Once we start edging over closer towards the major milestone that is the $100 price point, you’ll notice a sharp uptick in the sheer variety of earbuds that are on offer. It’s now that we really begin to specialize, and now that we can talk seriously about things like bass response and the clarity of the overall audio performance.
In short, $100 is a pretty solid budget, and if you keep all buying considerations in mind, you should be able to walk away with an extremely sound purchase that fits your precise needs and requirements.
Top 4 Earbuds Under $100
The 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones are an absolutely stunning entry, and very, very difficult to fault. Good-looking, packed to the brim with features, and with a vast array of extras and customization options, the sound quality matches the aesthetics to make this a serious contender for the top spot.
Plantronics BackBeat 100 ear buds are among the best designed wireless solutions you can find in their price range. You get a solid set of drivers attached to a sensible design. BackBeat 100 series is perfect for runners or anyone who needs their ear buds to stay securely in their ear during demanding physical activity.
The urBeats Wired In-Ear Headphones are a fan favorite, and for obvious reasons. They do well to deliver a mostly high quality listening experience in the majority of use-cases, whilst also looking pretty undeniably great as well. If you want better audio with worse looks, you’re going to want to seek elsewhere.
The Shure SE215-K earphones are not for everyone. If you’re looking for a lightweight, easy-to-wear, out-of-the-box experience, we’d recommend looking elsewhere. Even ardent audiophiles who prioritize sound over the missing remote/mic combo will be put off by the muddying effect of the enhanced bass in many tracks across multiple genres.
Unlike the jump between $20 earbuds to $50 earbuds, you may find that the remaining gap from ~$50 to ~$100 does not ostensibly land you with a whole lot more options in the way of features. There’s a fairly simple reason for this: the basic features—an inline microphone and integrated remote—are fairly inexpensive to add and, as such, already appear in cheaper models. By contrast, more expensive features—like, for example, active noise cancellation—won’t generally appear until we go another rung up in terms of price point.
But wait, don’t let that put you off! As with many clouds, there exists here a massive silver lining that is worthy of consideration. With the pressure largely off manufacturers to innovate in terms of cramming in many and varied extra features, the key distinguishing feature for which the majority seem to aim is in providing the best possible listening experience for your money. Models in this range start to sound a whole lot better, and also provide you with options in terms of the kind of sound signature you’re after based on your personal taste. It’s a solid upgrade for any audiophile!
There’s not a whole lot else to say here, as we’ve covered the fact that you aren’t going to see a whole tonne of new features at the circa $100 point. It is perhaps worth mentioning that while the kind of options open to you in terms of sound quality and specifications does widen up immensely here, you don’t have the whole world of choice open to you, and trade-offs are still part of playing the game.
One minor downside to consider is that sports in-ear headphones can be a slightly dubious proposition at this price point. There aren’t a whole lot on offer, and the ones that do exist aren’t always great. This tends to be more to do with design than functionality. It costs money to provide a whole host of extra eartips in various materials which is the kind of offering that really sells earbuds for running by ensuring a tight, secure, and comfortable fit throughout any period of activity. Similarly, water- and sweat-resistence can be a little suspect.
What to Look For
Or, rather, what to listen for. This price point is all about that bass. Or those mids. Or those highs. Basically whichever flavor of sound signature and customization options you have in mind, that should be your main priority when purchasing at around this range.
Compare the ~$100 bracket to the offerings directly above and below it and you’ll find that the general distinction is that they have more in common aesthetically with ~$200 models, more in common features-wise with ~$50 models, and a sound quality that, while variable, tends towards the former.
If you’re serious about your listening experience, dropping $100 on a new pair of quality earbuds is something of a no brainer. As far as bang for your buck goes, this is pretty much the sweet spot for the kind of audio quality you’re likely to find for the money you spend.
Even if the features are lacklustre, even if the design leaves you a little cold, head out to your nearest store, listen to some of our recommendations, and you’re sure to find something that does the trick for you.