The Best Headphones Under $200 of 2019

By Michael Desjardin, TJ Donegan, Julia MacDougall, Brendan Nystedt, and Chris Thomas, December 27, 2018, Updated January 17, 2019

While some folks are looking to err on the side of thriftiness and buy headphones under $50, they'll lose out on special features, improved sound quality, and higher-end design and durability. If you're willing to spend a little extra, though, all of those possibilities open up to you.

We've taken our years of expertise and rigorous scientific testing to come up with our top picks when it comes to the best headphones that cost under $200. So, if you're willing to spend the extra cash without quite reaching the $400-$500 range of audiophile insanity, take a look at our list below.

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Updated January 17, 2019

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audiotechnica_msr7_hero Best Overall
Credit: Reviewed.com / Nick Schmiedicker

Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7

Product Image - Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7
  • Best of Year 2017

Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7

Best Overall

When headphones are able to balance form and function, we stand up and take notice. Audio-Technica’s ATH-MSR7 do just that by combining thick memory foam padding, an aluminum/magnesium housing, and rich, consumer-friendly sound to create a fantastic overall value. They’re cans that'll please audiophiles and average consumers alike—so long as they don’t mind spending a little to get that high quality.

At this price point, consumers expect to be wowed by the headphones' comfort, sound, and features; the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 headphones check all of the right boxes. Read the full review.

HyperX Cloud Best Gaming Headset
Credit: Reviewed.com / Kyle Looney

HyperX Cloud II

Product Image - HyperX Cloud II

HyperX Cloud II

Best Gaming Headset

HyperX's new and improved Cloud II headset replaces the original Cloud as our top pick. It's extremely comfortable and comes packaged with leatherette or velour earcups, an audio control box, and a detachable mic. The aluminum body is strong, and durable enough to last a good long while if you plan on taking your gaming on the go.

When it comes down to the audio performance, you'll need to be a little cautious. These things are explosively loud—if you're not careful they could destroy your ears. But once you've dialed in the correct volume, you're left with a headset that delivers every note and range of your game audio with beautifully detailed clarity.

I was constantly surprised by new sound effects I heard while playing Overwatch, a game I've logged well over 400 hours on. That's not to mention the detachable mic that—while not as clear and powerful as the Razer ManO'Wars—still left me impressed.

Apple AirPods hero Best Truly Wireless Earbuds
Credit: Reviewed / TJ Donegan

The Apple AirPods are the best true wireless earbuds we've tested in 2018.

Apple AirPods

Product Image - Apple AirPods
  • Editors' Choice

Apple AirPods

Best Truly Wireless Earbuds

If you’ve ever bought an iPod or an iPhone and used the iconic white earbuds that were included, you pretty much know what to expect when it comes to look, feel, and fit of Apple's AirPods.

What might surprise you, however, is just how much better the AirPods sound than their wired counterparts. The low-end is better represented (so bass-heavy tracks finally have a chance to shine on a pair of Apple headphones) and the stereo field sounds far more expansive than with Apple’s standard wired in-ears.

What we like most about the AirPods is how simple it is to manage them. Just pop open the dental floss-sized charging case and they automatically connect to your iPhone or MacBook (if you're running the latest update). When you’re done listening, slot them back into the case and they’ll magnetically slot into place and disconnect automatically—you don’t have to hold down any buttons. The pairing process is the standard Bluetooth headache on non-Apple devices, but you'll still benefit from great range and killer battery life.

They’re not perfect, however: The fit itself isn’t as tight and comfortable as some of the other earbuds we tested, the 'buds are not rated to be sweat-proof (though they have survived our workout tests just fine), and the tap controls and microphone quality are mostly hot garbage. (The fact that you still have to use Siri to control the volume when you can't reach your phone is insane.)

But if you’re used to the fit of Apple’s standard, wired earbuds, you’ll be happy with AirPods. They sound great, they're super convenient, and they run rings around the other true wireless earbuds we tested despite being relatively affordable. Add it up and these are the best true wireless earbuds you can buy right now.

Puro Hero 3 Best For Kids
Credit: Reviewed.com / TJ Donegan

The Puro BT2200 headphones look good, sound great, are durable, are well-designed, and have effective volume limits.

Puro Sound Labs BT2200 Kids Headphones

Product Image - Puro Sound Labs BT2200 Kids Headphones
  • Best of Year 2017

Where To Buy

$87.18 Amazon Buy

Puro Sound Labs BT2200 Kids Headphones

Best For Kids

If you're looking for a high-quality pair of volume-limited headphones, the Puro BT2200 is the way to go. Though they're the priciest of the pairs we looked at, that's because they have the best combination of comfort, build quality, and sound quality. They are a bit too big for a toddler, but they should fit school-age children and up quite well.

In our tests, the BT2200s played at about 82-84.6dB(a) when used wirelessly at full volume, with about 12 hours of battery life. And because they run off their own internal power when in Bluetooth mode, there's no risk of them being overpowered. When used wired with our standard source (an iPhone 7 Plus with the Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter), they topped out right at the 85dB(a) threshold, assuming you plug the volume-limiting cable in the right way.

Our one issue is that the cable can easily be plugged in the wrong way (I did, the first time). This pushed the max volume to 96-100dB(a) in our tests, which could cause damage. The cable does have "Headphones→" written on it so you know which end is which, but these should really be designed so the cable only plugs in the correct way.

How We Test

head_and_torso_simulator
Credit: Reviewed.com / Julia MacDougall

We test all of our headphones on a head and torso simulator (HATS), a model of a human being from the waist upwards that reproduces how we experience music when we listen to headphones.

On our head and torso simulator (HATS), we put these headphones through our usual battery of headphone tests: frequency response, distortion, tracking, leakage, and isolation.

Headphone manufacturers are typically aiming for either a flat or a curved sound profile. A curved profile is most common, and most curved profiles are trying to replicate the Equal Loudness Curve (ELC). The human ear hears higher tones more easily than it hears the bass tones, so for a human to perceive highs and lows at a similar volume, the headphones boost the volume of the lows, and moderate the volume of the highs.

A flat profile is usually found in "studio" headphones; the highs, mids, and bass tones have the same volume. However, as I just mentioned, we don't hear all tones at the same volume, so the bass notes sound softer, and the highs sound louder. Some people prefer studio headphones because of their audio fidelity—they are hearing the music exactly as the producers intended them to hear it. Also, as implied by the name, studio headphones are used in studio recordings to help mixers figure out what, if any frequencies, they should boost or reduce.

In addition to the more scientific testing, we also wear each pair of headphones around town to get a sense for their features (like extra amps or noise cancellation) and short- and long-term comfort.

In-ear vs. On-ear vs. Over-ear

You've probably seen a bunch of different headphones in your every day life, but what you may not realize is that headphones, while they have a number of different selling points, are primarily categorized into three types: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.

different_headphone_types
Credit: Reviewed

Three popular types of headphones: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.


Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Product Image - Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
  • Best of Year 2016

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Audio-Technica's reputation for building comfortable, high-fidelity headphones is well-deserved. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50X are high-grade studio headphones that allow you to hear your music exactly as it was intended to be heard, with little to no alteration to your sound. If you're transitioning from regular consumer headphones to studio headphones, you might find that the bass notes sound a little quieter than you're expecting, but that's a feature rather than a bug.

With multiple removable cable options and swiveling earcups, these headphones are both surprisingly durable and portable. While we experienced some heat/sweat build-up, that's pretty typical for larger over-ear headphones. If you're looking for studio-quality sound on a budget, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X are the cans for you. Read the full review.

1More E1001 Triple Driver

Product Image - 1More E1001 Triple Driver
  • Best of Year 2017

1More E1001 Triple Driver

The 1More Triple Driver in-ears have the looks and sound of earbuds that cost twice as much. They really make a point to emphasize the bass notes, which really help bring your music to life, whether it's rap music or classical music. If you're worried about durability, the cord is reinforced with nylon and kevlar, so you're not going to find them jumbled up in a big knot at the bottom of your bag (the included case will also help with that).

The fit can really make or break a pair of earbuds, so we were especially pleased with the ear-tip options with these headphones: 6 sets of silicon ear-tips, and 3 sets of memory-foam ear-tips. If you want to be able to jam with your music on the go, and look cool doing it, the 1More Triple Driver in-ears are the earbuds for you. Read the full review.

Plantronics Backbeat Sense

Product Image - Plantronics Backbeat Sense
  • Editors' Choice

Plantronics Backbeat Sense

If you love the portability of in-ear headphones, but want the something a little heftier that can stand up to every-day use, the Plantronics Backbeat Sense Wireless on-ear headphones are a great way to dip your toe into the on- and over-ear headphone pool. These wireless headphones are lightweight, cushy on your ears, and come with a sound profile that nicely balances both the bass tones and the higher notes.

With a battery life of 15-20 hours, and a recharge time of only ~2 hours, these are perfect to take on a long train or bus ride; you can spend quality time relaxing and enjoying the trip, rather than hunting around for a wall outlet. While we had some trouble consistently operating the touch controls, the rest of the experience is good enough that we'd still recommend these headphones to friends and family. Read the full review.

Decibullz Contour

Product Image - Decibullz Contour
  • Best of Year 2015

Decibullz Contour

Isolation, or the ability of a pair of headphones to block out the outside world in favor of the music coming through the headphones, is usually a hit or miss prospect with earbuds. Either the ear-tips fit perfectly, and you don't hear anything but your music, or they don't fit right, and the earbuds fall out when you so much as twitch your nose. Up until recently, the only guaranteed way to solve the fit problem, if you couldn't find ear-tips that worked for your ears, would be to spend upwards of $1,000 for custom ear molds. Not anymore!

Newcomer Decibullz has a much more affordable option in its debut headphones, the Contours. Instead of a visit to a professional, all you need is hot water and 15 minutes of your time. The result? Brightly-colored, custom-molded ear-tips that stop unwanted interference in its tracks, and can be re-molded multiple times. In addition to potentially being the solution to your earbud fitting woes, the Decibullz Contours have a neat carrying case, and provide a lot of bass for such a small pair of earbuds. Read the full review.

JLab Audio Omni

Product Image - JLab Audio Omni
  • Best of Year 2015

JLab Audio Omni

JLab Audio has a history of bringing premium features down into a more affordable price range, and that's exactly what they've done with the Omni Bluetooth headphones. These over-ear headphones can be used both wired and wirelessly; for the latter case, they have a battery life of about ~15 hours, which is nothing to sneeze at. They sound like most consumer headphones do (rather than studio headphones); they emphasize the bass notes so that they're not totally overtaken by vocals or instrumentals with higher tones.

While the Omni do fold up, they're not especially portable. Whether they're in or out of the included travel case, they're pretty bulky. It's probably best that you leave these in one place, rather than dragging them all around town with you, as they'll take up valuable real estate in your suitcase or your laptop bag. For the price, though, the JLab Omni give you both wireless and wired functionality that makes them a real steal. Read the full review.

JLab Audio Flex Bluetooth Active Noise Canceling

Product Image - JLab Audio Flex Bluetooth Active Noise Canceling
  • Editors' Choice

JLab Audio Flex Bluetooth Active Noise Canceling

JLab Audio is a relatively new player in the headphones game, but they really impressed us with the JLab Audio Flex ANC Wireless. The flat sound profile will please audiophiles who want true music fidelity. The active noise cancellation on these headphones is unreal. When turned on, it sounds like all of the noise has been sucked out of the room. Walking on a quiet street with the ANC on feels like floating in outer space, for the amount of ambient noise that reaches your ears. A 30-hour battery life is great for both long days of travel and shorter, more casual use throughout the week.

The headphones themselves are very comfortable, but are a bit heavier than the Bose QC35, and have an angled cushion at the top of the headband that tends to dig into the top of your skull after a few hours. Additionally, there have been reports of design flaws in the ear pads, which tear and break off easily. When they unfold, the cups snap out crisply, so be sure to watch your fingers so they don't get pinched. The Flex ANC Wireless are relatively inexpensive for a quality pair of noise-cancelling wireless headphones; at this price, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Product Image - Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

We really liked the previous Plantronics Backbeat Pro, so it's probably not surprising that the next edition gets a big thumbs up as well. Like the QC35 and the Flex ANC, the Backbeat Pro 2 also has active noise cancellation (ANC), but it's less robust than the ANC on those headphones. It minimizes lower-pitched train rumbling, but other sounds are still audible. To some extent, this effect is intentional, since the Backbeat Pro 2 boasts an open-back setting that allows you to easily hear ambient noise, in addition to your tunes.

Another unusual feature is sensors that detect when the headphones are being worn, and when they've been taken off. In the latter case, the headphones "auto-pause", and turn back on once the headphones have been returned to your head. Some users were unlucky, however, and had defective units that would auto-pause when the headphones were still on their heads. The Backbeat Pro 2 are ridiculously comfortable; we had no issues with them after hours of use. If you like comfy headphones, a 24-hour battery life, tech-y features, and have some extra cash on hand, then these are the cans for you.

V-Moda Crossfade LP-2

Product Image - V-Moda Crossfade LP-2
  • Best of Year 2012

V-Moda Crossfade LP-2

If you need over-ear headphones that can deal with punishing conditions or rigorous use, and still provide you with great sound, then the V-Moda Crossfade LP-2 are a great contender. Like most V-Moda headphones, they have the signature steel frame, metal ear plates, and kevlar-reinforced cable. They also boost the bass notes somewhat at the expense of the higher tones, so they'll hit all the right notes if you prefer bass-heavy music genres, but might leave you feeling cold if you prefer a clear treble over a solid bass.

Included with the headphones are a removable cable and a sturdy carrying case. While the pads fully cover your ears, the headband tends to squish your head after a couple hours, so you might not be able to wear them all day. If your biggest concern when it comes to headphones is durability, the bass-friendly V-Moda Crossfade LP-2 can take whatever damage you dish out on a day-to-day basis. Read the full review.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9

Product Image - Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9
  • Editors' Choice

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9

Usually, active noise cancellation (ANC) headphones have difficulty maintaining high audio quality, since, to some extent, your music has to compete with the noise-cancellation algorithm. At this price point, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9 headphones did a surprisingly good job at that maintaining that balance. The bass notes are definitely boosted, but not at the expense of the higher notes; you should be able to hear both. However, when the ANC is activated, you may notice that all of the tones sound a bit muted.

On the other hand, the active noise cancellation does a really solid job of blocking out the lower frequency tones, which will be really helpful when you don't want to hear trains rumbling or planes humming while you're in transit. If you're curious about ANC, these are a good pair to try out; they'll give you a taste of active noise cancellation without breaking the bank. Read the full review.

JLab Audio Epic Sport Wireless

Product Image - JLab Audio Epic Sport Wireless
  • Editors' Choice

JLab Audio Epic Sport Wireless

The JLab Audio Epic Sport earbuds are billed as an "upgrade" to the popular JLab Audio Epic2 Bluetooth Wireless headphones, despite typically selling for about the same price.

The Epic Sport comes with JLab's signature bendable earhooks, multiple eartip sizes, and three types of cush fins to help the buds stay in place. The inline controls consist of a streamlined remote with three buttons.

The audio can still sound a bit tinny and lacking in bass, especially if the fit isn't perfect, but JLab Audio has really gone the extra mile by building in three "sound profiles": one that augments vocals and bass, one that has a flat profile with no extra enhancements (best for those looking for studio-like audio), and one that boosts the bass notes.

With an IP66 rating (able to withstand both dust and "powerful water jets"), the Epic Sport should be able to withstand rigorous workouts. Another high point is the relatively long battery life which, in our experience, clocks in at over 12 hours. The skinny wires may make it easy to break the headphones, so be sure to pack up these earbuds in their case when not in use.

Overall, we were impressed by the JLab Audio Epic Sport earbuds—especially their ability to connect from the first floor to a phone on the second floor. A few customers didn't appreciate the proprietary charging cable (which cradles the remote and isn't merely a micro USB to USB cable), but we think that the Epic Sport is a solid choice whether you're walking in the woods or cranking through reps at the gym.

Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless

Product Image - Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless

Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless

A relative newcomer to the audio game, Decibullz made its mark with affordable earbuds you could custom mold with just a microwave and a cup of water—a process that usually required hundreds of dollars and a trip to an audiologist. We loved the company's first model, the Decibullz Contours, when they first debuted, and it's great to see the startup tackle the burgeoning wireless game.

The Contour Wireless feature the same thermoplastic custom molds, but with a wireless 'bud. That means you’ll get a fit that’s unique to you and affords top-quality sound isolation—perfect for losing yourself to the music. However, there are some downsides. The cable was a bit too long—often getting snatched on shirts or in hair—and the battery life was an anemic 4-5 hours per charge.

The Decibullz also have an additional inline box that houses the Bluetooth hardware; some users appreciate the symmetry and balance of this box to counter the weight of the inline remote, and others prefer to just have the inline remote.

Jlab Audio Fit 2.0 Sport Earbuds

Product Image - Jlab Audio Fit 2.0 Sport Earbuds
  • Best of Year 2017

Jlab Audio Fit 2.0 Sport Earbuds

JLab Audio has made a splash in recent years with both their wireless and wired headphone options; the JLab Audio Fit 2.0 are a great, cheap way to be introduced to the brand. They have an IPX4 rating, which means that they are rated to survive being splashed with water (and presumably, sweat). In fact, the directions advice you to actually rinse the earbuds off after an intense workout.

Because these earbuds are meant to be used outside or in the midst of an intense workout, it's not surprising that they emphasize the bass notes much more than the high notes; those lower notes are much more difficult to hear when you're pounding pavement outside. Even better, these earbuds are great at both isolation (blocking out ambient noise) and leakage (preventing your music from disturbing your neighbors). For a pair of cheap headphones that can survive a tough session at the gym, look no further than the JLab Audio Fit 2.0.

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