Headphones can be a real headache to shop for when you’re on a budget. You need to strike that perfect balance between spending what you can afford and finding a pair of headphones that either won’t fall apart immediately, or don’t sound awful. We’ve compiled our five favorite headphones for under $200 that we’re sure you’ll be able to purchase and enjoy!
1. Editor’s Pick: Monoprice M565
Let’s get this out of the right up front – the Monoprice M565 look awesome. These open-back headphones feature wooden surrounds on the earcups, as well as detachable ear pads made of faux leather and a padded headband for extended listening sessions. Between their airy open backs and their 66mm planar driver, the Monoprice M565 give listeners a wide, open soundstage to truly enjoy their listening experience.
The Wire Cutter says they’d choose the Monoprice M565 over the more expensive Monoprice M1060, saying “the sound of this relatively small planar magnetic headphone beat out the more expensive M1060” and picking the M565 overall. SoundGuys calls the Monoprice M565 “a great ‘starter set’ to get into the world of higher-end audio,” adding customers who might not be interested in hi-fi audio will still love the sound.
AVS Forum reviewer Evan Cramer praises the headphones, both open and closed back, saying “Whether you’re looking for a headphone to get you through while you work on a much larger budget, or you’re aiming to find a pleasant set of headphones around $200 to live with permanently, I think you will find yourself eager to re-discover old favorites with the Monoprice Monolith M565 open or closed back headphones.”
2. Sony MDR-1A
The Sony MDR-1A employs a frequency range extending up to 100 kHz, giving them the ability to cleanly reproduce high-res audio with ease, and sound great doing so with their closed-back, over ear design. The Sony MDR-1A are wired headphones, though with their adjustable headband and folding earcups, they still maintain a very easy-to-travel-with quality. The headphones also include an in-line remote and microphone, both of which are compatible with Android and Apple devices.
AVS Forum user Jon S says the Sony MDR-1A showcases the company’s expertise, adding the headphones “offered very satisfying audio quality, with a nice, open soundstage and very good dynamic range.” CNET says the Sony MDR-1A “does a good job balancing clarity with just enough of laid-backness to make it a very versatile headphone,” while What HiFi cites specific examples when discussing the headphones’ quality. “These headphones can shift from the speedy, attacking beat of Jessie J’s Bang Bang, to the slower, more measured and moody rhymes of The Weeknd’s Wicked Games without any hesitation.”
The Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 aren’t exactly closed-back over-ear headphones, as they feature three small vents on each ear cup to present a more open sound with better air flow. To add to the headphones’ attention to comfort and long-term usability, they also feature a highly flexible swivel design to best move along with you. The Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 feature 45 mm True Motion Drivers with lightweight coils and custom-mounted printed circuit board.
The Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 offers great detailing of your music, as CNET points out they’re “a great-sounding headphone with the one caveat that it offers such impressive detail that it not only brings out the best in recordings but also the worst.” Trusted Reviews says the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 “quite simply outdoes what you get from the bigger names” while pointing out they’re potentially even a little underpriced. Much like Trusted Reviews, Sound Vision Review similarly says the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 are some of the best at their pricepoint, and they have “a nicely balanced sound and it offers a surprising amount of detail and resolution.”
4. Budget Option: Sony MDR-7506
The Sony MDR-7506 are considered an industry standard, and have stood the test of time since 1991. The headphones present a comfortable fit, comfortable ear pads, and a hefty cable that, while not detachable, is sturdy enough for long-term usage. If you’re looking for a pair of headphones that are going to last you a while and come far short f breaking the bank, then you’re going to want the Sony MDR-7506.
Considering their standing as a go-to for studio engineering, Sound Guys simply says “there’s a reason these are a standard when it comes to audio production and mixing.” Medium writer Alex Rowe points out the straightforwardness of the Sony MDR-7506, saying while they’re not loaded with features, “you simply can’t beat them on value” and in terms of sound. CNET praises the all-around quality of the Sony MDR-7506, saying they “click with all music genres and are comfortable to wear for hours at a time.”
5. V-Moda XS
Like the other headphones on this list, the V-Moda XS are comfortable and sound great. The headphones also benefit from a passive noise isolation, thanks to their design, as well as a detachable cable that allows for you to use other cables with features like an in-line microphone. The V-Moda XS come with a form-fitting case for easy portability, as well as a clib, should you be more comfortable simply attaching them to the side of your bag instead.
If you’re looking for sturdiness, look no further than the V-Moda XS. According to Sound Guys, the headphones offer “military grade build quality, dual inputs, and portability” alongside neutral sound. TechRadar elaborates a little more, discussing the headphones’ “neutral presentation and slight warmth, which means all kinds of music sounds good over long listening sessions.” CNET calls the V-Moda XS a rare breed of lower pricing and excellent quality, saying they’re “very well built, relatively comfortable to wear, and offers strong performance for a headphone in the $150-$200 price range.”
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