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Best wireless earbuds under $200

Many great options hover above or below the $200 range, but which suits you best?
By

Published onApril 26, 2024

The Best
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
MSRP: $229.99
7.7
Check price
Positives
Leading ANC
Good sound quality
IPX7 water resistance
Fast and wireless charging
Bluetooth 5.3; SBC, AAC, and Samsung Seamless Codec
Negatives
Case prone to scratches and nicks
Buds are dust magnets
App lacks custom EQ (has EQ presets)
Samsung-exclusive features
Best for iPhone
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
MSRP: $249.00
7.6
Check price
Positives
Effective ANC
Great sound quality - Lossless Audio
Great auto-wear detection
Water-resistant buds and case
USB-C charging
Good fit with four ear tip options
Negatives
Many Apple-exclusive features
No way to customize the EQ without third-party app
Best sound
Creative Aurvana Ace 2
MSRP: $150.00
7.9
Check price
Positives
xMEMS drivers that deliver great sound
Latest and greatest Bluetooth tech
Unique design
Lightweight and comfortable
Negatives
Mediocre noise canceling
No auto play/pause
Best workout
Sennheiser Sport Wireless Earbuds
MSRP: $129.95
8.3
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Positives
IP54 water and dust resistance
Secure fit via ear tips and wings
Companion app with EQ adjustment
Good battery life
Negatives
No active noise cancelling
No auto play/pause
Bang for your buck
Nothing Ear
MSRP: $149.99
8.1
Check price
Positives
Comfortable
Great sound
Awesome companion app
LDAC and LHDC support
Negatives
Mediocre noise canceling
ANC changes sound quality

True wireless earbuds, aka wireless earbuds, look like the future. In fact, they look like the kind of future with jetpacks and hoverboards that actually work, and now that wireless tech has matured, you can snag a pair of buds on any budget. With improvements to Bluetooth stability and ergonomics, it’s no wonder folks are shedding cables before ditching wheels. These are the best wireless earbuds under $200 that can bring the future to you today.

What's new?

  • This list of the best wireless earbuds under $200 was updated on April 26, 2024, to add the Nothing Ear to our top picks and the JBL Tune Buds to our notable mentions. We also updated the frequency response charts.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro has the best ANC for wireless earbuds under $200

A macro close up shows the details and texture of the case and earbuds included in the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, with the case open on a colorful blanket.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
The indicator light blinks red, blue, and green when in pairing mode.

If you have an Android phone, there’s a good chance it’s a Samsung phone. Much like how iPhone users default to the AirPods Pro (more on that below), it should follow that Samsung users get the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. For one, you benefit from the Samsung Seamless Codec, which constantly adjusts for quality and stability and potentially offers 24-bit audio. All other users get their pick of AAC or SBC.

If you have a Samsung phone, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro brings plenty of ecosystem advantages.

A battery of 4 hours and 50 minutes with the (pretty darn good) active noise cancelation (ANC) enabled means the Galaxy Buds Pro suits a commute well. Meanwhile, the sound profile works well with most music. It has a reasonable dose of bass and a strong emphasis on higher frequencies, making it consumer-friendly. The app also includes EQ presets, so you can find one for your tastes.

With a very good microphone and IPX7 rating, you can pretty much do anything and go anywhere with the buds. From professional Zoom calls to jogging in the rain, Samsung has it figured out. Samsung’s buds even have touch controls, and this generation no longer has the oversensitivity of previous iterations. Now that these earbuds are a couple of years old, they can regularly be found on discounts for less than $200.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ProSamsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Comfortable fit • Enhanced noise-cancelling technology • Satisfying battery life
MSRP: $229.99
Samsung's reliable earbuds upgraded
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro earbuds provide great sound and feature active noise canceling. They meld a great fit and comfort with a vast range of ear tips. Efficient ANC and five hours of battery life sweeten the deal.

However, there are plenty of other options below if you don’t care for the design or mic quality. Plus, if you have an iPhone, you’ll miss out on too many features for it to be worth it.

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The frequency response generally apes our curve through the mids, which is great for the fundamentals and is not far from our own target curve.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD Acoustics.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro in Default mode. The Timbre score is 4.9, The Distortion score is 3, the Immersiveness score is 4.4, and the Overall Score is 4.7).
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro scored very high for both Timbre and Immersiveness.

While the audio captured by the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro microphone rejects noise reasonably well, for example, in our wind sample below, voices don’t sound consistently natural. For a phone call or meeting, the mic performs fine. You can toggle on Ambient sound mode to make phone calls more comfortable as well, like a makeshift sidetone.

As of early 2023, you can record binaural audio with the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro when paired to a Samsung device running One UI 5.0 or later. Basically, it’s like having a simplified surround sound recording.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

How does the microphone sound to you?

8856 votes

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) is the best pair of wireless earbuds for iPhone owners

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) resting on a dark wood tabletop with the lid open and buds on display surrounded by phones.
AirPods Pro (2nd generation) looks basically the same as the last generation.

Apple popularized the wireless earbud revolution with the (not so amazing) AirPods (2nd generation) and (3rd generation), but don’t confuse those for the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), which come with ANC and silicone ear tips so you can find a good fit. If you have an iPhone, the efficiency of the H2 chip, along with fast pairing and easy device switching, makes the AirPods Pro a good choice. iPhone owners also get the benefit of battery optimization, Spatial Audio, head tracking, hands-free Siri access, and more.

Apple smartened up and got the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) an IP54 with the latest USB-C version of the earbuds for better dust resistance and more universal charging. The frequency response sounds pretty decent, with a pleasant amount of bass and audible mids. The microphone is quite good, and the stemmed design helps with that. If you want something that just works, try the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). If you don’t mind the Apple tax, at least you know what you get isn’t a gamble.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Impressive ANC • Comfortable fit • Wireless charging
MSRP: $249.00
One of the best true wireless earbuds for iOS users.
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) modestly improve upon the first-generation AirPods Pro and feature the same iconic look. Apple's upgraded H2 chip begets better noise canceling and battery life, while the case's U1 chip and integrated speaker let you precisely locate the case. If you own an iPhone, the AirPods Pro 2 are an obvious choice.

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Through the bass and mids, the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) closely follows our headphone preference curve and only makes significant deviations above 8kHz.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Apple AirPods Pro 2 was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

A bar chart detailing the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality scores of the Apple AirPods Pro 2nd generation.
Despite a somewhat poor distortion score, the Apple AirPods Pro 2nd generation sounds quite good overall.

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) has a pretty good microphone system, even in loud environments.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

How does the microphone sound to you?

8808 votes

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 has the best sound quality

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 uses a new type of driver called MEMS, which offers significant performance boosts.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 uses a new type of driver called MEMS, which offers significant performance boosts.

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 wireless earbuds are an impressive contender in the sub-$200 category, particularly for those prioritizing sound quality. At $150, these earbuds feature a dual-driver system with xMEMS speakers, offering audio fidelity that appeals to audiophiles. They support the latest Bluetooth 5.3 technology and codecs such as LC3, LE, and apt-X Lossless via Snapdragon Sound, ensuring high-quality streaming and future-proof connectivity. The Creative app complements the hardware with a parametric equalizer, allowing users to tailor the sound profile to their preferences.

The xMEMS driver system sounds excellent, and you can customize the sound using the Creative app.

Despite their sound prowess, the Aurvana Ace 2 has its limitations. The noise canceling capability is only mediocre, and the absence of auto play/pause functionality may detract from the user experience for some. However, these earbuds stand out for their unique design, lightweight and comfortable fit, and the inclusion of IPX5 water resistance, making them versatile for everyday use. The battery life is adequate, with over 24 hours of total playback time when factoring in the charging case, and the earbuds offer fast charging for quick top-ups. Given these features and their price point, the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 represents a compelling option for those seeking high-quality sound without breaking the bank.

Creative Aurvana Ace 2Creative Aurvana Ace 2
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Creative Aurvana Ace 2
xMEMS driver • aptX Lossless • Customizable app
MSRP: $150.00
Anyone interested in the best audio quality should consider the Creative Aurvana Ace 2.
With an xMEMS driver and the latest Bluetooth technology, the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 is making waves in the audiophile community.

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While the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 frequency response closely follows our preference curve in the mids and highs, it strays in the low frequencies. From 300Hz and lower, there is a significant bass boost, as shown in the chart.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD Acoustics.

Bar chart showing MDAQS results for Creative Aurvana Ace 2
The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 scores highly for MDAQS, a testament to the MEMS speaker technology.

The Sennheiser Sport True Wireless Earbuds are a reliable set of workout earbuds

Sennheiser Sport True Wireless earbuds next to a basketball
Athletes will love these earbuds.

If your goal is to get an excellent pair of dedicated workout buds, the Sennheiser Sport True Wireless Earbuds have your back with a secure fit via wings and six different-sized ear tips.

If you're a runner, you'll love the Sennheiser Sport.

Like any good set of exercise-ready earbuds, the Sport Wireless Earbuds have an IP54 rating against dust and sweat. Touch controls work well on the buds, and Sennheiser’s app has EQ and adjustable commands. Plus, the frequency response is very nice, with a great bass and mids response, with some slight under-emphasis in the treble.

Utilizing Bluetooth 5.2, Sennheiser ensures you get a good selection of codecs with aptX (for Android users), AAC (for iOS), and SBC. With a battery life of 7 hours, 13 minutes, and two additional charges in the case these will outlast pretty much any hike or marathon you throw at them.

Sennheiser Sport Wireless EarbudsSennheiser Sport Wireless Earbuds
Sennheiser Sport Wireless Earbuds
IP54 water and dust resistance • Secure, comfortable fit • Companion app with EQ adjustment
MSRP: $129.95
Hear your surroundings while absorbing your favorite music
The Sennheiser Sport Wireless Earbuds are excellent workout headphones for runners and cyclists who need to be aware of their surroundings. While you won't get ANC, you get an IP54 water and dust resistant build with a comfortable fit. Battery life of over seven hours in our tests sweetens the deal.

The frequency response of the Sennheiser Sport closely follows our headphone preference curve. While the earbuds slightly emphasize bass more than treble, most people will enjoy the sound of these workout buds. If not, it’s easy enough to adjust the sound from within the Smart Control app or a third-party EQ app instead.

The best bang for your buck is the Nothign Ear

A hand holds a Nothing Ear earbud over a table with the charging case, extra ear tips, and charging cable.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
You get the earbuds, charging case, three ear tips, and a USB-C charging cable.

At just $149, the Nothing Ear earbuds punch well above their weight class in terms of features and performance. Nothing packed the Ear with premium specs like 11mm ceramic drivers that deliver outstanding sound quality with great clarity and an immersive soundstage. The advanced parametric EQ allows you to precisely tune the sound profile to your preferences. You also get support for high-quality LDAC and LHDC Bluetooth codecs.

These earbuds are packed full of features that will please casual listeners and audiophiles alike.

Despite the low price, the Nothing Ear doesn’t cut corners when it comes to features. Highlights include good active noise cancelation, a superb transparency mode, and around 8 hours of battery life with fast USB-C and wireless charging.

The feature-packed companion app provides an advanced EQ, hearing test-based sound personalization, customizable touch controls, and more. You even get a low-latency gaming mode.

While the ANC could be stronger, it’s hard to find a better total package for under $200 than the Nothing Ear. You get premium audio quality, tons of features, and a sleek, durable design at an unbeatable value.

Nothing EarNothing Ear
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Nothing Ear
LDAC and LHDC • Comfortable • Advanced equalizer
MSRP: $149.99
Excellent earbuds for casual listeners and audiophiles alike.
The 2024 Nothing Ear brings new features while retaining the classic Nothing design.

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As you can see in the chart above, the Nothing Ear has a default frequency response that amplifies low frequencies above our headphone preference curve. There is also a drop in output around 470Hz and a boost around 5.5kHz compared to our preference. You can easily equalize these variances using the advanced equalizer.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Nothing Ear was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Nothing Ear in Default mode. The Timbre score is 4.9, The Distortion score is 3.1, the Immersiveness score is 4.8, and the Overall Score is 4.9).
An overall score of 4.9 is very impressive for wireless earbuds.

The Beats Studio Buds Plus are a great budget pick

A hand holds the The Beats Studio Buds Plus case.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The frosted, translucent finish of the Studio Buds Plus helps them stand out from the crowd.

Updating the successful formula of the Beats Studio Buds are the Beats Studio Buds Plus. Despite belonging to the Apple empire, the Studio Buds Plus works just as well with Android as they do with iOS. They come with good ANC for less than the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), too.

One of the standout features of the Beats Studio Buds Plus is the battery life, which reaches a very impressive 8 hours and 22 minutes with ANC enabled. The noise canceling works where it counts, in filtering out low-frequency noises, and the passive isolation is pretty good, too.

While the tuning of the Studio Buds Plus is a bit more low-end than our ideal, it’s far better for most music than older Beats, which were really bassy. Beats include the standard AAC and SBC codecs, which is fine for most. There’s an app as well, but besides updates, it doesn’t do much, and if you’ve got an iPhone, it’s all integrated into your settings instead. The only bugaboo to keep in mind is that the Studio Buds Plus uses buttons and not touch controls, which can interfere with your fit.

Beats Studio Buds PlusBeats Studio Buds Plus
Beats Studio Buds Plus
Lightweight, compact, and translucent design • Android-friendly features through Beats app • Longer battery life than before
MSRP: $169.95
The Beats Studio Buds Plus are good earbuds for listeners who hop between Android and iOS. Beats' active noise canceling is a step up from the original Studio Buds. Small housings and a range of ear tip options make these a joy to wear for hours at a time.

The Grell Audio TWS 1 sounds as great as it looks

Grell Audio TWS 1 earbuds laying on a wood table
The foam ear tips provide a strong amount of passive noise isolation.

Former Sennheiser chief headphone engineer Axel Grell has a new project: the Grell Audio TWS 1 active noise canceling wireless earphones. If you’re an audiophile who wants Bluetooth earbuds that put sound quality first, the TWS 1 is a solid contender. Right out of the box, these earphones sound great, and you can take the sound quality a step further with the SoundID app. Not only can you let Sonarworks’ software create a custom sound built around your hearing abilities, but you can also create a granular custom EQ of your own.

Sound quality aside, these earbuds have a beautiful design with Gorilla Glass-covered touch panels that allow you to control playback and field calls like most wireless earphones. The large panels make for an easy target, so you shouldn’t have to deal with misfires often. The charging case is fairly large to accommodate the earphones, though, which may be a turn-off to those with particularly small bags or pockets.

Grell Audio’s active noise canceling and “noise annoyance reduction” (NAR) effectively combats background noise, but it isn’t technically the most effective ANC on the market, which is purposeful. NAR constantly adjusts the ANC intensity based on how loud your environment is so that it sounds more natural and less jarring, which some listeners experience with other top-tier ANC headsets. The foam ear tips do a great job of handing frequencies higher than 1kHz, so you shouldn’t hear much in the way of generic room noise like chatter.

Grell Audio TWS 1Grell Audio TWS 1
Grell Audio TWS 1
Great sound quality • Noise canceling with Noise Annoyance Reduction (NAR) • Foam ear tips provide a comfortable fit
MSRP: $199.00
Best-in-class sound without an overbearing price.
The Grell Audio TWS 1 has a frequency response that most people will enjoy, plus some extra features via SoundID integration. These might just be the best-sounding true wireless earbuds you can buy right now.

Should you get the Google Pixel Buds Pro for Android?

The Google Pixel Buds Pro case is open with the lid propping the case up, revealing the buds.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
The case lid props up the buds for easy access.

For the tech and productivity-minded amongst us, the Google Pixel Buds Pro feels future-forward in a friendly format. These Mentos-shaped earbuds have exclusive features such as Google Translate integrated into the buds to translate a speaker on the fly. The noise canceling is rather good, too. Folks who want spatial audio with head tracking can pair the Pixel Buds Pro with a Pixel phone as well.

Google Pixel Buds ProGoogle Pixel Buds Pro
Google Pixel Buds Pro
Active noise-cancelling • Android integration • Google Assistant features
MSRP: $199.00
The Pixel Buds Pro introduce ANC to the series
The Google Pixel Buds Pro are the first in the line to offer active noise canceling. Obviously, they also have tight integration with Android and tons of support for Google Assistant commands, including the popular translation features.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is a great alternative to the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 noise canceling true wireless earbuds with one 'bud out of the open, angled charging case.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are cheaper and still good.

While we love the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, the fact of the matter is that the Galaxy Buds 2 also have solid noise canceling for less money. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of the Buds 2 Pro, like the IPX7 rating, we recommend saving for this equally competent set of buds. Of course, you should look at both and see which fits your life better. For example, you’ll compromise on the IPX2 rating and more pared-back settings in the app.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Compact design • In-app ear tip fit test • Sound quality
MSRP: $149.00
A fine pair of noise canceling earbuds that might get lost in the confusing line of other Buds.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 don't rattle the world of audio wearables, but they do their job well as a pair of everyday earphones. Sound quality is very good and bound to please most ears, and the noise canceling edges out that of the Galaxy Buds Pro. Still, you may have a hard time choosing the Buds 2 over the more premium Buds Pro and more affordable Buds Plus.

No ANC? No problem with the Jabra Elite 4

A hand holds the Jabra Elite 4 open in front of green foliage.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
The battery lasts 5 hours and 5 minutes with ANC on, but just turn it off to extend the battery life because it isolates well already.

If you don’t need ANC and just want some reliable earbuds that sound good, try the Jabra Elite 4. By default, these earbuds supply a good frequency response (and the app has EQ too). The Elite 4 utilizes aptX and SBC codecs, which is solid for Android users, although not ideal for iOS. While Jabra also has the exercise-oriented Jabra Elite Active 4, the non-active model still has a robust IP55 rating and improved isolation properties. Uniquely, Jabra designed the Elite 4 with a Goldilocks combination of functionality, pricepoint, and sound. Best of all, it’s well under $200.

Jabra Elite 4Jabra Elite 4
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Jabra Elite 4
Multipoint connectivity • Noise-canceling • In-app custom EQ
MSRP: $99.99
Affordable Jabra earbuds with mighty features for the price
With a reasonable price for ANC true wireless earbuds, the Jabra Elite 4 offer solid battery life, a good fit, and great connectivity.

The best wireless earbuds under $200: Notable mentions

A head on shot of the Shure AONIC Free buds with the open case displaying the buds.
Not the smallest buds out there, but they feel comfortable for a few hours.
  • Anker Soundcore Space A40: These budget-minded earbuds have a lot of great features, such as ANC for a cut price of $79 at Amazon.
  • Beats Fit Pro: These buds feature stabilizers to keep them in your ears and come in a myriad of colors, too (for $159 at Amazon). They can be fussy with some Android devices, but in-ear detection and a decent ANC rate as some of their upgraded features.
  • Beats Powerbeats Pro: Beats workout earbuds have an IPX4 rating, secure ear hook design, and battery life (10 hours, 52 minutes). You need a Lightning cable to charge the case, which may be frustrating for those who don’t use Apple products. Still, the Powerbeats Pro is generally for iPhone owners since it has the same H1 chip as the AirPods Pro. Try it for $159 at Amazon.
  • Bose Sport Earbuds: These stalwart earbuds have been around for a couple of years and do all the exercise tasks you might throw at them well. Importantly, they grip your ears with stabilizers and sound pretty good, too. Pick them up for $165 at Amazon.
  • Bose Sport Open Earbuds: This is for the person who does not want or need ANC. In fact, this person wants to hear everything. With such a niche set of earphones, the Bose Sports Open keeps you aware while you exercise and provides a stable fit (for on the product’s website). Its AAC and SBC codec support only, and the case doesn’t provide any battery charging.
  • Google Pixel Buds A-Series: This headset is ideal for Google Pixel phone owners and Android phone owners at large. You get a pretty consumer-friendly sound when you enable the boosted bass EQ mode, and the default frequency response is great for spoken word content like audiobooks or podcasts. These sell for $94 at Amazon.
  • Jabra Elite 7 Pro: Durable noise canceling earbuds with tons of customization from the Jabra Sound+ app. The Jabra Elite 7 Pro checks almost all the right boxes for $199 at Amazon.
  • Jaybird Vista 2: If you plan on running over your earbuds while dunking them in mud, the Vista 2 sports IP68 and MIL-STD-810G certifications. The price teasingly sits just below $200 ($117 at Amazon), which is why it’s here. However, you get good sound quality and a comprehensive app. Great isolation and above-average ANC make the Vista 2 a solid alternative.
  • JBL Tune Buds ($69.95 at Amazon): If you are able to get a good fit with the JBL Tune Buds, you will enjoy using these earbuds. They are packed full of features and have a sound quality that most people like.
  • Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless: This pair of wireless earbuds bring great noise canceling at a reasonable price ($89 at Amazon). You don’t get many extras with these earbuds, but Sennheiser makes sure that all music sounds good through this headset with its neutral-leaning frequency response.
  • Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3: The third time is the charm with the MTW line of earbuds from Sennheiser. On this go, Sennheiser includes stabilizing wing tips and support for aptX Adaptive. This is a great pair of earbuds for listeners who value sound quality and ANC, but the price makes it a bit cost-prohibitive ($149.95 at Amazon).
  • Shure AONIC Free: If you don’t like noise canceling or just don’t want it, the AONIC Free from Sennheiser is a great headset (for $199 at Amazon). These earbuds feature narrow-diameter nozzles and comfortable memory foam ear tips. The headset does a great job of blocking out noise without the need for ANC. You still get great Sennheiser sound and build quality, along with an excellent software experience on any mobile OS.
  • Sony LinkBuds S: These subtle-looking earbuds feature excellent ANC and a solid frequency response curve with LDAC and AAC. Check them out for $148 at Amazon.
  • Sony WF-C500: This fresh pair of wireless earbuds from Sony feature DSEE upsampling and an IPX4 rating. Listeners get many of the same bells and whistles as the premium Sony WF-1000XM4 for less than half the price, $98 at Amazon.

What you should know about wireless earbuds under $200

How long do wireless earbuds last?

OnePlus Buds Z2 on rock
Placing the OnePlus Buds Z2 earbuds into the case for just 10 minutes provides five hours of listening.

This seemingly simple question has a few answers. On average, most wireless earbuds have a standalone battery life of between four and six hours, with the charging case providing an extra two or three charge cycles. In other words, you can get anything from 12 to 24-plus hours of battery out of your true wireless earbuds and the case before you need to recharge them.

While the battery life is still the Achilles’ heel of any wireless product, some manufacturers have an ace up their sleeves. Many cases can quickly charge your earbuds. You’ll commonly see specs like 10 minutes of charging provides 60 minutes of listening. Some manufacturers like OnePlus go above and beyond with their fast charging speeds, but most stick to the “10 minutes yields one-hour” standard. It’s a stat worth checking because you want to listen and not wait around for your buds to charge.

The “IP” in IP rating stands for ingress protection, essentially how protected a device is from dust and water damage. The higher the number that follows the IP rating, the more durable your product is. Often, you’ll see earbuds with an IPX4 rating. The “X” is a placeholder for a dust-resistant rating, and the “4” corresponds to a level of water resistance.

You can read our in-depth breakdown of IP ratings, but if you don’t have time, IPX2 is fine for light use every day. If you’re going to exercise in your earbuds, we recommend something with at least an IPX4 rating.

What are Bluetooth codecs?

Bluetooth codecs help make the difference between an okay sound and a very good sound, and here’s your friendly reminder that the headphone jack is still the queen of quality. Codecs allow your smartphone or laptop to communicate with your headset. Every Bluetooth audio device supports SBC by default, so at the very least, your earbuds can stream over that. If you’re steeped in the Apple ecosystem, all you need to know is AAC is your codec of choice.

A chart showing the frequency response performance of the AAC Bluetooth wireless codec.
Android phones don’t give you CD-quality playback with AAC. In the same chart, you can see that besides the iPhone, quality is often better over SBC.

For Android users, the situation seems more nebulous and dependent on both your device and your use case. If the earbuds in question only have AAC and SBC, sometimes you get better quality results with SBC. Otherwise, to reduce latency (which is a real bugaboo with Bluetooth and video), look for higher resolution options like aptX or aptX-LL. Some manufacturers (similar to Apple) have chosen to optimize for their own ecosystem. Samsung’s proprietary codec works best with other Samsung products.

Basically, pay attention to codecs. SBC might be a one-size-fits-all situation, but maybe you want some tailoring.

What is a frequency response?

Image shows SoundGuys frequency response curve and Under Armour Project Rock by JBL frequency response as chosen by Dwayne Johnson with exaggerated bass.
In this example, the blue shows the product’s notable bass emphasis. When set against our ideal (shown in pink), the under-emphasized bass means you can hear other frequencies better.

If you’ve poked around our site enough, you’ve probably seen frequency response charts. Basically, we measure how closely an audio product reproduces sound relative to our house curve (consumer or studio). In our updated frequency response charts, cyan represents the product in question, and the pink line represents the SoundGuys curve. Although many people prefer a studio or “flat” response, most of us average listeners like a bit more bass and treble in our tunes. You can read more about the SoundGuys house curves, but the gist is that this is what works well for most people.

A good frequency response is one that does not unduly hide other frequencies by being too loud. In other words, if bass sounds are too loud, you probably can’t hear quieter sounds of other frequencies as well. That’s how human brains work. We just don’t process quieter sounds as well as louder ones. This often results in folks turning up the volume, and you want to keep your hearing, right?

Why does fit matter?

Jabra Elite 4 Active side profile in a persons ear.
Whether you wear headphones or earbuds, fit greatly impacts sound quality.

A contributing factor in finding the perfect true wireless earbuds has to do with fit. Fit matters because we can post about all sorts of awesome features, but none of them make a difference if the buds fall out of your ears. More often, the topic of fit means something more subtle. Do the buds adequately seal your ear? A poor fit actually alters your perception of the frequency response.

Fortunately, most earphones ship with a selection of different-sized ear tips, and when in doubt, try a third-party option. We also typically include measurements of ear tips when reviewing a product so you can compare it to what you already have.

Any product with an equalizer (EQ) is worth its weight in gold (which might not be much, considering truly wireless earbuds are fairly light). You can rescue a default frequency response you don’t like by using an EQ to make corrections—some products even feature a mobile app that has an EQ. If you hear too much bass, simply drop the EQ slider in the bass frequencies down to offset it.

What is isolation/active noise canceling (ANC)?

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 noise canceling true wireless earbuds in the open charging case while connected to the Galaxy Wearable app on a Samsung Galaxy S10e.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
App support for ANC and other features is common in TWS earbuds near the $200 mark.

Remember know how fit matters for hearing things correctly? It also matters for achieving isolation. Isolation works much in the way that earplugs do: by creating a physical barrier between your ears and the noisy world. Inherently, some designs isolate better than others. Sometimes, that’s so you can hear your surroundings out of safety. Isolation works best typically for higher-pitched incidental sounds, like clangs in a café.

Active noise cancellation uses microphones that detect your environmental surroundings and basically use the opposite soundwaves to cancel the noise out. Frequently, there is a small delay while it detects the environmental noise. For that reason, ANC fights droning sounds best because it is somewhat predictive in nature. A fast, brief burst of sound is typically too quick for ANC to dramatically quiet it, hence why isolation is the best tool for clangs. ANC is your friend for airplanes, as it typically works on repeating sounds that land in lower frequencies.

How we choose the best wireless earbuds under $200

A hand holds one of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) to the ear of a head simulator.
Now, we use a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test head to perform isolation and frequency response tests, as seen with the AirPods (3rd generation).

At SoundGuys, we perform objective tests to measure things like frequency response, isolation, microphone quality, and more. In order to do so, we use a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 head and torso simulator (HATS) with an anatomically realistic ear canal and outer ear. We also use a standardized setup to test the microphone quality of products with pre-recorded phrases from a calibrated artificial mouth in our test chamber. This allows us to present standardized microphone samples to you so you can judge the quality of various products and compare them across the board. After we collect all of this data, we then score each product through a variety of objective and subjective measures.

Our team then confers with one another regarding the best products for a given category, and we present our list to you. It’s not over after we hit “publish,” though. Instead, we treat every article as a living document that we update as new and worthy products come out.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

A man wearing the Edifier NeoBuds Pro 2.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
Touch controls make for a fairly uncomplicated experience.

We have no ulterior motives. All of our contributors abide by a strict ethics policy. This means none of us receives compensation from manufacturers, and we don’t do direct sales. Our site features no advertisements or “hit pieces.” SoundGuys only makes money when readers choose to purchase a product through a referral link to a retailer. Because of this model, we have no financial reason to suggest or prefer one product over another.

Our recommendations are based on our years-long industry experience and each product’s merit. We use review copies of products, but none of us can keep the products. Instead, we do giveaways or gift them to worthy causes. In other words, we do our best to provide accurate and fair content. We endeavor to correct our mistakes and constantly improve our testing methods. Our goal at SoundGuys includes making sure you are well-informed and can make the best decision for your needs.

Frequently asked questions about wireless earbuds

Yes, you can use any wireless Beats earbuds with an Android phone, but you may miss out on some features. For instance, you can’t directly access Google Assistant with your voice on Android the same way you can with Siri on an iPhone when you pair the Beats Powerbeats Pro or AirPods to your device.

Beats’ earbuds are trying to bridge the gap between iPhone and Android owners, though, because the Beats Studio Buds and Beats Fit Pro work nearly as well on Android as they do on iOS. Note: the Beats Fit Pro has ANC issues that aren’t easy to resolve.

Both Jaybird and Jabra make very good wireless earbuds, and we think what it ultimately boils down to for most people is fit. The Jaybird Vista 2 housings are quite large and bulky, and the proprietary ear/wing tips make it hard to get a comfortable fit. Still, the Vista 2 stays in place during all kinds of movement as long as you’re willing to put up with some discomfort an hour into wearing it.

The Jabra Elite 7 Active is one of our favorite earbuds to date because of the excellent app experience, compact case, solid microphone, and default frequency response. If you need the most durable thing on the market, however, we recommend the Jaybird Vista 2. Both the Jaybird case and earbuds merit durability certifications.

As is the case with most technology, mid-tier products eventually receive most of the features the most expensive products have first. Grabbing the more expensive earbuds these days often means more effective ANC, better quality materials or build, surround sound, and more in-app features like location-based settings that automatically change when you leave or enter a space. Some buds under $200 have those features already, which is why it’s worth considering some of our picks. Basically, the latest and greatest is usually found in the premium earbuds first.

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