Open back headphones are often favored by audiophiles because they are more transparent and accurate in their sound reproduction. Open back headphones allow for a more natural sound, allowing the listener to hear all the nuances of each recording. In this article, we will be reviewing some of the best open back headphones out there on the market.
What is an open back headphone?
An open back headphone is a type of headphone that does not completely seal off the back of the ear cup, allowing sound to escape both into and out of the headphones. This feature is designed to provide the listener with a more natural and open soundstage.
They are great for listening to music in a quieter environment as they provide excellent soundstage and clarity, allowing you to appreciate the nuances of your favorite songs. Also, open-back headphones are preferred by gamers. However, they are not suitable for loud or noisy environments as they cannot provide adequate isolation from the surrounding noise.
What look for before buying the best open back headphones
Before buying the best open back headphones, it is important to consider a few factors such as comfort, sound quality, design and build quality, and price.
Comfort is a key factor when it comes to choosing the best open back headphones. If you are using your headphone for several hours on end, then you need a pair of headphones that is very comfortable to wear. Look for features such as padded headbands and earpads, adjustable hinges, and swiveling earcups that can be adjusted to the shape of your head. Also, it is important to consider the size and weight of the headphones, as well as the type of padding and headband that are used. These features will help make sure that you don’t experience any pressure points or discomfort when using your headphones.
When it comes to the sound quality of an open back headphone model, there are certain criteria to consider, such as frequency response, soundstage, clarity, and detail. Also, you need to check out the types of drivers used, such as dynamic drivers and planar magnetic drivers, as these will also affect sound quality. Frequency response refers to how accurately an audio device can reproduce the frequencies within a certain range. A wide frequency range is generally seen as a desirable quality in an open-back headphone, as it allows the user to enjoy music at its full potential. Soundstage, clarity, and detail all relate to how immersive the audio experience can be.
Price can be a deciding factor when choosing a headphone, but it should not be the only one. While a higher price usually implies better sound quality, it does not always guarantee that the product will meet one’s expectations. Sometimes, a headphone with great sound quality might not be comfortable to wear. Additionally, cheaper headphones can often offer better value for money; they might be well-built and have features that one could not expect from a more expensive product. Hence, when buying a headphone, one should not just consider the price but also research the features, sound quality, and design to ensure they purchase a product that fits their needs and preferences.
List of the best open back headphones
- Sennheiser HD 800 S
- Focal Clear Professional
- HIFIMAN Arya
- Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X
- Philips Fidelio X2HR
- Audeze LCD-2
- Audio-Technica ATH-R70x
- Sennheiser HD 600
- Audio-Technica ATH-AD900X
Sennheiser HD 800 S
The Sennheiser HD 800 S is a high-end open back headphone made for reference-quality sound reproduction. The open-back nature of the HD 800 S helps it deliver a natural and spacious sound stage. On the other hand, they are great for critical listening, as they provide an airy and open sound that brings out the detail in recordings. Moreover, the headphone is big but not too heavy and have a special, ergonomic headband that evenly distributes the weight across the head. Also, the ear cups are made for long listening sessions, all thanks to the generous amount of padding.
When it comes to the audio quality of the Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones, it is simply remarkable. The headphones have an extended frequency response from 4 Hz to 51 kHz. This means the treble response is airy and detailed, and the midrange is vivid and accurate, while the bass has a satisfying punch. In addition, the soundstage is wide and spacious, allowing you to clearly distinguish individual instruments in a mix. With all these great features, the Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones offer an outstanding listening experience.
Overall, the Sennheiser HD 800 S is the best open back headphone that offers exceptional sound quality. Also, it is very comfortable to wear, even for extended periods of time. However, the main downside of the HD 800 S headphones is their exceptionally high price. That alone will discourage many people from this headphone, but if you are a true audiophile, then this shouldn’t stop you from getting it.
- Amazing sound quality
- Sturdy build
- Comfortable to wear
- Extended frequency response
- Very pricy
Focal Clear Professional
One of the best open back headphones is the Focal Clear Professional, made for music lovers who demand excellent sound and comfort for prolonged listening sessions. It is designed to offer an amazing sound experience and look aesthetically pleasing at the same time. The headphone features a sleek design with an open-backed construction made from high-grade aluminum and leather. Its earcups are heavily padded for maximum comfort. In addition, this wired open back headphone is accompanied by a hard-shell carrying case for carrying it around.
Furthermore, the sound quality of the Focal Clear Professional is nothing to scoff at. It has a frequency response range of 5 Hz to 28 kHz and is equipped with 40 mm full-range aluminum/magnesium ‘M’ shaped drivers for superior sound quality. As for its bass, it is tight and punchy, the midrange is clear and detailed, and the treble is smooth without being harsh.
All in all, this wired open-back headphone is an ideal choice for professionals who demand the best sound quality when it comes to monitoring and mixing their audio. So you can consider the Focal Clear Professional among the best open back headphones for mixing. However, it, too, like the Sennheiser HD 800 S, is an expensive piece of headphone.
- High-quality build quality
- Great sound quality
- Comfortable fit
- Creates wide and immersive soundstage
- Slightly bulky
- High price point
The next on our list of the best open back headphones are the premium HIFIMAN Arya. Where most headphones have common dynamic transducers, this one features a planar magnetic transducer. They can reproduce low bass more accurately and enhance their soundstage thanks to this design.
The HIFIMAN Arya features acoustically invisible stealth magnets. This indicates that the design significantly lowers the turbulence caused by wave diffraction, which compromises the quality of the sound waves. It is achieved because of the special magnets, which enable the waves to pass through the magnets without generating interference.
This results in a more accurate audio output that accurately reproduces sounds from vocals and instruments. As for its frequency response range, it is between 8Hz to 65 kHz, meaning it can reproduce sounds from wide frequency ranges from deep bass and high treble.
The HIFIMAN Arya also has a very strong build because the headphone is made of metal and plastic. Also, the weight of these materials is spread evenly so that you don’t feel the entire weight in one place. In addition, the earcups are made of metal and have a honeycomb grille design that helps to reduce resonances and provide a more natural sound.
The earcups themselves are enormous and have generous padding that provides comfort during long sessions. All in all, the HIFIMAN Arya is a high-end open back headphone and is definitely pricy.
However, sometimes its premium features and use of high-quality materials and technology can be a problem. For instance, a headphone as powerful as Arya requires a powerful audio source to give their best performance, and your phones or other devices may be inadequate.
- High-quality sound
- Wide frequency response ranges
- Premium build quality & comfortable fit
- Comparatively pricy
Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X
Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X is a pair of mid-range open-back headphones for critical listening, studio mixing, and mastering. They are lightweight with a durable metal frame and soft ear cushions that provide excellent comfort during long use. Additionally, the headband is padded to evenly distribute the weight, and the ear cups are adjustable, ensuring a snug and comfortable fit.
The sound quality of the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X is amazing. The STELLAR.45 sound transducer and 48-ohm impedance are key features of the DT 900 PRO X. They enable the headphones to create a loud, vivid sound without being overly noticeable at either end of the spectrum.
The sub-bass, bass, and midrange frequencies are accurately reproduced with the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO X headphones. For bass lovers, this headphone is the best option if used properly. These headphones are very good at accurately reproducing your music, but as an open back headphone, it is really bad at noise isolation. In fact, it is unlikely that you could use these headphones outside your desktop workspace.
The premium and high-end open back studio headphones like the above-mentioned Sennheiser HD 800 S and Focal Clear Professionals can cost upward of a thousand USD. But compared to them the Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X is a steal. So, if you’ve just started your professional life and in a tight budget then the Beyer DT 900 PRO X is a great option to start from.
- Great sound quality
- Good build quality
- Detachable cables
- Comfortable to wear
- Little to no sound isolation feature
Philips Fidelio X2HR
A more affordable option than the earlier open back headphones is the Philips Fidelio X2HR. It features a high-power 50 mm dynamic driver that uses powerful neodymium magnets to reproduce well-balanced and clear sounds. The drivers themselves are inside a double-layered ear-shell design enclosure and engineered to tilt at 15 degrees. This allows a snug and comfortable fit on your ears and directs the sound signals into your ears, thus creating an immersive and authentic listening experience.
Additionally, they provide a good soundstage, but it is not as wide as the HIFIMAN Arya, Sennheiser HD 800 S, or any other high-end headphones. Also, you cannot expect to use it for studio mixing and mastering.
Nonetheless, the Philips Fidelio X2HR open back headphones are a great choice for neutral listening. Additionally, because they have an open back design, they don’t perform well in noisy settings. But they are perfect for listening to music in a quiet room.
However, the X2HR excels in comfortability. Its auto-adjustable headphone and well-padded earcups enable it to be used for long hours. Overall, the Philips Fidelio X2HR is a budget-friendly open back headphone.
- Well balanced sound
- Comfortable fit
- Premium build
- Not suitable for studio use
The Audeze LCD-2 is the next best open back headphone in this list. It’s a high-quality pair of headphones with a 5 m detachable cable that lets you easily switch between wired and wireless modes, giving you a variety of listening options. This particular feature makes it a wireless open back headphone.
Moreover, this headphone is equipped with 100mm Planar magnetic drivers, which helps produce smooth sound quality. It has a frequency response range of 10 Hz to 50 kHz, providing you with an impressive range of sound. And its impedance is reported to be around 70 ohms, and its sensitivity of 101 dB, making it suitable for many amplifiers and audio sources.
When it comes to the sound quality of the Audeze LCD-2 open back headphones, they perform incredibly well compared to other headphones at the same price point. We found its bass response to be deep and powerful without being overbearing. The LCD-2 suffers slightly in the mids, with some harshness in the upper mids, but this is something that can be adjusted. As for its treble, we found it to be surprisingly clear, with a good amount of detail, and without being overly bright.
As for comfort and the build quality of the Audeze LCD-2, they are both great. Other than the headband and the earpads, everything used in its construction is metal. This makes the headphone heavy, and some of you might find it uncomfortable initially. But after a few times, that uneasiness will pass. The paddings in the earpads are comfortable, and you wouldn’t mind having them on your ears for long periods of time.
Overall, we were incredibly impressed with the sound quality of the Audeze LCD-2 open back headphones, and their build and comfort aren’t bad. However, headphones like Sennheiser HD 600 and Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X offer similar and, in some places, better performance for a lower price point.
- Decent sound quality
- Premium build quality
- Comfortable fit
- Fairly wide soundstage
- Comparatively pricy
- Bulky design
The ATH-R70x is Audio-Technica’s option for the high-end open back headphones section. However, we won’t consider it an equal to Sennheiser’s HD 800 S, HIFIMAN Arya, or the Focal Clear Professional studio headphones on our list. Nevertheless, the ATH-R70x is a great piece of equipment that provides a decent frequency range and a soundstage that any audiophile would enjoy.
When you look into the bass response of the ATH-R70x, it is tight and controlled, with good extension into the sub-bass range. The mids are clear and natural, with no harshness, and the treble is smooth and extended, without any sharp peaks or roll-offs. The overall sound signature is neutral and well-balanced, with no emphasis on any particular frequency range.
Additionally, the ATH-R70x has a 470-ohm impedance and a sensitivity of 99 dB. This means you need an amplifier to drive them. As for the build quality and design, the ATH-R70x is very lightweight, and along with its 3D wing support system, you won’t feel any pressure even after extended use. However, the earcups of the R70x are shallower and smaller in size, making it a difficult fit for people with larger ears.
While the ATH-R70x is much smaller in size than the ATH-AD900X, it sounds comparatively better. However, its main competitor in our minds would be the Sennheiser HD 600 or the HD 650 headphones. The ATH-R70x and the HD 600 are both closer in sound performance, but some would say the latter has a slight edge because of sharper sound quality. But we would give the win to the R70x because of comfort. Overall, the ATH-R70x is among the best Audio Technica headphones there is and definitely their top open back option.
- Good sound quality
- Very lightweight build
- Comfortable fit
- Might not be suitable for larger ears/heads
Sennheiser HD 600
The next best Sennheiser open back headphones on our list are the HD 600. The HD 600 has been designed for critical listening and provides a warm, natural sound. It delivers a good and well-balanced frequency response. This makes them suitable for listening to music in a more peaceful environment, such as at home or in the office.
For its drivers, the Sennheiser HD 600 uses dynamic drivers instead of the slightly more advanced planar magnetic drivers like the Audeze LCD-2 or HIFIMAN Arya. So, these headphones deliver an amazing listening experience.
The bass of the Sennheiser HD 600 is warm and slightly emphasizes the lower frequencies without overwhelming or distorting them. Its mids are balanced and very detailed, while its treble is slightly bright but not harsh. Despite this, the HD 600 delivers an overall balanced sound that is near perfect for studio use and perfect for critical listening.
As for comfortability, the Sennheiser HD 600 rests comfortably on your head, but it can feel a little tight. This is especially true if you have a larger head. Also, the build quality of the HD 600 could be better. While the individual parts, such as the headband and the earcups themselves, might be strong, the metal connector that links the headband and the ear cups feels fragile and will crack under moderate pressure. It is the only reason why the Sennheiser HD 600 is not higher on our list or at least above Audeze LCD-2 or Audio-Technica ATH-R70x.
Nevertheless, if you ever break any part of your HD 600 headphones, they are easily replaceable You’ll have no trouble finding replacement parts for the earpads, cables, and even the headbands. Though replacing it might not be cheap but it is definitely cheaper than buying a new headphone.
- Great sound quality
- Value for money
- Easy maintenance
- Fragile build; could be better
The Audio-Technica ATH-AD900X is another budget-friendly entry on our list of the best open back headphones. And because of its open back design, you kind of expect a wider soundstage, and the ATH-AD900X doesn’t disappoint. In fact, its soundstage is high, deep, and wide, which gives you that cinematic feel when watching movies and playing your games. Also, you even get the “live” feeling when listening to some of your favorite songs.
When it comes to the sound quality of the AD900X, its bass is deeper and punchier, its midrange is more or less clear, and its treble is airy with a hint of brightness that never really feels too overpowering.
As for the build of the AD900X headphone, it features 53mm large-aperture drivers and copper-clad aluminum-wire (CCAW) voice coils that help accurately reproduce sounds, and this is helped by its wider frequency response range of 5Hz to 35kHz. The headphones themselves are lightweight with an aluminum casing. It also sports a 3D self-adjusting wing support system that ensures a secure and comfortable fit, and the ear cups are large enough to fit comfortably over most ears.
As the ATH-AD900X is a wired open back headphone, it features a 3m long cable with a 3.5mm audio connector. But it is also accompanied by a detachable 6.5mm connector adapter. The 3m (~10 feet) non-detachable cable means that it is only suitable for indoors and you can never use it outdoors. But the long length also creates its own set of problems. If you are not careful, you can create a mess of cables in your workspace. At the same time, the long length allows you great freedom of use when using it to watch movies or play games.
All in all, the ATH-AD900X is one of the best budget open back headphones for listening to music, gaming, and watching movies. However, we wouldn’t expect you to use these headphones to create music as it is not suitable for studio headphone like the more advanced and pricy Sennheiser HD 800 S, HIFIMAN Arya, or Focal Clear Professionals.
- Wide soundstage
- Good sound quality
- Lightweight design
- Self-adjusting feature for a comfortable fit
- The cable is long and unwieldy
It was hard for us to make this list, for there were several other open back headphones that should have made this list. Here are some honorable mentions of the open back headphones that couldn’t make our list.
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro is a well-built open-back studio headphone. And when you compare it with Beyerdynamic’s DT 900 PRO X, it is slightly better in the sound department. And more emphasis should be given to the word “slightly” as both provide the same comfortable fit. The main reason why the DT 900 PRO X got on our list, not the DT 1990 Pro, is because of the price. With just slightly better performance, the DT 1990 Pro is double or more the price compared to DT 900 PRO X.
Sennheiser HD 650
The HD 650 is another Sennheiser open back headphones that deserve mention. Quite frankly, we already had two Sennheiser headphones on the list, and one of them (HD 600) is similar in features. In fact, some would consider the HD 650 to be slightly better in terms of sound performance, but that cannot be justified by its high price.
The HIFIMAN Ananda is a premium high-end open back headphone for audiophiles and sound enthusiasts. When you compare it with other premium headphones in the list, the Ananda comes quite close to Sennheiser HD 800 S and HIFIMAN Arya in terms of performance. The Sennheiser HD 800 S boasts a better and more durable build, and Arya has slightly better neutral sounds.
Other notable mentions would be Sennheiser Game One Gaming Headset for gaming, Sennheiser HD 560S, and Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO.
Open back vs closed back headphones: Which is better?
Your particular wants and preferences will determine whether you choose open-back or closed-back headphones. Closed-back headphones have a solid outer shell that fully encloses the ear cups. This design blocks out external noise and keeps the sound contained within the headphones. This results in a more accurate and detailed sound. Also, it provides more isolation from the environment, making them suitable for noisy or loud environments.
The open-back headphones, on the other hand, have perforations on the ear cups. These vents allow sound to escape and air to flow through the ear cups. With a broader soundstage and more roomy sound, this design produces a more open and natural sound that may give the impression that you are listening to speakers in a room. They are not, however, the best for usage in loud environments or for people who need to listen in private due to the possibility of sound leakage.
Here, we’ve covered our list of the best open back headphones. Open-back headphones offer great sound quality for listening to music in quieter environments. Unfortunately, their open-back design also means they are not suitable for loud or noisy environments as they cannot provide adequate isolation from the surrounding noise. Nonetheless, audiophiles select these headphones despite knowing this fact very well.
Additionally, if you are interested in headphones from specific brands, check out our other reviews:
- Best Bose wireless headphones
- Best AudioTechnica Over Ear Headphones
- Best Wireless Earbuds for Small Ears