I’m not one of those people who think you can’t put a price on quality. I believe that if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that some of the best headphones under $300 can satisfy all your auditory requirements.
Headphones come in all shapes and sizes. And, knowing how to differentiate certain features and technologies will make it easier to pick the right piece of equipment.
8 Best Headphones Under $300 - Top Picks
Table of Contents
- 8 Best Headphones Under $300 - Top Picks
- How I Classify Headphones
- Balancing Audio Quality and Comfort
- What I Prefer Between Wired and Wireless Headphones
- How Important Is Build Quality?
- Open Back vs Closed Back and Various Noise Cancelling Features
- What to Expect in Terms of Distortion
The ATH-M50xBT headphones are among my favorite for any application. Their versatility makes them useful as gaming, studio, recording, and movie night headphones. The wireless technology makes them decent travel headphones too. That’s especially true given their excellent battery life and low-latency monitoring.
I like that the headphones have touch controls and that they are also compatible with most voice assistants. Thanks to the studio-quality 45mm drivers, the ATH-M50xBT headphones exhibit impressive clarity.
The extended frequency response range offers crisp highs, clear and well-defined midrange vocals, as well as deep and rich bass. In terms of comfort, there’s nothing to complain about or report. The earpads are thick and light on the ears. The over-ear design provides good passive noise canceling, while the padding on the headband helps reduce head pressure.
The headphones also come with a one foot USB charging cable and a dedicated carry pouch. Another neat thing about them is that the headphones are foldable too. Thus, they are very convenient to take on the road, even though there doesn’t seem to be any fast charging feature.
Anyone interested in a massive low-end response should probably give the Crossfade M-100 a closer look. These headphones offer a clean but bass-heavy sound, which may be just the thing for DJs. They also feature the unique V-MODA strapping system.
It may not make them the most comfortable, but it does make the fit more secure. The design is durable and quite flexible. I like the use of memory foam on the earcups as well as the dual input design.
The frequency response range of 5Hz to 30,000Hz provides not just superior bass but also crisper highs. And, the midrange definition is on par, as well. Excellent sound detail, enhanced signal stability, and passive noise isolation make the Crossfade M-100 ideal consumer-grade, midrange headphones.
While they may not be ideal for wearing in loud environments, the headphones only need up to 75% volume to suppress ambient noise in most cases. I would also like to add that the headphones may also leak sound. So I recommend keeping them at low to medium levels if you don’t want to inconvenience those around you.
3. Sony MDR7520
The Sony MDR7520 are professional studio headphones. They’re among the best that you can find under $300 and reliably use for professional studio mixing and recording.
These headphones have 50mm drivers. They also feature a closed-ear design, which provides ample noise cancellation and excellent sound isolation. The balanced soundstage is ideal for studio work, as is the 4,000mW power handling capacity.
Truthfully, these headphones might be of little value to gamers and movie enthusiasts. However, I find them to be ideal for musicians, amateur producers, and budget-constrained audiophiles.
With wired connectivity, the MDR7520s don’t suffer from any interference. The superior cable design and quality, as well as that of its connectors, add a lot more value to the headphones.
I also like the wide frequency response range. Combined with the LCP diaphragm of the drivers and the closed-back design, they deliver the balanced, detailed, and immersive soundstage.
Boasting a frequency response range of 12Hz to 38,500Hz, the Sennheiser HD 599 SE headphones offer one of the best low-end responses. The headphones use proprietary 39mm drivers. These drivers are responsible for reproducing a very dynamic soundstage with impressive bass and midrange clarity.
The sound projection is aimed right down the ear canal, which helps preserve more audio detail. It also allows for a bit of extra volume without compromising sound clarity. The richness of the soundstage is not the only thing that makes the HD 599 SE headphones impressive.
I also like the extra-large earpad design. I think that it makes the pads a lot more comfortable, even though they don’t do much for the noise canceling.
Another essential feature is the detachable cable. Two cables are included so that you can use the headphones with both 6.3mm and 3.5mm compatible devices. Last but not least, I think that the overall build quality of the HD 599 SE headphones is above their price range.
Although the Beyerdynamic DT 990 headphones have three iterations, I would recommend the 32ohm impedance variant for the average use. This model is ideal if you want to listen to music on your smartphone, mp3 player, and even on your computer. More serious users, such as those who'd use it in an studio environment, should opt for a higher impedance variant.
The realistic soundstage is safe from interference due to the wired connectivity and high-end magnetic shielding. The DT 990s feature an open design, which is the right choice if you prefer a natural soundstage. However, if you need noise isolation and superior noise-canceling, these probably aren’t for you.
One interesting piece of technology is the Bass Reflex system. Not many manufacturers use it, and the unique design of Beyerdynamic’s Bass Reflex allows for the superior bass definition.
I also like the velour earpads and soft padding. The adjustability and flexibility of the headband improve comfort too. And, the overall build quality is quite impressive too.
Another pair of headphones that audiophiles and professional musicians and producers should enjoy is the ATH-R70x. For a long time, this pair has been considered Audio Technica’s flagship professional headphones, and for a good reason.
These are studio quality headphones. They’re the definition of neutral sound headphones, at least by my standards. The sound is incredibly detailed and not as dull as you would expect.
The headphones offer some use to casual listeners, too. That’s even though the soundstage is more focused on studio production or listening through a high-powered amplifier.
Although the earpads may not be as comfortable as others, and even if the cable is slightly long and sometimes inconvenient, the ATH-R70x offers superior construction quality. The headphones are rugged, flexible enough to remain comfortable, and lightweight.
This unique combination is not easy to find. The minimalistic look may not impress a lot of folks. However, I think that it’s the best compromise that ATH could have made to drop the price on these professional studio headphones and make them more consumer-grade.
7. AKG K712
Due to AKG’s reputation in the audio equipment industry and the innovative design of this model, the K712 Pro headphones are one of my top recommendations. The headphones use advanced open technology, which creates a more natural and spacious sound than you would expect at this price range.
The clarity of the audio is surprising, given the open design. The K712 Pros feature a flat wire voice coil, which provides superior treble and the vocal midrange definition. As a result, the bass response is nothing to scoff at, either. It has a significantly higher volume.
The headphones don’t have the most eye-catching design. However, they’re as rugged as they come. I like the reinforced frame, the extra flexibility, and the extra-large earpads. These are super comfy and provide a very secure fit.
Another thing I like is that the K712 Pros have a thin leather headband, which doesn’t add any significant head pressure. Although slightly pricier than others in its category, the AKG K712 Pro headphones are a great buy at a discounted price. That’s especially true if you want to do serious studio work.
8. Grado SR325e
These are some of the most comfortable headphones, hands down, on the market. The Grado SR325e headphones are studio quality consumer-grade headphones. They are lightweight, put no pressure on the ears or head, and are also very flexible.
You can wear them to sleep as far as I’m concerned. However, I wouldn’t recommend it since these headphones don’t have a tight and secure fit like most closed-back headphones. The open-back design provides audio spaciousness but not fit security.
Nevertheless, unless you’re headbanging, they won’t fall off. In terms of sound, the SR325e headphones don’t have a deep bass response. That makes them less useful in some studio applications. However, I still recommend them if you’re working more with string arrangements and less with bass-intensive beats.
The build quality may be somewhat inconsistent at times. But I can say the same about many other “stellar” headphones on the market. If you’re not looking for heavy bass, then these headphones should suit you well for a wide range of applications. That goes for both pro and casual listeners.
How I Classify Headphones
Not all headphones are the same, and not all are equally versatile or useful in the same applications. I tend to separate headphones into four main categories – gaming, consumer-grade, studio-quality, and bass-heavy or DJ headphones.
Here’s where things get interesting. For me, gaming headphones and DJ headphones have a lot of features in common. Most importantly, these include extended low-end response and bass definition.
Consumer-grade headphones I tend to classify those that aren’t ideal for studio use, but that can still satisfy casual and more demanding users. They should have good midrange definition and detail. That way, they can work equally well during action-intensive movies, story-driven games, and most music genres.
Finally, studio-quality headphones should have the most balanced sound. There’s not as much need for enhanced definition on any particular frequency. While I do prefer my studio headphones to have a closed-back design, I don’t oppose open-back designs either. The former brings superior noise cancelation.
Honestly, I recommend them for working with string instruments and anything that’s not demanding in the lower register.
Balancing Audio Quality and Comfort
It can be one of the hardest things to do at any given price range. I find that the same principles should apply whether you’re shopping in the under $300 range of premium headphones range.
Think of what makes a pair of headphones more comfortable for you. Everyone’s head, ears, and pain thresholds are different. That’s why I urge you to take my recommendations with a grain of salt.
After all, I can’t say for sure that what works for me will work for you. I can only tell you what’s good and what’s bad. It’s up to you to compare the pros and cons of different headphones.
For example, I think that velour ear pads are the way to go. But I do know that some people don’t find them particularly breathable or even thick enough in some cases. What I do think that everyone agrees on is headband padding.
You shouldn’t skimp on that unless you’re wearing very flexible, lightweight headphones.
What I Prefer Between Wired and Wireless Headphones
It shouldn’t surprise you that I don’t have a favorite. I find both to be situational and ideal under the right circumstances. Wireless headphones are my go-to when I’m looking for freedom or when I’m traveling.
Provided that the battery life is good enough, I rarely see a reason to use wired headphones when traveling. Besides, the technology has improved to a point where interference is less and less frequent, even among cheaper headphones.
Wired headphones do tend to offer better overall audio clarity and detail. For example, I would never pick wireless headphones to use in the studio. Probably because to get the reliability I need, I would have to pay too much.
How Important Is Build Quality?
I think that build quality is essential when buying midrange headphones. The only time I would compromise would be when the sound is too good to pass on. And even then, I wouldn’t always take sound quality over build quality. At least, not for travel headphones or headphones that would endure heavy use.
You should also consider the cable quality when judging the construction. Examine how well the cables fit and how good the connectors are.
Open Back vs Closed Back and Various Noise Cancelling Features
Open-back headphones will always provide a detailed and natural soundstage. These are the ones I recommend if you’re not worried about ambient noise. Also, go open-back if you don’t want that deep in-ear type sound that can get muddy at times.
Closed-back headphones usually provide at least passive noise cancellation. That depends on how good the ear pads are, of course. But this design also gives sound isolation, too, meaning that less audio detail is likely to leak from your headphones.
I would also recommend looking into active noise canceling or ANC technology, whenever you can. It’s not as common at this price range, but it is something to look for nevertheless.
Combining passive and active noise canceling creates a much more detailed soundstage. And ANC technology is superior because it relies on headphones putting out specific frequencies to cancel out background frequencies.
What to Expect in Terms of Distortion
I would expect that the cheaper the headphones, the more distortion you’ll hear at higher volume levels. It’s understandable but nothing to be scared of either.
In my experience, keeping volume levels at around 75% to 80% should be enough to keep distortion at a minimum.
Of course, even in the case of mid-range headphones, you can hope to get minimal distortion if you’re buying from reputable manufacturers.
You Don’t Have to Pay a Fortune for Audio Clarity
Whether you want travel headphones, something to play games with, or something to mix your music with, there’s something on this list for everyone.
By using the tips in this article and these reviews as baselines, you should now be more capable of determining for yourself what’s good and what’s not. Hopefully, this write-up will help you save some money on your next purchase while also finding something that will last you years to come.