Over-Ear Headphones With Open vs Closed Backs

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Updated December 29, 2022

The best headphones on the market are meaningless if they don’t fit your personal needs. If you’ve been searching for the best over-ear headphones, you’ll likely run into the two styles we’re talking about today. In the article below, we’ll compare over-ear headphones with open vs. closed backs.


  • Closed-back headphones are the clear victor when it comes to passive noise isolation. This is because of their design, which closes completely around the back of your ear.
  • You’ll find this comparison ends in a draw when it comes to sound quality. Either pair of headphones will result in a great listening experience if you buy the right model.
  • Finally, we looked at the overall listening experience granted by the headphones. Closed headphones generally offer a better overall experience.

Comparing Open vs Closed Backs on Headphones

There are many different types of headphones on the market, but today we’ll be focusing on two styles of the same type: open-back and closed-back headphones. Closed-back headphones have a complete seal around the back, so you don’t have to worry about sound leakage. On the other hand, open-back headphones offer better air circulation. Keep reading to find out more.

Insider Tip

A closed-back design is great for creating a quiet environment anywhere.

Passive Noise Isolation

Passive noise isolation is an important feature for most consumers. This is because it allows for a more immersive sound experience while blocking out ambient noise. An open-back design is quite literally open in the back, meaning there’s nothing keeping noise from coming in or leaking out. Another interesting comparison is over-ear vs. in-ear headphones for the gym.

Sound Quality

This comparison is tricky because closed-back headphones offer an immersive experience with minimal sound leakage. However, some report that open-back headphones have an airier sound they love. That’s why this comparison is a draw. If you want to work out with your headphones, try comparing running with headphones vs. earbuds.


Open-back models are not known for being great noise-canceling headphones, so go with closed-back models if this is important to you.

Listening Experience

Open-back headphones are the way to go if you’re just looking for casual listening. For a more immersive listening experience, you’ll always want to choose closed-back headphones. When it comes down to it, you just need to know how much headphones cost to get an idea of the investment you’ll be making for an immersive listening experience.

STAT: 67 percent of respondents in a 2017 study said that they use headphones with a smartphone. (source)

Over-Ear Headphones Open vs. Closed FAQs

Are closed headphones better for a commute?

Closed headphones are generally better suited to places where you don’t need a lot of situational awareness. Because of this, it is not recommended you choose them for a commute.

How can I block external noise while listening to music?

The type of headphones you invest in will be the decider of how much ambient noise you can block. Ensure that you invest in a pair that touts active noise cancellation as a prioritized feature.

Is an open-back model good for a loud environment?

Generally speaking, you do not want to use open-back designs in a noisy environment. However, if it’s critical that you can hear exterior noise, you’ll want to go with the open-back model.

Which type of headphones is better for music production?

Critical listening is always best done in a closed-back design. Because of this, most audio experts choose them to perfect their musical projects.
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