Open-back headphones are revered as the most natural-sounding, over-ear headphones by many. In fact, the headsets ship with an open mesh of sorts that allows some air to pass through the earcups. This, in turn, paves the way for more breathable acoustics with a wider sound stage. If anything, most open-back headphones are quite expensive. Further, they usually require a dedicated amp/DAC to drive them. So, if you are on the lookout for the best open-back headphones for under 100 dollars, then you’re at the right place.
To wit, we have scoured the interwebs to find the best-sounding, easily drivable open-back headphones. So, if you want to elevate your jam sessions, read on.
But, before we talk about the best open-back headphones under $100, you might also want to check out-
- The best open-ear wireless TWS headphones you can buy.
- The best headphones with ANC for under $100.
- A look into the best neckband earphones for athletes and runners.
With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the open-back headphones with low impedance.
1. Samson SR850
Samson has been revolutionizing the audio scene for a hot minute now and the company has a wealth of experience under its belt. The same is evident with the SR850 semi-open-back headphones, which check a lot of the right boxes. Let’s start with the design of the product. Here, the company has outfitted the SR850 with plush velour ear pads. What’s more, the unit ships with an adjustable headband, so you should have no issues finding the perfect fit for your noggin.
More notably, the headphones can operate across a frequency range of 10Hz to 30KHz. As such, the unit should be able to reciprocate bass and sub-bass frequencies to a tee. At the same time, the headphone’s semi-open-back finish ensures the highs don’t distort at elevated volume levels. Instead, the highs offer good extension and minimal roll-off. So, buyers looking for a pair of headphones with bright, sparkly treble will find plenty to like here.
Unsurprisingly, buyers opting for the headset speak volumes about the unit’s treble extension too. In fact, some buyers had to dampen the unit’s sound signature to ensure the highs didn’t sound too bright. Of course, users also cite that the SR850s are a godsend to mix music on the fly.
Unlike most headphones of the open-back variety, the SR850 carries an impedance of just 32 ohms. As such, you should be able to drive the headset with your smartphone or laptop easily. Needless to say, the SR850 is amongst the best open-back headphones for under 100 dollars.
2. Philips SHP9600
Philips has a fantastic, sub-$100 open-back headphone up for grabs too. Dubbed the Philips SHP9600, the headset comes with a treasure trove of features. Firstly, the unit is of the open-back variety and boasts a refined sound signature. To that note, the headphones seemingly do justice to songs from a myriad of genres. As a matter of fact, users have lauded the headset’s ability to reciprocate detail-laden and non-sibilant highs and vocals.
For those unaware, sibilance is a type of aural efflux wherein, words ending with an ‘S’ sound particularly harsh or jarring. Thankfully, that is not the case with the SHP9600s. Further, reviewers cite that the headset relays punchy beats too. The bass output has seemingly been improved over the 9500s. Even so, the unit’s low end doesn’t overwhelm other frequencies and lets all the notes shine together.
On the flip side, some reviews point to the unit’s somewhat flimsy build quality. Now, the headphones have been rated almost 10K times on Amazon. And, despite the sheer volume of reviews, we didn’t notice a lot of issues pertaining to the fit and feel of the chassis. Still, we would suggest you keep your expectations in check as the headset primarily uses plastic for its construction after all.
Thankfully, the headset can be driven quite easily as it comes with an impedance of just 32 ohms. While you could get more detail out of your favorite tracks by plugging in the headset to a DAC, your laptop or smartphone should suffice as well. Rest assured, the Philips SHP9600 is among the best open-back headphone for under 100 dollars.
3. AKG K240
The AKG K240 is a staple in recording studios, and for good reason. For one, the headset’s semi-open-back construction paves the way for a joyous music-listening experience. Further, the headset encapsulates the listener in a spacious sound stage. So much so, you will be able to pinpoint an instrument in the virtual sound space quite easily.
Speaking of which, users cite that the headset also offers excellent imaging and instrument separation. To that end, you will be able to decipher all the instruments in a chaotic rock ballad. In fact, each instrument will have its spot in the limelight. So, you won’t feel the cymbals or the strums from the guitar feel recessed. The same can be accredited to the headphone’s XXL transducers which use the company’s patented Varimotion diaphragm.
We should also add that the headset comes with a detachable cable that uses a mini-XLR connector. As such, you can simply replace it without having to splurge on a new headphone should the cable show any signs of wear. More notably, the headset comes with a 6.3mm screw-on adapter that can be used to connect the unit to an amp.
Do note that the headphone offers a relatively higher impedance than some of the aforementioned products. On that note, the AKG K240 tout a 55-ohm impedance. Consequently, while you can drive them via a laptop, you will notice significant audio gains when pairing the headset to a DAC or an amp. Add to that the unit’s robust construction which is replete with a comfy headband and circumaural earpads and the K240 is a sound investment.
4. Grado SR60X
Grado is a renowned audio maker, and the company’s SR60X speaks volumes about the brand’s pedigree in the audio biz. For one, the SR60X’s driver and housing work in tandem to eliminate any transient distortions. In doing so, the listener is presented with the purest form of audio. That’s not all, as the SR60X ship with the company’s 4th gen, 44mm drivers that deliver the company’s famed mid-range too.
Unsurprisingly, buyers opting for the headset were in awe of the pair’s sonic capabilities too. In fact, several buyers noted that the unit offered a meaty low-end that didn’t eat into other frequencies. Further, a lot of users cited that the headset relayed full-bodied vocals that covered the intricacies of an artist’s vocal range too.
That’s not all, as the unit ships with a redesigned headband with comfier cushioning too. What’s more, the unit is housed in a durable exterior and features a 4-conductor cable with super-annealed copper for improved transmission of the audio signal. All said and done, the Grado SR60X is among the better open-back headphones for under $100.
5. HIFIMAN HE400SE
HIFIMAN HE400SE is the only headphone on the list to use planar magnetic drivers. For those unaware, a planar magnetic headphone incorporates the operating principles of headphones with a dynamic and an electrostatic driver. To that end, a planar magnetic headphone features a flat diaphragm sandwiched between precisely cut magnets.
The magnets can be positioned on either side or just one side of the headphone and the diaphragm reacts to the magnetic field produced by said magnets to relay sound. The HIFIMAN HE400SE employs the same principle and relays punchy bass with oodles of details. So much so, buyers have jotted down extremely positive reviews for the headset. In fact, many users cite that the headphone is the best sub-$200 open-back headset.
That’s not all, as a lot of reviewers claim that the unit offers excellent depth to the audio and is superbly comfortable to wear too. Speaking of which, the unit ships with an adjustable lightweight headband and plush earpads.
The headphone is a bit on the heavier side and tips the scales at 390 grams. The same can be accredited to the device’s planar magnetic array. On the bright side, the headphone is easily drivable and offers an impedance of just 25 ohms. All said and done, the HIFIMAN HE400SE is a fantastic open back headphone for a little over 100 dollars for the masses.
FAQs About Open-Back Headphones
Generally, the higher the impedance of a headphone, the better the sound output. That said, lower-impedance headphones don’t need additional equipment like a DAC or an amp to reach their full potential.
To cut a long story short, no. In fact, 32-ohm impedance is the standard for most headsets launched in today’s day and age.
Let Your Music Breathe
Open-back headphones are a great tool in any audiophile’s arsenal. These headphones offer a superior sound stage to their closed-back counterparts and deliver better imaging to boot as well. The icing on the cake is that the aforementioned open-back headphones cost well under 100 dollars and don’t require a DAC or an amp either. In fact, you can drive them by connecting them to your laptop or smartphone easily. Rest assured, these open-back headphones will elevate your music-listening experience tenfold.
Last updated on 22 February, 2023
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