Please note: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.
Shopping for headphones can be confusing, and if you’re not careful, it can also get very expensive. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of options for outstanding headphones that cost less than $200. It all just depends on what you need or want from them. Below are several budget friendly options, with a top overall pick that gives you the best experience, with selections for audiophiles and iPhone users alike.
Things to Consider
Connectivity: Most modern smartphones lack a headphone jack, limiting your options to a pair of wireless headphones. When looking for wireless headphones, look at the spec sheet for the supported Bluetooth version. Ideally, your headphones will have something that’s Bluetooth 5 or higher, which is going to provide more resilient connectivity, longer battery life and range.
Battery life: You have to consider battery life when thinking about the wireless headphone experience. We all have too many devices and gadgets we have to remember to keep charged already. So when adding yet another device to that list, analyze how you plan on using the headphones (When traveling? At home? In a coffee shop?) and pick something that’s going to provide enough battery life for a few days or even a week of use.
Design: There are two main types of headphones, over-ear and on-ear. Over-ear headphones are designed to completely cover your ears, creating a seal around your ear and blocking out unwanted noise while also trapping sound inside the ear cup. On-ear headphones have cups designed to sit on top of your ears and are often smaller and lighter in overall design and let in more ambient sound. The difference in design comes down to personal preference and what you find more comfortable. I like over-ear headphones for the improved sound quality and comfort level.
Advanced features: Most wireless headphone makers have some sort of companion app for your smartphone that you can use to change settings, install firmware updates and customize the overall experience. Sony’s headphones, for instance, use your location to automatically switch between listening modes (ANC or ambient) based on your fine-tuned settings. Some headphones makers also allow you to enable things like Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa.
Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless
Anker’s Soundcore Space Q45 wireless headphones don’t have the best sound quality or even the best noise cancellation, but the combination of all the features built into the Q45s and their respective performance across all major categories earn them a top nod. With the Q45s you get 50 hours of battery life, adaptive noise canceling, ambient sound support, a comfortable pair of headphones, a companion app full of additional features and best of all, they sound great.
Best for Gaming
Razer BlackShark V2 Pro
Razer just released an update to its BlackShark V2 Pro gaming headphones. The headphones now boast 70 hours of battery life on a single charge, or if you’re running low you can get six hours of playtime off just 15 minutes of charging. They’re compatible with all gaming consoles, PC and even connect to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth for listening to music. The headphones come with pre-tuned profiles for top FPS game titles like “Call of Duty,” “Apex Legends” and “Fortnite.” The included wideband mic is detachable, but when it’s connected your squad, you will hear crisp and clear audio.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xs are well received by audio enthusiasts and casual listeners alike. They’re well-designed and comfortable to wear for long listening sessions. Because they’re wired, you don’t have to worry about battery life or any of the more advanced features of some of the headphones on this list. Plug them in, press play and enjoy the clear sound. They collapse down for portability and include three different-length detachable cables in the box.
Best for Audiophiles
Massdrop X Sennheiser HD 6XX Headphones
The Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX wired headphones look freaking cool and reviews all say they offer great sound quality (although they lack some bass). The open-back design allows for background and ambient noise to get through, so don’t expect to take the HD 6XXs to the coffee shop and drown out the espresso machine. But the same design also provides a more life-like listening experience. Instead, the 6XXs are best suited for listening to your favorite tunes while working at home or in a quiet office.
Sony’s headphones are always a top contender when it comes to their noise canceling prowess, and for less than $200, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pair of wireless ANC headphones than the Sony WH-CH720Ns. Sony packed 35 hours of battery life into over-ear cups, along with an adjustable ambient sound mode to let in background noise (helpful when commuting) and adaptive sound control. Using the companion app, you can enable and then trigger Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant using nothing but your voice.
Skullcandy Hesh ANC
The black version of Skullcandy’s Hesh ANC headphones is currently less than $90 (the white model is nearly $120), but don’t let the low-ish cost fool you. These headphones deliver acceptable active noise cancellation, and they sound good. With 22 hours of total battery life, you’ll get in plenty of listening time on a single charge. To be clear, these headphones aren’t going to blow you away in any category, but at sub-$90, they’ll get the job done without issue.
Best for iPhone
Beats Solo3 Wireless
The Beats Solo3 Wireless has 40 hours of battery life, comes in some fun colors and uses the same Apple W1 chip that’s used in Apple’s AirPods line. That means you get all of the same features like quick pairing with all of your Apple devices, easy device switching and built-in Siri for commands and hearing your notifications. As is often the case with Beats headphones, the Solo3’s are bass-heavy; some people like that, some don’t, but it’s worth mentioning.
We've put in the work researching, reviewing and rounding up all the shirts, jackets, shoes and accessories you'll need this season, whether it's for yourself or for gifting purposes. Sign up here for weekly style inspo direct to your inbox.