If your budget for a pair of headphones allows, then something under $100 is within reach. They range from over-ear headphones to true wireless earbuds, giving you some variety to select from. For the best of the bunch, you’d have to start with the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 because of their excellent sound quality, comfort, and consistency.
Best overall: Anker Soundcore Life Q30
Need long battery life? With the Anker Soundcore Life Q30, you get up to 40 hours of playback while ANC is enabled, with that number going up to a ridiculous 60 hours when ANC is off. That’s an impressive figure for a pair of budget headphones, and adding USB-C now makes fast charging possible. Plug in for five minutes and get four hours of play time.
That kind of long battery life makes comfort a more significant factor, and thankfully, Anker delivers there. It improved the design and materials from the previous iteration, with a nice headband with deep and wide ear cups to accommodate even the biggest ears. That combination makes longer listening periods a lot easier on your head and ears. It also means they deliver better passive noise isolation and effective ANC.
The ANC is still best at dealing with higher-frequency sounds, with minimal improvement in handling lower-frequency ones. Usually, it’s the opposite, especially at this price range, which makes these unique. If you live with screaming kids, you might appreciate the help. You also get three distinct settings on the app as well.
Still, sound quality is excellent for the price, thanks to a lively soundstage out of the box that doesn’t skew too far one way or the other. If you want bass, you can get even more of it through the great Soundcore app that includes a customizable equalizer and over 20 presets. It changes the overall sound in various ways to find a combination that better suits your ears.
- Superb audio quality
- Outstanding battery life
- Better build this time
- Great companion app
- ANC support
- Affordable price
- Limited touch controls
- Bulky design
- Unclear long-term durability
Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Headphones
- $80 at Amazon
- $80 at Walmart
- $80 at Newegg
Playing nice for everyone
Anker manages to cram in a hefty amount of battery life in the Soundcore Life Q30, but doesn’t stop there.
Best over-ear: Sennheiser HD 350BT
Sennheiser doesn’t often compete on aesthetics, but the company is very consistent in its audio prowess. Even at a price range like this, the HD 350BT are among the best-sounding wireless headphones under $100, proving that you get real bang for your buck. It might be somewhat surprising, given Sennheiser usually charges a premium, but they’re a bargain and sound just as good as some that are more expensive.
Granted, the sound signature here isn’t on Sennheiser’s regular audiophile-level, opting to go with a more crowd-pleasing soundstage that slightly boosts the bass. Despite that, it works well for multiple genres, pushing a vibrant sound that never feels imbalanced to any significant degree. You could listen to hip hop or rock on these and probably draw the same conclusion. Call quality holds up well, too, making them convenient to use when you need to talk.
But to get more out of them, your best bet is to use the company’s Smart Control app and start tweaking the equalizer to customize the sound however you like it. While Sennheiser highlights the aptX Low Latency support, be wary of its efficacy, as it may not always work as advertised. They also don’t have any active noise-cancelation (ANC), so passive noise isolation is your only method to block out the background.
That’s easy to manage when they’re comfortable to wear. It also matters because battery life goes up to 30 hours per charge, give or take the volume.
- Excellent sound quality
- Good call quality
- Wired playback included
- Comfortable fit
- Great value
- aptX Low Latency is suspect
- No active noise-cancelation
Sennheiser HD 350BT – Bluetooth 5.0 Wireless Headphone
$80 at Amazon $80 at B&H
Sound you can trust
These Sennheiser come a lot cheaper than others, yet still pump out great sound to cater to most ears.
Best true wireless: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2
True wireless earbuds often get the most attention at the higher end of the pricing bracket, but good ones are getting easier to find on a budget, too. The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 stand firmly in that category thanks to an impressively balanced sound signature. You will hear bass punch through with a slight boost to the highs and fairly consistent mids for exceptional performance.
As is often the case with earbuds like these, getting a good seal in your ears is imperative to getting the most out of the sound. Your odds are good in finding something that suits you out of the small, medium, and large ear tips that come in the box. While stable, they may not always feel comfortable during long listening sessions. These earbuds work best in shorter spurts, though it’s a subjective point. If they fit your ears perfectly, you may not experience the same thing.
The Liberty Air 2 can get loud, but you won’t be able to control volume from the earbuds themselves. You’ll have to pull out your phone for that. Battery life is up to seven hours per charge, along with an extra 21 hours inside the case, for a total of 28. You also get USB-C for wired charging and support for Qi-enabled wireless chargers. Set it down on a charging pad, and you can fill up the battery cord-free.
- Excellent sound quality
- Good battery life
- Comes with multiple ear tips
- USB-C and wireless charging
- Can be uncomfortable
- No onboard volume controls
Best true wireless
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Bluetooth Earphones
$50 at Amazon $50 at Walmart
No more cables
These affordable true wireless earbuds sound great, last long, and include USB-C and wireless charging features.
Best value: COWIN E7 Pro
COWIN gave its E7 Pro the extra boost over the regular E7 model, courtesy of larger drivers and better ANC performance — all for under $100. With the extra power, the bass is more noticeable off the bat, though there was already plenty where that came from. The drivers do push the mid-range yet only do a marginal upgrade for the highs.
Improved ANC performance is always nice, though it’s admittedly not a dramatic shift. It does a slightly better job blocking out low-frequency noises. Still, getting ANC at this price is a bonus, so at least it’s useful. They do a decent job of passive noise isolation because of the overall size of the ear cups. Like the E7, the Pro version are a bit heavy, but they will fit comfortably in any case.
You won’t get a bigger or more efficient battery in the E7 Pro. Not that it’s easy to complain about going up to 30 hours per charge. It’s plenty of time to keep the music playing. You can also do it with some style, given the colors it comes in — some of which are really bright.
- Plenty of bass
- Good ANC performance for the price
- Long battery life
- Great comfort
- Various color options
- Treble is subdued
- Heavier than most over-ears
COWIN E7 Pro – Active Noise Cancelling Headphone
From $57 at Walmart $50 at Newegg
Excellent battery life at a low price
If battery life and cost savings are your primary concern, the E7 Pro from COWIN are great value for the money.
Best workout buds: JLab Audio Epic Air Sport ANC
JLab Audio has been making workout earbuds for some time now, and the Epic Air Sport ANC are the latest pair made to use routinely while breaking a sweat. The IP66 rating gives them enough ruggedness to work out or go on a run in such scenarios. However, they’re not made to be waterproof, so be careful around water.
The combination of ear hooks and six pairs of ear tips make these comfortable and stable enough to stay in your ears, provided you don’t mind a little extra bulk in size. What’s cool is that JLab also changes things up with the tips, so you get different sizes and lengths and materials, including foam. A good passive seal always helps, though you do have ANC support to block out background noise when you need to. If you need to hear your surroundings, you can also use the Be Aware mode.
The default soundstage is mostly balanced, with bass getting an extra boost, which is par for the course for a pair of JLab earbuds. If you’re not feeling that, you can always change it in JLab’s Air ANC app, which offers a nice mix of ANC controls and an equalizer to customize the sound.
JLab claims up to 15 hours of battery life per charge, which is really high, though that number is relative because it applies when ANC is off. Keep it on, and that number goes down to about 10 hours. Raise the volume, and it drops down further, but it’s still a very respectable number. Interestingly, the USB cable is built into the case, though you can also charge wirelessly by placing the case onto a compatible Qi charger.
- Solid audio quality
- IP66 sweat resistance
- Various ear tips and sizes
- Excellent app support
- Long battery life for workouts
- ANC and ambient modes
- Don’t swim with them
- Bulkier design may not be for everyone
Best workout buds
JLab Audio Epic Air Sport ANC Headphones
$80 at Amazon $100 at Best Buy
Gonna make you sweat
JLab prioritizes sweat resistance, comfort, customizable sound, and battery life with the Epic Air Sport ANC.
Best on-ear: Jabra Elite 45h
On-ear headphones aren’t as common or popular as over-ear cans, but they are lighter and easier to wear in most cases. On the other hand, they won’t give you much in the way of passive noise isolation, letting you hear what’s happening around you. Jabra didn’t make the Elite 45h fancy on the outside, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Though Jabra does play it safe by default with a balanced and neutral soundstage, the sound quality is superb. You can tweak that more to your liking through Jabra’s Sound+ app and its equalizer, which gives you existing presets or the ability to create your own. Unfortunately, phone call quality doesn’t follow suit, and that might be because the two-mic array needed a third one to amplify your voice. It’s one of the trade-offs of being in this price range.
Battery life hits crazy levels if you listen at the default volume throughout the day. It’s the only way you’ll get to 50 hours, but even if you were to raise it, you’d still be north of 30 hours without blinking an eye. On top of that, Jabra adopted USB-C for these headphones, moving on from Micro-USB in its past on-ear models.
- Great sound quality
- Lightweight build
- Premium build materials
- Outstanding battery life
- Solid app support
- Call quality isn’t good enough
- Ho-hum aesthetics
Jabra Elite 45h Headphones
$60 at Amazon $60 at Best Buy
Playing on your ears for long
The Jabra Elite 45h can sound the way you want and last a long time per charge doing it whenever you wear them.
Best neckbuds: Creative Aurvana Trio Wireless
Neckbuds are something of an acquired taste, but they can be super convenient when you want the earbuds’ weight to fall on your neck rather than your ears. Creative scores a winner with the Aurvana Trio Wireless for a few reasons, not least of which is the excellent sound quality you get for the money. These are vibrant earbuds, with solid bass punctuating a surprisingly lively combination of mids and highs. Call quality is equally up to the task, with impressive clarity on both sides.
That shouldn’t be overly surprising, given these are successors to the superb wired earbuds the company launched back in 2017. The codec support is significant for something at this price, with aptX, aptX LL (Low Latency), aptX HD, and AAC all on board. That not only makes them great for listening to higher-quality streams, like those from Tidal and Deezer, but also reduces lag when watching videos or playing games. While Creative did throw in its amazing Super X-Fi (SXFI) technology, it only applies to media files you’ve downloaded to your device — not anything you’re streaming.
The fit is comfortable, and the company was nice enough to include both silicone and foam tips for the best possible seal. And when you’re not using them, the two earbuds connect with magnets. With battery life hitting up to 20 hours, that’s an important factor, though it would be nice if you didn’t have to charge them via Micro-USB.
- Excellent sound quality
- Lightweight build
- Solid codec support
- Great battery life
- Comfortable fit
- Magnets hold earbuds together
- Super X-Fi is too limited
- Outdated Micro-USB charging
Creative Aurvana Trio Wireless
$100 at Amazon
Clear, concise and on time
Creative gives the Aurvana Trio Wireless the right tools to stand out, and your ears benefit from the package these deliver.
Best battery life: Mixcder E9
For what you pay, the Mixcder E9 can play for up to 30 hours at their default volume, making them among the best you can get at this level. That’s enough to listen to music for days before having to charge them up again. The only downside is that they use micro-USB, rather than the more efficient USB-C common now. But, at least you get some fast charging with two hours of playback when plugging in for five minutes.
The good news is they also sound good for all that time you’re listening to them. They have a balanced sound signature that sacrifices some of the highs to push the mids and lows. Not unusual for headphones in this range, and the intent seems to appeal to a broader taste. ANC works well enough here, particularly with low frequencies.
The E9 are also comfortable to wear. Mixcder made them with larger ear cups that run a little deeper, allowing most ears to fit snuggly inside. The headband is made out of nice leather and reinforced with steel. They are a bit on the heavier side compared to others like them, but do have some durability to them, too.
- Great, balanced sound
- Superb comfort
- ANC support
- Long battery life
- Fast charging
- Slightly heavy
- Micro-USB for charging
Best battery life
From $69 at Amazon
Comfy, with long battery life
The Mixcder E9 combine super long battery life, solid sound, and great comfort.
There are plenty of worthy headphones out there that won’t break the bank. As you can see from our list above, wireless headphones come in many different shapes and sizes. Our top pick is the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 for best wireless headphones under $100 because of their balance and performance. So if you’re looking for wireless headphones that sound good and don’t want to spend a fortune, they’re an excellent place to start.
The timing couldn’t be better, either. Headphones aren’t just on the premium side, especially when there’s plenty to like in the affordable category. They also come in different types, be they over-ear, on-ear, or wireless earbuds. With this list, there are many choices to consider.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.