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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 grocery allowance for the month. Fortunately, there are plenty of sub-$200 cans out there. Initially, the investment may be difficult to justify, but it will keep you satisfied for years to come. Rather than sending you off on a wild goose chase, we’ve saved you from the grunt work and put together a list of the best headphones under $200.
Editor’s note: this list was updated July 15, 2021, to include the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE and the Sennheiser PXC 550-II and to update the notable mentions section.
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.
For the best sound, listen with the Monoprice Monolith M565
The Monoprice Monolith M565 is a great pair of planar magnetic headphones. As a disclaimer, this isn’t the best sounding headset under $200 because it has the most neutral frequency response; it doesn’t. Rather, it’s the best because it transitions listeners from the world of consumer audio to hi-fi audio. Some may balk at the emphasized bass, but the Monoprice Monolith casts a wide net, pleasing a majority of listeners.
The planar magnetic drivers make each bass note easy to hear, without resulting in masked midrange frequencies, unless the volume is cranked up all the way. What’s more, the open-back design more accurately emulates how we perceive sound in the real world. Black metal grills and wood-finished ear cups give the Monolith M565 a premium look and feel, but this design comes at the expense of isolation. For listeners looking to get the most out of these headphones, stick to quiet, indoor environments.
It is worth noting that Monoprice also sells a closed-back variant of these headphones: the Monolith M565C. While the closed-back can help block out ambient noise when mixing, it will also narrow down your stereo image, which sound engineering purists will abhor. That being said, closed-back headphones are best suited for recording and tracking, rather than for mixing and mastering.
Gamers should pick the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE
Ready to invest in a serious pair of gaming headphones? The Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE features a volume wheel, a detachable microUSB microphone, and up to 24 hours of battery life. You can connect the headphones wirelessly using the included 2.4GHz USB dongle or fall back on a wired connection through the 3.5mm audio jack; a switch on the right ear cup lets you toggle between a wired or wireless connection. The aluminum construction of the headphones and metal accents on the included accessories give this product a premium feel.
What’s most important for gaming headphones? If comfort and sound are high on your list, the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE won’t disappoint, as long as you’re only using it for gaming or bass-heavy music. Our resident gaming expert enjoyed the sound effects, dialogues, and musical score. While the sound quality is good for gaming, we identified a significant under-emphasis after around 2,000Hz, which means you’ll lose details in higher-pitched sounds. On the PC, you can use Corsair’s iCUE software to tune the sound to your preferences and access virtual 7.1 surround sound.
The microphone is great for a gaming headset, though it doesn’t live up to Corsair’s broadcast-quality claims since mid and high frequencies are under-emphasized. While this is a gaming headset, Corsair kept its design modest. Only a small RGB light illuminates the Corsair logo on each ear cup, making these headphones perfect for professional use outside of gaming.
The AKG K371 sound great
The AKG K371 features a modern design with an accurate frequency response that bodes well for studio use. Harman’s tuning follows the contours of our house curve, and if you want a headset that can make nearly any genre of music sound good, the AKG K371 one is for you.
This modest headset doesn’t rely on gimmicks to sell, rather it has a few useful features like ear cups that rotate upwards, so 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 costs well under $150 today, which makes it a great 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.
Get the best noise cancelling for under $200 with the Sennheiser PXC 550-II
The Sennheiser PXC 550-II will help you focus in busy environments. These lightweight headphones feature excellent noise isolation in the upper-midrange frequencies and great ANC, especially in the low frequencies. Since Sennheiser also equipped the headset’s triple-microphone array with noise cancelling technology, your voice will come across clearly when you’re accepting calls in a noisy surrounding.
Premium features like smart pause, adaptive and anti-wind ANC, or an on/off button toggled by the right ear cup’s rotation set the Sennheiser PXC 550-II apart from your average headphones, but this isn’t without issues. We found that chewing, yawning, or unconsciously brushing over the right ear cup could accidentally pause the playback. Once you get used to the unique on/off button, you’ll find that it’s way more convenient than fiddling with a tiny switch.
The PXC 550-II will last you for over 20 hours with Bluetooth and ANC enabled, and you can stretch the battery life to up to 30 hours by switching to a wired connection. Ran out of battery, but need to keep going? Take a 10-minute fast charging break and return to 90 minutes of playtime.
From an audio engineer’s perspective, the Sennheiser PXC 550-II sounds great. The 32mm dynamic drivers accurately reproduce sound in the low and midrange frequencies. If you prefer a bass-heavy sound profile, you may be disappointed, but you can dive into Sennheiser’s Smart Control app to try out presets for different types of content. Unfortunately, the app does not give you access to full EQ settings.
Pick up the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO for a comfortable headset
Okay, they’re not actually a pillow, but these are the most comfortable headphones under $200. As if that isn’t convincing enough, the DT 990 PRO is beloved by enthusiasts and producers, alike. Concerning low-end reproduction, the DT 990 PRO keeps it clean without entering eardrum-shaking territory. Some may consider the bass to be 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 be able to take being shoved into a bag like the V-MODA XS, 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 isn’t a set of travel cans, and Beyerdynamic doesn’t advertise them as military-grade anything. Instead, these are for long listening and editing sessions, which they excel at, making them some of the best headphones under $200.
Best headphones under $200: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Life Q35: While they may not look or feel as premium as others on this list, the Life Q35 is nearly unmatched when it comes to features and customization.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x: These are the unsung hero of the budget studio category, and the M40x is featured on our list of the best headphones under $100. The design isn’t going to garner any compliments, but if you put function before form, you’ll want to pick these up.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT: Renowned for their flat sound signature and portable design, these low-budget studio headphones are popular amongst all musicians—from bedroom producers to professional artists alike. These headphones have been updated by Audio-Technica to include Bluetooth for convenient listening on the go.
- Beats Solo Pro: These on-ear headphones feature surprisingly good ANC and the Beats-typical bass-heavy, but otherwise well-balanced, sound profile. The H1 chip gives Apple users hands-free access to Siri.
- Beyerdynamic DT 770: 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 Premium Edition: For less than $200 USD, 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 Premium Edition ideal for music professionals who need a workhorse pair of studio headphones.
- Jabra Elite 45h: The Jabra Elite 45h are great on-ear headphones for casual listeners who prioritize compactness and microphone quality above everything else. Despite some sound quality drawbacks, these are some of the best on-ear headphones under $100.
- JBL LIVE 650BTNC: The Bluetooth connectivity is reliable and supports multipoint connectivity. This means you can connect to two devices simultaneously and switch between them.
- JBL Under Armour Sports Wireless Train: If you’re looking for comfortable workout headphones, the JBL will win you over with breathable ear pads, sweat resistance, and tactile controls. In a pinch, just 5 minutes of fast charging will give you 60 minutes of battery life.
- Razer BlackShark V2: This gaming headset packs a punch with its neutral-leaning sound signature, comfortable memory foam ear cups, and impressive isolation performance. Remove its included 3.5mm boom microphone and the BlackShark V2 makes a great pair of headphones for casual listening. Oh, and did we mention it retails for less than $100?
- Razer Opus: Razer stepped out of its comfort zone with these noise cancelling headphones. Gone are the neon green accents and snake logo; the Opus ooze sophistication and happen to look a lot like the Sony WH-1000XM4.
- Sennheiser HD 280 Pro: Ranging between $99 and $129 depending on if you catch them on sale, these over-ear studio cans are great for mixing music and listening in high quality.
- Sennheiser HD 450BT: These cans are reasonably priced, featuring decent active noise cancelling, good sound quality, and a portable design. Audiophiles will appreciate the aptX Low Latency and AAC codecs.
- Sony MDR-7506: This is another great pair of studio cans; the MDR-7506 are arguably one of the most prolific pairs of mixing cans to rest on the heads of audio engineers everywhere.
- Sony WH-CH710N: For less than $200, there are few options better than Sony’s ANC headphones. These aren’t as comfortable as the Edifier headset, nor do the ear cups rotate up (only flat), but the microphone is great for telecommuters.
- V-MODA XS: If you don’t take great care of your headphones, then you’ll want something as tough as these cans. Military-grade construction and replaceable parts should make them last a long time after its excellent 2-year warranty expires.
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.
Start here: Ultimate headphone buying guide
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 cancelling, comfort, or whatever else, investing in headphones under $200 weeds out generalities that accompany lower-caliber products.
How we picked the best headphones under $200
Although we’ve directly reviewed a vast array of 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.
You might also like: Best headphones under $100
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, giving us the ability 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 is allowed to 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 even know if anyone did, though the site going under might be a good hint.
Next: Best aptX headphones
Frequently Asked Questions
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.