As technology continues to improve year after year and we have more and more things to listen to, whether that be new music, podcasts, audiobooks, or gaming audio, making the right choice when it comes to headphones becomes more and more vital with time. Fewer people seem content with the standard Apple or Skullcandy headphones and want to pay a premium for something that will genuinely offer them a better experience.
There are many factors to consider when picking the pair of headphones that are right for you. Sound quality is the obvious one, but even within that, there is a tonne of criteria to be met and options to sort through that require the user to decide what they prioritize with a good listening experience. Do you want something balanced? Do you want something a little heavier on bass? Perhaps sound quality isn’t even your biggest issue. Maybe you need something with good sound, but that is also very comfortable. Maybe you want something stylish. Maybe you want something light to travel with. There are headphones with longer battery life. There are headphones that are waterproof. There are headphones that have built-in Bluetooth. You name it, it’s a point to be taken.
With all of the above and more to take into account, picking the best headphones for you can be quite the task. Well, not to worry, because we’re here to take a little bit of the weight off your shoulders. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the twelve best headphones that are $200 or under, citing each one’s best quality before expanding further into their details. Whatever you’re getting your headphones for and whatever you value the most, there should be something for you on this list.
- Weight: 255g
- Cable: Detachable & 3m
Due to the nature of this list being a collection of headphones under $200, it’s going to be tough to argue that you’re getting the absolute best that any one of these companies has to offer, but you get damn close with the AKG K371. Even though it’s a mid-range offering for them, it’s a stellar product. This set of headphones pretty much does everything well and nothing badly. If you’re going to be wearing your headphones for a long time, these are a great choice because they feature memory foam ear pads. The design is sleek and doesn’t try to do too much while also managing to come off as interesting enough to look like a great product. All around, these are a great pick for many uses.
- Weight: 271g
- Cable: Undetachable & 3m
Those of you who are into streaming might know that the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pros are Ninja’s headphones of choice. Naturally, that means they’re a big choice for people who want to game with them, but they do a lot more than that. First of all, you might notice that the ear pads are coated in velour. This makes them some of the more comfortable headphones you can get at this price point and makes it clear why a streamer like Ninja who wears them for hours daily chose them. The build quality isn’t close to military-grade, largely as a result of how comfortable these can be, but these are far from flimsy. Despite that, the Premium version of this headset did put an extra focus on their sturdiness. Another thing to note is that the cable while being helpful at 1 meter in length, is not removable.
- Weight: 161g
When you’re talking headphones, Bose is a company that needs to be in the discussion every single time. A powerhouse in high-level audio performance, a lot of their products’ prices reflect this and it can feel like you’re spending an arm and a leg, but the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless headphones are a pair that are worthy of the Bose name but sit comfortably under $200. It’s a wireless version of a set of headphones that were released a few years prior. Of course, they’re not necessarily going to be able to compete with Bose headphones that are double their price, but they do their job well. It still feels like a luxury product and the Bluetooth connectivity is about as smooth as it can be. For the comfort, portability, and money saved, you’ll naturally sacrifice a little bit of durability.
- Weight: 296g
- Noise cancelling
- Internal water-resistant coating
The Jabra Elite 85h can accurately reproduce audio all over the frequency range with decent clarity. If you want some bass, you’re going to have to adjust the EQ a little, because the default setting on these is to amplify vocals more than anything else. The battery life is key here though. With a single charge, you can get up to 55 hours of music playback. A full charge takes just 90 minutes, but if you only have a quarter of an hour to get a quick charge in, you can still get around 10 hours of playback, which is insanely impressive. If you do end up getting these headphones, you might want to also get the Jabra Sound+ app. It’s an extremely handy feature that allows you to create a custom EQ, customize your call settings, download firmware updates, and more.
- Weight: 260g
- Cable: Detachable & 1.8m
Formerly known as Massdrop, Drop is a unique company that has collaborated with the likes of Sennheiser and Koss, but initially only sold products from already existing manufacturers. Perhaps the magnum opus of their own products is the HD 58X Jubilee set of headphones. Greatly revered at this price point by audiophiles, Sennheiser may be King in this world, and these are arguably their crown jewel when you talk about a balance between price and quality. These are a great alternative to the HD 650s which are going to cost almost double the price. The 58X Jubilees are going to take the average consumer and casual listener on an adventure that they’ve never known and audiophiles are going to massively respect what these can do for $170. If all you care about is value for your money and things like portability and having in-line controls don’t matter to you, you really can’t go wrong with these.
- Weight: 335g
- Cable: Detachable & 1.2m
The Monoprice Monolith M565s are considered to be a great pair of headphones for casual listeners who want to transition into premium quality, which there’s a great chance to apply to you if you’re reading this. When it comes to their sound, these handle mids incredibly well while lows and highs leave a little to be desired. The design is hit or miss. Some people like the wooden cups, but in general, they’re a little polarizing. The open-back design means that these will be used to their full extent while indoors in a quiet environment. All in all, these are not the most premium set of headphones on this list but are certainly a step up from what most casual listeners are probably used to.
- Weight: 300g
- Cable: Detachable & 3m
The Philips SHP9600 is the sequel to the SHP9500 and at a slightly higher price point, is an attempt to refine it. These headphones perform well in basically all areas. The all-black design is clean and despite the steel-reinforced headband (companies usually go with an all-plastic build to avoid discomfort), comfort is still an area that Philips can boast about excelling in with this product. In comparison to its predecessor, the SHP9600 essentially attempts to make improvements in all areas and it definitely succeeds with sound. The frequency response is 12 Hz – 35,000 Hz and it handles bass, highs, mids, and lows well for something in this range. If money is a big factor for you, you could probably even live with saving money to get the SHP9500s instead, taking a slight hit on everything to keep some more money in your pocket. But of course, these are well within the budget.
- Weight: 238g
- Noise cancelling
Appearing once again on this list is Sennheiser, this time with their HD 4.50 BTNC pair of headphones. If noise cancellation is a big priority of yours, these need to be in consideration, and in all honesty, there’s probably little competition for under $200. Brands like Sony and Bose also do great noise-canceling headphones that balance well with other great specs, but you’ll have to shell out a lot more cash. Sennheiser uses its patented NoiseGard technology to make it one of the better noise-canceling options on the market. But it does a whole lot more than that, of course. These are very underrated headphones. They’re very light, but don’t take a hit on build quality for it. The sound is a little bass-heavy which is something to be conscious of, but it’s likely welcoming for most.
- Weight: 241g
- Noise cancelling
The WH-CH700N is the modest version of the WH-CH710N and mostly, you’re not taking too much of a hit considering you’re paying a good chunk less cash. We’ve pointed them out as being great for traveling with and that’s because they weigh just 241g, they’re sturdy enough to fit in with luggage and not get crushed and they’re wireless, giving you one less thing to pack. Not to mention their incredible battery life. A full charge should get you over 40 hours of playback time. A welcome feature of this offering from Sony is their Google Assistant and Siri integration, making life that much easier for their user. They are noise canceling, but if that’s a big priority for you, you’re better off going off with the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNCs that appeared earlier on this list, or something that pays more attention to that detail.