Over years I bought dozens of cheap earbuds to review, and generally they sound quite decent. But I still feel missing something from their sound that would be richer, clearer and more dynamic. Those things only exist in more expensive models which we normally pay from $60 to $100 to get a pair. So what are they? Here are the top 10 sub-$100 earbuds in ear headphones you may look for.
Our top Pick: 1More Triple Driver Earbuds
Previously we picked the FiiO EX1 as a clearly the winner for its solid build, excellent sound and comfortable fit. Now we found an alternative to FiiO EX1 (more selective in music genres) is the 1More Triple Driver earbuds for richer, fuller sound and more pleasant treble, yet it is more expensive, starting at $99. And unlike the EX1, the Triple Driver features an inline control (3 buttons) and microphones, which work with both Android and iOS devices. The earbuds are equipped with a single dynamic driver and two BA drivers on each earbud, tuning accurate, detailed sound and strong bass. While 1More Triple Diver earbuds’ clarity and transparency are not comparable to the EX1, they are not only rugged and built with higher quality, but offer a better sound isolation and more suitable for all kinds of music.
The 1More looks great and offers a bunch of accessories, including airline adapter, nice leather pouch and eartips.
In ear headphones today are not just about the sound quality, but a matter of taste and style and their combination. So you may need more of these personal gadgets to meet criteria: to suit your lifestyle and daily activities like cycling, working, running, or traveling; to sound great for the music you like–if you are dance music lovers, think of in ear headphones with great bass impact. Does that make sense for your favorite music? Here are the other sets you would consider. Are you an audiophile on a budget? These in ear headphones (also called IEM in ear monitors) sound really good for the money.
Best Earbuds (In Ear Headphones) Under 100 Dollars [All Types]
|Picture/Model||Sound Signature||Feature||Noise Isolation||Price|
|FiiO EX1||Balanced Sound||Kevlar-Strengthened cable||7/10||$69.99|
|1More Triple Driver||Balanced Sound||Mic, In-line Control||8.5/10||$99|
|Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear M2 IEi||V-Shaped||Mic, In-line Control||8.0/10||$99.95|
|HiSoundAudio HW2||Enhanced Bass||7.8/10||$99.99|
|Shure SE 215||Enhanced Bass||Detachable cable||8.5/10||$99|
|Bose SoundTrue Sports Earbuds||Natural Sound||Earhooks||6.5/10||$69.99|
|LG Ultra Tone Series Infinim||Balanced Sound||Mic, Retractable Earbuds||8.0/10||$94.99|
|ATC-ANC23 Noise Cancelling Earbuds In Ear Headphones||Noise Cancellation||8.5/10||$49|
|Creative Aurvana Air Earbuds||Earloops||Open Sealed 5/10||$62.99|
Designed with Kevlar-Strengthened cable, the FiiO EX1 is well-built and durable, and it is safe to say the FiiO EX1 sounds as good as some in-ear headphones for double the price. It offers mind-blowing bass, which is deep and crisp, but admittedly, the bass impact isn’t great, making its sound become more balanced. The treble of FiiO EX1 is clear and well-extended without distortion, and the mid-range is natural and sweet. Compared to the RE400 (retired from this list), which puts more emphasis on smoothness and clarity, the EX1 plays more airy and spacious sound and adds more bass to music. Metal earpieces are lightweight and have a refined design, with an ergonomically angled nozzle to keep earbuds stay securely in the ear; however, this doesn’t give users the best noise-isolating performance– the eartips don’t fit deeply into the ear canals. However, it is superbly comfortable and lightweight, and sometimes, I forget I am wearing them.
Beats by Dr headphones, with its sound signature and enhanced bass, have been prominent on the market for years. With the popularity of streaming music services, like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play, it’s not that difficult to find the music you love on their catalogs. However, some kinds of music genres, as intended by the recorders, requires headphones that pump a monstrous bass to give the listeners the true sound. I am sure you can easily find the Extra Bass in ear headphones, but some represents somewhat like muffing, too heavy in terms of bass. Here are 4 good oriented bass headphones that could shame others you can choose from with deep and powerful sub-bass. Other than that, you can find a few of them balanced or focused on highs for a v-shaped sound.
HiSoundAudio HW2 ($99)
|The HiSoundAudio HW2 is a small, wooden, well-designed headphone. Though their sound is not as clear as 1More Triple Driver, they have a terrific deep bass. Those have a smaller drivers 9-mm drivers compared to 12-mm driver of Sony MDR-XB90EX, which I am more prefered for bass impact. The only thing you may not like about this earbuds is the stiff, flat cable that I wish it could be more flexible for over-ear wear.|
The SE 215 is designed with curved earpieces and only worn around the ear. It is hard to find a pair in the price range that would top these earbuds in terms of bass and clarity. SE’s 215 tends to sound warm and smooth. Its bass is forceful, but highs becomes loose in details.
Highly rated by hi-fi communities, this entry level IEM in ear headphones, Shure SE112, is very durable with a rugged cable, but the cable appears to be bulky, and it don’t feature inline control. The Shure–SE215 offers exceptional sound quality for the price and great sound isolation, and due to its extreme recognition from a lot of audiophiles around the world for its accurate sound, Shure also made the Special Edition of Shure SE215. This turned out to be great in ear headphones, with even more balanced sound, compared to its predecessor.
If earbuds have very good sound quality, it doesn’t mean they will fit securely in the ear and resist sweat and water. For sports, you would weigh the fitting and convenience over the sound quality. While you work out, the music you listen to differs from the music you listen when you sit at the table. Since your mind is occupied by other tasks, music details and sound separation are not your main concern. But whatever your activities are, as long as you perceive the sound, these in ear headphones tap your concerns for both audio performance and features.
Monster iSport Victory and Bose SoundTrue sports earbuds are worth buying. While the SoundTrue ear tips’-unsealed design are welcome the ambient sound in, the Mosnter iSport delivers the better seal. It owns more bass quality than Bose. But Bose has an advantage of the crisp treble and well-balanced sound, and if not intended, you will not notice the faint distortion while the bass remains deep. The ear hooks come with different sizes for extra fitting.
They both have ear hooks-the additional part of ear tips that contour well to the ear for secure fit, and ensure you always get the right fit, and keep earbuds from falling out in your rigorous workout. Overall, aside from sweat-proof the well-designed style and nicely refined sound are exactly what sport enthusiasts look for.
The Best Bluetooth Wireless In Ear headphones under 100
Although the sound quality isn’t as good as wired in ear headphones with the same price, with Bluetooth in ear headphones, you have to sacrifice the sound over the convenience. However, this pair of behind the neck Bluetooth headphones listed below sound good, and they can work well as a Bluetooth headset for hand-free calls, as well.
The Infinim is less flexible than the Shadow. Although around-neck design is not for every one, it is ideal for those who like more refined sound, less bass than the Shadow, and want to save money. The Infinim also has a nifty feature; by pressing the button, the earbuds will retreat to their nests on the band.
The first version, Jaybird X is a standard Bluetooth set for sports, they sound good, live up to the battery, and fit securely in ther ear. The latest version JayBird X series offer slight improvements in sound and design, they are now cheaper, you can get X3 for $99 online.
JayBird X3 is a great Bluetooth in ear headphone for sports that recently Jaybird cut the price under $100. It does sound good with natural sounding signature.
The X3 is designed to fit securely in the ear, its wingtips are fairly comfortable.
Aside from sweat resistant feature that Jaybird has implemented the 4 pin clip charging to improve water resistant capacity, the companion app allows you to customize the sound to your preference.
The X3 are noise isolating earbuds, and the should fit properly in order to best listening experience.
Don’t let the cable hold your back. Check out: Best Bluetooth earbuds for running.
FOR AIR TRAVEL
The ANC23 comes cheap and with a feature that most frequent flyers and rail commuters are interested in, active noise cancellation (ANC).
They aren’t as effective as Bose QC 20-A great noise cancelling earphones, but they do the job for cancelling out the jet engine. You also have to sacrifice the sound quality over the functionality. ATC-ANC23 earphones are just that–the item you should never forget to bring on every flight. It also includes, an inline-battery pack to power the ACN function, so it is not very portable.
The Best Unsealed Earbuds Under 100
This article wouldn’t be complete without recommending earbuds-non-sealed design ( Check out how earbuds differs from canalphones/IEMs)
If you don’t like the fit of canalphones and would like open and spacious stereo imaging, go for earbuds. This type of in ear headphones pour the clean sound with great detail as Creative Aurvana Air Earbuds is capable of. Aside from its great sound for the price, the clip-on design looks strange and obsolete.
I own several pairs of in ear headphones, and each pair is used for my specific daily activities–none can be used for all purposes. In the morning, when I sit at my laptop, to escape from noise at my workplace, I wear Etymotic Research MC5 with good noise-isolation. In the afternoon, when I go to the gym, I take my wireless sport earphones. However, when I like to enjoy acoustic, I need the HiFiMan RE-400. For a little bit more bass for dance music, I use Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear M2 IEi. Even a lot more? SONY MDR-XB90EX can pump that bass. Listed earbuds are better in ear headphones than most out there.
Since Apple removed the headphone port on iPhone, iPhone users either have to choose lightning earbuds or Bluetooth. The wired models often sound better than Bluetooth, if you want something better than lightning earPods check out our post lightning earbuds.
The others: Earbuds retired from this Page
With outstanding bass impact, the SONY MDR-XB90EX is a true pair of earbuds for bass centric music. Earbud housings are large, since they host 16mm size driver, an unusual size for an in ear headphones. However, the XB90Ex doesn’t just stand alone for tight and monstrous bass; it sounds decent across frequencies. Note that this pair now costs more than $100.
|Xiaomi Piston 2
The Xiaomi Piston 2’s earbud housing has a little open back. This design leaves the sound stage open and pleasant. I found it has a sweeter sound than the Sony MDRXB50. While the mic works well with all kind of phones (Android, iOS, Window), the inline control may not be compatible with your Android Phone. Piston 2 has a natural sound, and it gears toward to sounding warm. A downside is the rounded “piston” housings may cause discomfort to your ears from the edge on the back.
Picky ears like to hear the best sound quality with high-fidelity. They care little about how the in ear headphones look; yes, it’s true in some cases. One is the HiFiMan RE-400, an aluminum housing earphones IEM. While the sound quality of these small and light weight headphones are really attractive, its look simply isn’t. However, it’s just for music; you can do nothing other than that, like make a call or control the volume and navigate the tracks. Rated as a balanced sound in ear headphones, it pours the pure music and accurate sound for most music genres. For treble lovers, it will be be a perfect choice, but dance and R&B music lovers may be disappointed, if they like the strong bass the HifiMan can’t deliver.
If you are on a tight budget but want to experience a lot of bass punching to the dance or R&B music you like, the FX101 is the way to go. Though FX101 presents somewhat heavy bass and lack of details, the sound is fine and ONLY suitable for R&B.
For any music you pump into, the MDRXB50AP has precise, rumbling bass, yet it is not as powerful as Shure or other Sony in ear headphones in this list. For the mid-range, I found it sounds dry and doesn’t have as sweat a sound as Shure. Another downside is that it looks sturdy, since each earpiece hosts 12mm driver to power its bass.
|Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear M2 IEi
Another in ear set, the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear M2 IEi, is an attractive and polished in ear headphone–not a metal housing, but looks appealing. The flat cable makes them less prone to tangle. It delivers great sound for the money and pumps powerful bass. Besides bass enhancement, the slightly recessed mid-range and energetic highs make the Momentum have V-shaped sound signature. It also sounds clear over all ranges. There are 2 models with mic and in-line controls that are compatible with iOS and Android phones. While HifiMan has perfect treble, the Momentum represents a crunchy sound at highs, which is not tightly controlled nor crisp.
|Sol Republic Shadow
Besides 8-hour play time, the flexible band and the ear tips fit comfortably on the neck and in the ear. Combined with sound quality, this is one of the best $100 Bluetooth in ear headphones.
|Soundpeats Qy7 Mini Bluetooth Wireless Stereo earbuds in ear headphones
The Soundpeats Qy7, which comes with an affordable price, are great sports Bluetooth earbuds. It is a combination of comfort and lightweight. And aside from ability to isolate ambient noise, it fits snugly in the ear with silicon earhooks. All together, they are exactly what sport enthusiasts look for.
How do we pick?
How do reviewers test and rate the in ear headphones? Aside from physical tests, like comfort, noise isolation, and design, they evaluate the sound based on different aspects of sound from their experiences, including Low-end/bass, Mid-range, highs/Treble, Sound-stage, detail, clarity, and instrumental separation.
This frequency response measured in the range of 10-200Hz describes very low tones. The longitude of the curve represents how forceful the bass is. Musical instruments produce much bass like drum, bass guitar, trombone, and more, and you can find this sound in a lot of music genres, including R&B, Hip-Hop, Dance, Pop.
When the bass of a headphone is clear and crisp, you can hear the bass from lower sound frequencies. You can clearly hear the difference when you put on any metal music. Headphones with clear bass will not even slow down on the fastest of drum impacts. Headphones that respond slower to bass impact, because they want to “Shake your head” with bass, can’t register these sounds correctly. If the bass isn’t controlled correctly, then it might bleed into the midrange and make the midrange recessed.
These headphones are referred to when they put emphasis on bass and treble, and the mid-range is recessed.
Here’s the co-relation between the sound quality rating and some specs, like frequency response, impedance and sensitivity of these best $100 in ear headphones (We will publish the data…)
What Is Considered a Great In Ear Headphone
It is a long story to tell which in ear headphones are the best. However, most reviewers consider accessories, build-quality, fitting, comfort, design, and the rich sound quality. As one of the reviewers, I experienced a ton of headphones. Each not only represents a certain frequency range, but sound stage. So some earbuds may sound great for lows, but with other music, when the recorders utilized highs to be prominent in their music, these earbuds fail to deliver this tone.
Other extra features, like noise cancelling, wireless connection, mic and in-line control, are also considered.
You don’t need to spend much more than $100 for great in ear headphones. If you are not an audiophile, spending more than $100 for in ear headphones seems in-appropriate. This list can’t be complete without sourcing expert reviews from CNET, The Verge, The Wire Cutter, Head-Fi, Innerfidelity for instance. And note I don’t own all these in ear headphones, only several, which were tested to verify the reviews and to compare each one. I found it was pretty much the same as tge reviewer’s statement made about the audio performance. These are our picks for the best in-ear headphones you can pick up today for under $100.
For the best listening experience if you spend more than $100 for a pair of earphones you should also invest on high definition MP3 player. Since the audio output from your phones has limitation about the resolution.
Updated on 01/14/2017