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Buying Guides Open-Back vs Closed-Back Headphones

Open-Back vs Closed-Back Headphones

You Got to Know the Difference to Make an Informed Purchase

Difference Between Open-Back and Closed-Back Headphones

There are two types of on-the-ear and over-the-ear headphones on the market – open-back vs closed-back headphones. So, if you are planning to buy on-the-ear or over-the-ear headphones anytime soon, it’s important that you know the differences between closed-back and open-back headphones to make an informed purchase.

What Are Open-Back Headphones?

A pair of open-back headphones

Open-back headphones allow air to flow via the ear cups to the element of the speaker. As a result, there’s no pressure and the sound is not affected in any way. In simpler words, you won’t feel any echoes inside the headphones. Most high-end headphones on the market are open-back as they provide natural and resonance-free sound.

However, open-back headphones only sound “perfect” when you are in a noiseless environment as they do not isolate external noises and sounds. You’ll also experience sound leakage with these headphones. So, if you are using them in public transport or your workplace, people around you will be able to listen to everything that’s playing in your headphones.

Also, since the open-back paves the way for moisture, you’ll have to handle these headphones more carefully than closed-back headphones.

Some examples open-back headphones are Beyerdynamics DT 990 Pro and AKG 240 Studio.

Advantages of Open-Back Headphones

Now that you know what open-back headphones are, let’s look at their advantages:

They Provide Great Overall Sound Quality

Open-back headphones provide listeners with a more natural and real-word experience since there’s no sound echoing within the headphones. In fact, the sound quality provided by open-back headphones can be compared to the sound quality provided by speaker systems.

They Don’t Make Your Ears Sweat

Yes, that’s one of the biggest advantages of open-back headphones. Unlike closed-back headphones, your ears are not enclosed from all sides. Therefore, the heat does not get trapped and you can make the most of a more comfort-filled listening experience, especially if you are using the headphones for longer durations.

They Are Lightweight

Since open-back headphones do not comprise closed ear cups the outer shell is missing. This makes the headphones lightweight and less bulky than closed-back headphones.

What Are Closed-Back Headphones?

A pair of closed-back headphones

Unlike open-back headphones, closed-back headphones are completely secured from the back side. So, the sound can only reach where it is supposed to. In other words, while the sound is not every natural, the headphones block external noises and sounds. Therefore, closed-back headphones are perfect for workplace and traveling usage.

With closed-back headphones, you may notice echoes and resonance in the bass elements. Also, they can be a great choice for studio recordings as you only hear your voice and there’s no sound leakage that reaches the mic.

Audio Technica ATH-M50X is currently one of the best closed-back headphones on the market.

Advantages of Closed-Back Headphones

It won’t be fair to just look at the advantages of open-back headphones. Let’s now look at a few reasons why closed-back headphones can also be a good option:

They Provide Noise Isolation

The best and most amazing thing about closed-back headphones is that they provide noise isolation. Unlike open-back headphones, they completely block all external noises and sounds. So, it doesn’t matter if you are using them in a noisy marketplace, you’ll be disconnected from all forms of disturbances around you.

They Are Typically More Portable

Many closed-back headphones on the market are smaller, portable, foldable and easy to use. They are also more durable and sturdy as compared to open-back headphones.

They Provide More Powerful Bass

Even though both open-back and closed-back headphones provide good bass, you’ll feel more power in the bass in case of closed-back headphones. Since closed-back headphones trap air in a confined space, they create more powerful bass.

Closed vs Open-Back Headphones – Which is Better for Gaming?

Closed vs Open-Back Headphones - Which is Better for Gaming

Both open-back and closed-back headphones are suitable for gaming. However, most gamers prefer open-back headphones due to more directional sounds while gaming. However, in the case of games, such as Battlefield where there are loud sounds of grenades going off, open-back headphones are not suitable for extreme bass.

While open-back headphones provide ample soundstage for gaming, the lack of isolation is not something gamers prefer.

Best Choice for Gaming: Closed-Back Headphones

Closed vs Open-Back Headphones – Which is Better for Mixing?

Closed vs Open-Back Headphones - Which is Better for Mixing

Going by personal experience and the opinion of our users, open-back headphones would be an ideal choice for mixing. But, only if you are using them in a room with no disturbance at all.

Open-back headphones are a better choice for mixing because you get a better feel of the depth and elements of the original music. This allows you to identify the different instruments in the sound and their layout. Also, as already mentioned above, open-back headphones sound more natural and realistic. Moreover, since they allow air to flow through them, they make a great choice for long mixing sessions as they prevent sweating and ear pain.

Best Choice for Mixing: Open-Back Headphones

Closed vs Open-Back Headphones – Which is Better for Music Production?

Closed vs Open-Back Headphones - Which is Better for Music Production

When it comes to producing music, closed-back headphones play a key role. They are suitable for recording, monitoring, and sequence and sound designing.Recording

As a singer or music producer, you don’t want your audio track to leak from your headphones and get picked up by the microphone, correct? This is where the importance of closed-back headphones comes into the picture. Since they are completely sealed, there’s no sound leakage whatsoever. Monitoring

Closed-back headphones are perfect for live performance as they completely cut you off from the band and allow you to concentrate on your performance. Therefore, if you want to monitor your performance amidst your band and the energetic crowd in front of you, get a pair of closed-back headphones.

Please note: It’s important to differentiate between noise-isolating and noise-canceling headphones. While noise-isolating headphones, such as closed-back headphones block external noise, noise-canceling headphones electronically cancel external sound waves and block frequencies that may be required during music production. Moreover, when you are in the pre-production stage, you want to hear surrounding sounds to put together the final product.

Best Choice for Music Production: Closed-Back Headphones


So, how did you find the open-back vs closed-back headphones comparison? Did you know these differences between the two varieties of over-the-ear headphones before?

At the end of the day, it’s really difficult to say which one is better. Both have their own places and utilities. So, the short and sweet answer is – both are better and both are the best!

If you are a gamer, you can pick either of the two. However, if you are planning to mix or master music, we strongly suggest you go with the closed-back headphones, and if you are planning to produce music, then you buy closed-back headphones.

We hope you found the open vs closed-back headphones comparison worth reading. If you have any questions/suggestions, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.