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Open-Back Vs Closed-Back Headphones | Which Is Best For You?

August 7, 2022 
BY DAN SPENCER
Open-Back Vs Closed-Back Headphones Blog Cover Image
Last Updated on December 31, 2023

As the world of music technology has progressed, so too has the level of customization available for musical instruments and accessories. This is especially true for headphones, which come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles.

One of the most common choices that people have to make when choosing headphones is whether to go for open-back or closed-back headphones. In this blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of both types of headphones to help you make the best decision for your needs.

What Are Open-Back Headphones?

Open-back headphones with a record and tape cassette on a yellow background.

Open-back is a type of headphone that allows air to flow freely through the back of the ear cups. This design helps to create a more natural sound and allows the listener to hear their surroundings more clearly. Open-back headphones are typically used by audio engineers and music producers, as they provide a more accurate representation of sound.

While open-back headphones offer many benefits, they also have a few drawbacks. One of the biggest downsides to open-back headphones is that they leak sound. This can be distracting to those around you. Additionally, open-back headphones can be more expensive than traditional closed-back headphones.

If you're looking for a more natural sound and don't mind leaking sound, then open-back headphones may be a good option for you. However, if you need to block out sound or want to save some money, then closed-back headphones may be a good option for you.

What Are Closed-Back Headphones?

Closed-back headphones sitting on a keyboard.

Closed-back is a type of headphone that enclose the ear to block out external noise. They are typically used in situations where it is important to hear the audio without any distractions, such as in a recording studio or during a live performance. Closed-back headphones can also be used for personal listening in situations like watching a movie or listening to music.

There are two main types of closed-back headphones: over-ear and on-ear. Over-ear headphones completely enclose the ear, while on-ear headphones rest on top of the ear. Both types of headphones provide a good seal that helps to block out external noise.

If you are looking for headphones that will help you focus on the task at hand, closed-back headphones are a good option to consider.

Do Open-Back Headphones Sound Better?

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Open-back headphones have a lot of benefits. They’re generally more comfortable, they don’t make your ears as hot, and they don’t have the “occluded” sound of closed-back headphones. But do they sound better?

It depends on what you’re looking for. Open-back headphones have a more “open” sound, which means you’ll be able to hear more of the little details in your music. They also have a wider soundstage, so you’ll feel like you’re surrounded by your music instead of wearing it.

When looking at open-back vs closed-back headphones and the best sound quality, open-back headphones are the way to go.


Related Article: The Top 5 Best Studio Headphones For Mixing In 2024


The Ideal Use Cases For Both

In this section, we'll look at open-back vs closed-back headphones use cases. Though you can use either type in any of these scenarios, we believe these are the best situations for each. Let's first start with music production usage.

Music Production

A woman in a recording studio wearing headphones singing into a microphone.

If you're in the recording studio, you might be wondering what the benefits are of open-back vs closed-back headphones and vice-versa. The truth is that there are pros and cons to both types of headphones, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference. However, we typically recommend closed-back headphones for recording studio use.

Closed-back headphones tend to provide better sound isolation, which is important in the recording studio. You need to be able to hear your voice and music clearly, without outside noise interfering. Closed-back headphones also tend to have a more accurate sound, which is important for recording and mixing purposes.

If you do decide to use open-back headphones in the studio, just be aware that they will leak sound and may not provide the same level of sound isolation and accuracy as closed-back headphones.

Public Spaces

If you're looking for headphones to use in public spaces, you'll want to consider closed-back headphones. Closed-back headphones have a design that helps to block out external noise, making them ideal for use in crowded places. They're also great for people who want to avoid disturbing others around them, like when you're listening to music on a plane or in a library.

Listening Alone

When jamming to music or your favorite podcast alone in your room, it doesn't matter if you have open or closed-backed headphones. At this point, it's all about the sound and feel of the particular headphones. We recommend trying out both types along with several brands to see what is right for you.

Gaming

When it comes to gaming, we treat it the same as our "listening alone" recommendation. The only catch would be if you are gaming with others in the same room. In that scenario, we recommend closed-back headphones so you can have some sound isolation.

Best Open-Back Headphones

So, what are some of the most popular open-back headphones on the market? Below, we've listed a few of our favorites.

Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X

If you're looking for a high-quality pair of open-back headphones, the Beyerdynamic BT 900 Pro X should be at the top of your list. These headphones are designed for professional use, and they deliver exceptional sound quality and comfort. The ear cups are made of a soft, velour material, and they sit comfortably on the ears for long listening sessions. The headband is also adjustable, so you can find the perfect fit.

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x

These headphones are designed for professional monitoring and mixing. They feature exclusive 45mm large-aperture drivers and are crafted with perforated earcups to provide exceptional sound quality. They have a lightweight and comfortable design, making them perfect for long hours in the studio. If you're looking for the perfect pair of headphones for professional use, the Audio-Technica ATH-R70x should be considered.

Sennheiser HD 800 S

These are the company's flagship model, and for good reason. These headphones offer superb sound quality, comfort, and build quality, making them a great choice for serious audiophiles, mix engineers, and music lovers.

HifiMan HE1000 V2

These are some of the best open-back headphones on the market. If you're looking for a pair of headphones that will give you the best immersive listening experience, the HE1000 V2, is hands down what you should get.

If you're looking for a pair of open-back headphones, any of the options above would be a great choice.

Best Closed-Back Headphones

Here is a list of four of the best closed-back headphones and their key features.

Sony MDR-7506

These headphones are popular among music professionals and have been used in many studios. They're well-known for their comfortable fit and clear sound quality.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

These headphones are also popular among music professionals and are known for their accurate sound reproduction. They're also comfortable to wear for long periods.

Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro

The DT 770 has become the standard for popular music genres like country, pop, and rock bands when monitoring in the studio or during live performances since 1980. Like the other DT’s these will hold up forever as long as you aren’t throwing them around.

Shure Aonic 50

These are a high-quality option for those looking for a great pair of headphones. These headphones feature a sleek design, comfortable ear cups, and a detachable cable. They also have a noise-canceling feature that makes them great for use in any environment.

If you're in the market for a pair of closed-back headphones, then you can't go wrong with any of these above options.


Related Article: Shure Aonic 50 Review | Are These The Best Headphones 2024?


Final Thoughts

If you're still undecided in this open-back vs closed-back headphones battle which are right for you, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, consider what you'll be using the headphones for. If you need headphones for isolating yourself from noise, then closed-back headphones are probably a better choice. But, if you're looking for headphones that provide a natural and realistic sound, then open-back headphones are the way to go.

Another thing to consider is comfort. Closed-back headphones can sometimes feel a bit claustrophobic, while open-back headphones are usually more comfortable. And finally, keep in mind that open-back headphones tend to be more expensive than closed-back headphones.

At the end of the day, the choice between open-back and closed-back headphones is a matter of personal preference. If you can't decide, why not try both and see which you like better?

"Some of the links within this article are affiliate links. These links are from various companies such as Amazon. This means if you click on any of these links and purchase the item or service, I will receive an affiliate commission. This is at no cost to you and the money gets invested back into Audio Sorcerer LLC."

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