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 430 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 Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. These over-ear Bluetooth headphones are comfortable thanks to their fairly lightweight design and well-padded oval-shaped ear cups. They have one of the best control schemes we've ever tested to date, with very easy-to-use physical buttons and a volume slider. They look and feel well-built and durable thanks to their mix of metal and good quality plastic, and the 'Special Edition' version that we tested even comes with a nice hard carrying case.
These headphones have a very well-balanced sound profile with a fair amount of extra low-bass that will bring some extra thump and rumble to some dubstep or rap tracks. The rest of their frequency ranges are very accurate and well-balanced, making them a great choice for a very wide range of content and genres. Their 30-hour battery life is excellent and will easily get you through a few full work days.
Unfortunately, while these headphones have an active noise canceling (ANC) feature and a dedicated companion app, neither are very good. The ANC doesn't help much, and while it reduces a small amount of engine rumble, it doesn't work nearly as well as our top picks for the best noise-canceling headphones. As for the dedicated companion app, it doesn't offer any customization options, like an EQ, so you can't change their sound profile, which is disappointing.
If you want to dip your toes into audiophile-level headphones but want to stay under $200, go with the Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee. These wired headphones aren't nearly as versatile as the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, and they aren't quite as comfortable, but they have an extremely well-tuned sound profile, and their open-back design gives them a much wider soundstage. Unlike most common pairs of wireless headphones, they don't have any controls or active features, and as with most open-back headphones, they block out no background noise and leak a lot of audio, making them best-suited for a quiet dedicated listening room at home. If you’re looking for critical listening headphones that are a bit better for casual use, you may want to consider the closed-back Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. It's also worth noting that as the Jubilee are a special collaboration with Massdrop, they're only available through the popular Drop website.
If you want a more versatile pair of headphones for everyday use, go with the Plantronics as they're wireless, have ANC, and have on-ear controls. However, if you want an inexpensive pair of audiophile-level open-back headphones for a dedicated music-listening room at home, get the Sennheiser.
The best earbuds under $200 that we've tested to date are the Samsung Galaxy Buds+. These in-ears are the best truly wireless earbuds we've tested, regardless of price, and are a good improvement over the first version. They're very lightweight and comfortable, look and feel quite durable, feel very stable in the ear, and have an outstanding 13.3-hour battery, the longest we've ever tested on a pair of true wireless headphones.
Their default sound profile is incredibly well-balanced and accurate, making them a great choice for any content or genre you could think of. Their dedicated companion app also lets you pick between five additional EQ presets to better match your taste.
Unfortunately, their touch-sensitive controls can be a bit finicky and difficult to use, especially if you live in colder climates and often wear winter caps or gloves. They also don't block as much sound as some truly wireless options with ANC, like the Amazon Echo Buds Truly Wireless. Overall, they're an impressive pair of truly wireless headphones that are a good choice for your entire day, from commuting to the office, to going to the gym after work, and a battery that will last you through it all.
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 much 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 Wireless. 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 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, however, this likely 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 that are among the best on-ear headphones we've tested.
If you want on-ear headphones with ANC to give you some quiet, get the Marshall MID ANC. They aren't as comfortable as the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless, and their sound profile isn't quite as well-balanced, but they have ANC and a slightly more excited sound profile that will bring some extra kick to most popular genres. Their 17-hour battery life is still very good, and a lot of people will likely love their classic retro design. While their ANC isn't great at blocking out the low engine rumble of bus or planes, they'll still block out more of these sounds than the Bose.
If you want a more comfortable pair of on-ears with a more accurate and better-balanced sound profile, get the Bose. However, if you're a fan of their classic design or want something that will bring some quiet during your daily commutes or in the office, go with the Marshall.
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. Changes to text for accuracy and updated Notable Mentions.
03/03/2020: Replaced Samsung Galaxy Buds with Samsung Galaxy Buds+. Minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy.
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 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.