Headphones come in various styles and sizes. A simple stock set of earbuds will suffice for those who don’t take pairs of headphones too seriously and simply need to listen to music without caring too much about your gear. We’re presuming that those of you who have come here to learn about open-back headphones aren’t in that category.
Every tiny detail matters to severe audiophiles, and when it is about listening to every minute detail of our favorite sounds, we need something top-notch. Of course, there is certainly a lot more to the differences between a set of Apple stock earphones and a great pair of Sennys than just the price. Let’s look at our top ten list of the top open-back headphones on the market.
What Are Open Back Headphones?
Open-back headphones do not confine your ears within the cups. They’re vented, so air may flow in and out of them, including around the driver. Most of the time, the driver is also visible through the vents.
The fundamental strength of this style of headphones is that it minimizes the sound pressure that builds up inside the earpieces, potentially altering the sound. This results in a more precise and natural listening experience, similar to hearing speaker monitors in a room. You’ll also note the expansive soundstage, further improving the audio output. These headphones provide a lot of width and depth that you don’t usually get with closed ones.
It all comes down to the fantastic audio from open headphones because they can replicate what listening on monitors is like. Two distinct factors achieve this:
- Room noise. Because you are not secluded, you can hear some of the surroundings.
- Crossfeed. That is the natural-sounding blend of the right and left channels on a pair of speakers. The same blending occurs with open headphones because the sound from one channel spills into the other and vice versa.
Open back Headphones — What Are They Good For?
Don’t be concerned if you’re unfamiliar with the technology of open-back headphones. You may require some research to understand the key differences between closed-back and open-back design headphones. Like most things in the audio realm, experiencing is the best way of learning. Here are several circumstances in which we recommend or do not recommend open-back or semi-open headphones.
- Listening At Home — Recommended. From classical to rock, studio to live, open-back headphones have the ability to expand the soundstage better than most other types. In the best mixes, you can nearly point to where sounds are coming from in the stereo field, letting you experience the pleasure of onstage performances like they are happening in front of you.
- Mixing or Mastering In The Studio — Recommended. Open-back headphones are our go-to’s for the flattest response and the best depiction of how your music will sound on different playback platforms.
- Monitoring from the soundboard — Not Recommended. Loud bands will force you to fight your headphone amp to achieve a sufficient volume level for your ears, which might be hazardous to your ears’ health. Keep things simple with a good pair of isolation-type headphones.
- Tracking in the studio — Not Recommended. Not only will you struggle to acquire the separation you need to analyze yourself while tracking effectively, but there is also substantial risk of introducing bleed from the ‘phones into the mics. In this case, open-back headphones are not the best choice.
- Consuming Real-World Music — Maybe. This is dependent on the circumstances. If you’re hiking or walking to work, open-back headphones are ideal because they reduce internal bleeding while still allowing you to hear incoming traffic and approaching bikers. However, if you listen near the beach or on a train, the noise floor will most likely be too high to enjoy the music.
What Makes A Great Open-back Headphone?
Despite the fact that the definition of the term “best” is different for everyone, we wanted to share a list of the criteria used to establish what makes a superb set of open-back headphones.
- Comfort: This is likely the most basic yet crucial factor for any headphones. Weight, contact pressure, earpad shape/material, stiffness, and overall size all play a part in comfort, despite being highly subjective. We should also examine how much heat can build up around the ears during prolonged listening sessions.
- Impedance/device compatibility: It is critical for a pair of headphones to be compatible with various audio equipment. Choose a pair of high-quality circumaural headphones that will fit effortlessly into your setup, whether you use them in a professional studio setting or on a mobile device. When determining compatibility, sensitivity and impedance ratings are essential considerations.
- Tonal profile: Any open-back headphones are only as nice as they sound, which is where personal tastes and pet peeves come into play. The concept of a “neutral” sound differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, and tuners may add their flavor to the frequency response to get a distinct “house sound.” Too much bass or headphones that are too loud obscure midrange nuances and can be exhausting to listen to for prolonged periods – something to keep in mind while shopping.
- Frequency response: the sign of a great pair of headphones is their ability to cleanly reproduce the entire auditory spectrum from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Wireless (notably Bluetooth) abilities are also considered advantageous because they improve the functioning and overall comfort of the headphones.
Now that we have that out, let’s move forward to our favorite openback headset picks.
Top 10 Best Open-Back Headphones
Now that we’ve covered the basics of headphone design, here’s our list of the top ten best open back headphones available today. If you’ve any concerns, comments, or recommendations, please leave them in the comments section below.
Remember, If you want to power up your headphones, you may need a headphone amplifier unless you’re utilizing an audio interface for mixing and mastering your tracks.
|Best Open-back Headphones||Impedance||Frequency Response||Sensitivity||Driver Size||Connectivity Technology||Form Factor||Price||Amazon Rating|
|Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro||250 ohm||5 – 35,000 Hz||91,68 dB||45 mm||Wired||On Ear||$149.00||4.7 out of 5 stars|
|Sennheiser HD 800 S||300 ohms||4Hz – 51,000 Hz (-10 dB)||103 dB at 1 kHz, 1V||56 mm||Wired||Over Ear||$1,599.95(on sale)||4.6 out of 5 stars|
|Philips SHP9500||32 ohms||12 – 35,000 Hz||101 dB||50 mm||Wired||Over Ear||$79.99||4.6 out of 5 stars|
|Sennheiser HD 660 S||150 ohm||10 – 41,000 Hz||104 dB at 1 kHz / 1 V||42 mm||Wired||Over Ear||$279.95||4.7 out of 5 stars|
|Philips Fidelio X2HR||30 ohms||5 – 40,000 Hz||100 dB||50 mm||Wired||Over Ear||$205.29||4.6 out of 5 stars|
|Grado SR80e||32 ohms||20 – 20,000 Hz||99.8 dB||Wired||Over Ear||$168.75||4.5 out of 5 stars|
|Samson Technologies SR850||32 ohms||10 – 30,000 Hz||98 dB||50 mm||Wired||Over Ear||$34.99||4.6 out of 5 stars|
|Astro Gaming A40 TR X-Edition||48 ohms||20 – 20,000 Hz||107 dB||40 mm||Wired||Over Ear||$99.99||4.4 out of 5 stars|
|AKG Pro Audio K702||62 ohms||10 – 39,800 Hz||105 dB||45 mm||Wired||Over Ear||$409.00||4.5 out of 5 stars|
|Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X||50 ohms||15 – 28,000 Hz||116 dB||Detachable Wire||Over Ear||$99.00(on sale)||4.5 out of 5 stars|
1. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
- Extremely strong bass
- Highly durable design
- Ideal for professional use
- 3-dimensional sound
- Rugged headband construction
- Soft earpads with viscose
- Ear pads are not replaceable
All studio monitors from renowned headphones manufacturer Beyerdynamic are built in Germany, ensuring a higher level of quality control. They’re designed like a tank, with durable hard plastic ear cups and a cushioned leather metal frame.
It’s an investment, mainly because you’ll need to buy a separate mic to use for in-game chat. Still, reviews say these Beyerdynamic studio headphones gaming are “one of the greatest sounding headsets that money can buy” and “worth every penny.” The velour ear cushions are soft, pleasant, and removable, and the frame and skeleton are pretty durable.
The bass has incredible power and attack while not interfering with the midrange, which is wonderfully clear and precise. The upper mids, along with the lower treble, are also increased to add clarity. However, it can be sibilant at times.
Finally, the 80-ohm impedance allows you to hear every detail with pinpoint accuracy. (They come in gray or black, and a gaming-friendly 250 ohms version, which most gamers seem to agree is more than enough.)
For barely over $150 (or less), you have an excellent mixing and mastering tool which you can trust.
2. Sennheiser HD 800 S
- Excellent frequency response for explosive lows and crisp highs
- High impedance so these won’t blow out
- Stainless-steel casing
- Highly durable
- Microfiber earpads for all-day comfort
- Attractive, modern-looking design
- Not recommended for mobile devices
- Folding for storage is not recommended
The HD 800 S is Sennheiser’s consumer-level flagship, the open-backed model that is a master of some and a jack of other trades. Their bass response is their most mundane aspect, which could have been better, but it is adequate. The treble also has a considerable presence-region accent, which some may find tiring.
Fortunately, these concerns may be resolved with appropriate amp pairs or with a good old-fashioned equalizer.
The mids feature great tuning, natural voicing, and a beautiful portrayal of acoustic instruments. Despite the bright tilt, the treble is prolonged, sparkling, and can convey a sense of airiness that is uncommon in headphones with dynamic drivers. These results are possible because the ring-radiator driver contributes to lightning-fast transients along with minimal distortion.
To top it off, the HD800 S is exceptionally comfortable to wear, especially for long durations, and aftermarket components are widely available.
Their soundstage and imaging, however, are the most notable features. The HD800 S has a practically speaker-like presentation, with sound coming from the front of the users. Their spatial properties also set them distinct from the competition.
In essence, there are few flaws and a pair of headphones that perform admirably across a wide range of circumstances and genres, giving true adaptability to the end user. If you only want to buy one set of premier headphones without going into the summit-fi zone, the HD800 S is a strong choice.
3. Philips SHP9500
- Highly affordable
- Superior frequency response
- Compatible with many devices
- Double layered headband cushion
- Breathable ear cushion
- Average fit.
- Don’t fold.
The Philips SHP9500 is a superb choice for open-back headphones at a reasonable price.
The Hi-Fi quality of this headset is made possible by the synchronization of a finely tuned, acoustically open ear cup design and its 50mm neodymium speaker drivers.
The drivers provide powerful sound within the range of 12 Hz to 35,000 Hz, combined with an excellent open-back design that allows air pressure to escape, ensuring that these drivers shine bright. The end effect is auditory clarity plus a natural wide stereo image.
The earcups are constructed such that the sound from the transducers is routed directly into the ears, offering a dynamic and genuine listening experience.
The SHP9500 comes with a detachable cable that is 3 meters long with a 3.5mm stereo plug connector on the end (which is the standard in most headphones), and it attaches to the left earcup. However, it comes with a gold-plated 3.5mm to 6.35mm adaptor for easy connecting to 1/4′′ (6.35mm) headphone jacks.
Because of the nominal impedance of 32 ohms, even low-powered mobile device headphone DACs/amps can successfully work these headphones to have excellent performance.
The SHP9500’s headband is double-layered with comfortable padding for support and composed of steel for strength and longevity. The ventilated earpads provide a comfortable fit while enhancing heat dissipation to keep ears cool over long listening periods.
4. Sennheiser HD 660 S
- Lightweight yet durable
- Comfortable of all-day use
- Dynamic range and a supremely wide soundstage
- Audiophile-grade headphones
- Replaceable padded ear cups
- Slightly bulky
The HD 660 S takes everything wonderful about the HD 600/650 and improves on it.
Sennheiser HD 660 S is another outstanding open-back headphone from the renowned German manufacturer, offering an incredible audio experience. The bass has more command and impact, there is increased detail in the midrange, and the treble has somewhat more definition.
Overall, a well-balanced performance deserving of the designation of reference headphones.
This Sennheiser pair of open-back headphones have a nearly identical design to the HD 600/650. The advantages are durability and removable dual-exit cables.
Because spare components are constantly available, you can easily use these over-ears for decades. The wonderful thing about the HD660 S is that you can replace everything.
Ear Cups are quite large, allowing a more comfortable fit for lengthy periods of time, even for the largest ear size. The ear pads are made from velour memory foam that is very comfortable on your skin and can help reduce sweating. The HD 660 S is among the top open-back headphones priced under $500 that we are certain audiophiles will appreciate.
5. Philips Fidelio X2HR
- Comfortable to wear for hours
- Replaceable ear cups
- Lightweight self-adjustable hammock
- Easy to drive
- Microphone Feature
- Double layered earshells
- Exceptional bass
- Universal Phone Control
- Mids are noticeably recessed
Another worthy model for the best open-back headphones to explore is the Philips Fidelio X2HR. It features a very sturdy metal construction that will last you a long time if you are careful with your pair, along with 50 mm neodymium drivers. The”pre-tilted” drivers sit at a 15 degrees angle to help with “accuracy,” plus, the 3D mesh fit is terrific for a custom feel while it’s on your head.
The Fidelio X2HR’s headband is leather, which is ideal (unless you are looking for a vegan-friendly pair), mainly if you use headphones for an extended period of time if comfort is important to you and you want to avoid the annoying pain that occurs after a while of use.
Keep checking the price for sales, and if you manage to secure a good saving, we recommend grabbing these because you wouldn’t be disappointed. The Philips Fidelio X2 is an all-around good pair of open back headphones within the mid-range price.
The Philips Fidelio X2HR isn’t as well regarded as the other options on our list as an excellent choice for open back headphones for gaming. However, don’t be fooled by its lack of popularity; the X2HR combines ease of driving, strong construction quality, and support that feels like luxury despite costing substantially less than we believe it should.
6. Grado SR80e Prestige Series
- 1 year manufacturers warranty
- X Series Driver
- Vegan-friendly material headband
- High-quality audio drivers
- Balanced and clear sound
- Average comfort
- Average quality foam pads
The Grado SR80e is a great open-back top on-ear headphone that is very reasonably priced.
The headphone reproduces audio with precision from the low end to the high end, with a 20 Hz – 20,000Hz frequency response, which is the audible frequency range of humans). The SR80e uses moving-coil dynamic drivers tuned to 0.1 dB to generate this realistic sound. The drivers provide an excellent stereo field as well as a wide dynamic range.
The open-back housing enhances the stereo image even more and is meticulously constructed to prevent transient distortions, which gives the SR80e the space to excel at reproducing audio precisely.
Each open-back ear cup is linked to a single audio cable. The 4-pin cable has a gold-plated 3.5mm socket and transmits audio without significant deterioration, guaranteeing that the headphones get and replicate audio supplied to the drivers. There is a gold-plated 3.5mm to 6.35mm adaptor included.
The Grado SR80e headset has a rated impedance of 32 ohms and may be easily powered by any mobile device, consumer-grade audio player, or professional equipment.
These headphones rest lightly on the listener’s head and, while firm, do not put undue strain on the ears. The fit is softened by the S cushions that add to the comfort, especially for prolonged use. Supra-aural headphones are well-known for being harsh on the surface of the ears. Grado defies this notion with the SR80e.
7. Samson Technologies SR850
- Self-adjusting headband
- Semi-open headphones
- Stereo adapter included
- Outstanding comfort for long listening sessions
- Great dynamic range
- Averagely durable
If you want the best in comfort, these headphones are for you. While other models may feel heavy, even with a lot of technology, the open-back style SR850 by Samson Technologies stays lightweight. Unfortunately, many users have experienced that these headphones may not be the most long-lasting choice on the market. As a result, you might wish to choose a more durable pair.
With these headphones, you will enjoy the studio-quality sound, which produces a considerably more immersive experience for the listener. This pair of headphones features an excellent set of high-sensitivity 50mm drivers as well as an acoustically adjusted chamber.
You’ll only hear high-quality audio with precise mid-range and low-end audio that offers powerful bass. The dynamic range of audio is also highly impressive. The semi-open design provides extended highs and a satisfying bottom response.
The self-adjusting design of these headphones makes them perfect for prolonged wear. The brand will offer a stereo adaptor with these headphones for your convenience throughout the setup process. Overall, Samson SR850 deserves top marks for its comfort and sound quality.
8. Astro Gaming A40 TR X-Edition
- Synthetic leather noise-canceling ear cushions
- Tuned for gaming
- Voice-isolating mic
- Padded headband
- Removable and swappable microphone
- Can be used as open- or closed-back (with Mod Kit)
- Not the best non-gaming performance
If you’re not sure about open-back headphones, Astro Gaming A40 TR X-Edition will surely change your mind. Astro A40 TR X-Edition is one of the best open-back headphones for gaming that are specially designed with extensive input from both professional gamers and game creators. ASTRO Audio V2 delivers pro-quality audio for gamers, especially while live streaming.
The lightweight yet rugged construction with premium materials offers excellent fit without sacrificing comfort. In addition, the AK40 has a removable unidirectional built-in microphone. We love that the A40 can be utilized as an open-back or closed-back headset. If you’re still on the fence, the AK40 is for you. If you don’t like the natural sound and airiness of open-back headphones, you can always modify the AK40 to be a closed-back headphone.
All-in-all, Astro A40 TR X-Edition is a must-try pair of headphones for gamers who want top-notch quality on a strict budget.
9. AKG Pro Audio K702
- Wide and impressive soundstage
- Excellent for gaming
- Powerful, accurate, and feedback-free sound
- Ergonomic padded genuine-leather headband
- Innovative gel construction ear cups
- Varimotion two-layer diaphragm
If you’re searching for a pair of open back headphones with a powerful driver and exceptional sound quality, you should seriously consider the AKG Pro Audio K702. The patented Varimotion two-layer diaphragm ensures a significant improvement in the high-frequency range and better low frequencies.
You get realistic and accurate audio production with flat-wire voice coil technology. It’s also in charge of how spacious the sound is, giving the listener an immersive experience. The voice coils are sturdy but lightweight, resulting in an excellent pulse response.
For optimal comfort during extended wear hours, K702 offers specially shaped 3D-foam ear pads and over-ear design, so you can comfortably wear these headphones for hours without any tiredness.
The only con of the AKG Pro Audio K702 is that they struggle to generate a high-quality sound when the volume is turned up to max. For some, this may be a deal breaker, so we wouldn’t recommend AKG Pro Audio K702 to you if you love your music loud.
10. Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X
- Affordable option
- Noise-canceling mic
- Outstanding audio and microphone quality
- Comfy and secure headband
- Built with audiophile drivers
- Not an ideal choice for movies or music
If you enjoy multiplayer video games, you will surely fall in love with the Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X open ear wireless headphones. The built-in microphone is a huge plus for gamers as it makes communication with team members more convenient.
The microphone quality is top-notch, so you can always be confident that it will convey crystal clear messages. While this headset is excellent for gaming, it is not ideal for listening to music or watching movies. As a result, they are less versatile than rival models.
Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X features angled drivers, which means that the mic is positioned at an angle that maximizes natural sound reproduction. Due to this feature in the PC37X, you always experience more clarity in your games and tunes. PC37X also features locational accuracy technology. That means it’s easier to hear enemies and have a better audial understanding of your surroundings.
The open-back design of PC37X allows better stereo imaging and locational accuracy, making Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X a top favorite of gamers who need the best open-back headphone under 100.
Which type of headphones, open-back or closed-back, is superior?
There are distinct advantages to be gained from using either open or closed-back headphones. If you desire more airflow as well as a sound that is more open and “natural,” open-back headphones may be the preferable option, specifically for critical listening. On the other hand, closed-back headphones are the most effective at preventing sound from escaping in circumstances that are not entirely private.
When it comes to mixing, which type of headphones is better: open-back or closed-back?
Since open-back headphones do not include low-frequency amplification, the original sound reproduced through them is considered more “accurate” than that of closed-back headphones. Open-back headphones are likely to be the more comfortable and efficient choice, especially if you spend several hours mixing in a relatively quiet studio.
Which type of headphones, open-back or closed-back, is better for gaming?
Open-back headphones deliver a sound that is closer to that of the game’s environment, and their design makes this type more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
What exactly are headphones with a semi-open back?
A combination of the two styles, semi-open-back headphones represent an open-back headphone style with fewer holes or perforations in the back. They are a little bit less brittle, but they nevertheless provide some airflow for the driver to easily move around in, which helps cut down on several of those low-frequency humming sounds. Bear in mind that even headphones with a semi-open back will let some sound through, but they are still preferable for private listening.
Now that you know the ten best open-backs, we hope this list helps you choose the best one that ticks all the boxes. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is our overall favorite, whereas Astro A40 TR X-Edition is an excellent option for gamers on a strict budget.
What is your top favorite open-back headphone? Do you prefer open-back over closed-back headphones? Please share your views about open-back headphones with us in the comments section below.