Different people have different preferences when it comes to audio listening devices. Some prefer the hassle-free wireless earphones, and some enjoy the high-quality and fast music streaming of the wired earphones. To cater to both needs, we have prepared a comprehensive list of the best in ear headphones under 100 that look at some of the best wired and wireless in ear headphones out there.
We have selected JLab Epic In-Ear Sports Bluetooth Headphone to be the best of them all. Before we go ahead and present the rest of the top selections, let us share some of the buying guide tips that you should consider before making a purchase.
Table of Contents
|2||The Best Pick - JLab Epic Bluetooth Sports Earbuds|
|3||Why Should You Trust Us?|
|4||The Runner-Up - Skullcandy XTFree In-Ear Sports Bluetooth Earbuds|
|5||Budget Pick - Francois et Mimi Elite Wireless Sports Headphones|
|6||Also Good - Sony MDR-XB90EX In-Ear Extra Bass Headphones|
|7||Also Good - Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones|
|9||Comparisons of Sound Quality|
|10||Comparisons of Fit and Controls|
|11||Comparisons of Features|
When you go on a shopping spree, chances are you will see tons of specifications of products. The big question now is that whether you understand the real meanings behind those specs. Unless you are an audio engineer or advanced audiophile, you might not know the difference between the Bluetooth versions or the waterproof ratings. In these Best Earbuds Under $100 Review, we will give you some informative tips so that you can get yourself not only the most affordable earphones but also the most top performing device.
1. The Best Pick – JLab Epic Bluetooth Sports Earbuds
Our Best Pick
JLab Epic Bluetooth Sports Earbuds
With a cost right under $100, this JLab in-ear headphone provides satisfying long operating hours and produces excellent music for your ears. The neat thing about this Epic in-ear headphone is that it comes in couple options – wired and wireless. The one we are focusing in this guide is the wireless version. It packs Bluetooth 4.0 technology. Although it is not the latest v4.1 tech, it should be sufficient to stream the music bytes from the smartphone or laptop to the device, thanks to the complementary aptX feature. ( as rated best headphones with waterproof feature , Read it more )
Just like most JLab products out there, the Epic model is very lightweight and stylish. It weighs less than 0.3 ounces! The cord makes a full use of the revolutionary Memory Wire technology. As you bend and shape the cable cord, wire or ear hook, it stays in that exact shape even after taking it off. Although it rests lightly on the back of the neck, we wish it could be longer so that we could swing it to the front and have it stay there without feeling like it is choking us.
According to the specs, the battery can last up to a full 10 hours but based on user feedbacks, it can go longer than that if you are to control the volume level. You can view the status of the battery directly from the smartphone. It is quite a neat feature to have since you do not have to take off the device to check out the LED status on the unit itself. A quick glance to your smartphone will do. The built-in microphone is handy but could be better. The voice quality is mediocre. Sometimes, the people at the receiving ends would comment that our voice sounds distant and muffled.
Sound wise, our top pick can perform similar superior quality of an audio system, just like the JLab wired sibling model. We found the sound to be loud and clear. It also has that deep bass. In fact, it is its strongest point of the unit. The clean sound and crisp trebles are visible even in a wireless mode. It might be due to the powerful 13mm drivers on the unit.
While it might not be able to satisfy the hearts of professional musicians or avid music lovers, it should be sufficient for regular users who would like to enjoy a stable wireless music streaming, lightweight earpieces and modern, stylish design. Plus, this model is also difficult to compare as the manufacturer does not reveal a detailed specifications like frequency, decibels and impedance. It is not a surprise as there are also many big companies like Bose also do not display such specs details. Regardless, based on the overall user feedbacks, we can say that it has a boosted bass, ideal for those who love listening to punchy and bass loaded music.
On another note, this award-winning best workout headphones also boasts a waterproof rating of IPX4. With it, you can work out and sweat as much as you want. Feel free to wash the buds after your gym session so that it continues to work for as long as possible and germ-free while at that! If you would like to know the performance in further details and its comparison with other four top selections, check out the comparison section in these Best Earbuds Under $100 Review.
- IPX4 rating
- 10 hours of battery life
- C3 (Crystal Clear Clarity) technology
- Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX technology
- 13mm driver
The Buying Guide
The look and feel of the audio device are necessary, but can also be entirely subjective at the same time. It depends on your personal choices. However, you should know some of the basic designs offered by the product. There is a big difference between an over-ear headphone and an in-ear earphone.
The over-ear devices usually packs advanced audio system in the spacious earpiece unit and offers tons of bass output. While they are big and bulky, they are still portable because manufacturers these days have made this tool to be foldable and easily stored.
An in-ear earphone, also known as earbuds, also has some of the best selling points. They are lightweight, can withstand a splash of water, and at the same time, does not disappoint with the high clarity of the trebles, excellent mids and lows, as well as a sufficient production of bass. In this category, you can break down the types even further. Some products come with a long wire and cable that falls freely without getting in your way.
There are also behind-the-neck types of tools. They have shorter cords and not as flexible as the long wired one. Plus, they connect to your music device wirelessly via Bluetooth technology. It makes a beautiful exercise companion as it does not get in your way while you are running or jumping aggressively. In this review, we are focusing our attention on this type of design – the wired and wireless earbuds.
The Terms on the Spec Sheets
Whether you are making your window shopping online or offline, you should be able to see technical specifications on the product packaging or the web page. In this case, you need to be able to understand what those specs imply and what you will get out of them. This buying guide aims to equip you with this valuable knowledge. Now, let us take a look at some of the familiar terms that you see on those specifications list.
Frequency – We bet you have seen the following phrase: “15hz – 20khz”. It is time to understand what these Hertz specifications mean. The sound output from an audio listening tool uses Hertz as a measurement. The phrase we mentioned earlier gives you an idea about the range of audio output that the product can produce. You should know that the lower the hertz measurement, the lower and deeper the bass output.
Therefore, when you compare two possible products from the frequency perspective, you should know that the one with a minimum 15Hz has a better bass output than the one with 50Hz or 60Hz minimum range. If you enjoy listening to a music genre with heavy bass, we recommend you to pick the one with the most minimum frequency range.
Impedance – Impedance is the thing that discards annoying hissing sound from your audio device. Your headphone uses an electricity to run the system, and it comes with a side effect: vibration. The wave eventually produces a noise that can interfere with the quality of your music. When you read the specification list on the packaging, you should look out for the impedance status.
The basic rule of this element is that the higher the impedance, the better. If you do not find this term, look for “ohms”. It is the measurement unit for impedance, read more technical explain from Cnet.com . But then again, the high ohm comes with a high price tag. Therefore, you should choose the one within your budget and offers high enough impedance. Make sure to select the one with the highest ohm counting as it has a clearer music output with lower hissing noise in the background.
Drivers – The third essential factor that makes a great earphone is the drivers ( sources from Gizmodo ). A huge headphone can pack up to four drivers and output an excellent audio quality. However, since buds can be too small, putting four drivers into each earpiece can be a bit tricky. If you are to look at the spec sheet, you will see the amount and the size of drivers packed in the product. The most high-end best in ear headphones can cost up to $1,500. For example, The Ultimate Ear Pro that packs six drivers in each earpiece! The conclusion is that the higher and stronger the driver, the better the music. It gives a great overall sound.
Decibels – Last but not least, the next important term on the specification list is the decibels (dB). It indicates the output sensitivity of the device. When purchasing the best earphones, you should want something with a loud sound, but not too high that it distorts or damage your hearing system. The decibels come in a particular range. The lowest audible sound that you can find on an audio listening tool is 0dB. It is a total silent or mute. When it comes to the highest decibels, try not to buy the one with greater than 85dB as it can cause you a hearing loss in a long term!
Why Should You Trust Us?
There are many best earbuds under $100 reviews out there but why should you trust us compared to others? Well, honest truth, we have done extensive research on this product and have written numerous reviews on many earphones and headphones. We look at all possible aspects when judging one particular product. We check out the specs, read the feedbacks from professional critics and average users, and perform the assessment ourselves. From our research and testing experience, we know the difference between a high-class tool and a lousy tool. We always aim in providing the most comprehensive comparisons and reviews on each headphone or in-ear earphones. In this endeavor of finding the top and most comfortable earbuds, we have come with top five selections. Check out the below sections in this review to find out more.
2. The Runner-Up – Skullcandy XTFree In-Ear Sports Best Bluetooth Earbuds
On the first look, our runner-up, Skullcandy XTFree In-Ear Sports Bluetooth looks extra stylish with the colourful buds. The cord features a solid and easily bendable material that can deter water well. You can see small skull images engraved on the earpieces as well as on the inline control panel. At the top of the earbud, there is an ear hook that uses three types of locking. Thanks to it, the buds would stay inside the ears for a very long hour. However, we wish the gel buds to be a little bit softer. It can be quite tight especially with small inner ears. Nevertheless, the design of the buds has a fitness-focused, ideal for gym goers, a true best sport headphones.
As far as the ease of use and controls, we will have to give the device credit. It is not a rocket science to use it, even for a newbie. The control panel is on the right side of the cord. It has an intuitive button layout – ‘+’ button to control the volume and track, ‘-’ button to lower the volume and go to the previous music track. There is a multi-functional button in the middle where you can press to pick up phone calls or play/pause the playlist.
While this kind of headphone is famous for the poor bass quality, when compared to the full over-the-ear headphones, Skullcandy is here to set the notion wrong!
It has quite spectacular audio performance, thanks to the 9mm drivers. The lows, highs, and mid-range have a superb balance while the bass is not bad at all. The powerful sub-bass content also makes it an ideal choice for music lovers or health enthusiasts who love to listen to pumping, energetic music. Compare the performance further by checking the comparison section.
- Weight: 3.5 ounces
- Sweat Resistant
- Six hours of battery life
- Impedance – 17 ohms
- Frequency range – 20Hz – 20KHz
3. Budget Pick – Francois et Mimi Elite Wireless Sports Headphones
Compared to the rest of the products in this guide, Francois et Mimi Elite packs the most advanced CSR Bluetooth 4.1 technology that gives stable and superior wireless music streaming. It is one of the best earbuds under 100 dollars that you should consider. It displays a striking color of red that makes it ideal for those in their twenties or thirties. Some of the great features of this device are the aptX technology as well as IPX4 waterproof. You can use it while working out in the outdoor and enjoying loud and full stereo output at the same time. The thin and standard length cord provides high comfort. It does not distract you from your routine as it falls lightly on your back. We also loved the fact that the wire does not stick annoyingly on your neck when you are sweating heavily.
Like most standard products, there are multiple sizes of earpieces so that you can test the one that suits well to the size of your ears. The silicone buds should feel soft in your ears. It stays comfortable for a very long time, without warming up your ears. It also fits securely. Some users said that he could run nonstop for 15 to 30 minutes without having to stop to adjust the earpieces. You can barely hear the external noise and able to receive a maximum and clean audio from this best noise cancelling earbuds.
From the audio quality perspective, Francois et Mimi Elite produces great bass sound and pleasant overall audio production. When you switch the volume to a maximum, the device continues to play the music in an excellent manner without much distortion. In the specs, the manufacturers claimed that the wireless range can go as far as 33 feet. Upon testing, we found that it is the actual wireless range. On a full power juice, you can use it for as long as seven hours. On top of the unit, there is an LED status that shows the battery status with the LED light.
Indeed, the Elite in-ear headphone is an outstanding option. It has a decent sound output, comfortable to wear, looks very stylish, and can provide long hours of music and phone conversation.
- CSR Bluetooth 4.1 technology
- Wireless range of 10 meters (33 feet)
- IPX4 waterproof rating
- Frequency range – 2.4GHz – 2.48GHz
- Battery – 3.7V 100mAh
- Playback time – Seven hours
- Charge time – 1.5 hours
4. Also Good – Sony MDR-XB90EX In-Ear Extra Bass Headphones
The next choice that you should think of purchasing is the top performing Sony MDR-XB90EX Headphones. It is a wired device with long and not easily tangled serrated cable. Therefore, there is nothing to fret about, even if it lacks the wireless feature. Made originally from Japan, this particular product can impress just about anybody with the sleek design, top notch earbud comfort as well as full audio output. It packs a proprietary technology called Advanced Direct Vibe Structure and Angled Duct. What it does is that it allows the device to produce noise-free and high-range sound from the earpiece. It simulates the quality of audio produced by the over-ear headphone. The only difference is that it uses tiny buds for a high level of comfort. Another neat thing about the earpiece is that it has a vertical design. It provides a snug fit to your ears – not too tight and not too loose.
Overall, the build quality of this device is excellent. It looks shining and exclusive in the silver skin. You can easily think that it costs about $300 when in fact it is less than $100! On the device, there is a 16mm driver unit that adds further to the quality of the product. If you wonder about the bass performance of the product, wonder no more. It has an excellent bass output profound and punchy enough to the liking of average users. Plus, the sound is full and maximum. There is not much audio leaking.
However, it has its cons too. There is no inline control on the wire. You will need to use your smartphone to control the volume, change your music track and pick up phone calls. Nevertheless, when we compared this MDR-XB90EX model, we can see that it offers major upgrades from the previous versions such as MDR-EX510, MDR-XB40EX, and MDR-EX85.
Consider this Sony in-ear headphone if you would like to enjoy top quality audio and superior comfort.
- Tangled-free cord
- 47” cord length
- 16mm dome-type drivers
- Angled Duct and Advanced Direct Vibe Structure technology
- Sensitivity – 106dB
- Impedance – 16 ohm
- Frequency Range – 4Hz – 27kHz
- Weight – 0.03 ounce
5. Also Good – Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones
Last but not least, we have come to the fifth top product in these Best Earbuds Under 100 Review, the high-quality Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones. As you can see from the model name, Shure earphone boasts unique noise cancelling headphones technology, supported by the Sound Isolating Sleeve. Sure, there are some debates and concerns about cancelling the sound in the environment, but if used indoor, it can be quite a handy feature. We loved how this device could produce loud, clean, and full audio output. The enhanced bass helps to pump the overall sound, resulting in booming bass sound. The amazing stereo is due to the installed single dynamic micro driver in the unit. The manufacturer also includes an acoustic seal in the earpiece to prevent audio leaking.
Design wise, there is not much to talk about it. It somehow has an average design quality with an all-black skin body affair. It can never beat the stylish and rugged beat earbuds: Beat by Dr. Dre or Parrot headphones, but at the price rate of about $80, we can forgive the decent design quality. However, the most important thing about an earphone is the comfort. We feel like the buds are soft and quite ergonomic. We do not have any problem inserting it into our ears, but making it stay in place can be quite a challenge.
There are several cons of this product that we can think of, which are the absence of the waterproof feature and the lack of onboard controls. When it comes to the water-resistant feature, sure, you can wear it while jogging or working out in the gym. But, there is no guarantee that it will survive the rain water or sweats.
Plus, you will also need to control your music playlist or adjust the volumes from your iPhone or Samsung smartphones. Overall, we could not help but include this device in our list due to the spectacular audio performance. It is the strongest point of the product and ideal for you if you can overlook the simple design and everyday comfort.
- Sound Isolating Technology
- 64” detachable and flexible cable
- Gold-plated 3.5mm connector
- Weight: 0.5 ounces
- Dynamic Micro Driver
- Sensitivity- 107 dB
- Impedance – 20 ohm
- Frequency Range – 22Hz – 17.5 kHz
Comparisons of Sound Quality
There are some fierce competitions between the five products in this guide regarding the sound quality. If you are looking for the best earbuds for right under $100, you should go with the one that has high impedance, a vast range of frequencies, high enough sensitivity, and decent drivers. If we are to look at the specs details, Shure SE215-K has the highest impedance at 20 ohms. Meaning, it has the lowest amount of noise in the audio production. However, if you are heavy on the bass side, our top pick, JLab Epic, has the best bass performance. You might not be able to see from the specs as the manufacturer does not reveal such info. However, the many user feedbacks can attest to the quality of the bass. It is super deep and booming – they are highly boosted.
Nevertheless, for an excellent overall audio quality, Sony MDR-XB90EX is the winner due to the brilliantly balanced frequency range (4Hz – 27kHz), sensitivity (106dB), and impedance (16 ohm). The low 4Hz provides booming bass, and the top field contains loud sound so that you can enjoy the music thoroughly. The driver of this unit is also the biggest out of them five at 16mm!
Comparisons of Fit and Controls
JLab Epic, without a doubt, has the best fit and controls. The gel tips are super soft, and the design of it is very nice. It is neither too small nor too big. We loved how the buds fitted nicely and comfortably inside the ears. When it comes to the control, the inline panel provides quick touch for you to answer phone calls or move up and down the playlist track or volumes. The buttons are solid and yet, very responsive to the touch. It gives a nice click when you press it, informing you that it has received your trigger.
Compared to the Epic model, the runner-up and budget pick are not too far behind when it comes to the fit and controls. We also loved the sticky gel buds on these units. They are not only colorful and stylish but also very snug fit. Just like Epic, the inline control panel is also on the right side of the unit – great for right handed folks – with three buttons in place, which are Plus, Multifunctional, and Minus. The last two products do not have any inline panel on the wire. The music or phone control is only accessible via the smartphone or laptop itself. It can be quite a hassle for some especially those who are on the move. If you do not mind this and would like to focus only on audio quality, this lack of inline control should not bother you that much.
Comparisons of Features
Feature-wise, all of the contenders in this review have almost similar, irresistible offerings. The wireless range of all five products is excellent at about 33 feet. Plus, the battery power is also conveniently extended. Some even come with the waterproof feature that protects the device from the harmful rainwater and sweats. Taking all these features in consideration, we feel like the JLab Epic In-Ear Headphone offers the best values for your money. It has every little thing that you need including:
- Long battery hours up to a staggering ten hours (60% more than the competitors)
- IPX4 waterproof rating
- aptX technology with Bluetooth 4.0 technology
- Highly boosted bass that can make you move your head as you listen to your music from the device
- Best button layout that controls music, phone and volume very well. It even comes with Siri control for Apple smartphones
- Big 13mm driver that offers powerful sound output
The other products might and might not have all of the features mentioned above. One thing for sure, the top pick, JLab Epic, have them all!
IPX Rating table for references:
|Rating Level||Water Protected|
|IPX2||Dripping water when tilted up to 15°|
|IPX4||Splashing of water|
|IPX6||Powerful water jets|
|IPX7||Immersion up to 1 m|
|IPX8||Immersion beyond 1 m|
As a conclusion, the best earbuds under 100 can provide you a one-of-kind music experience without making you spending a fortune. With a cost less than a hundred bucks, you can enjoy the aptX-supported stereo sound, loud and deep bass, great comfort, and excellent durability. Consider the products recommended above as they can provide you all of these qualities. Out of them five, we highly recommend you the top pick as it has the best overall build quality, audio performance, comfort, durability, and ease of use.
Related Good Headphones and Earbuds to pick from :
- The Best Skullcandy Headphones Review
- Eight Best Waterproof Bluetooth Headphones in 2015 – (IPX Rating)
- Francois et Mimi Elite Wireless Bluetooth Personal Review
- 7 Best Earbuds Under 50
- The Best Earbuds Under 20 Hot release
- 6 Best Bass Headphones Review
- Top 10 Best Waterproof Headphones For Running
Our Best Pick
JLab Epic Bluetooth Sports Earbuds