Top 5 Best Open Back Headphones Under $100


Open-back headphones are often cherished for their open and realistic sound when it comes to critical listening and simply enjoying the music. The perforated earcups offer a wider, more open and realistic response to the audio being played (at the expense of spilling noise into the environment).

Of course, some open-back headphones are better than others. In this article, we’ll look at the best within the price cap of $100 USD.

The top 5 best open-back headphones under $100 are:

I would consider each of the headphones above a steal for under $100. Each model outperforms the vast majority of the open-back headphones in its price range.

Since we’re having a discussion within the context of a price cap, I figure I should leave a link to a related My New Microphone article: Are Expensive Headphones (Or Cheap Headphones) Worth It?


What Makes A Great Open-Back Headphone?

Though the term “best” is subjective, we should still list out the criteria used for determining what makes a great pair of open-back headphones.

  • Comfort: this is perhaps the simplest yet most important criterion of any headphone. Though highly subjective, specifications such as weight; contact pressure; earpad shape/material; stiffness, and the overall dimension play a role in comfort. We should also consider the amount of heat that could get trapped around the ears during longer listening sessions.
  • Impedance/device compatibility: compatibility with different audio devices is important. Choose a pair of high-end circumaural headphones that will be easily incorporated into your set up whether that’s a mobile device or a professional studio. Impedance and sensitivity ratings come into play when determining compatibility.
  • Frequency response: a great pair of headphones should be able to reproduce the full audible spectrum from 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz with clarity.

Wireless (especially Bluetooth) capabilities are also seen as a benefit since they further improve the functionality and general comfort of the headphones.

To learn more about open-back headphones, be sure to check out my article: The Complete Guide To Open-Back & Closed-Back Headphones.

With that, let’s get into our top 5 best open-back headphones under $100!


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Grado SR80e

Let’s kick things off with the Grado SR80e (link to check the price on Amazon) from the Brooklyn-based on-ear headphone specialist Grado Labs.

Grado SR80e

The Grado SR80e is an excellent and affordable open-back on-ear headphone.

The Grado SR80e is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $100
Top Best Supra-Aural (On-Ear) Headphones Under $100

The headphone reproduces audio with precision from the bass all the way to the top-end, across its frequency response of 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz (which coincides with the audible frequency range of humans).

To achieve this accurate sound, the SR80e is designed with moving-coil dynamic drivers, matched to 0.1 dB. The drivers offer a superb stereo field along with a great dynamic range.

The open-back housing accentuates the stereo image ever further and is carefully designed to eliminate transient distortions, allowing the SR80e to excel in accurately reproducing the audio.

Each of the open-back earcups is connected to a fixed audio cable. This 4-pin cable features a gold-plated 3.5mm plug and carries audio without any noticeable degradation, ensuring the headphones receive and reproduce the audio that is being sent to the drivers. A 3.5mm to 6.35mm gold-plated adapter is included.

With a rated impedance of 32 ohms, the Grado SR80e headphone can be easily driven by any mobile device or consumer-grade audio player as well as professional equipment.

To learn more about headphone impedance, check out my article The Complete Guide To Understanding Headphone Impedance.

These headphones sit light on the listener’s head and, though they sit firmly, do not apply too much pressure on the ears. The S cushions soften the fit, improving comfort even further. Supra-aural headphones are somewhat notorious for being uncomfortable on the surface of the ear. Grado breaks that stereotype with the SR80e.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Impedance: 32 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 99.8 dB SPL/1mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Supra-aural/Open-back
  • Weight: 8.3 oz./235 g
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

To learn more about headphone specifications, be sure to read my article Full List: Headphone/Earphone Specifications w/ Examples.

Grado Labs is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.


Philips SHP9500

Next up is the Philips SHP9500 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Philips SHP9500

The Philips SHP9500 is an excellent open-back headphone with a reasonable price tag.

The Hi-Fi sound of these headphone is made possible with a combination of 50mm neodymium speaker drivers deliver and a properly-tuned, acoustically open earcup design.

The drivers deliver powerful sound from 12 Hz to 35,000 Hz and the exquisite open-back allows these drivers to really shine by allowing air pressure to escape. The results is sonic transparency and a naturally wide stereo image.

For more info on frequency response, check out my article What Is Headphone Frequency Response & What Is A Good Range?

The earcups are design so that the sound produced by the transducers is directly channeled into the ears, creating a dynamic and authentic listening experience.

The detachable cable that comes with the SHP9500 measures 3 metres long and attaches to the left earcup. Like most headphone cables, it ends with a 3.5mm stereo plug connector but the headphone does come with a
gold-plated 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter for easy connection with 1/4″ (6.35mm) headphone jacks.

To learn more about 3.5mm and 6.35mm headphone plugs/jacks, check out my article The Differences Between 2.5mm, 3.5mm & 6.35mm Headphone Jacks.

The nominal impedance of 32 ohms means that even the low-powered headphone DACs/amps of mobile device can successfully drive these headphones with great results.

The headband of the SHP9500 is made of steel for strength and durability and double-layered with soft cushioning for comfort. The breathable earpads ensure a comfortable fit while improving the dissipation of heat to keep listeners cool over long listening durations.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 50 mm Dynamic
  • Impedance: 32 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 12 Hz – 35,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 101 dB
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Supre-aural/Open-back
  • Weight: 0.7 lb / 0.3 kg
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Another open-back Philips headphone under $100 worth checking out is the Philips SHP9600 (link to check the price on Amazon).


Superlux HD 681

Third on the list is the stylish Superlux HD 681 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Superlux HD 681

The Superlux HD 681 acutally comes in well below the $100 cutoff. Let’s call this open-back headphone the budget pick of the budget picks!

This headphone sound surprisingly good, given its low price point. The quality audio components include 50mm dynamic neodymium drivers, which deliver a balanced sound with a large dynamic range and superb stereo imaging.

To learn more about dynamic drivers and driver size, check out my articles The Complete Illustrated Guide To Moving-Coil Dynamic Headphones and What Is A Good Driver Size For Headphones? respectively.

Superlux’s HD 681 is marketed as a “semi-open” headphone, which technically means it’s open. That being said, combining this semi-open principle with an over-ear fit allows the headphone to passively isolate some amount of noise. Of course, it won’t be as good as a closed-back design but it’s still work mentioning.

The published frequency response of the HD 681 is a wide 10 Hz to 30,000 Hz., which extends into infrasound and ultrasound. From a solid bass response to a clear top-end, these affordable Superlux headphone get the job done for cheap.

The fixed, single-sided straight cable measures 8.2-feet long and ends with a typical 3-pin 3.5mm stereo plug. If you need to connect to a 1/4″ (6.35mm) headphone jack, use the 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter that comes with the headphone.

The headphones are equipped with a self-adjusting headband and thick around-ear cushions that offer a comfortable and secure fit.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 50 mm Dynamic with Neodymium magnets
  • Impedance: 32 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 30,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 7.76 oz / 220 g
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

AKG K240 Pro

The AKG K240 Pro (link to check the price on Amazon) is a popular headphone due to its high performance-to-price ratio, putting it on this list of the best open-back headphones under $100.

AKG K240 Pro

The AKG K240 Pro is an open-back over-ear headphone marketed for professional monitoring. It outperforms many in its price class and deserves a spot on this list.

The AKG K240 Pro is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Headphones For Podcasting Under $100
Top Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $100
Top Best Circumaural (Over-Ear) Headphones Under $100

Expect great accuracy and a superb dynamic range across the audible frequencies with the K240 Pro. It uses patented Varimotion 30mm XXL transducers to produce powerful sound between 15 Hz and 25,000 Hz and its open-back housing is tuned to even out resonances and provide a wide yet natural soundstage.

The K240 comes with a detachable 3-metre cable with a professional mini XLR at one end (to connect to the headphone) and a typical 3-pin 3.5mm TRS at the other end.

Its 55-ohm nominal impedance rating means that this headphone can easily connect to consumer-grade and mobile audio equipment without issue. A 3.5mm to 6.35mm (1/4″) adapter is included.

To learn more about headphone cables, check out my article An In-Depth Look Into How Headphone Cables Carry Audio.

The over-ear design fits nicely around the ears nicely and the earpads make the headphones comfortable to wear. The overall fit is made better via the self-adjusting headband. These headphones are designed to keep listeners comfortable throughout long mixing, mastering and playback sessions.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Patented Varimotion 30 mm XXL Transducer
  • Impedance: 55 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz – 25,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 104 dB SPL/V
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 240 g (8.47 oz)
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

AKG is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.


Samson SR850

First on the list is the Samson SR850 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Samson SR850

The Samson SR850 is another semi-open headphone that comes in well below the $100 mark. It’s marketed as an inexpensive option for musicians, sound engineers and general music enthusiast.

The Samson SR850 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Headphones Under $50.

The 50mm dynamic drivers are built with neodymium magnets and reproduce sound with a wide dynamic range and a great frequency response that spans beyond the audible range of human hearing.

The semi-open back gives the headphone a notable width in the stereo field while also keeping a decent amount of noise out.

A 1/8″ to 1/4″ gold-plated adapter is included with the headphones, making it easy to plug into 3.5mm headphone jacks as well as most headphone outputs on consumer and professional audio equipment.

The SR850’s sit comfortably over the listener’s ear and the self-adjusting headband provides a secure, natural fit, making the SR850s a good choice for extended studio sessions. The velour cushioning on the earcups further improves the general comfort of the headphone.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 50 mm Dynamic with Rare Earth magnets
  • Impedance: 32 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 30,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 98dB
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Open-back
  • Weight: 95 oz (276 g)
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

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