Audiophile-grade headphones are not cheap. Most options from well-established brands can easily reach the $1000-$2000 price range. And this can be very intimidating for those who just want to kickstart their audiophile journey.
But with recent advancements and the increasing competition in the budget headphone market, you can now get lots of great-sounding options without breaking the bank. And we’re not talking about obscure brands. Companies like Sennheiser and Drop have stepped up their game to give you the best value for your money.
In this article, we’ll be going over our top picks in the sub $200 price range. Our top recommendations include the Sennheiser HD58X and Sennheiser HD560S. But, of course, there are plenty of choices from other brands as well. So make sure to keep on scrolling to find out more.
Please note: At the time of publishing, all recommended products were selling for $200 or less but prices can fluctuate.
Best Audiophile Headphones Under $200
Sennheiser HD560S – Reference Open-Back
If you are looking for a reference sounding headphone, then there is no better option than the Sennheiser HD560s. These headphones serve as a revival to Sennheiser’s 500 series and exceed all expectations when it comes to sound quality.
The HD 560s shares the same design elements as the rest of the HD500 lineup. It has a plastic construction with smaller ear cups compared to the Sennheiser HD600 series.
The grills do not have large holes making the drivers harder to see compared to the HD600 series. The HD560S features a detachable cable, but it is only located on one side instead of the two earcups.
There are also some notable changes that make the HD560s a modern-looking headphone. The headphones are now rocking an all-black color scheme similar to the latest version of the HD 600 and the HD 660s. The headband and the grills also resemble the ones found on the HD 650 and HD 660s.
But the biggest change here is the new drivers, which offer better sound quality than the rest of the HD 5XX headphones. This new tuning is even regarded as an improved version of the Sennheiser HD6XX series. It solves several key issues of the HD 600 series, such as the intimate soundstage, while adding more quantity and detail to the highs.
Its analytical sound signature is very detailed and can capture a lot of the small nuances in tracks. The HD600 series still beats the HD560s in terms of overall resolution and detail retrieval. But the HD560s comes very close and at almost half the price of the HD600 series.
Overall, if you are looking for an accurate sounding headphone for mixing and mastering for under 200 USD, then the Sennheiser HD560S is very tough to beat.
Sennheiser HD58X – All rounder Open-Back
If you are looking for a well-rounded that can easily compete with headphones twice its price, then the Sennheiser x Drop HD58X Jubilee is currently one of the best deals in the audiophile market. This headphone is a revival of the classic HD580, the headphone that started the HD6XX series. It is updated to meet modern standards and is a lot closer to the rest of the Sennheiser HD6XX series headphones.
The HD 58X has the same form factor and build-quality as the Sennheiser HD6XX, with a few distinctions. The biggest differentiating factors include a different color scheme and grill design. The different grill design is due to the modified driver that is being used here. It now has an impedance of 150-ohms, which allows it to be used even without a headphone amplifier.
The sound signature is also a bit different compared to the Drop x Sennheiser HD6XX. There is a slight mid-bass bump in this model that makes it a more energetic and fun sounding headphone. Aside from the low end and a few differences in the high-end, it mostly sounds similar to the HD6XX.
In some ways, it could be considered a less accurate and less analytical version of the HD6XX. It does not mean it is a worse headphone. It just has a different flavor from the famous HD600 series sound signature.
Imaging and soundstage are mostly the same as the HD6XX. This means that the soundstage is intimate but realistic, and imaging is fairly accurate. The overall sound will be less bright compared to the HD560S and will have more focus on the mid-bass and low mids.
Overall, if you are looking for a versatile open-back headphone for your studio needs, then the HD58X is hard to beat. It has the form factor and technical capability of Sennheiser’s HD600 lineup without the high price tag.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
Another popular audiophile closed-back headphone is Beyerdynamic’s classic DT 770 Pro. These headphones have achieved legendary status and have been in production since 1985. It is also the basis for the higher-end Beyerdynamic DT 1770 and is often regarded as the closed-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
What separates the DT 770 Pro from the rest of the closed-back options is its wide and accurate sound. The experience that you get is more natural-sounding and closer to the sound of full-sized speakers/studio monitors. Its sound signature is often preferred over competing options such as the Audio Technica M50X.
Another major difference between the two is that the DT 770 Pro comes in different impedances. You can read our dedicated headphone impedance article if you are not familiar with the term impedance. But this basically refers to the power requirement of the headphones.
The DT 770 Pro comes in 32-ohm, 80-ohm, 250-ohm, and 600-ohm versions. The 32-ohm and 80-ohm version can work without a headphone amplifier. The 250-ohm and 600-ohm versions, on the other hand, require a headphone amplifier. So if you are planning on using the DT 770 Pro on the go or if you just want to plug them straight into your laptop/workstation, then you should opt for the 32 and 80-ohm versions.
Another highlight of the DT 770 Pro is its build quality. The DT 770 Pro is predominantly made of high-quality plastic and has metal reinforcements on the headband and hinges. It feels more solid than the M50X and can survive more accidents/abuse.
Also, unlike the M50X, the DT 770 Pro has a removable headband. Both the headband and earpads are not utilizing pleather, which tends to wear over time.
However, its rugged build quality has two major drawbacks that editors on the go should take note of. The DT 770 Pro is non-foldable, and the cables are non-removable. This is a big deal, considering how large the headphones are. It will occupy considerably more space inside your backpack.
Overall, if you are looking for a great sounding headphone and its large size and non-foldable design isn’t a big concern, then we highly suggest taking the DT 770 Pro over the M50X.
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
If you like what you see with the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro Pro but and want an open-back version, then the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro might just be the one for you.
It is the older version of the DT 1990 Pro and was first released in 1985. Despite not having a sound signature as neutral and accurate as the DT 1990 Pro, it is still a reliable tool for video editing.
Unlike its higher-end counterpart, the DT 990 Pro comes in various impedances. It comes in 32 ohms, 80 ohms, 250 ohms, and 600 ohms. This makes the DT 990 Pro highly versatile, especially if you have a simple setup without other external audio devices.
Another change that you will notice with the DT 990 Pro is its build quality. It is still solid, but it is now mostly made of plastic instead of metal. It is similar to the DT 770 Pro meaning the cable is non-removable.
Compared to the higher-end DT 1990 Pro, the DT 990 Pro is leaning more towards a V-Shaped sound where the lows and highs are more pronounced. The DT 990 Pro’s bass response is stronger but not as accurate or controlled as the DT 1990 Pro’s neutral bass response.
The DT 990 Pro does not have the same peaky treble response that the DT 1990 Pro has. And while you may not be getting the most accurate high-end, you will at least have a smoother and more tolerable treble response.
Overall, the DT 990 Pro is a solid package. Its legendary sound quality and rugged build quality easily make it a worthy investment.
Audio Technica AD700X
Aside from professional audio, another category that Audio Technica excels at is their premium audiophile headphone series. These headphones are not made to reproduce the most accurate sound. Instead, these are made to produce highly detailed sounds that make an enjoyable experience.
One of the most popular models in this category is the ATH AD700X. It is the successor to the popular ATH AD700, which was well known for its pink color and wide soundstage. making them popular for competitive gaming. The AD700X manages to keep its predecessor’s excellent sound quality but manages to make the aesthetics a lot cleaner and modern looking. It is also the basis for the ATH ADG1X Gaming Headset.
For music listening, the ATH AD700X’s most notable feature is its beautiful recreation of the midrange. This is something that almost all Audio Technica headphones are good at. These really excel with vocal-heavy music, especially female vocals.
The bass response is not as prominent as something like the ATH M50X. In fact, the bass response is toned down for Audio Technica’s audiophile series. They are still there when the music needs them, but there are better options for fans of sub-bass.
The AD700X’s imaging and soundstage are also top-notch. This gives the overall sound a 3D effect that makes the listening experience more immersive.
Overall, if you are looking for a wide sounding open-back headphone that has beautiful midrange reproduction, then the Audio Technica ATH AD700X is worth a look.
Philips Fidelio X2HR
Philips is very well known for producing great value headphones. Their budget open-back headphones, the SHP9500, are well-loved in the audiophile community thanks to their amazing value. But if you want to step up from those, the next best option from Philips is the Fidelio X2HR.
This pair is the sequel to the original Fidelio X2 but has made significant improvements to the build quality while maintaining the already great sound quality. In fact, the X2HR’s build quality now rivals offerings from Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic.
In terms of the build quality, these headphones have an all-metal build with a few plastic pieces. The quality of the headphones can be immediately felt when you hold these headphones. Additionally, the ear pads are replaceable, and the cable is removable in case they break or if you want to change them with aftermarket parts in the future. s.
In terms of the sound quality, these headphones are a relaxing and fun-sounding pair. They have smooth and inoffensive highs that still manage to capture the fine details on the high frequencies. The mids are best described as ethereal, especially on female vocals. And the lows are punchy and can easily give life to the sound of your music.
These headphones only have an impedance of 32-ohms, making them compatible with almost any source. But of course, pairing it with an amplifier will give it a noticeable improvement. You can read more about headphones impedance and headphone amplifiers in our dedicated articles.
These headphones are not analytical and will not give the most accurate representation of your music. However, they are a relaxing pair that prioritizes enjoyment over accuracy. If that is what you are looking for, then make sure to give these headphones a listen.
Sony MDR CD900ST
If you are looking for a flat sounding headphone that can accurately represent the music you are listening to, then the next model on this list might just appeal to you. This headphone is the Japan-exclusive Sony MDR CD900ST.
The MDR CD900ST was first manufactured in 1987, one year after the Sony MDR V6. It shares a lot of similarities with the V6 but has some major differences. The headphones now have a non-folding design, the ear pads are different, and the cable is straight instead of coiled. However, the real difference is found in the sound quality.
The MDR CD900ST is considered to be better in almost all areas. Like the V6, they also have a bright signature with more emphasis on the mids and highs. However, the quality of the mids and highs are a considerable upgrade compared to the MDR V6.
Due to the better mids and highs, these headphones are considered the more analytical and revealing pair. They will also naturally reveal any flaws, which is always good as you can already determine any imperfections before the mixing process.
Like the V6, the bass on the CD900ST is not overemphasized. It does its job in completing the sound, but it does not try to compete with the mids. They respond well to EQ if you ever need to emphasize the lower frequencies more than the mid and high frequencies.
Overall, if you are looking for a flat sounding and accurate pair, then the Sony MDR CD900ST is worth a look.
Stephen is a musician, cinematographer, and headphone enthusiast who is passionate about reviewing audio equipment. He has been playing guitar for at least a decade, which introduced him to professional recording equipment such as headphones and in-ear monitors. With the help of reviews and online content, he was able to learn the ins and outs of the hobby. His goal is to give back to the community by providing quality content to help others enjoy the beautiful (and expensive) world of audio.
Favorite Headphones: Sennheiser HD660s