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Best headphones under $200
Okay, so you’re in the market for a solid pair of headphones, but don’t want to spend your monthly grocery allowance. Fortunately, there are plenty of sub-$200 cans out there. Initially, the investment may be difficult to justify, but it will satisfy you for years. Rather than sending you off on a wild goose chase, we’ve saved you from the grunt work and compiled a list of the best headphones under $200.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on June 8, 2023, to add the Sennheiser HD 560S and Soundcore Space Q45 by Anker to the Top picks. We also amended the Notable mentions section and ensured all information is current.
For our top five picks, you can find the isolation and frequency response charts at the end of each image gallery. You can learn more about how to read our charts.
For the best sound, listen with the Sennheiser HD 560S
The Sennheiser HD 560S are a stellar choice if you want a pair of headphones that will stay by your desktop or studio setup. Their frequency response closely follows our Studio Curve, making them a great, reasonably priced choice for all listeners. These headphones are the best because they transition listeners from consumer audio to hi-fi audio.
The open-back design of the HD 560S means they won’t block out any noise. While this is normally a mark against a pair of headphones, it’s a feature here, not a bug. Fewer resonances get trapped in the ear cups, which leads to a more “natural” reproduction of your favorite tunes.
Although the build quality isn’t the most premium, we appreciate how Sennheiser supplies a removable cable. If you want a pair of headphones that put sound quality above all else, then the HD 560S are your best bet.
Best noise canceling: The Soundcore Space Q45
Anker is known for its affordable, high-value headphones and earbuds, and the Space Q45 are some of the best budget cans around. With very good active noise canceling and many connection options, most listeners will find something to love here.
These ANC on the Space Q45 isn’t the best on the market, but it does render low and midrange frequencies about one-half to one-quarter as loud as they sound without the headphones. The sound quality is a bit bassy by default, but you can easily fix this with the free app’s custom EQ.
A standout feature of the Space Q45 is their multipoint connectivity. With this, you can connect to two devices at once, keeping an ear on your laptop and phone. Listeners can stream over the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs. Plus, when you want lossless audio, you can plug in via the headphone jack.
Battery life is extraordinarily long for wireless headphones. In our testing, we recorded 55 hours, 48 minutes of playtime with ANC. The headphones also have highly efficient fast charging: 5 minutes of USB-C charging yields four hours of playback.
These headphones are bound to please commuters and general listeners alike. For the price, it’s hard to find noise canceling headphones at a better value.
The AKG K371 sounds great at any price
The AKG K371 feature a modern design with an accurate frequency response that bodes well for studio use. Harman’s tuning follows the contours of our house curve. If you want some of the best over-ear headphones that can make nearly any genre of music sound good, the AKG K371 are for you.
These modest headphones don’t rely on gimmicks to sell. Instead, they have useful features like ear cups that rotate upwards so that you can hear your surroundings and mini-XLR input on the left ear cup. AKG provides three cables for you to choose from depending on your intended use.
The K371 are our favorite pick for listeners interested in a high-quality, portable headset. We awarded these headphones over the Sony MDR-7506 because of their more comfortable design and detachable cable, which extends the life of the K371 over the MDR-7506.
Best studio style: Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee
Sennheiser has built a well-deserved reputation for manufacturing good quality headphones. The company has repeatedly teamed up with Drop, releasing good value headphones for the price. The Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee follow this trend. These are some of the best over-ear headphones for the price. The open-back headphones are best suited for your home or in the studio. The build quality feels sturdy, and the lightweight frame makes hours-long listening easy.
These headphones don’t require a headphone amp, and the frequency response hews close to our Target Curve. This is pretty remarkable given these cans come in under budget. The bass and mids are equally loud, though you’ll notice some under-emphasis above 4kHz. However, these headphones do a good job of representing what you’re listening to accurately. For simple headphones that sound good, the HD 58X Jubilee are our studio-style sound pick.
Best comfort: Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
These are the most comfortable headphones under $200. As if that isn’t convincing enough, enthusiasts and producers love the DT 990 PRO. Concerning low-end reproduction, the DT 990 PRO keep it clean without entering eardrum-shaking territory. Some may consider the bass lacking, but it benefits audio engineers when it comes to hearing and remedying overemphasized vocals and sibilant treble reproduction.
Keeping the headphones comfortable is an (almost) entirely plastic build and velour-wrapped memory foam ear pads. Adding to the comfort is the coiled cable (1m) that allows for travel within a studio space without having to do the constant on-again, off-again headphone tango. Of course, all this plastic compromises durability. They aren’t going to withstand a shove into a bag, and the steel-reinforced headband is flimsier than others. Also, remember that cable? It’s not removable. If it breaks you’re out of luck.
All that said, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO aren’t travel cans, and Beyerdynamic doesn’t advertise them as military-grade anything. Instead, these are for extended listening and editing sessions, making them some of the best headphones under $200.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 offer a bit of everything
If you can’t decide what you want, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 don’t make you choose. For the person who wants Bluetooth and a headphone jack, and the person who wants consumer-friendly sound and studio-style tuning, these do it all. The only reason not to try these cans is if you want ANC; if so, you’re out of luck. Otherwise, the battery lasts an epic 64 hours, 51 minutes. They also use LDAC, which is nice for Android users, and AAC for Apple. Heck, you can even come in fun colors sometimes.
Best headphones under $200: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Life Q35 ($109.99 at Amazon.): While they may not look or feel as premium as others on this list, the Life Q35 are nearly unmatched when it comes to features and customization.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x ($119 at Amazon): These are the unsung hero of the budget studio category, and the M40x frequently pop up as a best list choice because they combine value and function at a reasonable price.
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 ($134.99 at Amazon): These are a well-constructed pair of cans that cater to the casual listener, or a studio musician looking for an inexpensive set of mixing headphones.
- Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro ($184 at Amazon): These semi-closed-back studio headphones prevent sound leakage similar to closed-back headphones, whilst retaining the wide stereo image commonly found on open-back cans. These qualities make the DT 880 Pro ideal for music professionals who need a workhorse pair of studio headphones.
- Jabra Elite 45h ($87.4 at Amazon): The Jabra Elite 45h are great on-ear headphones for casual listeners who prioritize compactness and microphone quality above everything else.
- Sennheiser HD 280 Pro ($79.95 at Amazon): Coming in well under budget, these over-ear studio cans are great for mixing music and listening in high quality.
- Sony MDR-7506 ($79 at Sweetwater): These are another great pair of studio can and are arguably some of the most prolific pairs of mixing cans to rest on the heads of audio engineers everywhere. The build is no-frills and repairable.
- Sony WH-CH710N ($149.99 at Amazon): These aren’t as comfortable as some of the newer, premium Sony headsets, nor do the ear cups rotate up (only flat), but the microphone is excellent for telecommuters.
What you should know about the best headphones under $200
A $200 budget has a lot of purchase power within the consumer audio market because it gives you enough financial flexibility to choose a specialized headset, or prioritize sound quality. For those who prioritize sound quality, it’s important to take into account that a neutral-leaning, or “flat,” frequency response will provide the most versatile sound profile across a variety of musical genres.
If you intend to buy Bluetooth headphones, you should pay attention to Bluetooth codecs for high-quality streaming and reduced lag. Android smartphones work reliably well with the aptX codec, though it supports AAC too, the performance is highly variable across devices. iPhone owners are left with the choice of AAC or SBC (universal on all Bluetooth audio devices), and can’t even reap the benefits of aptX streaming. Note: Bluetooth headphones don’t support lossless audio playback; for that, you need a set of wired headphones.
Who should buy $200 headphones?
Anyone who’s interested in upgrading their current headphones without having it cost an arm and a leg. The headphones that appear are all the valedictorians of their classes. If you find yourself thinking that you want to further explore and experience what the audio world has to offer, any of these will be an excellent starting point depending on your needs. You should check out some of our hot tips as well.
What’s cool about this variety of headphones is that they represent the next significant step into learning what you favor in a product. From soundstage, active noise canceling, comfort, or whatever else, investing in headphones under $200 weeds out generalities that accompany lower-caliber products.
How we pick the best headphones under $200
Although we’ve directly reviewed many products here at SoundGuys, we haven’t gotten around to all of them. After all, we’re only human and are inherently subjective. To counteract our unavoidable bias, we do quite a bit of research by perusing online forums, reading other reviews, conducting our own Twitter polls, and more.
Unlike some of our more niche best lists, we’re able to draw upon the full experiences of our entire staff—including some who have moved on—for input in populating our list of candidates. This list isn’t simply what one of us likes, it’s an accurate representation of our experiences as an entire staff. This is a very crowded segment of headphones, with countless models that are really, really good. However, this is what we feel is the best when you consider the diverse needs of many listeners.
In short, this list is the running conclusions of thousands of hours of use from a growing list of contributors over many years. This is a living document, and it’s updated every time a new model knocks an existing one off its pedestal.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Not only is this site our nine-to-five, but each of us has multiple years of reviewing consumer audio products. We’ve kept tabs on the ever-changing world of audio, allowing us to parse apart the gimmicks from the gems.
We want you to be happy with your purchase—none of our writers see a dime from partnership deals or referral purchases—and nobody here can benefit from steering you towards one product or another. While this site does make money from referrals, the individual writers are paid based on their work, regardless of whether or not people clicked that “buy” icon. They will never know if anyone did, though the site going under might be a good hint.
Top questions and answers about the best headphones under $200
Some people prefer to workout with over-ear headphones because of its improved isolation over a pair of earbuds. For intense training sessions, however, you’d be better served by IP-rated workout earbuds guaranteed to last. Although if you’re adamant about working out with over-ears, there are a variety of headphones that are perfect for the gym.