Top 5 Best Supra-Aural (On-Ear) Headphones Under $100 2021


Supra-aural (on-ear) headphones are often purchased because they offer a great sound with a lightweight and compatible form factor. These easy-to-use headphones are great for on-the-go listeners. The sound quality of on-ear headphones is often preferred over earbuds and the price point is lower than the circumaural (over-ear) counterparts.

There are certain supra-aural headphones that perform better than others. In this article, we’ll discuss the best supra-aural headphones that fit within a $100 USD budget.

The top 5 best supra-aural (on-ear) headphones under $100 are:

There are plenty of good options for supra-aural headphones under $100. These are the best in the 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 Supra-Aural Headphone?

Though the term “best” is subjective, we should still list out the criteria used for determining what makes a great supra-aural headphone.

  • Comfort: this is perhaps the simplest yet most important criterion of any headphone especially because supra-aural headphones rest and put pressure on our ears. Fortunately, supra-aural headphones are typically lightweight and allow heat to dissipate. Comfort is a big part of the equation.
  • Impedance/device compatibility: since supra-aural headphones are generally used on-the-go, it’s important that they be compatible with mobile devices. This means that the impedance should be low to avoid required a portable headphone amplifier. The sensitivity rating should also be considered in this discussion.
  • Frequency response: a great pair of headphones should be able to reproduce the full audible spectrum from 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz with clarity. Unfortunately, supra-aural headphones are notorious for lacking bass. However, being able to produce all audible frequencies is important none-the-less.

Note that, by the nature of the supra-aural/on-ear design, noise cancellation is rather difficult. It’s still possible, and I’ll write about it when applicable. However, I wouldn’t call noise cancellation a necessity of a great supra-aural headphone.

It’s also a benefit if the headphone is foldable for easy storage. If we’re out in public and regularly putting our headphones away and taking them back out, it’s nice to have a compatible set of on-ears.

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 supra-aural (on-ear) headphones under $100!


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Grado SR80e

The first supra-aural headphone under $100 that we’ll look at is the Grado SR80e (link to check the price on Amazon).

Grado SR80e

Grado Labs is a big name in the on-ear headphone market. The SR80e is an affordable open-back wired model that’s a great choice for on-the-go listeners that do not want to sacrifice audio quality.

The Grado SR80e is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Moving-Coil/Dynamic Headphones Under $100
Top Best Open-Back Headphones Under $100

The moving-coil dynamic drivers of the SR80e are matched to 0.1 dB for equality between the left and right channels. Combine this design with the open-back cups and listeners will enjoy a wide, natural soundstage across the headphone’s frequency response (20 Hz – 20,000 Hz). From a tight low-end to a clear high-end, this headphone will deliver great sound.

To learn more about open-back (and closed-back) headphone designs, check out my article The Complete Guide To Open-Back & Closed-Back Headphones.

The transducers and housing are designed to eliminate transient distortions, allowing the SR80e to accurately reproduce audio with a superb dynamic range.

Each of the earcups is connected to a fixed audio cable. This 4-pin cable and gold-plated 3.5mm plug carry audio without any noticeable degradation. A 3.5mm to 6.35mm gold-plated adapter is included.

The rated impedance of these headphones is 32 ohms and so they will work with any mobile device or studio-grade equipment without issue.

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.

The Grado SR60e (link to check the price on Amazon) is another inexpensive mode from Grado Labs that is worth checking out.


Sony WH-CH510

Second up is the Sony WH-CH510 (link to check the price on Amazon) from the well-known Japanese brand Sony.

Sony WH-CH510

The Sony WH-CH510 supra-aural headphone is a wireless model that uses Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology. Its operating range is up to 30 feet and its earcups are closed-back.

The Sony WH-CH510 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Wireless Headphones Under $100.

These inexpensive wireless headphones use 30mm drivers (with Ferrite magnets) offer great sonic detail across bass, mid and high frequencies. These drivers are designed into compact swivel-ready ear cups to improve fit and portability/storage.

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 slim, adjustable headband complete the lightweight frame. They’re certainly not the most comfortable headphones out there but for casual listening, they’re completely fine.

Bluetooth 5.0 makes these headphones easy to use with any Bluetooth device. Pairing is made easy and automatic pairing to the last paired device will take place as the headphone is turned on.

Easy-to-use buttons are found on the earcup. They allow listeners to play, stop or skip through tracks and adjust the volume. Additional controls are included to turn the headphones on/off; make or take calls, and engage voice assistants. Calls are made easy with the WH-CH510’s built-in microphone.

The 35-hour battery life of these headphones makes them an excellent choice at home and on the road. A full charge (from 0%) takes about 4.5 hours to complete via USB-C.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 11.82 in Dynamic with ferrite magnets
  • Impedance: no info
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: no info
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Supra-aural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 4.66 oz
  • Wireless/Wired: Bluetooth 5.0

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-S200BT

Audio-Technica is also from Japan and the Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT (link to check the price on Amazon) gets spot number 3 on this list.

Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT

The Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT is another wireless on-ear headphone. It uses Bluetooth 4.1 Class 2 to easily pair with Bluetooth audio devices. The operating range is approximately 10 meters (33 feet).

To learn more about wireless headphones, please consider reading the following My New Microphone articles:
• How Bluetooth Headphones Work & How To Pair Them To Devices
• How Do Wireless Headphones Work? + Bluetooth & True Wireless

At an incredible price point, the ATH-S200BT offers excellent audio across its 5 Hz – 32,000 Hz frequency response. This is made possible, in part, by the 40mm dynamic drivers which produce powerful bass, clean mids and airy highs.

To learn more about headphone frequency response, check out my article What Is Headphone Frequency Response & What Is A Good Range?

The left earcup of this headphone featured a built-in omnidirectional microphone for telephony. This enables users to make/take calls and engage with voice assistants rather easily.

The left earcup also has controls to easily make/take these calls; to adjust volume, and to control the audio in the paired Bluetooth audio device.

Battery life is important and the ATH-S200BT has 40 hours of playtime on a full charge. Quick charging can be achieve via the included USB charging cable.

Lightweight earpads rest comfortably on the ears and provide decent sound isolation, given the on-ear nature of the headphones. An adjustable headband allows users to easily find the fit that works best for them.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 40 mm Dynamic
  • Impedance: 32 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 32,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 102 dB/mW
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 190 g (6.7 oz)
  • Wireless/Wired: Bluetooth 4.1
  • Microphone: Condenser|Omnidirectional|50 – 15,000 Hz|-40 dB (1V/Pa at 1 kHz)

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


Jabra Elite 45h

To continue our discussion of the best supra-aural headphones under $100, let’s describe the Jabra Elite 45h (link to check the price on Amazon).

Jabra Elite 45h

The Jabra Elite 45h is a supra-aural closed-back headphone with Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology. It can even pair to two devices simultaneously (though it will only accept audio from one at a time).

The Jabra Elite 45h is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Wireless Headphones Under $100.

The 40mm dynamic drivers help to deliver the superb sound of the Jabra Elite 45h. These headphones easily sound more expensive than they are. Expect definition across the entire audible frequency response, from bass to mids to highs.

Note that, in speak mode, the Elite 45h will only have a bandwidth of 100 Hz to 8,000 Hz, given the nature of voice calls.

Again, on-ear headphones are notorious for putting uncomfortable pressure on the listener’s ears. However, the PU leather-covered memory foam earpads of the Elite 45h offer a good deal of comfort for listeners, especially during longer listening sessions.

The lightweight design improves comfort even further. The compact, foldable nature of the headphones makes them easy to store and transport.

I mentioned calls earlier. This is made possible by 2 MEMS microphones and 2-microphone call technology that helps to cancel background noise. Use these mics to make or take calls and to engage voice assistants (Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa).

For more information on MEMS microphones, check out my article What Is A MEMS Microphone? (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems).

Earcup controls include the typical call functions, volume controls, audio control (switch tracks, pause and play), pairing and on/off.

Use the Elite 45h headphones with the Jabra Sound+ App to customize the EQ of the headphones to fit your preferred frequency response. Jabra’s MySound option, which is part of the app, tests the user’s hearing and automatically produces the optimal settings specific to that test.

With a battery life that of up to 50 hours on a full charge, the Elite 45h will last work for days, if not weeks before having to be charged. Fast charging via USB-C gains 10 hours of listening time in just 15 minutes of charging.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: 40mm Dynamic
  • Impedance: no info
  • Frequency Response:
    • 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz (music mode)
    • 100 Hz – 8,000 Hz (speak mode)
  • Sensitivity: no info
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Supra-aural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 160g
  • Wireless/Wired: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Microphone: 2x MEMS|100 Hz – 10 kHz

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

Jabra is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 14 Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World.


Sennheiser HD1 On-Ear

To wrap things up, the Sennheiser HD1 On-Ear (link to check the price on Amazon) is the last model on the list.

Sennheiser HD1 On-Ear

Sennheiser’s HD1 On-Ear headphone, as the name suggests, is the supra-aural model in Sennheiser’s HD1 line of headphones. It has a closed-back design and comes with a 1.4m detachable cable with 3.5mm plugs on either end. A 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter is also included.

For more info on 3.5mm and 6.35mm headphone plugs and jacks, check out my article The Differences Between 2.5mm, 3.5mm & 6.35mm Headphone Jacks.

The HD1 On-Ear, like most Sennheiser headphones, delivers great sound quality for its price. From 16 Hz – 22,000 Hz, this headphone has the audible range covered with clean audio reproduction.

The included cable is designed with an inline 3-button smart remote and omnidirectional microphone to control the connected smartphone and switch between music and incoming calls using the inline.

For more info on headphone cables, check out my article An In-Depth Look Into How Headphone Cables Carry Audio.

To learn more about omnidirectional microphones, check out my article What Is An Omnidirectional Microphone? (Polar Pattern + Mic Examples).

The foldable headband and soft earpads help to improve comfort, help to mitigate some of the pain that comes from on-ear headphones pressing against the outside of the ear.

Key Specifications:

  • Transducer Type: Dynamic
  • Impedance: 18 Ω
  • Frequency Response: 16 Hz – 22,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 112 dB (1 kHz/1 Vrms)
  • IP Rating: no info
  • Open/Closed-Back: Supra-aural/Closed-back
  • Weight: 0.78 lb
  • Wireless/Wired: wired
  • Microphone: Omnidirectional (100 – 10,000 Hz)

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.


Honourable Mentions

Here are a few supra-aural headphones within the same price range that didn’t quite make the cut but are still definitely worth considering:

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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