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The 7 Best Headphones under $200 - Fall 2018
Reviews

Best Headphones under $200
288 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
  • Easily comparable results
  • No ads; unbiased reviews
Learn more about our approach to product reviews here.

If you want to invest in a pair of above-average handphones that deliver a good and reliable listening experience, you have a lot of options at your disposal. The headphones in this list are versatile, well-built and deliver a good sound quality. They typically provide additional features like wireless Bluetooth and active noise canceling.

So far, we've tested 283 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best headphones under $200 you can buy today. See also our recommendations for the best wireless headphones and the best noise cancelling headphones.  

  1. Best Over-Ear Headphones under $200: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.3
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.7
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.4
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.1
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.5
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    6.2
    TV
    Score components:
    5.9
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    The best over ear headphones under $200 we have tested are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They're a well-built and versatile, wireless over-ear with noise cancellation, a great, bass-rich sound quality and excellent battery life and wireless range. They're also decently comfortable and have a tactile and efficient control scheme.

    Unfortunately, they do not have the customization options of some of the other wireless headphones we've tested in their price range, like the Sennheiser HD 4.50. Their noise cancellation feature is also not as strong so they won't be the best option for very noisy conditions. 

    Overall, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are the best wireless headphones under $200 and the most versatile over-ears you can get at this price. 

    See our review

  2. Alternative for critical listening: Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Open-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If sound quality is the most important aspect in your headphone selection, then go for the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro instead of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They are wired, open-back headphones that will not be as practical for every day casual use as the Plantronics. They also sound a bit too bright on some tracks and aren't the most comfortable over-ears since they're a bit tight on the head.

    On the upside, the 990 Pro have a solid metal build quality, a good and exciting bass for an open back design and sound a lot more balanced in the mid-range than the Plantronics. They're also better padded and deliver a more spacious soundstage even if their open-back design is not as open as other similarly designed headphones. Overall, if you want a good critical listening headphone under $200, then the Beyerdynamic are a great choice.

    See our review

  3. Alternative for Gaming and Home Theater: SteelSeries Arctis 7

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a great headset for more indoor uses like watching movies and gaming, then the SteelSeries Arctis 7 are the best option below 200$. They won't be as practical to use on the go as the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 since they will not work wirelessly with your phone and do not isolate well enough for commute or travel. They also do not sound as balanced or as spacious as the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO.

    However, for gaming and mostly indoor use, the Arctis 7 are one of the best headphones we've tested. They have incredibly low latency, they're sturdy and well-built and they're comfortable to wear for hours. They also have multiple ports and connection options, so they will work with your phone when wired and wirelessly with your PS4, PC, and even your TV once you get the right set up with their USB dongle.

    See our review

  4. Best On-Ear Headphones under $200: Bose SoundLink On-Ear

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.0
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.5
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    6.9
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.1
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.1
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    6.2
    TV
    Score components:
    5.9
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : On-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you find the over-ear recommendations a little too bulky and do not like the fit of in-ears, then get the Bose SoundLink On-Ear. Unlike, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, the Sounlink On-Ear are not noise-canceling headphones so they struggle a bit more in noisy conditions. They also do not have the tight fit of other on-ears so they won't be as stable for all activities like running or working out.

    On the upside, they are considerably more portable. They're also one of the most comfortable on-ears we've tested so far with an above average sound quality on par if not better than the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless and the Beats Solo3 Wireless, which are a lot more expensive. They also have a great battery life that will easily last you all day and even a weekend of heavy use thanks to their great power saving feature.

    Overall, they deliver a good wireless experience that's easy to recommend especially for an on-ear under $200.  

    See our review

  5. Best Earbuds under $200: Samsung Gear IconX

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.1
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.2
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.5
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    8.2
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.3
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    5.5
    TV
    Score components:
    4.9
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Truly Wireless
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want to make the switch to a truly wireless headphone, then the best option under $200 are the Samsung Gear Icon X. They won't have the range and battery life of the over-ears and on-ears on this list. They're also Bluetooth-only headphones that do not have a lot of connection options so they won't be the best headphones to use with all your devices.

    On the upside, they're one of the best priced and most feature-packed truly wireless designs we've tested so far. They have a compact and premium build quality that puts them on par with headphones like the Apple AirPods and the Jabra Elite Active 65t. They also sound decently balanced and you can EQ their sound profile thanks to the latest firmware update. They have 4GB of onboard storage, an in-app coach that keeps the progress of your workouts and they isolate well enough for noisy environments, which makes them a great and feature-packed option for sports.

    They won't be the most optimized headphones for iOS users and their sweat resistance isn't as good as the Elite Active 65t but overall, they are practical for most use cases and portable enough to easily fit in your pockets so you can have them on you at all times.

    See our review

  6. Alternative for iOS users: Beats BeatsX

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you have an iOS device, then we recommend the Beats X instead of the Samsung Gear IconX. They won't be as compact as the Gear IconX, although they are flexible enough to fit into most pockets. They're also not as customizable even on iOS since they do not have a dedicated companion app.

    On the upside, they're stable enough for casual and sports use. They're sufficiently portable and isolate well enough against ambient noise to be a good option for commute and travel. They have a good battery life with great quick charge, so you don't have to worry much if you forgot to charge them overnight. They also have one of the best wireless ranges for a pair of wireless in-ears. Overall, they're good and versatile wireless in-ears for most use cases.

    See our review

  7. More customizable sound: Jaybird X4

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you prefer a headset that gives you more control over their sound profile, then get the Jaybird X4 instead. They do not have the range or quick charge time of the BeatsX. They're also not as feature packed as the Samsung Gear IconX. However, they will work equally well for both Android and iOS users, unlike the other in-ear recommendations. They also have a customizable app that gives you access to a great EQ so you can really tune their sound profile to best suit what you listen to. They have a good durable build quality and are slightly more sweatproof than the Jaybird X3 although we do not yet have a test for sweat and water resistance.

    Unfortunately, their proprietary charging cradle is somewhat limiting. Like most Jaybird models, if you lose this charging accessory or forget to take it with you, then you won't be able to charge your headset. On the upside, without this inconvenience, they're well balanced, good sounding headphones with enough isolation for most use cases. They're also compact enough to fit into any pocket and they're a great option for sports.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • HyperX Cloud Flight. A versatile gaming headset with a casual over-ear design for outdoor use. They are not as customizable as the SteelSeries Arctis 7. See our review
  • Logitech G933. A good gaming headset with a lot of customization options and programmable buttons. Slightly bulky and not practical to use outdoors. See our review
  • JBL Free. A simple and easy to use truly wireless design with a decent build quality and a long battery life. Frequent connection issue may be a deal breaker for some. See our review
  • Jabra Elite Active 65t. A versatile and well built truly wireless in-ear and a great alternative to the Gear IconX. But the bulky earbuds won't be as comfortable for everyone. See our review
  • Beats EP On-Ear. A well-built on-ear with a balanced sound. The wired design is a bit limiting and they do not block a lot of noise which is not ideal for loud environments. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 4.50. Versatile wireless headphones with decent noise cancelling. Great for office use but not as good as the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2. See our review
  • Bose SoundSport Wireless. Decent mixed usage earbuds with a comfortable fit. Poor isolation and relatively high latency. See our review
  • Jaybird X3. The upgrade to the Jaybird X2 with a more customizable sound. Slightly worse performance overall but a good alternative to the BeatsX. See our review
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. Excellent sound quality and durable design. A great closed-back alternative to the Beyerdynamic DT 990. See our review
  • Logitech G533. A good alternative to the SteelSeries Arctis 7 for gaming and watching movies. No wired or Bluetooth option for more casual use. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 598 Cs. A comfortable and good sounding closed back variant of the HD598. Mediocre isolation and not as versatile as the recommend options. See our review
  • JBL E55BT. A decent-sounding wireless alternative to the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2. Not as packed with features. See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones under $200 to buy for most people. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones under $200. 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. 

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