If the craftsmanship of headphones is something that gives you a high, the open-back design is something you’ll love. The best open-back headphones on the market provide audiophiles, gamers and professionals with an authentic and phenomenal audio experience. With open-back headphones, you can clearly listen to every note in the music. All in all, open-back headphones provide you with a chance to explore the intricacies of music you are listening to. Nevertheless, finding the most popular open-back headphones in 2023 can be a real challenge. And, that’s exactly where you’ll need our help.
We tested over 100 open-back headphones to find the best ones among the lot. We tested each product on the following factors:
- Sound quality
After thorough research and evaluation, we could narrow down our choice to 5 best open-back headphones on the market. Read further to know more about them.
Top 5 Open-Back Headphones on the Market – A Quick Comparison
Before we look at the detailed review of each pair of open-back headphones on our list, let’s look at a quick comparison to get started:
- Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming – Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision
- Best Budget Open-Back Headphones – Samson SR850
- Best Value for Money Open-Back Headphones – HIFIMAN HE-400I
- Best Open-Back Headphones for Mixing – AKG K240 MKII
- Best Open-Back Wireless Headphones – Sennheiser HD 800S
Let’s now look at the detailed reviews, and the pros and cons of each:
1. Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision: Best Open-Back Headphones for Gaming
- Affordable cost; value for money
- Lightweight and durable
- Crystal-clear sound
- Comfortable earpads and headband
- Well-thought-through design
- Unbeatable clarity and soundstage
- Realistic and well-defined bass
- Provide great fit; earcups can easily accommodate ears of all sizes
- Precisely angled drivers
- Non-replaceable earpads
- Uneven treble response
- Constantly slip when you move the head up or down
Philips SHP9500 can be a great choice for gamers who are looking for budget-friendly, yet high-quality open-back headphones. The headphones are also crafted for general use, such as movies and music.
For its affordable price, the build quality is excellent. Even though the headphones may look bulky at first glance, they are lightweight and sturdy. The steel headband enhances the durability of the product and firmly holds the earcups. The only thing we didn’t like much about the headphones is the ear padding. It looks somewhat low quality.
50 mm high-precision neodymium drivers enhance the power of the headphones and provide a balanced sound with perfect frequency reproduction. Overall, the headphones are comfortable and can give a tough competition to many premium open-back headphones with similar specifications.
Talk about the sound quality and the Philips SHP9500 headphones deliver a broad soundstage. The separation of different musical instruments is accurate and clear.
The vocals can also be separated pretty well. However, the headphones fall short on the sub-bass in the low-frequency range (not as much as the competition; they are still a lot better). The lows are well-balanced and pave the way for the bass. The treble quality is average. The high may sound sharp and a little annoying to the ears at times. All these factors combined make the Philips SHP9500 headphones a great fit for gamers (PC, PS4 and Xbox).
Read the Full Philips SHP9500 Review
2. Samson SR850: Best Open-Back Budget Open-Back Headphones
- Affordable cost; value for money
- Well extended highs and deep lows
- Top-notch sound detailing
- Wide soundstage
- Extremely comfortable and lightweight
- Work as all-rounder headphones
- Perfect, but a little recessed treble, especially in the upper highs
- You can easily distinguish between different panning placements and the overall stereo image
- Self-adjusting headband
- Precisely angled drivers
- Overpowering bass
- No removable cable
- Stiff earcups can cause ear pain
- Minor sound leakage
While there are multiple reasons to pick Samson SR850 as one of the best open-back headphones on the market, there’s one thing that we absolutely love about this product – its price.
The headphones are simple, comfortable and easy to use. They come with a ¼ jack adapter and the packaging is not very interesting. It’s a basic packaging with barely any accessories. Even though the headphones are not made of premium-quality materials, they are durable and sturdy.
To be honest, the Samson SR850 is actually a hybrid model. It’s partly open-back and partly closed-bac.k. To some extent, the headphones block ambient noise. Since the headphones come with a low impedance level, you don’t need an expensive headphones amplifier to enhance the sound quality.
The headphones come with a broad frequency range, i.e., 10 Hz to 30 kHz, and are powered by 50 mm drivers. The sound is pretty detailed and balanced across the complete frequency spectrum. All in all, the sound quality is great given the price of the headphones (comparable to that of Beyerdynamics DT990 Pro). While we won’t name any product here, during the testing, we did some expensive headphones that could not match the quality of the sound produced by Samson SR850 (we’re not kidding).
3. HIFIMAN HE-400I: Best Value for Money Open-Back Headphones
- Stylish design
- Headband rests comfortably over the head; ear cups are comfortable too
- Build quality and aesthetics are worth appreciating
- Lovely soundstage; great overall sound quality
- Well-extended bass and treble
- Detachable cable
- Accurate imaging
- Plush-quality materials used to cover the ear cups and headband
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Value for money
- Overpowering bass
- Short cable
- Some existing customers are not happy with the quality of the cable
HIFIMAN is one of the best-rated brands in the world of open-back headphones. The HIFIMAN HE 400I headphones come with premium-quality planar drivers that provide a perfectly balanced sound. The headphones are full-size and you can use them with your portable music player or smartphone. The huge diaphragm is responsible for great bass and treble.
Talk about comfort and HIFIMAN HE 400I are one of the most comfortable headphones on the market (not the open-back market). While they may look heavy, they are lightweight and comfortable to wear for longer periods. The earpads are made of soft leather and velour. The combination of the materials used to dress up the ear cups and headband keeps the ears cool and sweat-free.
The overall design is classy and the headphones sport beveled edges that are highlighted in a sparkly chrome finish. Also, the headphones come with a detachable cable.
The soundstage is not very broad (it’s more intimate and closed). Nevertheless, the narrowness of the soundstage results in a powerful bass. In terms of the frequency range, the headphones cover pretty much both ends of the spectrum. The sub-bass can be clearly felt at low volumes. The midrange is somewhat warm. The treble is fantastic and easily noticeable.
4. AKG 240 Studio MKII: Best Open-Back Headphones for Mixing
- Provide great isolation from external noises and sounds
- Soft and plush material used in the ear pads
- Interchangeable wires (one straight and one coiled) and ear pads
- Value for money
- Excellent mids and not-so-sharp highs
- Great for mixing and studio-use
- Good mid-frequency texture
- Lightweight yet sturdy
- Soundstage may sound a little muffled
- Sound clarity is not that great in the low-frequency range
AKG K240 Studio MKII Headphones are the best professional-grade semi-open-back headphones on the market. Many top recording studios are using these headphones for mixing.
The design of AKG K240 Studio MKII headphones is almost similar to their predecessor, AKG 240. However, the only thing that we did not like much about the headphones is the quality of the material used. Nevertheless, the headphones are durable and sturdy.
The headphones comprise an old-style headband slider and circular ear cups. Moreover, to ensure the headphones fit ears of all sizes, the brand has included two sets of earpads. Unlike the original AKG 240, the successor is comfortable to wear for longer periods.
The overall sound quality is well-balanced and smooth. The frequency response is flawless but flat. The highs are somewhat borderline sharp and the mids are just perfect. They are smooth, thick and comprise a rich texture. Both instrument separation and vocals are detailed and easily distinguishable. Even though you’ll find many reviews claiming these headphones fall short on bass, we believe the opposite. If you feel these headphones aren’t ready to pep-up the bass, you may be using worn-out equipment.
Read the full AKG 240 Studio MKII Review.
5. Sennheiser HD 800 S: Best Wireless Open-Back Headphones
- Zero distortion
- Authentic sound
- Premium open-back headphones
- Value for money
- Clean and powerful bass
- Accurate and precise mids and highs
- Some existing customers have mentioned that the cord gets disconnected easily
Out of the lot, Sennheiser HD 800 S headphones are absolutely luxurious. Not only this but the headphones also come with one of the largest drivers measuring 56 mm. The headphones are truly an epitome of great sound and comfort.
The headphones comprise an innovative technology that reduces unwanted frequency response peaks and allows different elements of music to hit your ears. Overall, the headphones work brilliantly across the frequency spectrum, especially the higher frequencies, without hurting your ears. The open-back design offers spectacular clarity, details and dynamics.
The headphones come with two connecting cords and a four-pin XLR. You can connect them with your HiFi systems or other audio devices. Both the ear cups and headband are comfortable, soft and covered with multiple layers of plush polymer.
How We Tested the Open-Back Headphones
While testing the headphones, we tried our best to be as objective and fair as possible. While we tried each product hands-on, we also read the reviews of existing customers to ensure we’re not missing out on anything important.
Here are five factors that we considered while testing the headphones:
Sound quality is the most important factor that should be considered while finding the best open-back headphones. That’s what we pay for, right? Therefore, we concentrated the majority of our attention to the sound quality of the headphones.
Price can be an extremely critical factor for customers on a shoestring budget. We understand that. However, we ensured we don’t just go by the price and tried to strike a perfect balance between sound quality and price of the headphones.
It doesn’t matter whether you are buying the headphones for personal or studio use; they have to be comfortable. Considering that the buyers include audiophiles, gamers and professionals, we ensured we pick only those open-back headphones that are comfortable for extended use.
Open-Back vs. Closed-Back Headphones
So, this is something important you need to know to ensure you are not making the wrong choice by purchasing open-back headphones.
The primary difference between the two headphones is that the closed-back headphones comprise sealed cups that have drivers, whereas open-back headphones have no sealed cups or drivers.
Closed-back headphones have sealed cups to ensure frequencies don’t escape. However, there is no such intention with open-back headphones. They are designed in a way that they do not hold any frequencies and you don’t feel any resonance in the sound. With closed-back headphones, you can feel the resonance as the frequencies get trapped inside the headphones.
This is one reason why professionals prefer open-back headphones as closed-back headphones can affect the quality of studio mixing due to inaccuracy in the sound (caused by resonance). Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that closed-back headphones are not used in studios at all. They are typically used for recording purposes as they provide excellent sound isolation.
Frequently Asked Questions
As already mentioned in the previous section, open-back headphones permit air to pass through the ear cups to the speaker. As a result, there’s no pressure build-up and the sound is not affected in any way. There are no echoes in your headphones. Many premium-end headphones have an open-back design as it helps them sound more clean and natural.
No. Open-back headphones are good for studio mixing but not recording. The backing track can bleed out of the headphones and get reflected back to the mic. Therefore, they are not recommended for recording. Closed-back headphones are better for studio recording.
The open-back design can completely alter your listening experience. Instead of the “inside your head” provided by closed-back headphones (since they come with noise isolation features), open-back headphones provide you with a more “in the world surrounding me” listening experience.
Now that you explored the world of open-back headphones with us and identified the top five open-back headphones on the market, have you been able to shortlist one for yourself?
Our personal favorite is HIFIMAN HE 400I as it is a high-fidelity sound providing product. There’s ample soundstage and you get a perfectly-balanced output. In a single listening experience, you hear multiple arrays, notes and elements. It’s luxury at a not-so-high price and is suitable for general use, professional use and gaming.
In terms of overall sound quality and affordability, we would go with the Philips SHP9500 headphones. They provide excellent frequency highs and lows and are extremely comfortable.
We hope you found our guide on the best open-back headphones in 2023 useful. If you have any questions or points to add, please feel free to post them in the comments section below. If you want to add your favorite open-back headphones to the list, you are more than welcome to share your choice.