The Top Headphones under $200
We’ve had a round up of the best headphones under $100, and the best headphones under $300, so it’s ridiculous that we haven’t had a round-up of headphones in the $200 price range. When you invest $100-$200 on a pair of headphones, you expect great sound and great build quality. All the headphones featured here are what I would call ‘undervalued’. They should be higher priced, but because of factors like price drops and/or competitive pricing, at their current price they are a steal.
After trying to decide which set of headphones would go #1 and which would place #2, we ultimately decided that we couldn’t do it: they were both so good, but for different reasons. So we’ve created a “1A” and “1B” for our list. You can then decide for yourself which headphones are better based on the activities you will be using them for…Or you can be like me, and buy both! (for the record we do currently own both, although we couldn’t afford to buy them at the same time)
The sound clarity is unrivalled in this price range.
What We Like:
These open ended headphones offer a wide soundstage that recreates a brilliant sense of being there when the original recording was taking place. The sound is astonishingly clear: The soundstage attribute separates out each instruments just enough so you can appreciate the scope of a full orchestra playing for you.
The tan-and-beige color scheme stands out among headphones, as does the burl wood accents. Sennheiser based the look on high end European sports cars. It gives the HD598’s an ageless quality that will make these headphones stand the test of time.
Lightweight and comfortable, these headphones can be worn for hours without any worry of overheating.
Long and Durable Cord.
What We Don’t Like:
While the sound coming from an ipad or ipod is okay, an amp is truly needed to bring out the maximum potential of these headphones.
Doesn’t come with a travel case, so be extra careful when travelling with them.
The HD598 SR ‘s have been the mid-range headphones to beat for quite some time, and there’s a reason. The clarity and depth of sound is astounding, and all the characteristics of classical music and live jazz are well represented here.
The best all around headphones
You could probably guess that our #1 pick in the ‘Top Ten Headphones” would be #1 here. The M50x’s are essentially $500 studio headphones priced at $150. Every audiophile forum raves about the overall sound quality and tonal balance of the M50x’s, and indeed, there is no genre of music that makes them sound bad. What they don’t mention is how comfortable they are: soft ear-cups that conform to your head without putting any undue pressure on them You can use these for long hours without needing to give your ‘temples’ a break.
#2 V-Moda XS
V-Moda is hard to ignore when you start exploring the world of well-designed headphones. Their signature metal band and ear cup designs have been receiving plenty of style points, but it is the sound quality that sets the new XS model apart from other competitors.
A compact design and collapsible Cliqfold technology makes the V-Moda XS great for portable use, and the ear cup design provides good noise isolation in loud environments. The dual-diaphragm 40mm drivers produce natural sounding mids, balanced highs, and just enough punch in the lows to satisfy most discriminating music listeners. The XS design outperforms previous V-Moda models with quality sound and a robust yet compact design. One of the few notable downsides to these headphones is the lack of a swiveling ear cup, which can cause some users to experience long term wearing discomfort.
- balanced quality audio
- iconic style
- good noise isolation
- can feel heavy compared to other brands
- ear cups do not swivel
More Bass and Less Sound Bleed Compared to the HD598’s
These are the updated version of the Sennheiser HD 558s.
What We Like:
- The earpieces are comfortable: the soft, fabric pads fit around your ears, not on top.
- The open ended headphones give you the similar airy feel you get with Sennheiser’s HD598’s, and even has less sound bleed (so you don’t annoy people around you).
- Sennheiser’s gift for creating an incredibly clear soundstage is represented in these HD558’s.
What We Don’t Like:
- A little less luxurious and harder on the head than the HD598s, however it’s only slightly so.
- Clarity and soundstage sound great, just slightly below the more expensive Sennheiser counterparts.
If you want the soundstage experience on a budget, these are your headphones.
The HD579s don’t quite give you that feeling of ‘being there’ that the HD598s do, but you will still get a great classical listening experience for a good price.
The Bowers and Wilkins P3 headphones serve warm sound in a slim, minimalist package. The various colors, stylish design with rectangular ear cups, and a compact form factor give these headphones great visual appeal. The included hard case is nice, but seems almost unnecessary due to their quality build.
The sound of the P3 is not necessarily transparent, but it is warm and provides much higher quality audio performance than other headphones at this price point. The memory foam ear pads and on-the-ear design can cause some users a little discomfort during long term wearing, but the overall portable design and quality sound make these headphones a worthy contender in the sub-$200 price range.
- minimalist style
- durable construction
- quality sound without being bass-heavy
- on-ear design can be uncomfortable for some users
- sound may be too warm or colored for audiophile quality preferences
- not noise isolating
Great value for noise-cancellation headphones
If you’re looking for some noise-cancelling headphones but can’t quite bring yourself to spend $300 for the Bose QC25’s, the ANC7 headphones are almost as good as the current king of noise-cancelling headphones, the Bose QC25. The ANC-7B’s deliver some powerful noise-cancellation (while sounding really good) for about $130. These headphones were once priced around $300, but couldn’t compete with the big boys like Bose and Sennheiser. The large 40mm drivers bring lots of detail on the mid-range, something that even the QC15 lacks. The active noise-cancellation is around 90% (most budget NC headphones only block out around 75% of external noise). They are sleek, compact, and travel-friendly.
For the average listener the Sol Republic Master Tracks headphones are going to deliver exceptional value by providing great sound in a solid package. While the overall audio quality isn’t to be considered “audiophile”, it does provide crystal clear highs, balanced mids, and enhanced bass response. These headphones are comfortable too, which is surprising given the single, nearly indestructible, plastic headband.
The ear cups are trimmed with good padding and pivot just enough to fit the ear, and the headband doesn’t clamp too hard. The bass is enhanced, but it is not overwhelming like some other headphone brands can be. One unique design feature is that all components are individually replaceable. Headbands, drivers, and cables can be easily replaced based on color, style, or other needs.
- great sound for the price
- durable construction with interchangeable components
- attractive design
- some users may feel the low frequencies are too present and forward
- ear cups do not rotate
Sleek, stylish and fun.
These headphones aren’t quite as detailed as the M50’s, but make no mistake: they sound awesome. They do best with energetic music: Dance, R&B, Rock. They are also designed to be used with smartphones. They come with an inline mic for taking calls, which is a handy feature if these are your commuting headphones. They also look good: the industrial chrome look is sleek and stylish. The ear pads are also very comfortable to wear.
The RHA MA750 earbud-style headphones are probably some of the most robust earbuds you’ll find, given their stainless steel construction and quality cable strain relief. RHA backs this up with a 3-year warranty as well. The earbuds have a secure fit with the around-the-ear wire loop design and they come with 10 sets of various ear tips.
The MA750 earbuds provide very good noise isolation, and the sound quality with full bass and crisp highs will meet or exceed most expectations for audio performance in such a small package. There are two issues worth noting here, both involving the i-model with the in-line volume control and talkback microphone. The microphone has a fairly low sensitivity when compared to other brands, and the cable strain relief on the in-line connector is not as resilient as other components of the MA750 assembly.
- great sound in a small package
- quality and durable stainless steel construction
- 10 sets of ear tips
- 3-year warranty
- talkback microphone has low sensitivity,
- in-line volume control connections can become loose with excessive cable tension.
Made for long listening sessions in the studio.
Just look at these headphones. You can feel how comfortable your ears will feel just by looking at them. The Shure headphones actually just squeaked in by virtue of going on sale, so as of now they are under $200. Sound quality wise they are on par with the M50’s. Shure knows how to make extraordinary sounding headphones and these are no exception. They are primarily designed as professional studio headphones, but will function perfectly well as a high end set of desk headphones. They are actually more comfortable than the M50’s when it comes to long periods of use. The moisture-wicking headband actually helps keep you cooler for longer. You’ll still need to let your ears breathe every few hours, but you can pop the headphones back on without taking extended breaks.
#10 (Discontinued) Bose Soundtrue II
It is rare that a pair of Bose headphones ranks last on a list like this. Unfortunately, the Soundtrue II headphones just don’t seem to provide the value of features-to-price that other headphones on this list have excelled at doing. The TriPort ear cup speaker design sounds good, but not great, as it is a little too muddy and bass heavy compared with the rest of the frequency spectrum.
The Bose Soundtrue II delivers good noise isolation (not noise cancelling in this model), and they are very comfortable. Previous models have delivered better sound, however, and there are just too many other quality competitors delivering better sounding products in this price range.
- classic Bose headphone design
- good noise isolation
- sound can be muddy and favor low frequencies
- highs and mids can get a little lost in the soundstage
- the provided 66” cable is a too long for most practical uses