What are the features that make the best open-back headphones? These audio devices offer a wide frequency range, fantastic sound quality, and an extra-comfortable design, making them perfect for at-home and studio listening. They’re also the best headphones for critical listening because they allow for a more airy and natural listening experience.
If you’re looking to up your headphone game and listen to your favorite music as it was intended to be heard by the artist, you can’t go wrong with open-back headphones. Just be aware that these are best used while you’re alone since sound can leak from the open-back design.
Keep on reading to learn what sets open-back headphones apart from the crowd and which features you should consider most when shopping for a new pair.
Top Open Back Headphones
#1 Philips SHP9600 Headphones
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: This pair of high-performance headphones will consistently deliver a quality auditory experience. They offer a balanced midrange that you’ll appreciate and an ergonomic design to be more comfortable.
- High-performance model
- Balanced midrange
- Ergonomic design
- Bass might be a little weak
You’ll love how comfortable these headphones are, especially when compared to competing models in the same class. This is because of the specially engineered drivers that fit your ear’s natural shape. This design creates a far more comfortable experience for those who use these headphones. Unfortunately, the bass available in these headphones will not be enough for some consumers. If heavy bass is top on your list, you might want to look elsewhere.
Alongside being more comfortable, the complete seal on your ears ensures no sound leakage happening with these headphones. This means you’re able to The 3-meter audio cable is detachable for your convenience. You’ll be able to use these headphones with any device that has an audio jack. This means it’s a multifunctional pair that can give you a better audio experience when watching content on your laptop, phone, tablet, or other devices.
#2 SENNHEISER HD 599 Headphones
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: These headphones can produce a fantastic sound that even an audiophile will approve of. They have soft velour ear pads, making them highly comfortable. You’ll love how many connection options are offered.
- Audiophile-level sound
- Soft velour ear pads
- Multiple connection options
- Have some issues with leaking
If you’re looking for a listening experience that even an audiophile will appreciate, these headphones deliver exactly what you need. Only premium materials are used in the manufacturing of this pair, so they always provide excellent audio quality. For example, the ear pads are covered in a luxurious velour that makes them highly comfortable. However, this pair of headphones does struggle with leaking noise. This is expected from open-back headphones, but this pair is worse than other models.
The headband is also padded, which keeps you from feeling strained from it during long listening sessions. Whether you’re playing video games or watching content, you’ll be good to go for a long time without your head feeling sore. There are multiple different ways to connect these with your devices, including a detachable 3-meter cable with a 6.3 audio jack. The aluminum voice coils allow the headphones to maximize efficiency and ensure extremely low distortion.
#3 beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Headphones
Award: BEST FOR PROFESSIONALS
WHY WE LIKE IT: You’ll appreciate the strong, punchy bass that this pair of headphones can produce. They have a highly durable design that will stand the test of time and fantastic sound reproduction for a more professional listening experience.
- Extremely strong bass
- Highly durable design
- Great sound reproduction
- Ear pads not replaceable
You’ve met your perfect match if you’re somebody looking for studio-ready headphones. This pair of headphones are made for pros or those who want a listening experience, just like the pros. It boasts incredible sound reproduction quality that will satisfy even the most critical listeners. Unfortunately, it has been reported by consumers that you cannot replace the earpads on this model of headphones. This could be a dealbreaker for some people due to sanitary reasons.
You’ll appreciate the inclusion of replaceable ear pads, which are made out of soft velour. This means you’ll be able to switch out the earpads if they start to show signs of wear and tear. Since they’re made with velour, they provide an incredible softness that will ease ear fatigue so you can enjoy listening for far longer. These headphones are also highly durable, so you won’t need to worry about them wearing out before their time.
#4 Samson Technologies SR850 Headphones
Award: BEST FOR COMFORT
WHY WE LIKE IT: The self-adjusting nature of these headphones will ensure that you’re comfortable while wearing them. When you purchase these headphones, the brand will include a stereo adapter for your convenience during the set-up process.
- Self-adjusting headband
- Stereo adapter included
- Great dynamic range
- Might not be as durable
If you’re looking for the ultimate in a comfortable experience, these headphones will provide you with precisely what you need. While some models may feel cumbersome, this pair of headphones remains lightweight even with a ton of technology packed in. Unfortunately, it has been shown that these headphones may not be the most durable option on the market. Because of this, you might want to consider a pair that will stand the test of time.
You’ll also have access to studio-quality sound, which creates a far more immersive experience for the listener. This pair of headphones has an incredible set of 50mm high-sensitivity drivers built into the design and an acoustically tuned chamber. You’ll only experience high-quality audio with accurate mid-range and low-end audio that delivers a punchy bass. You’ll have a truly dynamic range of audio available to you. The semi-open design has extended highs and a bass response you’ll love.
#5 AKG Pro Audio K702 Headphones
Award: BEST FOR IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES
WHY WE LIKE IT: You’ll be able to enjoy an utterly optimized fit when you choose these headphones. They have a specially designed voice coil, resulting in a more immersive audio experience. They also feature specially shaped earpads.
- Specially designed voice coil
- Specially shaped ear pads
- Optimized fit
- Struggles at higher volumes
Those looking for a powerful driver that delivers impressive sound quality will want to consider purchasing this pair of headphones heavily. They use a technology called Vermotion to allow the diaphragm on this model to have varying thickness around its diameter. This innovative tech allows the headphones to have a precise tuning. However, you might find that these headphones struggle to produce high-quality sound when you increase the volume too much. This might be a dealbreaker for some people.
This pair of headphones also feature flat-wire voice coil technology. You’ll appreciate how realistic and accurate this makes the audio that this model produces. It’s also responsible for how spacious the sound is, providing an immersive experience to the listener. The voice coils are rigid but lightweight, giving them a fantastic pulse response. You also won’t have to worry about the headphones causing soreness because of their unique 3D-form ear pads.
#6 Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X Headphones
Award: BEST FOR GAMERS
WHY WE LIKE IT: If you play video games, you’ll love that this pair of headphones includes a mic for in-game communication among players. It can also transform into a wireless model since the wire can detach.
- Cancels ambient sounds
- Wire can detatch
- Has a built-in mic
- Not great for movies or music
Anybody who plays multiplayer video games will benefit from adding this pair of headphones into their routine. There is a built-in microphone, making easy communication with team members possible. The mic is high-quality, so you can rest assured that it’ll deliver crystal clear messages. While this headset is fantastic for those using it to game, they are not as suited to listening to music or even movies. This makes them a less multifunctional option than competing models.
This pair of headphones also provides angled drivers. This means they’re positioned at an angle, allowing for a maximized natural sound reproduction. You’ll be able to achieve far better clarity in your video game audio, which grants you a far more immersive experience. To up the ante further, the brand also includes locational accuracy technology. That means it’s easier to hear enemies and have a better audial understanding of your surroundings.
Beginner’s Guide to Open-Back Headphones
What Are Open-Back Headphones?
Open-back headphones are a specific type of over-ear headphones that feature an open-back design on the earcups. Simply put, this means that the earcups feature grills or vents that allow air to pass around the drivers and your ears. This one simple feature creates a more expansive and airy listening experience when compared to closed-back headphones, which makes open-back cans the best audiophile headphones.
Open-Back Headphones vs Traditional Headphones
At first glance, open-back headphones look nearly identical to any other over-ear headphones. However, if you were to look closer, you’d notice the open-back design looks much different than what you see on closed-back headphones. This unique design comes in the form of vents or grills, which sometimes allow you to see the headphones’ actual drivers and other internal components.
This type of headphone design doesn’t just look different. It creates noticeable differences in audio quality compared to a closed-back design. The freedom of airflow in this design prevents pressure buildup around your ears, which allows for a more natural and airy sound quality during listening sessions. If you want a studio or sound stage experience, open-back headphones are excellent.
A pair of headphones with an open-back design also tend to be much more comfortable than other types of headphones, especially over longer periods. The venting in the earcups prevents your ears from getting too sweaty, and most of these headphones feature thick, soft padding.
How Open-Back Headphones Work
Open-back headphones don’t offer many differences in terms of functionality compared with the broader offering of headphones on the market today. First, they connect to an audio source, usually through a direct connection with coiled cables and a headphone jack. Then, the audio device sends an audio signal to your headphones when you press play. Your headphones will then utilize a combination of internal components like drivers, magnets, and voice coils to translate that audio signal into sound waves.
The open-back design that makes these such good audiophile headphones is a passive function that simply allows air to pass into and out of the earcup with ease. Since air can move freely throughout the earcups, these headphones eliminate pressure buildup and create more detailed sound, which is best for critical listening sessions.
Do You Really Need Open-Back Headphones?
If you want more natural sound from your headphones for a more immersive experience overall, you can’t go wrong with open-back headphones. These are the ideal headphones for a high-quality sound experience, audio production, and even casual listening at home. Plus, with added comfort features, you can experience extended listening sessions on these headphones without all the sweat and heat that come with alternative options.
Are Open-Back Headphones Worth Buying?
- You Want a More Natural and Authentic Listening Experience: Open-back headphones are perfect as studio headphones or for audiophiles because of their ability to reproduce a natural and expansive audio quality. They also produce more accurate sound, perfect for music production professionals. This isn’t possible with closed-back alternatives or earbuds.
- Your Ears Get Hot and Sweaty with Over-Ear Headphones: If you’ve ever worn a pair of headphones for a long period and ended up with hot, sweaty ears, then you have to give open-back earphones a try. These options allow for more airflow into and out of the earcups, eliminating the discomfort of heat that typically comes with other kinds of headphones.
- You Want Headphones with the Best Audio Technology: Open-back headphones typically feature more advanced driver options, especially compared to other types. While closed-back options predominantly use dynamic drivers, open-back options use planar and electrostatic drivers for more spacious and well-balanced sound quality, making them perfect for music lovers and professionals alike.
Why Open-Back Headphones May Not Be For You
- You Use Headphones Near Other People: While an open-back design allows for a grander listening experience, it also means you’ll need to deal with sound leak issues. This ultimately means that anyone around you can also hear what music you’re listening to, even if it’s on a quiet volume. If you plan on listening to music while traveling or studying in the library, you might want to consider an alternative option.
- You Want Noise-Cancelling Headphones: By nature, open-back headphones don’t offer any kind of noise cancelation functionality or comprehensive sound isolation. If you’re looking for headphones with passive or active noise cancelation features, you’ll need to consider something else.
- You Want to Wear Headphones While Exercising: It’s easy to think that the open-back design of these headphones would make them more comfortable for exercising, thanks to the better airflow. Unfortunately, most of these models are wired headphones made for home listening, which means that they won’t work well for active users. Instead, we recommend considering the leading over-ear headphones for working out.
How Long Will Open-Back Headphones Last?
According to industry experts, you should expect to get anywhere between five to ten years out of your headphones before they need to be replaced. However, the exact lifespan you get from your pair of headphones is highly dependent on their quality, durability, and even brand name.
Since open-back options are generally considered audiophile headphones, they are often of much higher quality than other types, which means they typically last longer. This also means they tend to be more expensive than other options. Of course, there are cheap headphones that you can buy in this category, and they won’t last as long as premium options.
You’ll also want to consider the quality of the detachable cable that comes with your headphones. Audio cables are often handled frequently, so they can wear out quickly over time. Fortunately, most high-quality open-back headphones also include a high-quality detachable cable that lasts just as long as, if not longer than, the headphones.
How to Choose Open-Back Headphones
Before you purchase a new pair of the best open-ear headphones on the market, you’ll want to think about exactly what you need out of them. This way, you can find the perfect fit.
You’ll need to consider how you plan to use the headphones, which can determine how much sound quality you need or how much budget you should dedicate toward their purchase. You should also consider build quality and comfort factors to ensure you can wear them for extended periods. Finally, consider features like connectivity options and battery life, if relevant to your preferences.
Best Open-Back Headphones Factors to Consider
1. How do you plan on using your open-backed headphones?
First and foremost, you need to consider how and where you plan on using your open-ear headphones. Take a look at some common use cases and how they affect your next considerations:
- Home Listening: If you’re planning on listening to your favorite music at home, then you’ll want to consider open-back cans with long audio cables, added comfort features, and great sound quality for an immersive listening experience. You may want to consider wireless headphones if you plan on using them while you do tasks around the house.
- Studio: If you plan to use them for professional music production, consider a pair of headphones with high impedance since you’ll most likely be connecting them to a dedicated headphone amp. Comfort features and a high-quality audio cable are also important here.
- Gaming: If you’re planning to connect your open-back headphones to your gaming PC, you’ll want to consider a pair with lively sound and an extra-comfortable design. While headphones with high impedance will give you better sound quality when connected to a dedicated headphone amp, the extra configuration and installation may not be worth it for gamers, especially since video game music isn’t always audiophile quality.
2. What comfort features should you look for in open-backed headphones?
There’s nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable in your headphones while listening to your favorite songs, especially during extended listening sessions. This is why it’s important to select a pair with comfort features that fit your needs.
At a minimum, you’ll want to purchase headphones with an adjustable headband and plenty of padding on the earcups. However, you have some wiggle room on the thickness of that padding, depending on how long you plan on wearing the earphones at any given time.
You’ll also want to consider how heavy the headphones are. Most manufacturers include weight in the product description. Heavier options will get uncomfortable quicker than options with a lightweight design.
3. Should you purchase wired or wireless open-backed headphones?
In general, most open-back options are wired headphones, which are better for sound quality and accuracy. However, there are some wireless options available on the market today. So, which is better for you?
As mentioned previously, wired headphones offer better sound quality, especially for audiophiles and music professionals, but they do offer some downsides. For starters, you’ll need to make sure you have a detachable cable that works with your audio source and is long enough to fit your movement. They may also require an amp in their impedance is high enough.
Wireless headphones are more convenient for people who like to move around while they listen to their favorite songs. However, you’ll need to consider battery life and charging times with wireless options. Plus, they won’t offer as accurate sound quality as wired options, although the differences are impossible to spot for most casual listeners. Wireless options also tend to be more expensive.
4. What build quality and durability factors should you consider for your open-backed headphones?
Open-ear headphones tend to be more expensive than other types, so you’ll want to make sure you purchase an option with plenty of durability and good build quality, so they last you a long time. Your headphones should fit well on your head and stay in place.
Over time, it’s almost guaranteed that your headphones will start to wear out, especially if you use them often. However, you should still be able to get at least a few years of use before that happens. When it happens, look for headphones with replaceable parts like earcups, audio cables, and headbands. This way, you won’t have to purchase a whole new pair just to replace one part.
5. How much impedance do your open-backed headphones feature?
The impedance rating of your headphones is simply a measurement of how much power is required to run the drivers. Headphones with a high impedance typically offer more volume and a more detailed sound experience.
Most people need an impedance rating between 50 and 80 ohms. However, you might want an impedance rating in the triple digits for music lovers and audio professionals. Just keep in mind that if you go this high, you’ll need to purchase a dedicated headphones amp to get the most out of your open-back headphones.