Okay, so you like your music, and you like to listen to things on the go, or take a decent pair of cans with you when you travel? You don’t need to spend a fortune on headphones to get a quality all-round listening experience. In fact, there are some excellent options out there under $200, here I’m going to focus on five of the best. I realize that $200 is still a considerable amount of money, and so I’ll be focusing on headphones that cost less than this in future editions of Audio Weekly, but right now I feel most comfortable recommending headphones in this price range. (Don’t worry in-ear fans, I haven’t forgotten about you!)
I’m not going to hide it; I’m a big fan of AKG’s, but the Y50 received praise from pretty much everyone last year, and for good reason. Not only are they nice and portable, but they’re also great value. For $100, you’d be hard-pressed to find such a decent performing headphone elsewhere. These are available in a number of different colors, they’re light and compact to wear while on the move and the 40mm driver does a decent job of reproducing pretty much anything you throw at them without coloring the sound too much. They’re a great option for a second-pair while travelling and they do feature an in-line microphone as well. My only gripe with these is that the AKG branding does sort of feel like you’ve turned into a walking advert, but there’s also the black pair.
Sennheiser make a lot of excellent-sounding headphones, but they can often be overpriced here and there (in my opinion), but the HD598’s are a great way of getting this whole “audiophile” grade headphone thing. They’re open-backed and full-size, so probably not the best things to listen to when on a crowded train or aeroplane. Instead, these are a nice pair for perhaps – dare I say it – an older listener, or someone looking for a pair around the house that can also be used on the go every now and then? With their velour earpads and large size, these are definitly more of a stay-at-home pair of cans, but they’re great value for money in that regard. You can read our review here.
Chances are you’ve heard the Bose name before, and there’s good reason for that. While the company is best known in the headphone world for their noise cancelling headphones, the SoundTrue are also an excellent pair of cans, and decent value, too. The SoundTrue are a lightweight pair of headphones that are great for use on the go and they’re very comfortable, too. They have that key Bose sound, which is to say they’re clean and clear. Good for all times of music, the SoundTrue are a nice option if you want a pair of headphones that are somewhat inconspicuous and just comfy to wear no matter where you are. They also come with a very attractive carrying case to keep them safe.
Audio Technica ATH-M50x
Those familiar with headphones will no doubt have seen this coming, and with good reason. The ATH-M50x are a favorite for a lot of users. If value is a common theme throughout this list, then these take the prize. They’re durable, comfortable and they come with two detachable cables, so if you’re cable-breaker you’re covered with these. With some great bass and overall decent reproduction of most music, these are a stylish pair that are light enough to wear on the move and comfortable enough for longer listening sessions at the office or at home. A quality pair that continue to punch well above their weight.
The AKG K551 are essentially a “portable” version of my favorite pair, the AKG K550. I say portable because the K551 are basically the same pair as the K550 but with a much, much shorter cable with an in-line mic. These are a Reference Headphone, which essentially means that they’re designed to reproduce everything in the track, without being too bassy, too sibilant or too warm. I love my AKG K550 as they’re great for hearing everything in the song, but bass heads need not apply for the K551. Bass is tight, and deep, but there’s none of that slam you’d get elsewhere. These are quite chunky as well, but they are closed back, making them better than the Sennheiser HD598 while in public, but they’re still better suited for stationary listening. Either way, these sound excellent, and at this sort of price they’re great value if you’re looking for a high-end headphone.