Top 5 Best Circumaural (Over-Ear) Headphones Under $100


Many of the high-end headphones of the world have a circumaural (over-ear) form factor. These headphones include the planar magnetic, electrostatic and, of course, the moving-coil dynamic transducers.

This design finds itself in many “low-end” headphones under $100 as well. Not to say that these headphones are bad. In fact, many of them are excellent! Speaking of excellent, let us discuss what I believe to be the top 5 best circumaural headphones under $100.

The top 5 best circumaural headphones under $100 are:

$100 USD can get us a lot of things. Among them is a great pair of over-ear headphones. For those of us wanting to get the most out of our budget, the above suggestions are the best options.

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 Circumaural Headphone?

Though the term “best” is subjective, we should still list out the criteria used for determining what makes a great pair of circumaural 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 if we were to be using closed-back circumaural headphones.
  • 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.

With that, let’s get into our top 5 best circumaural (over-ear) headphones under $100!


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AKG K240

Let’s kick things off with the popular AKG K240 (link to check the price on Amazon).

AKG K240

The AKG K240 is a semi-open (over-ear) wired moving-coil dynamic headphone marketed for professional studios.

The AKG K240 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $100
Top Best Headphones For Podcasting Under $100
Top Best Open-Back Headphones Under $100

AKG’s K240 studio headphones are built around patented Varimotion 30mm XXL transducers. These dynamic drivers reproduce audio with superb accuracy and dynamic range across the entire frequency response of 15 Hz to 25,000 Hz.

Being designed for professional applications such as mixing, mastering and playback, the K240’s open-back design offer a natural soundstage in addition to the drivers’ detailed stereo reproduction.

With a nominal impedance of 55 ohms, this headphone will sound great with consumer-grade and mobile audio devices as well as with professional audio equipment.

The K240 comes with a detachable 3-metre cable with professional mini XLR at one end (to connect to the headphone) and a typical 3-pin 3.5mm TRS at the other end. 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 envelopes the ears nicely and the earpads maintain a comfortable fit. This improves passive noise isolation to block external sounds and makes the headphones comfortable to wear over long sessions. The overall fit is made even better with the self-adjusting headband.

The K240 professional studio headphones come in well below the $100 limit but are fully deserving of a spot on this list.

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

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

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


Sony MDR-7506

Second up is the Sony MDR-7506 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Sony MDR-7506

The Sony MDR-7506 is another moving-coil dynamic headphone with a circumaural design. This model has a closed-back earcup construction.

The Sony MDR-7506 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Headphones For Podcasting Under $100
Top Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $100

This headphone is part of Sony’s Micro Dynamic Receiver series of headphones marketed at audio/visual professionals.

The 40mm dynamic driver units deliver deep bass, low distortion and a wide dynamic range. With a published frequency response of 10 Hz to 20,000 Hz, these headphones will cover all the audible frequencies and more.

A 63-ohm nominal impedance is low enough for the headphone to work easily with both consumer and professional audio setups alike. In fact, these pro headphones are marketed as a great option for equipment with less-than-powerful headphone amplification.

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

The MDR-7506 has a fixed 9.8-foot coiled cable with a typical 3.5mm stereo connector. For 1/4″ headphone jacks, the headphone comes with its own gold-plated, stereo Unimatch 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter.

These lightweight headphones are fairly comfortable and can easily be worn throughout typical session lengths without issue. They fold up for easy storage/portability and fit well on most heads.

These headphones sound great at under $100 and are a fantastic choice for professionals and music-lovers alike.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 40 mm Dynamic with Neodymium magnets
  • Impedance: 63 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 106 dB/W/m
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 8.1 oz
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Sony is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 14 Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World and Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.


Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

Third on the list is the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x (link to check the price on Amazon).

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x is a wonderful over-ear headphone for under $100 with a closed-back design.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $100

Top Best Headphones For Podcasting Under $100

This headphone from A-T sounds excellent across its published frequency response of 15 Hz – 24,000 Hz (which surpasses the audible spectrum into both infrasound and ultrasound).

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

Accuracy in the bass, mids and highs is achieved with carefully-tuned earcups. At the heart of the headphone are two identical 40mm dynamic drivers are designed with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils.

The circumaural design fits nicely around the ears to improve the passive noise isolation and also offers great comfort. These headphones aren’t the most comfortable but for under $100, they can be worn without issue even during long listening or recording sessions.

With a low impedance of 35 ohms, the ATH-M40x will work with mobile devices and professional gear without issue.

The headphone comes with a detachable 1.2m – 3.0m coiled cable and a 3.0m straight cable with 3.5mm connections. A new purchase of the M40x also comes with a 3.5mm to 6.35mm (1/4″) adapter.

These headphones are also pretty durable, withstanding typical wear and tear easily and they’re even collapsible, with 90º-swivelling earcups for space-saving portability.

Whether you’re into professional (or amateur) audio work or you just want to listen, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x is an awesome headphone choice for under $100.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 40 mm Dynamic with Neodymium magnet & CCAW (Copper-clad aluminum wire) Voice Coil
  • Impedance: 35 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz – 24,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 240 g (8.5 oz), without cable and connector
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

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

Consider also checking out Audio-Technica’s ATH-M20x (link to check the price on Amazon) and ATH-M30x (link to check the price on Amazon), which both also fit the description of circumaural headphones under $100.


Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro (link to check the price on Amazon) is another popular headphone and get the fourth mention in this article.

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro is a popular dynamic headphone option below $100 with a closed-back design and, of course, a circumaural earcup fit.

The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $100
Top Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $100

The headphone produces an extended and accurate bass response, clear mids and non-fatiguing highs thanks to its 40mm dynamic drivers and closed-back design.

Looking at the frequency response, the extended lows (and highs) of the HD 280 Pro push beyond the audible range of hearing.

The HD 280 Pro comes with a detachable 1.3m|3m coiled cable with the typical 3.5mm plugs. A 1/4″ (6.35mm) adapter is also included for easy connecting to the vast majority of headphone outputs.

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.

A 64-ohm nominal impedance means the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro will sound great with high-end professional headphones that require dedicated amplifiers and “regular” headphones that will work with typical mobile and consumer-grade audio devices.

The robust construction of the HD 280 Pro is complemented by soft earpads and an adjustable headband for a comfortable fit. Expect a good amount of passive noise isolation once these headphones are fitted properly around the ears. The earcups are folding and rotating for compact transport and storage.

Sennheiser’s HD 280 Pro is a great choice for those looking for a circumaural set of can for under $100.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Impedance: 64 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 8 Hz – 25,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: no info
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 285 g without cable
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Sennheiser is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World and Top 14 Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World.


Shure SRH440

Let’s wrap this article up with the American-made Shure SRH440 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Shure SRH440

Shure SRH440 is another closed-back dynamic headphone with wired connectivity.

The Shure SRH440 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $100
Top Best Headphones For Podcasting Under $100
Top Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $100

The professional sound of the SHR440 is characterized by its extended frequency response and superb dynamics. The headphone’s 40mm dynamic drivers and housing are tuned for superb bass, clear mids and enjoyable highs.

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.

The nominal impedance of the SRH440 is rated at 44 ohms, which is low enough to work with any consumer or professional device.

A detachable 3 m (10 ft.) coiled cable and threaded 1/4″ (6.35 mm) gold-plated adapter is included with the purchase of this Shure headphone.

The closed-back, circumaural design offers a great deal of noise isolation in noisy environments. The adjustable and collapsible headband is designed for improved comfort and portability and the earpads are easily replaceable if and when they wear out.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 40 mm Dynamic
  • Impedance: 44 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 22 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB/mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 311 g
  • Wireless/Wired: Wired

Shure is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 14 Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World and Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World.


Honourable Mentions

Here are 5 more excellent options for circumaural headphones under $100 USD:

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