Home tools Buyer's Guides from tech enthusiast who loves technology and clever solutions for better living.
Best open back headphones 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated February 1, 2021
Best open back headphones of 2018
I have taken the initiative to educate you on the top three best open back headphones that you can buy this year. Here are the customer reviews of some of the best open back headphones of 2018.
So, what exactly would anyone want to know about open back headphones? I know most of us don’t really care much about the history and the origin, all we want to know is which of them is the best. Of course, I will spare you the history and go straight on to the best open back headphones. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your comfort, style, or accessibility, we have picks to fit a variety of needs and budgets.
Test Results and Ratings
Why did this open back headphones win the first place?
I was completely satisfied with the price. Its counterparts in this price range are way worse. I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product. I really enjoy the design. It is compact, comfortable and reliable. And it looks amazing! The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack.
Why did this open back headphones come in second place?
Seems that the material is good. It has a very beautiful color but I don’t really like the texture. This is a pretty decent product that perfectly fitted the interior of our office. I like this product. For such a low price, I didn’t even hope it to be any better. It’s decently made. Managers explained me all the details about the product range, price, and delivery.
Why did this open back headphones take third place?
This price is appropriate since the product is very well built. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new. It is inconvenient to use due to the size. I am going to get something different next time. The material is incredibly nice to the touch. It has a great color, which will suit any wallpapers.
open back headphones Buyer’s Guide
They produce a spacious soundstage and give you the impression of listening to a good speaker set up in an ideal room. However, they leak a lot so they are not the best choice if you want to use them outside, as they may distract the people around you (see our closed-back recommendations).
What it is
This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Plastic remote feels cheap
The Oppo PM-3’s are a truly stunning pair of headphones. Make no mistake, we’ve reviewed a lot of headphones in the last years but none have we become more fond of than the PM-3.
They’re equally comfortable being plugged into a headphone amp at home as they are commuting through the hustle and bustle of a big city, and they stand head and shoulders above rival products from bigger brands. We really can’t recommend them highly enough, they’re just amazing.
No detachable cable
AKG has the right idea when it comes to budget headphones. Instead of spending lots of money on an expensive, heavy construction, the company has instead clearly spend the bulk of its money on the K92’s drivers, which sound appropriately excellent.
Hinges on arms are fragile
When you buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you’re often trading sound quality for the ability to block out outside noise. It’s a trade that we’ve been willing to make for years because, honestly, we just hadn’t been able to find a headphone that could do both noise-cancellation and Hi-Res audio.
Continuing the trend that the original NuForce BEstarted, the Optoma Nuforce BE6i are a minor update to an already great pair of earbuds and remain one of our favorite in-ear wireless headphones for the price.Offering good sound, build quality and battery life in its segment if you’re looking for a pair of wireless in-ear headphones that can survive a strenuous work out, the these should be on the top of your list of headphones to try.
Heart rate data not perfect
The Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pros are a stunning pair of headphones. Are they expensive? To some no, to most yes; but for the sheer listening experience they deliver you’d be hard pressed to take them off after putting them on, even using them with portable HRA players and mobile phones.
That said, they really do push the boundaries of what you can do with a dynamic driver. All praise to Beyerdynamic for putting together such a wonderful product.
HRand other headphones capable of High-Res Audio playback, their sound-to-dollar ratio is impressive.
Audiophiles typically shun wireless headphones because of poor sound quality. However, Bluetooth audio has improved tremendously over the years. There are now plenty of wireless headphones that can please the music enthusiast, with Hi-Res Audio support being more and more prevalent.
Superlux HD 68Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones
While ‘audiophile’ and ‘budget’ are usually mutually exclusive, but as a enthusiast community we hope to give users more choices. The Superlux HD68belongs to the kind of high quality, which can give you good sound, but not expensive headphones. There is even a page (pdf) detailing how to custom this Headphone. You can read it here.
Superlux HD668B Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones
Though the HD668B is a semi-open headphone, but it has very decent isolation and leaks suprisingly little. So it can be used in quiet environment like a library.
Let’s talk about the most important part – sound quality.The drivers Superlux crammed into the 668B are very, very impressive and compare to it’s price, the sound is quite good. The general signature is balanced, crisp, and neutral in tone. The bass not at all exaggerated, instead appearing tight, quick, and accurate. Technically, they extend quite low but bass notes really thin out below 50Hz and without the typical bass ‘rumble’ which present in many consumer-class headphones. Bass texture and detail are also quite good – the Senn HD25-II perform just a little better when it comes to portraying subtle nuances between low notes, but then it is nearly four times the price.
Sennheiser HD 59Cs Closed Back Headphone
Before my listening session, I was willing to bet that soundstage would suffer on these closed-back headphones – especially when compared to the soundstage of the open-back 59models. However, quite astoundingly, the soundstage has ample depth and excellent placement. While it might never sound as open as other 59models, it’s still close enough to fool my ears. This sense of soundstage particularly compliments the luscious high end – for lovers of classical music or female chanteuses, this headphone offers clear benefit.
Open Back vs Close Back
Open-back headphones are designed so that the outer shell of the ear covering is perforated in some fashion, typically with horizontal cutouts. Closed-back headphones have a solid outer shell with no perforations of any sort such that the shell effectively cups the entire ear. Think of open-back models as having a colander-like-shell (lots of openings) and closed-back models as having a mixing-bowl-shell (solid construction from edge to edge, no openings).Open-back headphones are designed so that the outer shell of the ear covering is perforated in some fashion, typically with horizontal cutouts.
Now, while the terminology corresponds clearly to the physical design of the headphones it doesn’t do a very good job indicating what exactly which one should be chose. We provide a simplar standard. If your environment is quiet, or if you like to feel immersed in the surrounding environment, such as listening to music at the same time, feel the sound of rain with the wind blowing, then open-back is your choice. If you need absolute quiet, do not want any sound other than music to bother you, then close-back is the better choice.
Master & Dynamic
The build is spot on and the styling is excellent (especially in the Brown and Silver version) A classy headphone that is capable of competing with headphone more than twice its price.
Fostex TH-900 MK2
Oh, and did I mention it was beautiful to boot? The carved wooden ear cups are as stunning in the hand as they are on the eye. A true beast of build, style and sound.
The might still have hues of a DIY style build about them but the are a true bang for buck mid-tier audiophile grade headphone in a closed format.
Audio Technica M50x
But you don’t have to be an audiophile to appreciate the HE400i. Anyone can hear that the HE400i’s sound is far more detailed than that of conventional, mass-market headphones; you’ll notice subtleties such as a flautist’s breaths, the dash of a drummer’s brush against a cymbal, and an acoustic guitarist’s fingers sliding along the fingerboard. You’ll hear none of the pumped-up bass many headphones produce, either. The only downsides are that the HE400i won’t play super-loud when connected to most Android phones (although we think it’s loud enough), and as with all other open-back headphones, sound leaks in from outside.
The HD 600 headphones have a classic sound that fans of jazz and classical are likely to love. Three of our four panelists liked them, and I found that during our listening tests I kept coming back to them when I wanted something to listen to for pure enjoyment. If you find that headphone listening sometimes gives you a headache, a set of the HD 600 might be just the right prescription.
These headphones are marketed as pro models, but they work well for music listening at home. Both are sensitive enough to deliver plenty of volume from a smartphone, and both are extremely comfortable, especially compared with most other headphones in their price range. We don’t love Fostex’s detachable cable design, which sometimes requires a little wiggling of the cable to get a good connection on the headphone end, but otherwise, we think these are one of the best ways to get audiophile-grade sound for a very low price.
It can be a little shocking to hear a good set of open-back headphones for the first time, because the sound is so much more like what you hear in a nightclub or concert hall.
But open-back headphones have disadvantages. Because the backs are open, sound from outside can come in. Use open-back headphones on an airplane or subway, and you’ll get near-zero relief from the noise. Sound tends to leak out of the headphones, so you probably wouldn’t want to use them in bed while your significant other is trying to sleep. Open-back headphones almost always have less bass than closed-back models. Almost none of them include a cable with an inline microphone or remote.
There are also semi-open-back headphones, which have smaller grilles or vents. They block more sound from the outside and tend to have more bass than open-back models. There’s a wide variance here, though. Some semi-open-back models are closer acoustically to open-back models, and some perform more like closed-back models.
An open-back model probably shouldn’t be an average listeners’ first choice in headphones, because that isn’t practical for portable use. But if you’re a serious music lover who likes to sit for hours at home listening to music, a set of open-back headphones is a great investment. That’s especially the case if you listen to acoustic music such as classical, jazz, or folk. Those types of music tend have a more natural sound that especially benefits from the open-back design. Also, those genres rarely require robust bass reproduction.
How we tested
Because these headphones are primarily designed for in-home use, and because some of them couldn’t achieve full volume from a smartphone, all of the panelists used separate amplifiers to drive the headphones. Lauren and I used units that combine a headphone amp and a digital-to-analog converter into a single unit—in my case, an Aurender Flow, and in Lauren’s case, an Oppo Digital HA-John and Geoff both played music from their smartphones through separate headphone amplifiers—in John’s case, a Rane HC-6, and in Geoff’s case, a Musical Fidelity V-Can.
The panelists were free to listen to any headphones for as long as they wished, in any order, and to pit any pair against any other pair. To see how these relatively affordable headphones compared with some of the audio industry’s top models, I provided four high-end models for the panelists to use as a reference: Audeze LCD-X, HiFiMan HE560, HiFiMan HE1000, and Oppo Digital PM-2.
I use my HP laptop and an Aurender Flow headphone amp/DAC to test some of the higher-priced open-back models. Photo by Brent Butterworth.
Why we probably didn’t pick your favorite headphones
Considering that open-back headphones are typically used more by audiophiles and headphone enthusiasts, they tend to inspire strong opinions. Of course, we can recommend only a few of the many models we tested, so if you already have a favorite, mathematical odds are that it’s not one of our top picks. Please don’t take this personally. It’s almost certain that at least one of our panelists likes, and maybe even loves, your favorite headphone. We just didn’t agree on it.
The task of each individual listener is to find a favorite pair of headphones. But ears and tastes differ, and your favorite headphones might not be the next person’s favorite headphones. Our task is to find the headphones that we feel are the most likely to give the most listeners a satisfying experience.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The HE400i, like other open-back models, isn’t as versatile as closed-back headphones. Though you can use them with a smartphone, because they let outside sounds through to your ears, they’re basically useless on an airplane and questionable for use on a bus or subway. Other people can hear what you’re listening to, fairly easily. They’re much bulkier than most listeners will probably prefer, either for traveling or just for basic comfort.
The bass from the HE400i is understated compared with what you hear with almost any closed-back headphones. The HE400i also has a little bit of treble emphasis, so cymbals might seem a little too loud, but this is typical of headphones voiced for audio enthusiasts. It’s a very different sound from what you’ll hear from most headphones; whether or not you like it is entirely up to you.
The HE400i also isn’t as sensitive as typical headphones, so it won’t play as loud from the same source device (such as a tablet, smartphone, or headphone amp) as most headphones will. This might be a plus, though. Even with a Samsung Galaxy Ssmartphone, which offers less maximum volume than the headphone dongle included with the Apple iPhone 8, the HE400i generally played at a satisfyingly loud volume, yet didn’t play loud enough to hurt our ears.
What others say
CNET’s David Carnoy calls the HE400i “a superb-sounding headphone full-size headphone that features excellent build quality and an improved design that makes it more comfortable to wear than its predecessor.” Sound & Vision’s Fred Manteghian concludes, “The non-fatiguing sound of the HiFiMan HE-400i will have you falling in love with your music all over again.” If you want to see more technical details on the HE400i, my original review on Lifewire has my full lab measurements.
Long-term test notes
The Sennheiser HD 600 headphones almost couldn’t be more different from the HE400S. They use dynamic drivers—essentially miniature speakers—instead of the HE400S’s planar magnetic drivers. The HE400S model was brand new when we did this test, while the HD 600 has been around (although with a few changes) since the late 1990s. While the HD 600 has a mellower sound than the HE400S, we picked it for the same reason we liked the HE400S: Its sound has no annoying idiosyncrasies, and most of our panelists liked it and none hated it (not the sound, anyway). Overall, the HD 600 headphones are completely enjoyable to listen to, with a more relaxed sound than the HE400S model, that might appeal more to fans of jazz, folk, and classical.
You can’t record with open-back headphones though.
These two fundamentals of a headphone are tremendously important as when you are investing in a pair, you decide how you want your music to come to you. Both designs are great in their own way; hence the choice lies with you as an individual and your unique and personal music inclinations.
If you have slightly more room in your bag, on-ear headphones may be a great option because they often allow you to hear a wider sound space than earbuds provide. They accomplish this by placing a wider speaker near your ear, rather than snaking a smaller speaker into your canal.
Another benefit of on-ear headphones is that many sets have comfortable, cushy padding. If you’ve never tried it, there’s a lot to be said for enjoying your tunes with two small pillows resting on the sides of your face.
But on-ear headphones aren’t as effective when they’re not sitting directly on your ear. And as plush as the ear cushions are, some wearers don’t like the typically tight on-ear fit needed to maintain the optimal listening position.
Sports headphones such as the
Sennheiser CX 686G Sports In-Ear Headphones are made for runners and other athletes who move enough to risk dislodging their earbuds. These headphones hook around the lobe or fit against a ridge inside it. Sports headphones often use sweat-resistant and anti-microbial materials to keep the elements in your sweat from destroying them. give you urther freedom to move as you please If you wear glasses, though, think before you buy a pair of the hooked buds, as the two will rub against each other, creating another chance for accidental detachment.
These headphones, which are often on the expensive side, use an open-back design that doesn’t seal in the audio from the drivers. Open-back headphones are preferred by some for their wider soundstage that sounds “more natural” and happening around you, rather than getting piped into your ears.
The downside, as you might expect, is that open-back headphones leak audio to everyone around you. As such, these headphones are better suited for private home usage than for galavanting outdoors.
Most headphones are built with a closed-back design, which keeps your music private, as long as you’ve fitted them to your ears properly and the volume isn’t abundantly loud. Unlike their open-backed counterparts, closed-backed headphones can block out some ambient noise, thanks to passive noise cancelling.
The downside of this design is that you won’t get the sweet, natural sound quality that open-back headphones offer.
Headphone and Earphone Form Factors
The OPPO PM-(left) is a circumaural (over-ear) design, while the Grado SR60i (right) is a supra-aural (on ear) model.
Meanwhile, if you’ve ever owned an iPod, you’ll know what earbuds are: these are ultra-compact devices which simply sit (rather precariously) on the outer ear. There is an additional style of ultra-portable headphone as well: in-ears, which are physically inserted into the ear canal, forming a tight seal. In both cases, sensitivity (how loud they get for a given amount of power) tends to be fairly good given the proximity to the ear, making them a good match for mobile devices. In addition, in-ear headphones typically offer excellent isolation from outside noise, and unlike earbuds, they aren’t particularly prone to falling out, making them more suitable to use while exercising. On the downside, the sound quality of these form factors doesn’t tend to compare well with the best circumaural headphones, and comfort can be an issue, particularly with ill-fitting in-ear headphones. Then there are matters of health and safety: while in-ear headphones offer excellent isolation, they’re prone to making people utterly oblivious to their surroundings. We’ll also admit we’re not fond of the hygienic implications of sticking foreign objects in our ears either, not to mention the thought sharing in-ear headphones. Last but not least, given the proximity of in-ear headphones to your ear drums, we would advise taking special care with the volume control to avoid damaging your hearing.
Apples ubiquitous earbuds (left) vs RBH’s EPin-ear headphones (right).
Open vs. Closed Back
Circumaural and supra-aural headphones can be further classified by the terms “open back” and “closed back”. This may seem pretty obvious: open backed means the “back” of the ear cups is open, while closed back headphones utilize sealed cups. What’s the difference? Closed back headphones improve noise isolation, which can be helpful in loud environments, or when you don’t want to disturb others. Isolation can be further enhanced via noise cancelling technology, which actively monitors outside noise, and cancels it out by feeding the reverse signal to the headphone drivers. Note that noise cancellation technology does require batteries, though to help preserve battery life you can usually switch it off when the extra isolation isn’t necessary. Beyond reducing background noise / sound leakage, closed back designs also tend to offer stronger low end response than open backed models.
Sennheiser’s HD 380 Pro (left) is a closed back design built for isolation, while the HD 600 (right) is an open back design where sound quality is the top priority.
At this point, you might be thinking that the deck is stacked against open back designs; however, they do have one important trick up their sleeve: sound quality. Since closed back headphones isolate the listener, the sound they reproduce subjectively tends to come off as being “in your head.” Conversely, open backed designs sound more spacious, a bit more like listening to a conventional pair of speakers, and consequently more realistic. Consequently, many high-end designs such as Sennheiser’s HD800s or OPPO’s new PM-utilize open back design.
Current Open Back Headphones Offers No products found.
How to choose Open Back Headphones? When you visit a specialist store, you first see the products offered online. Of course, you only get a limited selection here. So you will certainly choose a model by appearance or compare each product online. It is also assumed that a seller will then promote the already selected Open Back Headphones product. If you hesitate, then this seller will then even more Open Back Headphones models present and offer, so that you do not know at the end, which model you should now decide. In addition, there are many more models on the market, which this business does not have on offer.
MANUEL: It is not just one technical aspect a person needs to consider when purchasing a headphone. Much more important is to take some time to listen to the headphone carefully and to compare it to others. Only a comparison lets you hear the difference.
Also important to bare in mind are these questions: Where and for what do I want to use my headphones? There are so many different use cases as there are: for sports, on business trips, at home for my TV, etc. And each use case has other features or technical aspects which are important.
SEAN: Along the same lines as the last question, one myth is that the headphones with the widest frequency range spec will sound best. This is a false statement. A frequency range is supposed to state the lowest, and highest frequency that is produced by a headphone. This is incredibly misleading. Firstly, the range of human hearing is around 20Hz to 20 kHz – for someone with very good hearing. Some specs will go WAY past that – like 5Hz to 50 kHz. Which not only is well out of the range of human hearing, but says nothing about what happens between those two frequencies, where our hearing is most sensitive. Our ears are most sensitive between around 800Hz and kHz – the relative amount of energy that a headphone produces in this mid-range area is much more important than what happens at 20Hz or at 20 kHz.
MANUEL: People often think the more bass the headphone has the better it is. That is definitely wrong. The perfect interaction of bass, midrange and treble makes a headphone sound good. But on the other hand, bass is very important — especially a very detailed bass. Bass is not just one deep tone; it can be so multifarious.
SEAN: Detachable cable is often overlooked. This is one thing that should be considered. A cable will break someday. It is really nice to just be able to replace it – and not have to buy a new headphone. This also allows for accessorizing or customization is some cases. You may want a straight or coiled cable, or one with iOS controls, or whatever the next new thing becomes a couple years from now.
MANUEL: In my opinion next to the perfect sound the comfort of the headphones plays a much bigger role than lots of customers believe. If you listen to your favorite music you don’t want to stop after 1minutes of listening because a headache forces you to put away your headphones.
Headphones and comfort
Headphone comfort comes down to mainly these things: earpad material, headband material and tightness. Of course, depending not the type of headphones you choose (on-ear vs over-ear, for instance) these factors will be amplified or lessened.
In my experience the most comfortable headphones are the light on-ear headphones like the Plantronics BackBeat Sense. It’s the lightness, more than anything, that makes those headphones the most comfortable I think I’ve ever worn.
Over-ear headphones, while often producing the best sound, are most likely to cause ear fatigue (again that’s just my opinion). The reason is that if there’s any ear contact at all, there is going to be pressure and that pressure adds up over time.
Most headphones are comfortable for awhile. I’d say most headphones are going to be comfortable for the first 30 minutes of wear no problem. But if you wear your headphones for long stretches at a time, picking a more comfortable headphone is going to be a must.
For example, if you are a pro gamer, if you listen to music or the radio through headphones while you work, if you have a long train commute, if you’re traveling on a long flight… you’re going to want some comfortable headphones.
So if you want over-ear headphones, for whatever reason, and you want them to be as comfortable as possible for as long as possible, try to get some that are light. Next, look for headphones with maximum padding both on the ear cups and on the headband (I really like headphones that have memory-foam padding!).
In terms of the most comfortable earphones, I think silicon tips are probably the winners although I’m a big fan of memory foam earphone tips as well (but some people don’t like the pressure they add as they fill up your entire ear canal to seal out/in all sound). But if you don’t find the right fit in a silicon tip, they will be loose and constantly coming undone, so I’d look for headphones that come with several tip sizes in the box.
Noise-cancelling headphones and earphones
I have a confession to make: I’ve never met a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that lived up to my expectations. There, I said it! The thing is, noise-cancelling headphones (and earphones) DON’T remove ALL sound — which is not what I hoped for when I tried my first pair. The reality is that noise-cancelling headphones could be more accurately labeled noise-dulling headphones.
Before I get into how noise-cancelling headphones work, let me talk a bit more about my experience with them. I do a lot of typing (as you can see) so whether I’m at the office or at a coffee shop, there are plenty of times I want to drown out outside noises so I can focus better (actually I’m a big fan of listening to Brain.fm while I work… you should check it out).
When I’m at the coffee shop, for instance, my noise cancelling headphones don’t mute the outside world (I’ve seen Beats advertise their ANC, or active noise cancelling, models that way). Muting implies total silence. What actually happens is that you can hear less of the outside world. That’s it.
So how do noise cancelling headphones work? They have a microphone that picks up noises and then they issue a sound wave meant to cancel out those outside noises. The idea is sort of like a and a -cancelling each other out to make 0. Sometimes the effect works better than others and often times it sounds a bit like soft static (to me).
The thing is, and I’m totally serious, you might be better off buying noise-isolating headphones, or headphones that try to seal off outside noise just by having thick padding (but don’t employ any electronic backflips or tricks to cancel noise digitally). In fact, many noise-cancelling headphones are also noise-isolating — and benefit from that thick padding anyways.
Noise-cancelling headphones are extremely popular with frequent fliers. That’s because manufacturers do a good job tuning out the sound waves produced by plane engines. And because people on planes can be loud (you know, the proverbial crying baby on a plane or the nosy, talkative person that always seems to sit next to you). I definitely recommend noise-cancelling headphones for travelers: they’re great for music, silence (or as close to silence as you’re going to get) and an in-flight movie.
One cool feature I’ve seen in a lot of noise-cancelling headphones is the ability to turn off the ANC (active noise cancelling) to hear what is going on around you. What this does it turn up the volume of what the mic is picking up and turning down (or off) any music you are listening to. It’s really handy for having a conversation with someone while you’re wearing your noise-cancelling headphones.
As you might have guessed, noise-cancelling headphones are going to use more power (i.e. drain your batteries faster) than “normal” headphones.
For sports and fitness headphones
So it stands to reason that sport and fitness earphones should do three things really well. First, they should be wireless so you don’t get tangled up in cords. There is nothing worse than running with a cord jangling against your elbow or flapping around your chest. I hate that! At the same time, it’s the worst when you’re at the gym lifting weights and a cord gets woven into the machine you’re working on. That’s a bad look.
The second thing you need from the best pair of fitness headphones is for them to be secure. You don’t want them to fall out or off or to come loose in any way. And just because you grab a pair of earphones, don’t think they will stay put automatically (just because they are in your ear). I’ve tested several different types of sport earphones that just wouldn’t stay in while I ran. Earphones with ear hooks or bumpers of some sort that wedge into your ears more are the most secure and make excellent fitness headphones.
The last thing you should look for in the best sport earphones or headphones is sweat resistance. I don’t know how much you tend to sweat during a good workout, but just like you wouldn’t dunk your other electronics in a pool or water, you wouldn’t want to soak your fitness electronics in sweat. Circuits and sweat aren’t the best of friends, if you know what I mean. Plus, if you ever exercise out in the rain (or snow, you beast) then you need some earphones or headphones that are weather proof as well.
There’s really nothing extra special about gaming headphones versus “regular” headphones. Other than having a microphone or some sort (which can either be attached or detached, depending on the model), choosing the best pair of gaming headphones is very, very similar to just choosing the best pair of headphones.
For gaming headphones, though, sound is more important than ever. That’s because so many new games take advantage of positional audio (or audio that immerses players in an environment like never before to the point where they can actually hear whether or not an object or player is in front of or behind them). If you don’t have headphones that can help you take full advantage of positional audio, you could be giving other players a real competitive advantage.
Other than sound, I think there are two main things to consider when purchasing gaming headphones aside from the obvious (needing great sound quality). First: comfort. Second: durability.
Comfort is so important for gaming headphones because gamers tend to game for hours on end. I saw a statistic somewhere that said gamers spend an average of 2hours per week playing video games — per week (and that was back in 2014). If you’re going to have something on or around your ears for 8hours each month, it can’t be uncomfortable.
In terms of microphones I would say this: look for a pair of gaming headphones with a mic that won’t pickup backgrounds noises. Nobody wants to hear your cat or baby brother in the background.
Other than what I’ve talked about already, choosing a pair of gaming headphones really comes down to the design and just picking a pair of headphones that makes you look as fierce or nerdy (whatever you’re going for) as possible.
Headphones are headphones are headphones, right? Wrong. While I’ve already covered the headphones you’d expect to exist in the world — headphones that fit over your head and play music, namely — I’m going to cover some unusual and unexpected headphones in this section. While I think traditional headphones are probably always going to be around in some form or another (because people will probably always want to just listen to music), I also think we are going to see a lot of interesting new headphones released in the next half decade.
Like many simple gadgets, headphones are starting to be able to do more. While many of the established (and respected) headphone makers continue to manufacture the same old style of headphones we’ve become accustomed to, there are several startups doing their best to upend the status quo by producing headphones that show movies (seriously), headphones that send sound through the bones in your head and thus need not even cover your actual ears, earphones that are custom-molded to your ear shape, headphones that let you share music wirelessly with your friends and even headphones that double at fitness monitors (think Fitbit for your ears).
In this section I’m going to explore some of the coolest, most unique and out-of-the-box headphones there are. Some of them definitely stretch the definition of headphones altogether. But if you’re looking for some headphones that are different from what your friends are rocking or just want headphones that feel more cutting-edge, these are going to be some of your best options.
The Arc Wearhaus is a new type of headphone with social features and personalization options. It’s killer feature is that it allows you wirelessly share the music you are listening to with a friend (or friends) who also have Arc Wearhaus headphones. It doesn’t matter what source your music is being played from either! Another cool thing about these headphones is that you can customize the glowing ring of light on each side with any color you’d like for a more personalized look.
Normal headphones are guaranteed to fit perfectly
The (new) Normal headphones are the successors to the highly individualized 3D printed (old) Normal headphones. Normal headphones are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. They are truly wireless (there’s not even a charging cord as there’s a built-in USB port that folds down from the headphones themselves).
Normal headphones are adjustable thanks to their 5-axis rotation, come in leather and silicon styles, have “fit dots” that come in a ridiculous amount of sizes to ensure an actual perfect fit (so they won’t fall our of your ears, ever), capacitive touch controls and an awesome hour battery.
Oh, and watch the video… this brand has a major attitude.
Quick Attention Mode, you can communicate without taking your headphones off. Just place your hand over the right ear cup to turn the volume down for instant conversation.
The only problem with these is that you cannot use them while they are on charging.
All in all, these over-ear headphones by Sony are best in this category and value for money headphones with great features such as noise cancellation, touch control, quick attention mode and longer battery life.
The Sennheiser RS 17is a set of wireless headphones intended for home use that delivers strong performance for both movie watching and music listening with excellent range and thunderous bass.
The SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphone II is very comfortable to wear, sounds excellent for a Bluetooth headphone, and offers a very good battery life of around 1hours.
Although these are not for those who like their music loud and bass-heavy.
Sometimes start to feel a little warm over time.
The Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II are a mix of strong blend of comfort and performance designed very attractively.
Mpow Bluetooth headphones comes with a good control scheme and a long battery life of around 1hours.
Now, these are not ideal headphones for working out or for blocking the noise of your commutes, but their sound quality and features are surprisingly decent for their price range.
Features of Mpow 05Bluetooth Headphones
The closed-back design provides immersive Hi-Fi sound with CSR chip and 40mm driver together.
The Memory-protein ear cushion simulates human skin texture, ensuring lasting comfort.
The stainless steel slider and softly padded headband allow you to find the perfect fit without constraint and provide excellent durability.
The Wired mode: you can also use it as a wired headphone with the provided audio cable so the headphones will never power off.
The foldable Headband is not only designed for saving your desk space but for carrying in the provided bag.
Mpow Bluetooth headphones provide a quick and stable connection with your Bluetooth enabled devices like cell phones, tablets, pc, TVs within 3feet, with a high-quality built-in microphone for hands-free calls. Note: The Microphone only works in the wireless mode.
They are very comfortable over my ears and are easily adjustable. Also, the battery seems to last long enough for me before I need to recharge. They are not noise canceling but do block out enough outside sound that I can forget the world around me and enjoy my music.
The Oppo PM-combines true audiophile sound, classy style, noise isolation and portability into a pair of stylish lightweight Planar Magnetic headphones.
Optimized for use with mobile devices, these headphones deliver high-fidelity sound and come with a nice carrying case as well as a bonus cable for cell-phone use (you choose between an Android or iOS inline remote).
Optimized for Mobile Use: The OPPO PM-has a sensitivity of 10dB, which allows it to be easily driven by mobile devices. PM-provides isolation from the outside world, blocking out the unncessary surrounding noise.
Sennheiser HD 598
Sennheiser consistently manufactures great earbuds and headphones in all price ranges. The Sennheiser HD 59headphones are no exception. With sound quality comparable to the ATH-M50x’s we reviewed above, it is not surprising that these are highly recommended by our PricenFees review team, other experts in the field, and through user reviews across the web. Overall sound quality is great, but may be a little bit lax more when it comes to the edgy bass that other headphones are able to provide. This is not to say that these headphones are lacking at all in sound quality, in fact they sound great with a wide sound stage and an overall balanced sound. The bass, mids, and highs are all delivered to your ears with precision, and do not drown each other out.
In-ear headphones, also known as in-ear monitors (IEMs), are small, portable headphones that are inserted in the ear canal itself. Some of the best headphones out there are IEMs, due to their sound quality and usability.
IEMs offer a high quality of sound than basic earphones. You can get some really great sounds out of IEMs, so much so that they are used audio engineers and musicians for mixing or live sound. They also block out sound from the world around and so can give you a really immersive listening experience. It also means that the sound is going into the ear directly, meaning that you are less likely to need to crank the volume up to dangerous levels in order to hear the music when you are out and about. Lastly, they are really portable and light, so perfect when you are out for a run or getting the train to work. Check out this great cnet article describing some of the best in ear headphones of 2016.
Over-ear headphones, also known as circumaural, are general the largest type of headphone. They are certainly more comfortable than on-ear headphones as the padding rests on the less sensitive area around your ears and not directly on them. They also offer decent noise isolation too. In my opinion, these are the best headphones out there and can offer the best sound experience. I often use them when listen to music at home or when mixing music.
If you are still interested to find out more about open back and closed back headphones, check out this useful video that Shure put together explaining the differences.
The differences between open back and closed back headphones are also explained really nicely in this head-fi.org article.
On-ear headphones can lead to discomfort due to the pressure on the ear as compared to over-ear headphones that sit around the ear. They can also be a bit picky about position. Not all sets will make a good seal with your ear in every position, which can result in reduced sound quality if they are not sitting right.
Wireless headphones are a specific design of headphone. You can get wireless IEM’s, wireless over-ear or on-ear headphones. They just use wireless tech, usually bluetooth, to link up with your phone or audio device.
However, they are really convenient and sometimes it is nice not to have to worry about a wire. This can be great for using when running or other sports. There are some really wireless headphones out there, so check out the links below for some of the top wireless headphones on the market.
The other feature worth thinking about is noise-cancellation. This is clever tech that actively gets rid of noise, rather than passively blocking it like a simple closed-back headphone. It does this with the help of at least one microphone. The mic is used to monitor ambient noise, an inverse wave of which is then piped-out by the headphone, negating the hubbub.
Variety is the spice of life, but the many variables you’ll encounter when shopping for studio headphones can make things frustrating. You also have to be careful of marketing deception. Think of it this way – when a food says “low fat” on the box it doesn’t necessarily make it good for you, the same as if a headphone says the word “studio” on the box doesn’t at all mean it’s actually a good studio headphone. With more and more people getting into music production, brands want to make headphones that seem appealing for both that, as well as casual listening.
Well, fear not, we’re here to cut through the hype and clear up all the confusion. The following are the important things to understand and decide on when you’re ready to get yourself some great headphones.
Closed back vs. open back
This is a really important factor, since closed-back and open-back headphones are pretty different from each other. In closed-back headphones, the ear cup is completely closed off, and since the soft foam (or leather) pad forms a seal with your head around your ear, the sound has nowhere to go so it stays inside the ear cup. This is probably what you’re more used to, as the majority of headphones out there are closed-back.
Open-back headphones are, as the name implies, more open. The part of the ear cup opposite your ear – the one that faces the outside world – is open. This means that instead of the sound staying contained within the ear cup, it can travel outwards.
This has great implications on what the headphones are going to sound like. Closed-back headphones are great for isolation. If you’re producing in a noisy environment, outside noise will be kept out, and people won’t be able to hear what you’re listening to. The sound is tighter and more focused, and as a result one of the downsides is that the bass frequencies might be slightly exaggerated. Another downside is that the soundstage doesn’t sound as wide and open. In other words, it feels more like you have headphones on.
Open-back headphones are just the opposite. Sound will easily leak in and out, so if you’re in a noisy environment, forget about using open-back headphones. If you are in a quiet environment, open-back headphones can actually sound significantly better. That’s because everything will sound more airy and natural, and the sound space can seem like it’s huge.
In short, think about what you want to do with your studio headphones. If you’re always working in a quiet space, and you want to produce and mix as accurately as possible, consider open-back. If you’re in noisy spaces, or you want to record live instruments like guitar and vocals, closed-back is better since sound leakage would be a big issue. One last note – if your primary goal is mixing, open-back headphones tend to be more accurate for that task.
On-ear vs. over-ear
On-ear vs. over-ear is a pretty easy concept to grasp. An on-ear (or supra-aural if you want to sound fancy) headphone rests on top of your ear, and over-ear (a.k.a. circumaural) goes over and surrounds your entire ear. On-ear headphones tend to be more compact since the ear cups aren’t as large, although the main problems are that 1) the pressure applied directly to the ear can be uncomfortable, and 2) the sound isolation isn’t as good, since there’s no tight seal created.
An over-ear headphone has the advantage of sound isolation. That makes them better suited for recording, and working in loud environments. They also provide a more immersive listening experience. Because the ear cup needs to fit around your ear, these types of headphones tend to be a little bit larger – that might make them look less cool and sleek, if you wear them out in public. The majority of studio headphones are over-ear.
If we had to boil it down, our general recommendation is to get the highest ranked headphones from our list that match what you’re looking to spend.
You could read entire books on audio frequency, so we’ll stick with the very simple explanation. Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz). Humans can generally hear from 20Hz all the way to 20,000 Hz. Every headphone advertises their frequency response, which is the effective range they can reproduce of bass (on the low end), mids, and treble (on the high end). Some headphones have a frequency response that spans beyond that which humans can hear (to 35,000 Hz for example). This does not make their sound quality better. Make a note of the frequency response, but don’t base your buying decision solely on it.
A headphone’s comfort is important, no matter how you feel about any of the other criteria. If you find a pair so uncomfortable that you can’t wear it for more than 30 minutes or an hour at a time without your head, neck, or ears hurting, you’ll never be able to focus, get in the zone, and truly enjoy your music production.
How we made this list (i.e. why you should trust us)
When you listen to the same material through different headphones, you’ll hear differences that are due in part to “sweetening.” Sweetening refers to the EQing of the headphones to make the music sound better. In open-backed headphones and many earbuds, for instance, the bass frequencies may be emphasized to counter the natural leakage of bass through the open back or ear canal.
Most general-listening, consumer headphones are sweetened in some way. There are two common sweetening modes: Free Field (FF) and Defined Field (DF). The first simulates an open listening environment without reflection, and the latter simulates an enclosed listening environment such as a room. For critical listening such as monitoring a mix, you don’t want any sweetening at all, but rather a flat frequency response that lets you compare and set levels precisely.
Fit and comfort
Comfort is important. Any headphone will feel fine worn briefly, but when worn for long periods, many become uncomfortable. Wear the headphones for at least 20 minutes before deciding about comfort. The larger the ear cups the better when selecting closed-back, circumaural headphones. For headphones that rest on your ear, smaller is better, and fabric padding or leather can soften the pressure.
Sennheiser HD 280 PRO Headphones have a closed-back design that blocks loud external noises while preventing recorded sound from leaking into open mics.
The headband also influences comfort. Most headphones have an over-the-head style headband, but behind-the-neck styles are also available. Earbuds dispense with the band entirely, so are more comfortable in that regard. Whatever the type of headband, you want it to be adjustable. Another feature for enhancing comfort is the rotating cup, especially on over-the-ear phones. You can adjust them to your head to reduce leakage and increase comfort.
When shopping for a product that you haven’t tried before, it is best to check on customer feedback and ratings. If reviews from professional audio critics are available, make sure to check them all out as well. If you have a friend or a colleague with the same pair of headphones, ask them about their experience or better yet, try the headphones on and see if it’s good enough for you.
Sennheiser HD 59Over-Ear Headphones
Now that the definition, qualities and characteristics of the best open back headphones have already been discussed, it is time to take a look at the top best open back headphones that are highly recommended by audio experts and music enthusiasts. If you found yourself on a dead end and you can’t seem to make a decision on what pair to buy, this list will surely help narrowing down the choices for you.
AKG K 240 Semi-Open Studio Headphones
As mentioned, AKG K 240 Semi-Open Studio Headphones are in the market for over a decade now and one of the most important reasons customers continue to support this product is because of the comfort and durability it can offer. The self-adjusting headband allows easy fit for most head sizes and the flexible steel structure allows bending if you wish to listen on just one ear – this makes it durable enough too to withstand occasional abuse. The ear cups are cushioned and made especially for professionals who plan to use this for many hours and will ensure fatigue-free listening and utmost comfort.
Grado Prestige Series SR80e Headphones
The Grado Prestige Series SR80e Headphones is a dynamic pair of cans that goes by the open air principle. It assures fatigue-free listening for hours and its cushioned earcups will keep you comfortable while working, gaming or listening to your favorite tunes. With an impressive 20-20,000 Hz frequency response and normal impedance of 3Ohms, it does pretty much what one can expect from a good pair of open back headphones. For added compatibility to most audio sources and equipment, a 6.5mm golden adapter is included in the package.
Durability is without a question a great feature of these cans too. Since these are handmade, you can be assured that the manufacturers paid attention to every little detail to ensure construction quality is topnotch.
Sennheiser HD 43Headphones Black
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your open back headphones wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of open back headphones
- №1 — Samson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones
- №2 — LASMEX L-85 Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
- №3 — Samson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones