Offering great sound and isolation from outside noise, the best over-ear headphones are more than ways to simply listen to music – they're also superb for work calls, watching movies, or just blocking out the outside world.
The best over-ear headphones can cost thousands (as you'll see from our list of best audiophile headphones) but you can get a quality pair for a lot less than that. All of the below can be picked up for less than $200, and all have scored very well in our exacting reviews. Some are old and have had their prices slashed as retailers look to get rid of out of date stock, but some have just launched at that price.
Let's see what's available.
How to choose the best over-ear headphones for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
Whether you're outside or at home, commuting or even in the gym, over-ear headphones are fit for every occasion. And you can get excellent performance for under $200 (and even under $100).
Wired over-ear headphones may still offer the best relative sound quality but we all know that wireless Bluetooth has become supremely popular for the convenience. If you're not sure which way to go, then take a look at our guide on how to choose the right pair of headphones. You can combine features and performance, sound quality and great value with all of the below headphones; our pick of the best over-ear headphones under $200.
They tend to be a bit overlooked in the face of their pricier stablemates, but Sony's wireless headphones are some of the best around. Just look at the WH-CH520.
For a very competitive price, they offer decent build quality, a comfortable fit and a pretty decent array of features. There's Bluetooth 5.2, Multipoint (for seamlessly switching between multiple wireless devices), and Sony's superb Headphones Connect mobile app – albeit in a stripped-down form compared to when used with Sony's pricier headphones. It offers equaliser presets and customisation, a hearing test, plus Sony's DSEE upscaling tech to polish the sound quality.
Battery life is a staggering 50 hours. That's 10 hours shy of Sennheiser's Momentum 4 Wireless, but still pretty special, especially at this price. And they sound superb too, though the same "for the money" caveat applies. They're nicely balanced and informative, though when it comes to low frequencies more expression would be welcome. But the bass is deep, solid and controlled. All in all, quite the bargain.
Read the full Sony WH-CH520 review
OK, so these might be a bit over $200 but we had to include them, not least as they are often found on offer under $200 (especially now the XM5 model has launched). The Sony WH-1000XM3 cemented the brand's position as king of noise-cancelling headphones, beating rivals like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Bowers & Wilkins PX to the top spot when they came on the scene. Given the prestige of those brands, that's no mean feat.
So how did these Sonys get there? For starters, they offer a comfortable fit that you can wear all day. They also boast useful features such as an Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser, which maximises noise-cancelling performance at high altitude. Ideal for that loud flight.
But it's the sound quality that really stands out. The Sony headphones use analogue amplification to great effect with an immense sense of spaciousness, loads of detail and enhanced dynamics. Every instrument is given room to breathe, and there's no loss in terms of directness either – the sound hits you right between the ears, making you feel like you're in the room with the band. In a word: superb.
Read the full Sony WH-1000XM3 review
Sennheiser doesn't release many pairs of wireless headphones at this more affordable end of the market, but when it does it takes them seriously. Case in point – the HD 250BT, which are excellent value for money. So much so that they won a 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award.
The appearance might be functional, but these are far from basic. There's a Smart Control app for one, which brings with it an equaliser and EQ settings, plus battery life notifications and firmware updates.
Sonically, Sennheiser’s ultra-affordable and durable headphones do not disappoint for the price. The HD 250BT sound a good deal more musically detailed, agile and rhythmically gifted across the frequencies than you might expect. A steal at under $200.
Read the full Sennheiser HD 250BT review
Looking for a bargain? These quality closed-back wired headphones are among the best out there for the money. The solid build means these are going to last – AKG bends the cable 80,000 times to test longevity. The padding is comfy, while the three-metre cable offers more than enough play for listening comfortably at home. This is a classic studio headphone design. While you could get away with wearing these out on the street, they’re not really designed for it. Just look at that long cable.
And the sound? It’s expansive, with width and scale not heard in the kind of headphones found on the high street at this sort of price. They opt for a neutral presentation, as favoured by pro audio brands, sounding smoother than the similarly-priced Sennheiser HD201 and with better controlled bass. The midrange isn't quite as clean as we'd like but for the money, these really are superb over-ear headphones if you're on a budget.
Read the full AKG K72 review
Given everyone’s apparent obsession with wireless headphones, you’d be forgiven for thinking the days of wired headphones were numbered, especially at the more affordable end of the market.
But we’d be surprised if those thoughts ever surfaced in the corridors of Austrian Audio’s Vienna HQ. The company, born out of ex-AKG employees, has hit the ground running with its first-ever range of wired headphones, Hi-X. This model impressed us so much we gave it a 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award.
We’d consider the Hi-X15 an analytical pair of headphones, but they still manage to make music entertaining with it – they extract bags of detail but keep the soul of your music intact. Throughout the frequency range, these headphones deliver consistently high detail levels and fantastic dynamics. There isn’t an ounce of fat on any track played through the Austrian Audio Hi-X15 headphones. But at the same time there’s enough weight and substance to low frequencies that you don’t feel as though you’re missing out.
We wouldn't insist on you partnering them with a suitable DAC/headphone amplifier, but do so and you’ll be rewarded with a mature-sounding pair of headphones that go above and beyond at the money.
Read the full Austrian Audio Hi-X15 review
The SR80 have spawned many variants within the company’s Prestige Series in the three decades since they launched, and the fact that they are still a part of the all-new Prestige X Series makes them the longest-running Grado model. The all-new SR80x succeeds the 2014-released, multi-What Hi-Fi? Award-winning SR80e from the previous Prestige E Series, and picked up a 2022 Award of its own.
Everything we like about their predecessors – their nimble-footedness, expressive, rolling dynamics, and insight across well-defined frequencies – has been inherited, and the punch and panache that made the Prestige models such born entertainers are very much also part of the SR80x’s sonic signature. These are far from rich or even warm in tone, but an extra generous sprinkling of refinement this time round has made their forward, clinical presentation all the more palpable.
Grado hasn’t torn up its own rulebook and revolutionised its legendary headphones, because it hasn’t needed to. But the tweaks made to the SR80x have certainly added value in the right direction. At this money, the SR80 model remains the finest in the market.
Read the full Grado SR80x review
Røde is big in the world of pro recording equipment, and the NTH-100 are its first headphones. So can the Australian brand cut it in the world of consumer audio?
It's made this list, so yes. The NTH-100 are wired – something of an anomaly in this day and age – and fairly unremarkable to look at. They're heavy too, but very comfortable thanks to the soft headband and hanger arrangement. The earpads do tend to cook your ears during long listening sessions, however.
But that's a minor gripe, given the quality of these cans. The 40mm full-range drivers kick out plenty of insight, making for a revealing listen. They're punchy, with a great sense of rhythmic expression, and pack a treble with bags of substance. And that midrange – it's the real star of the show, picking up even the slightest variations in tone or timbre.
You can lock the headband in place too, so when you've found the perfect position it won't budge. Genius.
Read the full Røde NTH-100 review
These are the wired siblings to the AKG K371-BT, and we're happy to report they perform a bit better than the three-star Bluetooth version.
They're comfortable – if a little overly snug for those bigger-headed among us – and their closed-back design means you won't be sharing your playlist with anyone in your immediate vicinity. Build quality is good – very good, given the price. But that's not surprising given they're marketed to creators and professional users like vloggers and music producers.
Of course, there's nothing to stop you using them for content consumption, and should you do so, you'll have a good time. Bass is pleasingly meaty, giving ample weight to productions, yet the presentation remains effortlessly clear and insightful.
They might be outdone by pricier models, but if you're on a budget, they tick every box.
Read the full AKG K371 review
Sony has great pedigree when it comes to wireless headphones, and this pair slots right into that legacy. They're excellent value, packing wireless and active noise-cancelling tech into a stylish package, at a low, low price. Bass is taut but still very punchy, and the timing isn't half bad for a pair of wireless cans.
The WH-CH700N offer playback via Bluetooth with NFC pairing, a built-in microphone for hand-free calling and support for Siri/Google Assistant voice controls. Battery life is an impressive 35 hours. In a hurry? A 10-minute quick-charge will breathe an hour's life into the battery.
Once run in, a pair of 40mm neodymium drivers dish up a balanced and even sound that's neither too rich nor too brittle. They're an easy listen and you can adjust the EQ settings via the Sony Headphones Connect App. If you're prepared to spend more, you can get better noise-cancelling tech. But if your budget is tight, these are money well spent.
Read the full Sony WH-CH700N review
The AKG K175 look good, don’t cost the earth and have a punchy enthusiasm. However, there're not really made for commuting as they come with a weighty, coiled cable rather than the usual straight type. They also let in a lot of sound – wear them on a busy street and you’ll hear plenty of external noise.
Still, provided you avoid packed trains these studio monitor-style headphones offer lots of comfort and an engaging, energetic performance. Bass is deep and assured rather than boomy, while vocals sound vital and close to your ear. On the downside, we found the upper mid-tones a bit raw. That's all very well when listening to heavy metal, but it's not ideal for less aggressive genres of music.
If you're looking for a pair of affordable headphones for use at home, the light, spacious K175 are well worth an audition. Assuming you can live with the uncompromising midrange, they're a great pick.
Read the full AKG K175 review
While they may lack the outright transparency and simplicity of the very best headphones out there, there really is plenty to like in the HD 450BT – not least in the way of top-notch features, such as the excellent, 30-hour battery life and aptX Low Latency support, which are far from given in headphones of this price.
They're wireless and deliver decent noice-cancelling, too. If battery and bass are up there on your list of priorities, they're a fine choice.
Read the full Sennheiser HD 450BT review
How we test headphones
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.
Of course, testing headphones don't often require such facilities (though we do often try audiophile headphones in our reference hi-fi system). What is important in our headphones reviewing process is that each pair is compared to the best in its price and style class – whether that's one standout pair or a few we favour the highest among the 100+ pairs we listen to each year for reviews and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can always compare new products to ones we know and love.
We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at their very best, so we'll try plenty of different types of music and give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in), while the wired headphones that might warrant being used with a DAC are tested with a suitable one. It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a pair has active noise cancellation – increasingly the case these days – we'll ensure part of our testing involves using them in different environments.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
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