The main difference between open-back headphones and closed-back headphones is their casual design that sits comfortably on the outside of your ears, protecting them from any of the restraints that closed-back headphones are known for. In terms of sound quality, open-back headphones are fairly similar to closed-back headphones, so no worries there. They do, however, demand a little more maintenance depending on the model you get.
We should also point out that headphones tend to differ from one model to another anyway, so it shouldn’t surprise you that open-back headphones also exhibit certain dissimilarities. With studio headphones, for instance, you get a better sound isolation along with the capacity to reach certain frequencies that regular headphones simply do not. For the most part, a big number of open-back headphones display studio qualities, especially among the high-end part of the market.
All things considered, you shouldn’t run into any functional issues with most open-back headphones, and the sound output is usually top-notch when it comes to quality models. Speaking of which, not all open-back headphones can be expected to meet the same operational standards, nor are they all built to be just as durable and sturdy. To give you some pointers in that regard, we put together a list of the ten best open-back headphones for you to look at.
Best Open Back Headphones – Reviews
10Philips Fidelio X2
Philips is a brand known around the world for their excellence and the Fidelio X2 is an outstanding headset that shows us why that is. This headset is used by both professionals and amateurs alike, a versatility that speaks volumes about their overall quality. The open-back technology used in these headphones produce excellent audio quality. To get minimal sound reflection, the drivers are pre-tilted and fit the ears comfortably. At the same time, the earpads have a soft memory foam that cushions the ears and are comfortable for long hours of continuous usage. Furthermore, the ear shells are double-layered to help reduce vibrations and resonance.
9AKG K 701
The AKG K 701 headset is great in its output performance as well as its price. It is a budget-friendly pair that is tuned especially for DJs and mixers, one that enjoys a durable build and produces clear sound. The 3D designed ear pads are soft and fit comfortably over the ear and offer good noise cancellation. It also has a headband that is soft and comfortable for long hours of use. The mesh used on the outside ensures audio quality remains great at all times.
8Sony MDR MA900
With the Sony MDR MA900, you get an exceptional product that also is extremely budget friendly. The design is quite simple but delivers an excellent performance in terms of comfort and sound quality. The ear pads are soft and thick which make it comfortable for long hours of use. These headphones are ideal for almost all types of music genres and are used by professionals and amateurs alike. With the reputation Sony has, durability is nothing to worry about with these headphones and understandably so.
7Sennheiser HD 660 S
The Sennheiser HD 660 headphones are designed for ultimate comfort and performance above all everything else. Their oversized design also adds to the overall comfort, which is definitely something to look for in a pair of headphones. These headphones deliver the perfect balance of 93dB which is ideal for the human ear. The headset also features ortho-dynamic drivers installed in these headphones. The open-back design of these headphones deliver an excellent audio experience and are great for all types of music.
Audio-Technica’s ATH-AD700 is a remarkable headset, one that has the potential to become one of the best open-back headphones on the market given its recent rise in popularity. The honeycomb aluminum designed casing is built to last and is often seen on their headphones. Their drivers are 53mm but deliver an excellent performance with crisp audio and powerful bass. The soft ear pads have velvet on them which make them even more comfortable on the head and ears.
5AKG K 240 MKII
The AKG K 240 MKII are designed for comfort and reliability over extended periods of continuous use. The headset is made from lightweight and imported materials that are both comfortable and durable. With its semi-open technology, the bass is solid and highs are airy. These headphones offer dynamic range and perfect signal transfer thanks to its patented Varimotion 30 mm XXL transducer. The headband fitted on these headphones are adjustable and fit comfortably on any head, which is great considering that this headset is universally used by professionals and delivers an excellent performance.
Even though Beyerdynamic isn’t the most well-known brand when it comes to headphones of any kind, the DT-990 really stand out for all the right reasons. They are quite expensive but offer exceptional quality, mostly as a result of a quality headband pad and ear pads that are extremely soft and comfortable. The flat frequency response ensures sound is always delivered in a suitable frequency for the comfort of your ears. At the same time, the design of these headphones is stellar by most standards.
The Shure SRH1840 professional open-back headphones are professional headphones in the true sense of the word, a headset that delivers excellent sound quality and durability as well. The 40-mm neodymium drivers offer exceptional bass and high ends while the open-back design is great for an increased depth of field and wide stereo image. The body is made from lightweight aircraft grade aluminum and has stainless steel grills. Not only that but their headband is padded for comfortable listening and a great fit.
Audio-Technica is one of the top names in audio equipment and the ATH-R70x stands out for all the right reasons. The pure alloy magnetic circuit and magnets ensure exceptional high-frequency response and reduced distortion. The carbon composite resin used in the headphones construction improves its structural integrity. At the same time, the aluminum mesh is honeycomb shaped and delivers a great open-back sound. The ear pads are soft and comfortable, mostly as a result of their breathable fabric construction.
1Sennheiser HD 600
With the Sennheiser HD 600 headphones, you get some of the best open-back headphones ever made. Their lightweight aluminum design and voice coils deliver a brilliant transient response, which is precisely what to look for in a high-end pair of headphones. The headphones also have Neodymium ferrous magnets which carry excellent dynamics. Furthermore, their overall design is beautiful and ergonomic, a design that allows them to sit on the head perfectly and rather comfortably over long periods of time. With black and gray combinations to choose from, this sophisticated headset stands out not only from a technological point of view but also in regards to its aesthetics. Case in point, the cable is detachable, made from oxygen-free copper, and is reinforced with Kevlar for good measure.
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Open Back Headphones Guide
The more stylish cousin of the over-ear headphone that often provides excellent noise cancellation and sound quality than other options, it is a purchase you will want to get right the first time. If you do, you get hours of unbeatable responsiveness and bass, not to mention style.
The main draw is, of course, the casual look but there are certain things you need to get right when buying open back headphones. Whether you are buying them as a gift, or are treating yourself, here are some of the things to consider when buying open back headphones.
What To Look For In Open Back Headphones
This is where open back headphones tend to excel. The better brands will allow a level of noise cancellation whilst still giving a natural sound that doesn’t seem overly polished. You get the sound in your ears directly from the vents instead of it bouncing around the inner plate that you get with closed back options. Expect a cleaner sound, especially from the bigger brands.
Many people find open back headphones to be more comfortable than closed back because they allow the ears to come in contact with the air. The more they can breathe, the better. The cushioning on the ear should be padded to a high enough level to make them comfortable for long periods and the headband should be adjustable so it fits right.
The better quality the drivers in your headphones, the high the sound quality so you need these to be powerful as well as durable. Planar and magnetic drivers are two of the most reliable for ensuring the quality of the open back headphones and when it comes to bass, you need them to be a certain size.
Anyone who really likes their bass will need their drivers to be 40mm as a minimum, or 50mm and over to give you pumping bass in your ears.
You can get open back headphones in pretty much any size and whilst some cover the ear completely, others offer partial coverage. If you like the look of an open back headphone but are worried that partial coverage might impact the sound quality then don’t. The only thing that changes is how it feels and how comfortable you find them.
The earcups are crucial to the quality of any pair of headphones so make sure they have a good amount of padding so you can wear them for a while without any discomfort. More padding isn’t always better as it can make them heavier and bulky.
Open back headphones are a big market so expect the pricing to vary significantly. You can pay thousands for a pair or part with little more than a note or two. The problem with buying cheap headphones is you do not get the sound quality. A compromise is often found in spending a little to make a long term investment that means you don’t have to buy another pair a few months down the line when you get fed up with the cheap option, or it breaks.
This isn’t always a reliable way of buying anything but some brands get it right almost every time. It is a good idea to go for something that has a reputation instead of trying to save money though. You might have to part with more money for the bigger brands but you get the quality and durability that money actually can buy.
Open Back Headphones vs Closed Back Headphones
This is a debate that has intensified as both options have become better over time. It has to be said that closed back headphones are often considered better at canceling noise but this isn’t always such a good thing.
A popular trait for open back headphones is the fact that they often give you a clearer sound that although it might be a little airy, sounds more natural in some brands.
You do get more audio leakage with open back headphones but if someone is going to get annoyed by your tunes, the chances are they would with closed back headphones as well. In terms of bass, there isn’t a lot to differentiate and a lot of people prefer the bass in open back headphones.
Open Back Headphones: Advantages
Because they are made a little different, you expect something more, so what is it about open back headphones that make them so good?
Because they let in a bit of the ambient sound of the world around you, they allow you to take in some of your surroundings. This is important on your commute or when walking next to a busy road.
We’ve touched on this already but audiophiles and those in the know often comment on the superior sound of open back headphones for this very reason. Without compromising on accuracy, the natural sound that comes via these headphones makes them popular in studios and when mixing, as well as for everyday use.
Because closed back headphones feel and look bulkier, there is something to be said for the look and feel of open back headphones. More casual and stylish, they offer you brilliant sound quality when done right, and look as though you are a big music lover. The open, meshed style cups won’t go out of style anytime soon.