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There’s a sweet spot in the price of headphones. If you’re spending more than $200, you need to be a serious audiophile to appreciate that bump in quality. But for most people who are particular about their tunes, $200 is that sweet spot.
Of course, headphones come in all shapes and sizes, with different features that appeal to different types of users. So let’s not beat around the bush anymore. If you’re on a tight budget, there are quality $50 headphones to purchase. But if you are in the market for new headphones and willing to spend up to $200, then these are the best you can buy.
Noise Cancellation: Audio Technica QuietPoint ANC70 ($199.95)
If noise-cancellation headphones are what you need, just stop looking and head to the link above to buy the Audio Technica QuietPoint ANC70. Nothing is going to come close in this price range. This new model builds on the stellar ANC7, adding just the right features to make it a complete package. There’s a built-in microphone, it’s a foldable design, and it works even without the active noise cancellation or batteries.
But the winning element is that Audio Technica claims you get up to 90% of noise cancellation with these cans. While that may be a tall claim, reviewers and buyers agree that these sound fantastic and give the Bose QuietComfort 3 a run for its money—and at $100 cheaper, it’s a no-brainer.
If this is stretching your budget, then check out these three affordable noise-cancelling headphones.
Wired: V-Moda XS ($200)
V-Moda is one of the oldest brands in the headphone game, but it’s not that popular. Don’t let that deter you from buying the V-Moda XS because it’s the best pair of on-ear, closed-back headphones you can buy at this price. Crucially, unlike many Sony and Sennheiser rivals, it offers a plug-in jack instead of a hardwired permanent cord. At $200, you want to be able to replace the cord, not the headphones, in case something goes wrong. Plus, you can grab a special iPhone-centric cord if you rock Apple’s smartphone.
It’s got a cool design and the audio output is as good as most others. Bass isn’t its forte though, and if that’s what matters more to you than any other feature, you might want to look at the Sennheiser Momentum instead. But just know the reasons headphones break and avoid those factors with your Momentum headset.
Wireless: Sennheiser RS170 ($207)
All right, it’s $7 more than our budget here, but spend those 7 bucks and you will never regret it. After sound quality, what matters most in wireless headphones is the range they offer and the Sennheiser RS170 is the clear winner in the combination of these two factors. With the RS170, you can easily leave the room without worrying about losing range and you’ll get some cool features like bass boost and surround sound. Reviewers noted that even at 30-35 metres from the base unit, the RS170 sounds just as good. Impressive stuff, that.
Open-backed: Grado Prestige SR225i ($200)
Personally, I don’t think most users should be buying open-backed headphones. They are good for audio engineers and the like, but for the normal user, our surroundings are too full of noise for the desired effect of open-backed cans — for the air to mix with the sound for a richer experience. In normal environments, it’s noise that mixes with sound and that’s not a good thing. Still, if you absolutely must buy open-backed headphones, then the Grado Prestige SR225i is your best bet for a balanced sound and timeless, lightweight design.
Bluetooth: Jabra Revo ($204.49)
It is rare to find a few tech reviewers agree about something, let alone almost all of them. But there seems to be a consensus that for $200, the Jabra Revo is the perfect pair of Bluetooth headphones. Multipoint (the ability to connect to two or more devices) is something most Bluetooth headsets don’t get right, but Jabra Revo works perfectly in all tests.
Balancing bass and treble is again a sore point in most rivals, but the Revo cracks it. It’s major selling points? The portability it offers with its foldable design and twelve hours of playback on a single charge. Plus, it also offers touch controls with intuitive gestures like “swipe to play the next track” — that’s the icing on the cake. And just in case you don’t need wireless functionality, it can even be connected with a cord. Everyone says you should grab this, so why not?
In-Ear: RBH EP-2 ($179)
The Bowers & Wilkins C5 seemed a runaway winner for the best $200 in-ear headphones till I came across Wirecutter’s review of the RBH EP2. More research shows that while every reviewer has a soft spot for B&W, they rate the RBH EP-2 on par. So what makes the RBH the preferred choice? Wirecutter puts it best:
In a word: consistency. Every reviewer on our panel touted their sound, everyone found them comfortable, and everyone liked the lightness of their small, simple build. That universal appeal means that you can order them online without worrying that they won’t work for you. Many times when dealing with in-ears what is comfortable to one kind of ear is miserable to another.
It’s sound advice. The fit of in-ear headphones is not easy to get right, and given how different people found the RBH EP-2 to be comfortable, it’s a safe bet if you’re buying headphones online or without testing them out at a store. But if you are going to a store and can try the B&W C5 as well as the EP2, then try both and see which one fits better—that’s the one to go with.
Getting the headphones is only half the battle. You still need to know how to set them up and take care of them to get the most out of your earphones, so don’t ignore that. But let’s not be a downer: tell us, which headphones did you pick from the above list and why?
Image credit: JD Hancock