Sound Off: The 8 Best Headphones Under $200

We’re living in a material world and nowhere is that clearer than in the headphone market. From budget earbuds that are practically disposable, to concert-level cups that make it sound like an orchestra is crashing on your couch, you can find just about anything to appease your palette for music at a price-point you can live with.

We’ve plumbed the depths seeking the best headphones under $50 for our broke brothers-in-arms and checked out the best headphones for under $100 for those moderate folks and penny-pinchers. Now we’ve sought balance in the force by trying to aim for people with a little more in their pocket who still don’t want to sell their fillings in order to get incredible audio. Each headphone designer has managed to make something that sounds rich without requiring that you be in order to enjoy it. For more bump, boom, and bang for your buck, here’s the 8 best headphones under $200.

MEElectronics Air-Fi Matrix2 AF62

MEElectronics Air-Fi Matrix2 AF62

Pro: Easy on-ear controls
Con: Can skip or drop with older Bluetooth versions

Works Blue: Trying to find quality Bluetooth headphones in this price range is a challenge. Most of them suffer from terrible reception, uncomfortable construction, limited options, or are just fall-apart-in-a-stiff-breeze cheap. The Matrix2 strikes a better balance, creating outstanding audio at variable volume levels that doesn’t fade out mids or muddy up the bass. The option of using these with either a cord or going full wireless is nice, though with the many hours of battery life, you’ll probably never need the cable. They lay flat rather than collapsing, so they can be a little much to carry, though they’re certainly light enough to just wear around. [Purchase: $91]

Kingston HyperX Cloud II

Kingston HyperX Cloud II

Pro: Mic and headphones have individual volume controls
Con: 7.1 surround sound is boosted

Get in the Game: Built with the gamer in mind who would rather spend his dough on new releases than his gear, the Cloud II offers the best balances and options for a caffeine-fueled marathon. You can choose between a standard 3.5mm plug and a USB 7.1 surround interface depending on your system specs. The drivers are a slamming 53mm with 15Hz-25,000 Hz worth of response that let’s you really hear the footsteps behind you. Replaceable cups and a plush carrying case help keep you ready for the next LAN party or competition. A handy little remote allows you to change the volume on the cups and mic separately. [Purchase: $99]

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Pro: Calls come through beautifully
Con: Awkward cord adjustment

Workout Wireless: There’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to workout headphones  within this budget, so we went with our favorites that removed the cable from the equation, since one of the biggest irritants during a long run or a hard pump is a cord whipping around. The molded tips don’t shut out everything around you, which is better for running along the side of the road since the seal won’t make you oblivious to danger. At 24 grams, it’s almost easy to forget that they’re there, though the cord around your back can slap or bounce a bit to remind you. Syncs with up to 8 devices, includes an armband case, and has good reception for receiving calls. [Purchase: $102]

Sennheiser Momentum On Ear

Sennheiser Momentum On Ear

Pro: Comes with multiple cords and a quality case
Con: Do not fold

On Point: These are a smaller, slightly stripped-down version of Sennheiser’s over-ear Momentum line. Though they won’t give you quite the warm, rich sound of Momentum senior, they add a little more precision to acoustic elements and vocals. That isn’t to say they slouch for EDM and bass-heavy beats. These push it out on par with many DJ headphones, even when it comes to hip-hop. The retro metal body manages to look classy and fit fairly well, though those of the pumpkinheaded variety may need to bend them a little to get the right fit. They’re definitely sturdy, though not indestructible, which is why they’re outfitted with a very nice case. Not as portable as many on-ear options in that they don’t fold up. [Purchase: $110]

Audio-Technica ATH-M50

Audio-Technica ATH-M50

Pro: Fully rotating earcups
Con: Mids sound recessed on occasion

Best All-Around: Swing a dead cat and you’ll hit someone who swears by these headphones for good reason. They are studio monitors without a crippling studio price tag. Your ears will get swept away as the closed-back design isolates noise and dampens the world around you, leaving nothing but you and your music. Useful as DJ Headphones due to their true 180 degrees of movement, luxurious padding, and ability to fold up for quick stowing in your album case. High vocals can sometimes become sibilant and staging can be strange with singers sounding like they’re behind instrumentals. Bassheads will certainly flip about the powerful lows. [Purchase: $130+]

Sennheiser HD 598

Sennheiser HD 598

Pro: Light and comfortable
Con: Do not work well with mobile listening devices

Open Season: These come off the line runway-ready with burled wood accents and stylish padding that looks like the interior of a new Lexus. Besides their form, they have a highly useful function for anyone who demands an open sound stage. At just 9.5 ounces these are light as dream, especially when compared to other over-ear headphones. Duofol drivers, aluminum voice coils, and neodymium magnets hit all the selling (and sound) points without weighing down the price. Velvet pads and plush headband lining make these easy to listen to over long periods of time with the light weight making them almost invisible. The heavy 50 ohm impedance really shows if you try using these with an mp3 player or phone. [Purchase: $147]

Sony XBAH1

Sony XBAH1

Pro: Realistic sound staging
Con: No mic or remote

Small Wonder: Think of it like this: Snap a picture with your smartphone (duckface optional). Now take the same one with a high-end DSLR camera. Same picture, but the one from the DSLR is so much richer and more alive. That’s the difference you’ll get with the XBAH1 when compared with other in-ear headphones. They’re playing the same music, but they do it in such a way that it sounds truly right and natural. Highs, lows, and mids are all represented with staging that captures the sense of being in the same room. The hybrid driver units capture vocals like little else and the noise isolation and attenuation catches every note. Go for a low bassline and then transfer right into a soprano’s aria. They’ll both sound nigh-flawless. [Purchase: $148]

Sony MDR10RNC

Sony MDR10RNC

Pro: Outstanding noise blocking
Con: Uses AAA battery without rechargeable option

The Quiet Ones: Trying to cut out noise is a tribulation for travelers and anyone who prefers to hear their music rather than the chatter or traffic around them. These do a superb job of killing more than 99% of ambient sounds thanks to the dual sensors. Technically, they have a wide response rate, but that can be misleading. It lands heavy and clear on the bass, but trebles can be somewhat muddled and imprecise. When cutting down on the sounds of the world, we choose these. If you don’t mind a little more bleed and are more interested in high-grade audio, then you should pick the AudioTechnica ATH-ANC70 QuietPoint for your noise-canceling headphones in this range. [Purchase: $199]

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