfortably around the ear) as opposed to in-the-ear ( as is usually the case with ear buds, earphones or earpieces).
With most ‘premium’ and designer-labelled headphones having a prohibitive price tag of over $300, you must be wondering whether you can land a quality pair of headphones with less than a $100. And indeed, it is very possible. We took the liberty of scouring the internet and testing some of the most transparent, best sounding, over ear headphones for you, and here are the top five.
The Sennheiser HD 280, which comes in at just under a hundred bucks, boasts of an ergonomic design that fits almost luxuriously over the ear and the head. And this is thanks to the superior earpads and headband padding that it spots. The plushness here is simply wondrous. You could have them on for hours and still not feel the characteristic fatigue or ‘pinch’ that comes with wearing headphones for a long time. With a cord length of between 3.8-9.8 feet, the Sennheiser HD PRO promises and over delivers in flexibility though you might want to curl that up if you’re going to use them with your phone.
Soundwise, the experience couldn’t be better. With a 32dB attenuation level of outside static, the Sennheiser might not be the best passive noise reduction headphones out there, but it surely does an exemplary job in keeping the sound rich, detailed and well balanced. You might be interested to know that HD 280 PRO’s frequency response kicks in at the sub realm of only 8Hz. What this implies is that it is possible to enjoy those deep, immersive bass sounds without feeling like your eardrums are going to burst.
On the other hand, the treble is decently vibrant but it suffers from the typical stifle if the music being played has irregular resonating bass strokes. All in all, however, the performance is well above par.
In a nutshell, here are the main pros & cons.
- Has a replaceable durable cord. You won’t have to replace the whole unit just because the cable is worn out.
- The Sennheiser is designed for its precision and unique sound reproduction. It’s major selling point is its ability to surgically separate the treble from the bass. It does this so well that sound engineers have listed it among the top tier mastering grade headphones.
- The noise is cancellation is certainly not the best, but it’s far from being the worst.
- At just $99.5, this pair is definitely a bang for your buck.
A product of Creative Labs, the Creative Aurvana is an extension of this electronic giant’s digital audio prowess. The headphones, which can be sourced online for just a paltry $61.99, proves that quality is not only always synonymous to price. But that’s not all. The Creative has some ultra-soft leatherette padding that prevents ear sweating and fatigue. Although, we have to say that the cans can be a bit bulky and they are not exactly portable and good at noise-isolating.
The sound quality from the Aurvana Live, a very well-balanced headphone is clearly above average, with the bass kicking in at a frequency of 15-20Hz. From a broad point of view, the bass may not be as immersive as you would find it in high-end headphones. At the same time, the treble is not as warm and encompassing as in some ultra-high end competitors. Nevertheless, the Aurvana delivers a uniform, solid throughput for sounds across all three genres- ( low, medium and high ). Overall though, the Creative headphones are perfectly suited for the average audio consumer who is only seeking decent cans for their private home listening or silent environments.
At a glance, here are the major pros and cons.
- Comfortable ergonomic design with well-padded cans.
- Above par sound reproduction especially considering it’s price point.
- The Creative Aurvana Live suffers from bulkiness as the unit barely folds down. Portability is definitely not its strongest suit. A fragile item, so be careful to handle it.
For those of us who love going wireless, the Skullcandy Hesh is perfectly priced at just sub- $100. These Bluetooth 2.0 headphones also come with their own industrially fitted batteries, that are likely to last you up to 15 hours of continuous playback from a single charge. The almost bulbous-shaped cans are unmistakably not very good looking but they are still generously padded with faux leather giving rise to a decent-enough built quality. Nevertheless, being a budget set, the high-end memory foam and plush padding are conspicuously missing.
Performance wise, the skull sounds reasonably good for a Bluetooth unit of its price. The bass is not as overwhelming as you would find it in high-end competition and the treble is not as crispy as most audiophiles would’ve liked it to be. Nonetheless, the audio spectrum is far from being considered muddy or dull. The bass thumps are moderately detailed and overall sound reproduction is very accurate, maybe a little on the warmer side though.
As usual, here is a sneak peek at the highs and lows of this unit.
- An exemplary battery life. You can squeeze up to 15 hours of continuous playback from it.
- Comes with an integrated three-button remote control unit that allows you to easily tweak the volume levels or pause the music.
- The sound throughput is not as punchy and immersive as in other high-end competitors though it’s satisfactorily good for its price tag.
The Audio-Technica cans are perhaps one of the most stylishly crafted headphones under $100. The circumaural design and the robust engineering combines to give rise to a pair of cans that have every bit of premium built quality you would expect from high-end units. It’s in spite of the fact that they only go for $97 on Amazon. The ear and head padding is plush with an easy felt, promising long listening hours void of any fatigue.
The performance of these headphones is simply enthralling. Featuring one of the best noise reduction and isolation effects (thanks to the rugged & contour design), the Audio Technica sounds as good as it’s more expensive relatives. The sonic signature here is premium encompassing a well balanced and rich output. With fitted 40mm drivers, the bass is rich and as immersive and thump as it can get. The Midranges and the highs are also crispy and detailed enough. Couple that with almost 100% sound isolation, and you have yourself an accentuated and accurate cinematic experience.
- Superior built quality with deluxe heavy padding (ultra-comfortable to wear)
- For less than $100, these cans easily match their pricey counterparts in sound reproduction.
- The Audio- Technica was crafted just for listening to music, you won’t find any remote control or mic here.
These dynamic stereo headphones will remind you of Sony’s superior technology when it comes to anything electronic. Despite their modest pricing at sub-$80, the Sony-branded cans are the most attractive and elegantly built headphones you could get for less than $100. The padding is replaceable and the racetrack shaped headband is plushly padded. Sony did a good job in keeping the clamping pressure just tight enough for a secure, firm grip on the head. So you obviously won’t experience any fatigue even after long listening sessions.
The performance of this set goes beyond what you’d expect for its price tag, Sony MDR-7506 sound slightly better than ATH-M40x, considering the treble, MDR-7506 has nicer extension. And by just listening to these cans, you will know why they have prevailed in Sony’s lineup for over two decades. With an accurately balanced bass-midrange-treble combination, the sound reproduction can not get any better. The tonal balance is even richer and weighty than in many other double priced headphones.
- There’s very little not to love about the MDR-7506, only that they aren’t fitted with any inline microphone or remote. Thus, they may be a little cumbersome in taking on and off whenever you want to receive or make calls while using them with your phone.
Publised on 03/03/2018