Over-Ear headphones, also known as circumaural headphones, come at a range of price points. From cheap $20 budget models to high-end designs costing upwards of thousands. But for those of you seeking a middle ground, for under $200 you can still experience fantastic quality sound, as well as a range of additional features without breaking the bank.
To help you find the most premium headphones in your price range, we have put together a list of the best over-ear headphones under $200. Alongside our recommendations, we will take the guesswork out of your next headphone purchase by talking you through which features to look for to find the best pair for you.
When searching for a pair of over-ear headphones under $200, the best place to start is to decide what ear cup design works best for your listening needs. When choosing between open and closed-back headphones you want to take into consideration the following two questions:
- What you will be using them for? – Are they for work, music, or gaming for example?
- Where you will be listening to your audio? – At home, while commuting, while exercising?
To further explain let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of each design and how these may impact your final choice.
Advantages of Closed-Back Headphones
Closed-back headphones, for the non-audiophiles among you, are what you probably think of when picturing headphones in your mind. They completely enclose the ear within the ear cup, and the back is made of a solid material that stops air from passing in and out of the headset.
Less Sound Leakage
As the ear cup is completely closed, it creates a seal that helps to prevent sound from leaking out of your headset and disturbing those around you. This makes them a great option for casual use either at home or outside of the house.
As you can see from the above diagrams, open-backed headphones, due to their design, allow more sound to leak out of the ear-cup as there is no complete seal to keep the sound in. You may wish to take this into consideration if you require quite versatile use of your headphones.
Better Noise Isolation
This same seal from the ear cup around the ear also helps to isolate you from any high-frequency ambient noise that may impact your listening. If you work in a busy office, commute on a loud train or want to block out noises on a crowded airplane during travel, closed-cup headphones provide passive noise cancellation that open-backed headphones cannot match.
Although the lack of airflow limits soundwaves from passing in and out of your headphones, it can lead to pressure build-up within the earcups. In well-made headphones the effects may be almost inaudible, however, those of you with keen ears may pick up on the low levels of distortion that this can lead to.
Advantages of Open-Backed Headphones
Open-backed headphones are less common on the high street but are highly regarded by audiophiles and critical listeners alike. Unlike closed-back headphones, the back of the earcup is perforated rather than solid. However, this design is not for aesthetics and actually impacts the quality of your audio.
The soundstage your headphones deliver refers to how spacious the audio is that you hear. A wider soundstage will create more realistic acoustics that enables you to perceive what direction the sound is coming from.
Thanks to their open-backed design, headphones built this way allow air to pass in and out of the ear cup. This does lead to some level of sound leakage, but by allowing for acoustical interaction between your audio and environment, along with low levels of ambient noise, the sound that is delivered is much more realistic than closed-back headphones.
If you are tired of your ears becoming hot and uncomfortable when listening through traditional closed-back headphones for extended periods of time, open-backed headphones could be your solution.
Thanks to the air passing through the grills in the earcups, they not only improve the sound quality but make for a more comfortable experience. This will allow you to get lost in your audio for hours without the worry of sweat build-up, which is a common problem for closed-back designs.
Features to consider when purchasing Over-Ear Headphones
Aside from the design of the earcups, there are a few other features that you may wish to take into consideration before making your purchase.
Active Noise Cancellation
We have already mentioned passive noise cancellation or the noise isolation provided by the architecture of the headphones, however active noise cancellation takes this to a different level. Headphones designed with this feature are built with tiny microphones on the exterior of the headphone. These microphones are used to reproduce an identical sound wave matching the ambient noises around you with an exact half-wavelength delay.
As you can see from the image above, the delayed output from the microphones aligns the peaks and troughs of the wavelengths, making them what’s known as “out of phase”. This allows them to subtract from each other, much like if you were to try and add one and then subtract one, you would be left with zero. Thus, the output of the microphone cancels out the sounds around you.
If you want to be free from the distractive sounds going on around you, then your best choice of headphones will feature active noise cancellation.
check out noise cancellation headphones
Connectivity – Wired vs Wireless Headphones
With the advancement in Bluetooth technology, wireless headphones have been taking the market by storm. But that does not mean that wired headphones do not still have their place in the audio world. To help you know which is right for you, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.
Pros and Cons of Wired Headphones
Wired headphones have been around since way back in 1910 and it’s that longstanding dependability that makes them still a popular choice today. As they are cheaper to manufacture there are many more budget options available for wired headphones on the market, which is great if you are looking to spend under $200.
The best audiophile headphones are almost always wired, so if you want approved sound quality you are on the right track. The analog signal input of wired headphones can handle much more data than Bluetooth, offering higher resolution sound quality.
Another bonus is that the vast majority of wired headphones, aside from some with active noise canceling features, do not depend on batteries. However, that same cable that frees you from charging is also the design’s biggest problem. It can limit your freedom of movement, particularly when exercising or traveling, and tangled wires can cause repeated frustration.
Pros and Cons of Wireless Headphones
Wireless headphones have risen to popularity now that most devices come with Bluetooth as standard. The availability of plug-in receivers like these also means you can still connect to your old turntable or HiFi system without needing a second pair of headphones to accommodate your needs.
The freedom of movement is possibly wireless headphones’ biggest selling point. No longer tethered to your device with a physical cable, most Bluetooth headsets will deliver around a 30ft wireless range. Meaning you can listen during your morning run in complete comfort, game without sitting too close to your screen or just get up for a snack without missing any of your favorite music.
Although Bluetooth is not capable of handling as much data as an analog connection, the difference in sound quality is hard to differentiate for the average listener. If you are a musician, DJ or avid audiophile using data-loaded lossless files, a wired connection may be preferential. However, if you are streaming through your favorite music app this may not be an issue for you.
Review of the Best Over-Ear Headphones Under $200
Now you have an idea of what you need from your over-ear headphones, let’s take a look at our recommendations for the best circumaural headphones under $200.
1. Best Overall Headphones Under $200 – Audio-Technica ATHM50XBT
Audio-Technica has created a wireless headphone that delivers the same sonic performance as their original wired predecessor, to give you critically acclaimed sound even while on the go. When listening in loud environments, like on your way to work, the over-ear closed-cup design provides great levels of passive noise isolation.
The battery life lasts for an impressive 40 hours of undisrupted listening, allowing you to sink into the clear highs, midranges, and deep bass responses without worrying about your battery life. And boasting professional-grade earpads and a collapsable design, they remain comfortable for hours but are easy to store when you are finished.
The 45mm dynamic drivers deliver powerful sound not unlike high-end monitor headphones several times the price, This provides smooth deliverance of vocals as well as clear reproduction of your favorite music tracks. But with a built-in microphone and helpful voice assist you can effortlessly switch between activities at the touch of a button.
- Wireless Bluetooth connection
- The closed-back design provides good passive noise isolation
- 40 hours battery life
- Professional-grade earpads
- Great bass and clear vocals
- Built-in mic and voice assist
- No active noise isolation
- Ears can become hot after extended wear
2. Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $200 – Sony WHXB900N
If you are looking for a versatile pair of closed back headphones, the Sony WHXB900N wireless noise-canceling headphones are packed with impressive features. Thanks to their Bluetooth connection they are fantastic for on-the-go listening and with a battery life of up to 30 hours you do not have to worry about frequent charging.
The WHXB900N block out background noise with Sony’s digital noise cancellation technology, so you can appreciate crystal clear audio wherever you may be. You can also enhance your music even further by using the EXTRA BASS feature that intensifies low-end frequencies with just the touch of a button.
Although closed-cup designs can become hot after extended wear, reviewers have found this set to be extremely comfortable. In fact, you do not even need to remove them to have a quick conversation, with quick attention mode you can simply place your hand on the right ear cup and noise cancellation will be deactivated and your volume turned down in one motion.
- Bluetooth connection for wireless listening
- Digital noise cancellation
- EXTRA BASS feature to enhance low frequencies
- Comfortable design
- Quick attention mode for easy communication
- Bluetooth connection not as strong as analog
- Closed-backs can make ears hot
3. Best Open-Backed Headphones Under $200 – Sennheiser HD 560 S
Sennheiser has been a major player in the audio world for 75 years. A favorite brand among audiophiles and for good reason, they consistently innovate to bring consumers the best sound. The Sennheiser HD 560S can produce lifelike audio thanks to the vented earcups creating a beautifully spacious soundstage.
The drivers are angled in such a way to deliver Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement, which recreates the optimum setup you would find in HiFi loudspeaker setups or even recording studios. This creates an immersive audio experience in which you can appreciate the entire frequency range in hi-resolution.
They come with a detachable cable with a 6.3mm plug and a 3.5mm adapter allowing you to appreciate the clear highs and satisfying bass responses through a variety of devices. Thanks to the lightweight adjustable headband and soft, padded earcups your listening is not limited by discomfort, so you can get lost in your music for as long as you please.
- Spacious soundstage for lifelike audio
- Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement driver set up
- Detachable 6.3mm cable with 3.5mm adapter
- Clear highs and satisfying bass
- Lightweight headband
- Limited passive noise isolation
- Increased sound leakage
4. Best Audiophile Headphones Under $200 – HIFIMAN HE400SE
If you are an audiophile searching for the best circumaural headphones under $200 you may be surprised to discover a set with planar magnetic drivers within budget. For those of you unfamiliar with driver types, planar headphones are built with conductive layers covering almost the entire diaphragm to create movement, unlike dynamic drivers that use metal coils instead. The flat design of planar magnetic headphones results in significantly less audio distortion.
The HIFIMAN HE400SE equipped with these high-quality drivers also delivers a superior soundstage with its open-backed design. The acoustical response is fantastic and combined these two features provide a level of realism allowing you to hear every nuance in the tone of your music.
They come with a wired 3.5mm cable, along with a 6.35mm adapter allowing you the freedom to use with a range of devices. The high sensitivity of the headphones allows for easy use with low-voltage audio sources, taking away the need for an additional amplifier as with other more expensive planar headphones. As well as this the lightweight headband and constant airflow enables you to critically listen in comfort for hours without annoying sweat build-up.
- Planar magnetic drivers
- Open-backed design for a wider soundstage
- 3.5mm cable with 6.35mm adapter
- High sensitivity – no need for additional amplifier
- Lightweight and comfortable to wear
- Cable restricts movement
- Increased sound leakage and less noise isolation
5. Best Noise Cancellation Headphones Under $200 – SENNHEISER HD 450BT
Another entry from Sennheiser, the HD 450BT closed-back headphones come equipped with their highly rated active noise cancellation. Providing excellent levels of background noise isolation, this wireless headset is perfect for listening on the go. Hear every note of your music or every word of your podcast even when surrounded by heavy traffic, you never have to miss a thing.
The sound that is delivered is also of the remarkable quality that Sennheiser is well known for. The Bluetooth connection is both strong and stable with wireless codec support including AptX low latency, so you can enjoy seamless movies while you fly with no delay in your audio. With a 30-hour battery life to last the whole flight, you can sit back and block out the engine sounds until you reach your destination.
With the Sennheiser Smart Control App, you can also personalize your sound with various modes that tailor the sound to your listening needs. As well as perfectly adjusting the bass, midrange and treble responses for any genre of music, you can also optimize speech in audiobooks. When you are done listening, simply fold them up and pack them away until next time.
- Highly rated active and passive noise cancellation
- Wireless Bluetooth Connection
- AptX low latency technology to eliminate audio delay
- 30-hour battery life
- Sennheiser Smart Control App
- Foldable design for easy storage
- Can cause ears to become hot over time
- Smaller sound stage
6. Most Comfortable Headphones Under $200 – Beyerdynamic DT 990 Edition
If you want incredible sound quality, coupled with the best comfort in over-ear headphone design, then take a look at the Beyerdynamic DT990 Editions. With a design that has remained popular since the 1980s, the headphones are a reliable choice for any music lover. With identical sound production as the DT 990 Pro, the only difference is the softly padded headband produced for optimal home listening comfort.
The open backs provide ventilation for the ears, but more than that they provide a much more expansive soundstage for your audio. Thanks to the subtle ambient noise that passes through ear cups, coupled with the enhanced acoustical response, you may forget you are wearing headphones at all with a sound that could be mistaken for your loudspeakers.
The headband is also flexible, and the earpads are smooth to the skin with their breathable velour finish. Simply plugin and play with this wired headset and enjoy the wide frequency response as it delivers your audio with exceptional detail and clarity. Hear every nuance in your music, and sit back and relax as you listen to exactly what the musician intended you to hear in optimum comfort.
- Softly padded flexible headband
- Ventilated open-backed design
- Enhanced acoustical response
- Soft breathable velour earpads
- Wired connection with 3.5mm jack and 6.35mm adapter
- Wide soundstage
- Not optimal for on-the-go listening
- Higher levels of noise leakage
7. Best Wireless Headphones Under $200 – Skullcandy Crusher Evo
The Skullcandy Crusher Evo’s are a clever pair of wireless closed-back headphones with a fantastic range of features to ensure convenience, as well as phenomenal sound quality. Hosting a whopping 40 hours battery and the ability to fast charge an extra 4 hours play in just 10 minutes, allowing you to listen without the restrictions of wires for as long as you please.
The sound you receive can be completely personalized to your own hearing through the Skullcandy App. Simply take a short hearing test to create a Personal Sound Profile that is then stored in your headphones, delivering the optimum sound for your hearing needs. Enhance your music further with the Crusher bass adjuster, allowing you to experience as much or as little bass as you prefer while you listen.
If you love the convenience of wireless headphones, but often misplace them as many of us do then worry no more with the built-in Tile finding technology. Just ring your headphones via the Tile App and follow the noise until you are reunited once more. When you are ready to pop them away safely simply fold them down into their compact size ready to be placed somewhere memorable!
- 40 hours battery life
- 10-minute fast charge for 4 hours playback
- Skullcandy App creates your Personal Sound Profile
- Crusher bass adjuster for optimum deliverance
- Tile Finder technology to find misplaced headphones
- Smaller soundstage
- Closed-back design can lead to heat build-up
To Wrap Up
As you can see, a budget of under $200 does not mean you cannot still enjoy fantastic audio, along with some great additional features. Here is a quick summary once more of the best over-ear headphones under $200 on the market today.
- Best Overall Headphones Under $200 – Audio-Technica ATHM50XBT
- Best Closed-Back Headphones Under $200 – Sony WHXB900N
- Best Open-Backed Headphones Under $200 – Sennheiser HD 560 S
- Best Audiophile Headphones Under $200 – HIFIMAN HE400SE
- Best Noise Cancellation Headphones Under $200 – SENNHEISER HD 450BT
- Most Comfortable Headphones Under $200 – Beyerdynamic DT 990 Edition
- Best Wireless Headphones Under $200 – Skullcandy Crusher Evo
We hope our advice and recommendations will help you to find the best circumaural headphones for your needs. Remember to think about what your main use will be for your headphones, as well as where you will be wearing them. This will enable you to choose a pair with optimum sound quality, noise cancellation, connection capabilities, and comfort.