The best headphones and earbuds under 200 dollars is probably our favorite price category. That’s because as you approach $200 you’ll be getting the best sound to cost ratio possible without breaking into the top of the line audiophile market. If you’re looking to break the bank, we review some of the pricer top tier headphones in our roundup of best DJ headphones. But if paying $800 or more for headphones and earbuds isn’t in your budget, this list will get you similar sound quality without the price tag.
1. The Best Low Cost Wireless Earbuds Under 200 Dollars: Mifo O5 Plus Bluetooth 5 – $109.99 at Mifo.us
Huge sound, beautiful design, and ultra-functional features. That’s how we describe the Mifo: new entrants for 2020. Comprised of a machined aluminum charging case with portable battery included and two small but mights independent earbuds, MIF0 spares no expense. The included software features allow for automatic pairing and simple touch actions that are responsive and true.
So what’s with this newcomer topping out the charts?
- Huge sound in a tiny package. The first thing we noticed about the Mifo true wireless earbuds is their loud yet precise sound. When you create products this small, it’s hard to maintain quality, loudness, and overall depth achieved easily with larger over ear headphones. Happily, Mifo seems to have solved this with clear, loud, and bass rich sound that we have not seen matched by anybody else in the category – let alone the under $200 price point.
- Flawless connectivity and use. When it comes to earbuds, the devil is often in the details. Mifo adds technology and simple design features that make using them a joy. Take, for example, the fact that the right earbud has a subtle red trim line, while the left earbud is blue. These visual cues allow you to immediately identify which earbud goes where without thinking or searching. Couple that with auto-pairing Bluetooth, auto sleep, and singe or dual use detection and we’re pleased as punch.
- Sports earbuds that stay in place. Mifo was originally designed as a sports or active use true wireless earbud, meaning it’s designed with durability in mind. Complete waterproofing along with a rugged aluminum contoured housing means these little guys aren’t going anywhere. We tried running, yoga, and more aggressive high intensity interval training without losing a single earbud.
- Beautiful, durable design. There’s something to be said about the look of the Mifo true wireless earbuds. They are, in a word, simply beautiful. The satin finish of the case is designed to resist fingerprints, while the earbuds themselves are clad in a scratch resistant finish that also looks great. Take that, Bang & Olufsen…
- On earbud buttons take getting used to. All functions including calling, volume, and track selection can be controlled from the touch buttons on the sides of either earbud. While it’s convenient, it takes some getting used to at first. Some users will fare better than others with this design.
- Price. While they aren’t the most expensive headphones in our lineup, many balk at spending $100 on earbuds. That said, if you have the money don’t even bother looking at other true wireless earbuds that cost at least twice as much (we’re looking at you Sennheiser and Bose).
2. The Best Budget Headphones: V-MODA Crossfade Wireless – Check price on Alpha XR
Ever heard of V-MODA? Chicago native Val Kolton designed and built headphones that are meant to look as great as they sound. Over a few iterations and refinements the Crossfade Wireless over ear headphones have emerged as a serious competitor in the sub-$200 price range. V-MODA also has some serious artist partnership momentum going with names like The Chain Smokers and Paul Oakenfold. It’s the combination of style and sound that drew us to these beautifully crafted headphones. That’s a pleasant surprise in a world dominated by the major brands and an exhaustive list of Chinese knockoffs.
Available from V-MODA for
So why does V-MODA deserve the top spot in our best headphones under 200 dollars roundup?
- Best in class sound. V-MODA nails sound quality in both the high and low ranges. That means you’ll be getting very crisp highs and rich lows. The bass is particularly impressive, though you’ll want to use the wired mode when possible. More on this later. What is most impressive is the overall quality you get despite being in the best headphones under 200 category.
- High quality construction. V-MODA claim these headphones are virtually indestructible. Metal components are made with stainless steel. Details like an included wired option are borrowed from more expensive professional studio monitor headphones. You can also see and feel the difference in overall construction: Connection points are recessed or riveted, lines are smooth and artistic. V-MODA claim that the founders nearly went broke producing the prototypes, and we believe it.
- Beautiful without being obnoxious. When you wear V-MODA’s Crossfade Wireless, it’s obvious you have something special. If you aren’t feeling too adventurous you can opt for the more subtle black or white versions. But the real fun comes when you get more colorful. The chrome edition is absolutely stunning, and our favorite. V-MODA manufactures custom shield kits to add your own personal style to the base headphones unit. Small details like a vegan leather cover also add to the luxe look and feel of the product. Wearing these out might net you some free Instagram followers!
- Accessories that don’t suck. V-MODA has added accessories that are truly special. Check out the memory foam ear cups or boom gaming microphone. It’s a nice surprise to find such high quality accessories from a boutique manufacturer. It seems to reinforce their stated commitment to making the best headphones possible.
- Wireless mode isn’t perfect. While Bluetooth offers a number of advantages for listening on the go, it isn’t known for perfect sound quality. Audiophiles may prefer to use the included cable for the best sound quality rather than rely on wireless mode. The good news is V-MODA includes the necessary cable to make it happen.
- Shield kits are frequently out of stock. Though the custom shield kits come in every color under the sun, they are often out of stock. You may want to try contacting V-MODA directly if you have a particular color that piques your interest.
- No active noise canceling. While the over ear feature is nice, we know from our previous analysis of the best noise canceling earbuds that physically covering your ear is not true noise cancellation. Though V-MODA makes no claims whatsoever that the Crossfade Wireless have active noise cancelling technology, it would be nice to see in the over ear edition. To be fair, adding active noise cancelling would probably bump them out of our best headphones under 200 dollars roundup price range.
3. The Best Cheap Headphones: Bose SoundLink Wireless – Check price on Alpha XR
Bose has always had a strong presence in the high end market. Interestingly enough, they do offer one key on ear product in the sub-$200 price category. The SoundLink Wireless offers classic Bose quality with new enhancements, and is one of the most affordable Bose products on the market. For the money you get a durable and well constructed product with legendary sound that has made Bose a household name.
Available from Bose for
- Brilliant Bose sound. Bose is known for sound quality, and the SoundLink Wireless do not disappoint. We would put these up against our top overall pick: the V-MODA Crossfade wireless, any day of the week. The real test of quality comes at medium to low volumes. Music and audio comes through crystal clear at all tones, not a simple feat to achieve. Bass is deep and rumbling, while treble is precise without being biting. There’s a real difference in sound quality that Bose brings to the table, and unless you’ve experienced their products before it’s hard to explain.
- Comfort during long wear sessions. We’ve complained in past about on ear headphones smashing our ear against our head, causing discomfort after 30 minutes of wear. That’s simply not the case with SoundLink. Bose seems to have cracked the formula of on ear headphones that stay in place while causing minimal pressure on ears. They can be worn without issue during active movement times, and Bose claims they are 40% lighter than comparable headphones. That’s a lot of weight off of our shoulders!
- Voice activation is clunky. While the idea of voice control is nice to have, the truth of the matter is the Bose voice control system is spotty at best. After getting used to a few key commands it was passable as an interface. The on ear buttons are a far superior way to control the device, and offer music controls along with call answering. Bose markets the voice control concept as a major innovation, but in reality we would rather see $20 chopped off the price and go without.
- On ear mic tends to pick up ambient noise. Talking on SoundLink is a generally pleasant experience. Thanks to the impressive speaker technology, calls are crystal clear. The only problem is microphone placement. Because the on ear headphones don’t have a boom mic and assuming you’re using wireless mode no cord mic, the entire package has to be contained in the ear pieces. Unless you are in a quiet environment, the audio software can have a hard time distinguishing between ambient noise and your voice. That means you may hear the other party very well, but they may have a hard time hearing you.
- Color selection leaves more to be desired. You get two options: Black on black, and a more standout white and blue color scheme. Unfortunately for Bose, there’s nothing revolutionary about either option. That may be fine for those of you that want to focus on the functional aspects of $200 headphones. But we want to see more style if Bose is to be a serious contender for the top position in our roundup of best headphones under 200 dollars.
4. The Best Low Cost Headphones – Check price on Alpha XR
COWIN has built a reputation for their groundbreaking line of affordably priced active noise cancelling headphones. Their latest product, the E8, is an instant classic that lives us to the legacy. The value proposition here is simple: You get great sound, standard features for the price point, and the addition of active noise canceling that works just as well as much more expensive units from other brands. It’s got to be a thorn in the side of companies like Bose, who sell essentially the same technology at double the price. Sure, the E8’s aren’t as visually pleasing as the other products on this list, but if you want noise cancelling for under $200, you won’t find better.
Available from COWIN for
- Active noise canceling for under $200. That’s right, real noise cancelation at about half the cost of comparable models from other brands. COWIN is making a bold move here, as they could be selling for 20-25% more and still come in well under competitors. The most important thing about the E8 active noise canceling feature is that it works. With the feature engaged, microphones on each earpiece are always listening to ambient noise. Meanwhile, speakers in the ear cups produce canceling waves of sound that instantly put you in a cocoon of silence. Music and calls sound so clear, users have reported slight disorientation at turning on the feature. We wish we had these in the plane for our most recent trip to Tokyo. Bonus: Active noise canceling works just as well in wireless and wired mode.
- Sound is good for the money. While COWIN’s E8 comes in last in our roundup of best headphones under 200 dollars, its no slouch. Sound is clear and appropriate for a product that costs over $100. Active noise cancelling plays a part here too. When you can’t hear anything outside of the music or phone call, things sound a lot better.
- Included accessories are a huge value. There’s nothing worse than buying an expensive product only to find you’ll need to spend another $100 for accessories to connect your devices. You’ll find no such issues with COWIN’s E8, as it includes wires for wired mode as well as a micro USB charging cable.
- Style is lacking. The E8’s are large and in charge. Active noise cancelation does require some real estate to pull off, and COWIN has done their best to maintain a certain sense of modernity where they can. Gold accents on the headband are welcome, but don’t quite make up for the visual bulk of these over ear headphones. It’s almost like COWIN wanted to make retro headphones from the 80’s, but couldn’t quite style them to be fully there. That’s OK, they work so well you won’t care. Finally, there are no color options. You can choose black or… black.
- Somewhat uncomfortable for smaller ears. If you have smaller ears you may find the E8s to be a bit bulky, and may extend too far beyond the ear in some areas that cause irritation.
One final note. We made the decision to cap this list at the $100-200 price range because we’ve also covered the best Bluetooth headphones under 100 dollars as well as Apple Airpod alternatives under 50 dollars. Refer to those roundups if you are interested in dipping to a lower price point.