With more people working from home these days, the workday can feel a little chaotic, especially if you don’t live alone. And if you’re still going in to work, then you have that boring and/or stressful commute to deal with. I know how much it can get to someone to sit on a bus or train for an hour both ways every single day. Whether you need something that will help you drown out all the background noise and stay focused, you don’t want to broadcast your Zoom call to the entire house, or you need something that makes that morning on the subway just a little more bearable, we’ve got you covered.
We’re reviewing the best cheap headphones under $200 out there so you can get studio-level quality on your tunes, podcasts, or calls, and stay focused during work, or just so you can get the most out of your leisure time. With smartphones, video calls, and the surge in popularity in podcasts, a set of headphones is becoming more crucial every day if you want to stay in the loop, and we want to make sure you don’t have to settle for anything other than the best.
Keep reading for a full list of our favorite headphones under $200, followed by a breakdown based on price as well as by niche, or click here to skip to our number one headphones under $200.
- What Should You Look for in a Pair of Headphones?
- Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Under-$200 Headphones
- #1: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 (Best Value – All-Purpose)
- #2: Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro (Best Sound Quality)
- #3: Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero (Best Headphones for Gaming)
- #4: 1More Triple Driver (Best Low-Cost Headphones)
- #5: AfterShokz Aeropex (Best Headphones for Running)
- On a Budget? Try These:
- #1 Budget: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
- #2 Budget: Audio-Technica ATH-M40X
- #3 Budget: 1More Triple Driver
- Should I Go with In-Ear Headphones or Over-Ear Headphones?
- Verdict: Your Best Headphones, All under $200
What Should You Look for in a Pair of Headphones?
Criteria #1: Sound quality – You obviously want whatever you’re listening to in your headphones to sound good. If it’s music, you want to hear every note, from the low, rumbling bass notes, to the belting out soprano singer. If it’s a podcast or a call, you want the person talking to sound like they’re sitting in the room right next to you. And if your headphones are going to be for your gaming sessions, you want to make sure that you get the immersive experience from all of those sound effects, but can also hear your teammates’ advice or the satisfying groans of your opponents. First and foremost, you want headphones that sound great.
Criteria #2: Noise-canceling – That top-tier sound quality can feel like a waste if everything going on around you is drowning it out. Especially if you’re commuting or sharing a living/working space, you’re going to want headphones with good noise-canceling. As a general rule of thumb, over-ear headphones are far better for noise-canceling than in-ear headphones. Among over-ears, open-back headphones will let far more noise in than the closed-back variety, but open-back pairs will almost always have better sound.
Criteria #3: Comfort – I travel a lot, and I’ve been on some long flights and bus rides. I love to listen to music and podcasts, so I don’t mind these long trips. It’s a great opportunity to listen to that new album or interview I’ve been meaning to get to. However, and especially when using headphones that weren’t up to par, I’ve found myself taking a break from listening not because I actually wanted to, but because my ears were starting to hurt me. We want you to find headphones that you’ll forget you’re wearing, so you can listen for as long as you like, and stop on your own terms.
It’s important to remember that comfort is somewhat subjective. One person might find one set of headphones to be incredibly comfortable, while another might be itching to take them off. I personally think that earbuds (or rather, good earbuds) are more comfortable than over-ears. You may disagree, but you also may find that keeping that in mind helps you find that perfect set of earbuds that you forget you’re wearing.
Criteria #4: Durability – Mostly because I’ve been too stingy to shell out for a decent pair of headphones, I’ve found my ear-wear constantly breaking on me in the past. Don’t be fooled by the price tag of those generic-brand headphones. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. As an audiophile, nothing – and I mean nothing – is worse than putting on your favorite playlist on your morning commute only to realize that the sound is only coming out of one side. We’re here to help you avoid that fate and find a pair of headphones that will last for the long-haul. A word of advice: If you absolutely need something that will last, spring for a pair of over-ears. They’ll go much farther than all but the best and most durable earbuds.
Criteria #5: Price – We’ve capped this list out at $200, but that’s still a lot of room to work with, and we don’t want you to spend all of that just for the sake of it. Headphones have a pretty wide price range, and you can easily find a pair for as little as $30. (Finding a good pair for that price will be a little harder.) Like everything, you get what you pay for, but we’ll help you find the best deals and sleeper picks so you can get top-dollar quality headphones under $200 without actually spending top dollar. The good thing about the wide range of prices is that everyone is able to work within their budget. Plus, it’s a little easier to find the deal of the century than it is when looking for, say, a smartphone.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Under-$200 Headphones
Using the criteria above, we tried to think about what you might be looking for when we determined the best cheap headphones. There is no one best answer, as one person might place comfort over durability, while another cares more about noise-canceling than overall sound quality. Your choice of headphones will also depend on what you listen to the most. But we tried our hardest to find the best headphones for everyone. So whether you’re a hardcore EDM fan who needs that pounding bass, a runner who just wants something practical to wear for that morning jog, a gamer looking to complete their gamer cave, or a recording artist looking for the perfect sound, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for.
Showing off the aforementioned wide price range in the earpiece market, the most expensive item on this list is about $160, and, at $60, the cheapest item on the list is a full $100 less. That’s not to mention how many products there are out there that go far over our $200 limit, and the generic earbuds that cost as little as $20 but aren’t worth buying. And with that, here are our five best headphones that cost less than $200.
#1: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 (Best Value – All-Purpose)
The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 take our number one spot on our list of headphones under $200. These versatile over-ear headphones can do it all. They have an amped-up full bass sound that manages to not drown out the high and mid-range notes so you can really appreciate your hip-hop and electronic dance music while still being able to listen to that new pop album or all your favorite singer-songwriter tracks.
This pair of Plantronics closed-back headphones also comes with an active noise-canceling switch so you get to decide exactly how available you want to be. Leave the noise-canceling off you need to be aware of your surroundings, and just flip the switch if you want to completely sink into your music (or game, or podcast).
The BackBeat Pro 2 headphones have a padded headband and padded ears for improved comfort, and physical media controls located under the ear shells so you won’t have to constantly fish your phone out of your pocket. They connect wirelessly via Bluetooth and have a long battery life of up to 30 hours. If the idea of having one extra device to charge doesn’t appeal to you, or you want to connect them to a device that doesn’t have Bluetooth, these headphones come with a removable wire so you can keep it old-school and just plug them in manually.
Pretty much the only downside of these headphones is that the battery takes a long time to charge, but this is more than counteracted by the amazing battery life and the fact that you can keep them wired if you so choose. Noise-canceling or no noise-canceling, bass or no bass, whatever you’re listening to, and whatever you’re looking for, the BackBeat Pro 2 have you covered. And for only $130, they’re our absolute best headphones for under $200.
#2: Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro (Best Sound Quality)
If you’re concerned with the best sound quality and only the best sound quality, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro are the only headphones for you. You won’t find better sounding headphones under $200. Even though the DT 990 Pro landed second on our list, there are a few reasons you might elect to buy them instead of the Plantronics headphones.
Reason #1 to Choose These Headphones: Sound Quality
The Byerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones are designed with an open-back style to prevent air from building up inside the ear cups. While this means there will be almost no noise-canceling effect, it also means the absolute best sound quality and the best listening experience imaginable. Open-ear headphones are designed to be used in controlled environments where you don’t need to worry about outside sound, so you’ll basically only be using these at home. But if you’re not looking for a pair of headphones to bring on the road, the Byerdynamic headphones are the perfect choice.
Reason #2 to Choose These Headphones: Comfort
Another huge advantage of the open-back design is comfort. The extra airflow helps your ears feel just a little less crushed, giving you maximum comfort so you can whistle while you work. Open-ear headphones are aimed at listeners who will be logging in hours of listening at a time, and they want you to be able to keep up.
Reason #3 to Choose These Headphones: Recording
Open-back headphones are the way to go for recording. The reason for this is that it’s assumed that, if you’re recording, you’re in an environment where you can make sure there’s no outside sound, so there shouldn’t be any outside noise ruining your sound quality. Whether you’re recording at home or in a studio, you’ll want only the best quality and a professional sound for your new jams. The DT 990 Pro will give you that sound.
The open-back design is what really separates these headphones from the others on our list, but that comes with pros and cons. If you want to listen to music on your way to work or school, these are not the headphones for you. The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 is a more well-rounded and universal pair of headphones, and they’re $30 cheaper than the $160 Beyerdynamic headphones. For those reasons, you should only go with the Beyerdynamic pair if you’re willing to sacrifice for that open-back level of quality. But if you are willing to sacrifice for that great sound, or if you spend a lot of time recording your own music, you’ve found what you’re looking for in the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro.
#3: Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero (Best Headphones for Gaming)
The reason it’s more difficult to make a great pair of headphones specifically designed for gaming is that video games typically have a very wide range of music and sound effects. A video game could have atmospheric sound effects such as the sound of rushing water, the rustle of leaves, and blowing wind, as well as more intense sounds like explosions and jet engines, as well as background music, and then there’s usually dialogue thrown into the mix on top of all that.
That’s a lot to ask from one pair of headphones, but the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero delivers. These headphones have great bass, mid, and treble, and the ear cups have volume controls so you can quickly adjust your settings while you play. But where these headphones really separate themselves, is with the Turtle Beach Control Studio Windows application that comes packaged with the headphones.
The Turtle Beach Control Studio lets you customize the audio output of your headphones, so you can control everything you hear and don’t hear. And I mean everything. You can control the treble and bass output, as well as the volume of dialogue to make sure you don’t miss any important plot points (or so you can tune out that annoying side character or teammate). You can also adjust the volume and settings of sounds effects like explosions or vehicles. The Turtle Beach headphones can do it all.
The Elite Atlas Aero costs about $150, so it falls into the same price range as the first two headphones on our list, but the Control Studio program can be a lot to deal with if you’re not going to be using the headphones for long gaming sessions. The headphones also come with a microphone that is perfect for co-op gaming (or yelling at that twelve-year-old who keeps beating you in Call of Duty), but it might feel a little clunky if you’ll be wearing them on the go. But for the gamers out there looking for the absolute sublime audio experience while you game, you simply can’t buy anything else except the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero.
#4: 1More Triple Driver (Best Low-Cost Headphones)
I usually don’t like to include earbuds in the conversation best headphones, because over-ear headphones almost always have better sound quality, but if you’re looking to save, you’re going to want to focus on earbuds. And with the 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphones, you won’t have to compromise for the decision to save.
The cheapest headphones on our list at $70, the 1More Triple Driver earbuds cost about $60 less than the next cheapest option in the BackBeat Pro 2. And on top of great audio, they have a useful physical remote on the wire, and the advantage of the old-school wired design is no worrying about battery life. While wireless earbuds are all the rage, there’s no need to break the bank on them when you can get the great sound of 1More Triple Driver instead.
Perhaps the best part about the 1More Triple Driver earbuds is that they’ll last. Their silicone covers are specifically designed to make sure these earbuds stay working and keep their sound quality. Especially once you’ve already made the decision to go with earbuds instead of over-ears, I know how tempting it is to cheap out completely and buy the cheapest pair on the shelf, but trust me when I say you don’t want to do that. Before you know it, you’re buying a pair of earbuds every time you make a trip to the grocery store. Save yourself the trouble and pay the extra $30. If you take good care of these earbuds, your pair of 1More Triple Driver earbuds may just be the last earbuds you ever buy, and you’ll never have to impulse-buy a pair at the airport ever again.
There’s almost not enough to say about these earbuds. They’re just a subtle set of headwear that gets the job done, and that will last, at a great cheap price. This is a list of headphones under $200, but why settle for under $200 when you can have under $100.
#5: AfterShokz Aeropex (Best Headphones for Running)
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When it comes to headphones for your morning jog, the design is key. Designed by a Grammy award-winning sound engineer, these wireless headphones give you the full range of audio in a more convenient size and shape than full-sized headphones. The Aeropex headphones also have a functional sport belt design that removes any fear that you might have of them falling out – a big concern while running with true wireless earbuds like the Apple Airpods.
What really sets these headphones apart as the absolute best for runners is their bone conduction audio system. Instead of delivering sound straight through your ear canals, the AfterShokz audio system delivers sound through your cheekbones. This means that you’ll remain completely aware of your surroundings during your run, but you’ll still enjoy top-notch audio quality. You’ll be able to hear the sounds around you, but they won’t drown out your music. Plus, they’re more comfortable. Sometimes less is more. and it’s nice to be able to run without something moving around inside your ear with your every step.
The Aeropex headphones are waterproof, so feel free to sweat up a storm. And on top of everything, they have a battery life that lasts eight hours – more than long enough for your jog unless you’re an ultra-marathon enthusiast – with the battery charging in an incredible two hours. Your headphones will be ready to go for another run long before you are.
I get the appeal of true-wireless buds, I really do. Besides that satisfying feeling of being a part of the hottest new trend, it could feel like a reasonable investment if you’re a runner. You want as few wires as possible. But the problem with true-wireless buds like the Apple Airpods is that there are more moving parts that you may not want to deal with. All of a sudden, that’s two different buds you need to keep track of as well as the charging case. Besides that, you run the risk of one or both of them falling out during your run – the reviews on how well they stay in are slightly mixed. I know I’m certainly careless enough to just misplace one of the buds in a friend’s apartment.
This is, of course, not to say that I think true-wireless buds (Airpods or otherwise) are a complete waste of money. But I do think they’re better for more casual settings. The Aeropex are much harder to misplace, and there’s zero chance of them falling off while you’re running.
These high-end running headphones cost about $160, which is around the same price as a pair of Airpods, but with a streamlined running experience tailored to all of you jogging junkies. With a good design, great audio, and solid battery life, the AfterShockz Aeropex are a great set of headphones even if you’re not a hardcore runner, and if you’re training for your next marathon, no other headphones will cut it.
On a Budget? Try These:
I could write forever about the overall quality of these headphones, but this list is for cheap headphones, and cheap might be all you’re worried about. If your top priority is saving, we’ve got you covered. This section will list the headphones we’ve discussed above focusing only on price, so you can make your decision as quickly as possible.
#1 Budget: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
Coming in at $130, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are the best deal on the market. The closed-back over-ear headphones have an optional wire, and can also be used wirelessly. When used wirelessly, the Pro 2 have a battery life of about 30 hours. On top of all of that, they have audio controls under the ear cups, a bass-heavy sound you can headbang to, and a switch for active noise-cancelation. You won’t find better headphones at this price.
#2 Budget: Audio-Technica ATH-M40X
It’s not so easy to find a pair of over-ears for less than $100, let alone a good pair of over-ears, and that’s what makes the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X so special. This pair of Audio-Technica headphones comes with a detachable wire and collapsable ear shell for a level of portability you won’t see in some of the more expensive over-ear headphones, so it’s a great step up from earbuds if you want that better sounds but also want the mobility that only earbuds allow.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M40X don’t give you the active noise cancellation, but they do have great overall sound and some solid boost to the bass. As our cheapest pair of over-ears on this list, they’re a steal and a must, if you’re looking for over-ears on a budget.
#3 Budget: 1More Triple Driver
The 1More Triple Driver earbuds are some of the best earbuds out there. Whether you’re looking at in-ear or over-ear, there isn’t another pair of good headphones available for around $60. They give you top-tier audio at a top-tier price, and they’re twice as durable as most earbuds on the market.
Should I Go with In-Ear Headphones or Over-Ear Headphones?
While over-ear headphones generally have better sound, there are a few reasons you might want to go with in-ear headphones if audio quality is not your top concern. The first is convenience: It can be annoying to have to carry around a bulky set of headphones all the time, or have to make room for one more item in your bag. In-ear buds can be carried around anywhere, and take up almost no space. They’re a better option if you commute or are trying to keep your vacation packing light. On top of this, you may find earbuds more comfortable (especially in the summer) and they tend to be cheaper than over-ear headphones.
That said, that extra boost in audio quality is a deal-breaker for a lot of the audiophiles reading this article. And it’s not just better sound you’re getting. The improved noise blocking of over-ears will help you get into the zone if you like to listen to music while you study or work. If you don’t mind lugging them around, or if you’ll mostly be using them at home, you’ll probably want to buy over-ears for your listening.
Verdict: Your Best Headphones, All under $200
You’ve gotten the full quality breakdown, the price breakdown, and all the information on earbuds vs over-ears, and now we’re going to talk about what it is you want. No matter what you buy, there’s going to be a certain give and take. Unfortunately, the perfect headphones don’t exist (yet). We hope that this final breakdown tells you exactly what you want so you can stop reading and start listening.
If you want the best value for money, pick the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2.
These bad boys have everything, and I’m honestly constantly amazed at how cheap they are. From the great audio quality that lets you hear all the bass and all the treble and everything in between, to the active noise-cancel switch, to the physical control interface underneath the ear cup, this set of closed-back ear candy is an absolute steal. The Plantronics BackBreat Pro 2 gives everything you can reasonably ask for.
If you need the best audio quality, pick the Beyerdyanmic DT 990 Pro.
As we’ve said before, the open-back design really separates the Beyerdynamic product from the rest of the pack. The extra airflow gives you great comfort and the best sound. Some open-back pieces can cost as much as $500, so if you’re a real snob about audio quality but also looking to save, you won’t want to pass on the chance to buy the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro.
If you want the best gaming experience, pick the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero.
A hardcore gamer needs a hardcore gaming experience, and that’s what the Elite Atlas Aero delivers. The design is comfortable enough for that all-nighter session, and it comes with a mic so you can easily yell at (er, talk to) your teammates and opponents. On top of that, they come with the amazing Turtle Beach Control Studio application which lets you adjust the settings on the Aero so that you can hear exactly what you want to hear, and only what you want to hear. The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero were designed for the hardcore gamer and for nobody else.
As we’ve mentioned above, it’s important to remember that the perfect audio-ware doesn’t exist, and you’re probably not going to fit squarely into the archetypical customer types we’ve discussed earlier. Whatever direction you decide to go in with your purchase, there’s going to be a compromise. You may be a gamer who wants comfortable and portable earbuds, or you may be a runner who wants the great quality of open-back over-ears. The decision is ultimately up to you, but we hope our breakdown makes that decision easier for you.