While most company's flagship headphones can cost upwards of $300, you can still get a great, well-rounded pair for less. For under $200, you can get a wide range of headphones, from Bluetooth over-ears, to truly wireless in-ears, and an assortment of features like active noise canceling (ANC), IPX ratings for water resistance, or dedicated companion apps with EQ adjustments. The headphones in this list are well-built, have good audio reproduction, and provide good value for their price.
So far, we've tested over 450 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best headphones under $200 you can buy. See also our recommendations for the best wireless headphones, the best noise cancelling headphones under $200, and the best headphones overall.
The best headphones under $200 with an over-ear design that we've tested so far are the Razer Opus. They offer an excellent price-to-performance ratio, with an audio profile that’s similar to more expensive headphones such as the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018. Outwardly, they have fairly intuitive physical controls and an understated, premium design that feels quite durable. Due to their relatively lightweight design and generously sized ear cups, they’re also comfortable enough to wear all day.
They feature a very well-balanced sound profile, with outstanding bass and mid accuracy. While fans of EDM or hip-hop may find their bass lacking in punch and thump, this can easily be adjusted via a graphic EQ or presets within the dedicated Razer Opus app. These headphones also have a very impressive ANC system that effectively blocks out everything from the low rumble of a bus engine to the high-pitched whine of an AC unit. Combined with their near 33-hour battery life from a single charge, they’re up for several long, loud commutes without having to worry about the hassle of plugging them in.
Unfortunately, they lack multi-device pairing, which is a handy feature if you tend to swap between using your phone and computer a lot. Their microphone doesn’t isolate your voice very well, meaning that they aren’t the best choice if you make a lot of phone calls in loud environments. Still, these are a good pair of headphones for a variety of uses thanks to their exceptionally well-balanced sound profile and surprisingly outstanding ANC, especially at this price point.
If audio quality is very important to you, consider the Philips SHP9500 instead. While these wired-only over-ears aren't as versatile as the Razer Opus Wireless, they have a very well-balanced and neutral audio reproduction that makes them ideal for critical listening. They're more comfortable than the Razer, and they also deliver a more consistent performance across different listeners. As they're open-back headphones, they encourage acoustic interaction with the objects and walls in your environment, enhancing sound quality and making it seem like sound is coming from all around you instead of in your head. On the downside, their open-back design means that they don't do a great job isolating background noise or preventing leakage, so they aren't as practical for use as everyday headphones.
If you want a more versatile pair of headphones with lots of features, go with the Razer, but if you want a pair of open-back critical listening headphones, go with the Philips.
The best earbuds under $200 that we've tested to date are the Samsung Galaxy Buds+. They’re a very good choice for commuters, with a low-profile, lightweight design and a remarkable 13-hour battery life; the longest we've tested on a pair of truly wireless headphones. They’re a great gym companion as well, as they're made of dense, high-quality plastic and are rated IPX2 for basic water protection, though the latter isn't something we test for.
Their sound profile is exceedingly well-balanced and accurate out-of-the-box, making them an excellent fit for basically any audio content or genres, from podcasts to hip-hop. Suppose you like to personalize your own listening experience. In that case, the dedicated Galaxy Wearable app lets you swap between five EQ presets on the fly, so you can easily change the way your headphones sound.
On the downside, their touch-sensitive control scheme takes some getting used to and can't really be used if you’re wearing a winter hat or gloves. They also don’t block outside noise as well as competitors with ANC, such as the Amazon Echo Buds Truly Wireless. That said, the Samsung are among the best truly wireless earbuds we’ve tested so far, combining all-day comfort and battery life with very balanced audio reproduction in a durable and premium package.
If you want a pair of wireless earbuds primarily for taking to the gym, get the Jaybird Tarah Pro. They aren't truly wireless like the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless, and they aren't quite as comfortable. However, they're easier to take in and out of your ear at the gym thanks to the braided cable connecting each earbud, and they're rated IPX7 for sweat and water resistance, though this isn't something we currently test for. Their in-line remote gives you easier-to-use physical buttons, so you can easily change tracks or adjust volume mid-workout, and their battery lasts just as long as the Samsung. Their default sound profile is fairly well-balanced but can be fine-tuned via a fully parametric EQ in their companion app, which is great. Unfortunately, they use a proprietary charging clip, which can be a pain if you forget to bring it with you or if you lose it.
Overall, if you want a more versatile pair of wireless headphones for a wide variety of uses, go for the Samsung, but if you want something with sweat resistance that's better suited for heavy workouts, get the Jaybird.
The best headphones under $200 with an on-ear design that we've tested so far are the Bose SoundLink On-Ear. While many people find on-ear headphones uncomfortable, these are surprisingly comfortable thanks to their very lightweight design and soft ear cup padding. They have very easy-to-use physical buttons and look and feel well-built overall. Their slightly smaller size compared to most over-ears, soft carrying case, and 21-hour battery life makes them a decent choice for taking around with you as well.
Their sound profile is very well-balanced, making them a good choice for a wide range of content and genres. Unfortunately, they aren't quite as accurately tuned as many other Bose options, and a more trained ear may notice a slight lack of detail, while some high frequencies can be slightly piercing. Overall, this won't be too noticeable to most people.
Sadly, these headphones don't have an ANC feature, and their on-ear design means they block out very little background noise, so people next to you may hear your audio in quieter environments. They also don't have a dedicated companion app to make changes to their sound or controls. Overall, they're a decent pair of headphones among the best on-ear headphones we've tested.
If you prefer a pair of on-ears with an active noise cancelling (ANC) feature, consider the Marshall MID ANC instead. While they aren't as comfortable as the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless, thanks to their ANC feature, they do a much better job blocking out noise, including the rumbles of engines and voices typically found in an office setting. They have a decently neutral sound profile that packs a bit of extra punch in the bass, which is good for fans of bass-heavy genres. With the ANC and Bluetooth enabled, they have a battery life of 17 hours, which is impressive. That being said, their microphone quality is mediocre, and they leak a bit of noise, so they won't be ideal to use in quiet settings like libraries.
If you want a more comfortable pair of on-ears with an accurate sound, go with the Bose, but if you prefer noise cancelling headphones, choose the Marshall instead.
08/28/2020: Replaced the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee with the Philips SHP9500. Added the Sony WF-1000XM3 as a Notable Mention.
06/30/2020: Changed 'Best Over-Ear Headphones Under $200' from Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 to Razer Opus Wireless.
04/30/2020: Moved Samsung Galaxy Buds+ to 'Best Earbuds Under $200' and made Jaybird Tarah Pro 'Alternative for Sports' for consistency. Removed 'Alternative for Gaming and Home Theater' category.
03/03/2020: Replaced Samsung Galaxy Buds with Samsung Galaxy Buds+.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones under $200 to buy for most people. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find in the US or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no ideal headphones. Personal tastes, preferences, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.