Guide to the Best Open Back Headphones

Editor’s Choice

  • Wide dynamic range with low distortion
  • Housing cover uses Japan Lacquer Bordeaux finish
  • Equipped with a detachable connector

Best Overall

  • Open, circumaural dynamic stereo headphones
  • Enhanced sound reproduction achieved through absorber technology
  • High-class matte black metal parts

Budget-Friendly

  • Clear, accurate sound for fine-tuning sonic details
  • Broadcasts extended frequency range up to 54 kHz
  • Large 53mm transducer for ample headroom and dynamic range

If you are in a hurry and just want to find out the best open-back headphones, then I’d recommend the Sennheiser HD 800S Open-Back Stereo Headphones as the best one.

With the rising trend of virtual activities these days, the need for an authentic sound experience is a must. For this reason, open-back headphones are trending. To achieve exceptional sound quality, maximum comfort, and an impressive soundstage, the best open-back headphones deliver an immersive listening experience through their unique design.

The best open-back headphones have become a go-to choice for many audiophiles. In our guide below, we’ve compiled the best cherished for their open and realistic sound when it comes to critical listening and simply enjoying the music. 

Here are the Best Open Back Headphones we will be reviewing:

What are the Best Open Back Headphones?

What are Open Back Headphones?

As the name entails, open-back headphones are open at the back of the earcups to facilitate airflow throughout the drivers. For air to flow quickly, these headphones feature a grill or hole design on the back of the earcups. Because of this feature, these headphones are known for their superior sound quality.

Open Back vs Closed-Back vs Semi-Open Back

Now that you have an idea of what these headphones are, for sure, you’re now curious as to what sets them from the rest. Design-wise, closed-back headphones have closed earcups while the semi-open back balances the two other types. Semi-open back types, from afar, look like it has a closed-back. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see a grill or hole design akin to an open-back. 

Besides design, the closed-back and semi-open back headphones also differ in the quality of sound they deliver. The closed-back headphone plan is perfect for blocking outside noise. The surrounding noise is effectively canceled if you turn the volume high enough.

Semi-open back headphones are a balance of the two types of headphones. Visually, they resemble more closed-back instead of open-back headphones. The sound doesn’t leak out, but the noise cancellation is not at par with the closed-back headphone. In addition to this, the sound is more comprehensive but not as complete as open-back.

Purpose of Using the Best Open Back Headphones

For comfort

Besides sound quality, open-back headphones are known for their comfort. Most open-back headphones are lightweight and don’t hurt your ears when you’ve used them for a long time. Also, you are less likely to have sweaty ears because of the open design.

For maximum comfort, we’d recommend headphones with rotating and adjustable earcups; that way, the pressure on your ears would not be unbearable over time. 

Compatible with more devices

Another reason to choose open-back headphones from the rest is their wide range of compatibility. They can be connected to your mobile phone and professional studio. Open-back headphones have low impedance and work well with smartphones or tablets. Due to convenience, most would prefer an open-back headphone they could use to mix music on their phone.

A more comprehensive range of frequency response

Frequency responses are registered through the headphone’s drivers. The driver takes the electrical signals and translates them into sound. The size of the driver varies from 20 mm to 50 mm, depending on the amount of bass you want. Usually, more significant drivers have a higher volume and better bass. Unfortunately, they have a more difficult time translating higher frequencies. The best open-back headphones have small drivers and should be able to translate 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz with clarity. 

Benefits of Using the Best Open Back Headphones

Brilliant sound quality

There’s no denying that open-back headphones offer a more immersive sound experience. That fact is because of the well-ventilated design of the headphones. The grilles or holes on the ear cups affect the sound distribution across various frequencies. The design and additional foam or mesh within the ear cup also contribute to sound isolation.

No more sweaty ears

One of the most annoying things about wearing headphones for long periods is that your ears get sweaty. Well, it’s a good thing that open-back headphones are built with grilles and holes to facilitate airflow. Because of the open design, the heat from the drivers will not damage the device.

Lightweight

Whether for personal or professional use, open-back headphones are built for comfort. These headphones are lightweight and have adjustable earcups to lessen pressure on your ears. Since open-back headphones are intended for long-term use, brands make it a point to produce headphones with high-quality materials like magnesium and plastic. Don’t let the product’s weight fool you; most headphones are durable.

More advanced driver options

The type of driver you want on your open-back headphone depends on your needs. Open-back headphones are versatile; they are not strictly for professional use. Many driver options vary in size, quality and price. Because of advanced driver options, no two open-back headphones are the same. 

Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Open Back Headphones

Sound quality

In terms of sound quality, open-back headphones are the best by far. Because of the “open” design, music is more natural with slight echo and minimal pressure. If you’re planning on using the headphones in a professional setting, consider checking the impedance and sensitivity ratings. These two specifications are critical to a more balanced sound instead of sounding flat.

Comfort level

Sweaty and sore ears from the tight fit of the headphones squeezing are why some prefer using earphones instead. To prevent that, you’d want a lightweight open-back headphone with adjustable ear cups. Ideally, testing how the headphone feels is the best choice of comfortable open-back headphones. 

Durability

The durability of the headphones is also another feature that you should consider. Since you’re likely to use the open-back headphones for long periods, you’d want them to last as long. Instead of imitation leather, opt for breathable ear pads made from foam and authentic leather. These two materials do not wear and tear easily, and they won’t make your ears sweaty.

Practical usage

Would the open-back headphones be used for personal or professional use? For professional service, it’s best to list down the features that would benefit your work. What type of driver would you need? What’s the frequency range you’re attuned to using? These questions are essential for figuring out which headphone is perfect for you. 

Transparency and accuracy of sound

A more flattering and polished sound is produced when open-back headphones exaggerate the bass and treble response. But this doesn’t mean you should take it and go. The best open-back headphones for you should suit your musical preferences. High sound quality is created through transparent open-back headphones that mix various systems.

As for the accuracy of the headphones, you’d want a clear, deep, and detailed sound produced to criticize your music correctly. 

Drivers

There is a driver for every need; you just have to determine which of them you’d need. For better sound quality, planar magnetic drivers are the way to go. If you’re on a budget, go for dynamic drivers instead. Most open-back headphones have planar magnetic drivers for the maximized sound stage.

Budget

If budget is the problem, no worries, there will be an open-back headphones for you. There’s a headphone decent enough for your budget. If you’re more likely to mix music on your smartphone or tablet, an open-back headphone with low impedance is cheaper than those most professionals use. Though, if you have your studio, it’s best to invest in good quality open-back headphones to get the best sound every time.

Sennheiser HD 800S Open-Back Stereo Headphones

It resembles its predecessor – the HD 800. The Sennheiser HD 800S Open-Back Stereo Headphones don’t disappoint in sound quality and overall design. Design-wise, the Sennheiser HD 800S is composed primarily of plastic; it’s still structurally sound and well-refined. The HD 800S feels very premium and is boxed in a friendly, sizeable wood-like case, much like the other headphones from Sennheiser.

Because the HD 800S’ ear cups are entirely uncovered, optimal acoustic performance is achieved. A fine metal mesh surrounds the driver’s rear side to maintain a free, open sound design. The best sound experience by the HD 800S is achieved through mid-range frequencies. At this range, vocals are emphasized and invoke audio transparency through these headphones. 

Pros:

  • Open, circumaural dynamic stereo headphones
  • Enhanced sound reproduction achieved through absorber technology
  • High-class matte black metal parts
  • Handcrafted ear pads, made of high-quality microfiber fabric
  • Metal headband with an inner damping element

Cons:

  • The metal mesh on the ear cups is prone to cosmetic damage
  • Bulky and heavy

Fostex TH-909 Premium Open-Back Headphones

The Fostex TH-909 is the open-back version of the brand’s closed-back headphones – the TH900. The complex metal grille is visually pleasing and integral to the sound quality. Design-wise, this headphone sets it apart from the others in the varying size and shape of the cut-out holes on the metal grilles. The reason is more of better sound quality than aesthetics.  

Much like its closed-back counterpart, the TH-909 does not disappoint in terms of sound quality. The TH-909 has the most linear and accurate bass response. Surprisingly, deep bass notes, crispy leading edges, and natural decay are reached with this open-back headphone. The TH-909 also delivers mid-range frequency well. Clear, rich, and vivid reproduction of voice and instruments is achieved with the TH-909. 

Pros:

  • Wide dynamic range with low distortion
  • Housing cover uses Japan Lacquer Bordeaux finish
  • Equipped with a detachable connector
  • Used rhodium plating finish for hardness, and abrasion and corrosion resistance
  • The newly designed ear pad adopts a low-resilience cushion

Cons:

  • There’s no hard case included with the headphones

Audeze LCD-4z Over Ear Open Back Headphones

Best Open Back Headphones

Like the previous products in this article, the Audeze LCD-4z is just as good as its predecessor. It’s lighter and easier to drive because it is sensitive enough to plug these headphones into a phone or a portable music player. Thanks to the high-end magnesium frame and its ultra-lightweight driver, the headphones are very lightweight. You’d enjoy long-term listening sessions with the LCD-4z. Its leather earpads provide comfort, and its overall weight is ideally distributed.

In terms of sound quality, the LCD-4z is excellent in every aspect. It has bass definition and extension. Deep and low tones come out cleanly articulated and natural with this headphone. Voices are smoothly translated and in rich detail. Lastly, percussion instruments emerge with outstanding clarity and low distortion. Overall, if you want a clean reproduction of sound in all aspects, the LCD-4z is the one for you!

Pros:

  • Features a dark sleek aesthetic with gold accents
  • Lightweight and non-resonant for a very clean output
  • Features Audeze most advanced diaphragm design
  • Lower distortion and greater accuracy
  • The headphones come with a travel case

Cons:

  • The LCD-4z has thin ear pads

AKG K812 Open-back Reference Headphones

Whether you’re using this in a professional setting or mixing music on your smartphone, that won’t be a problem with the AKG K812. Visually, the AKG K812 is clunky but lightweight and has low clamp force for comfortable and unlimited usage. In terms of compatibility, because of the low impedance, the K812 is compatible even with your smartphone and tablet. 

With the AKG K812, solo listening in your studio or at home has never been so satisfying. Neutral sound with deep natural bass is expected from the K812. Because the bass is neutral, it’s more accurate than other headphones. The K812 is not as sensitive as the other low-impedance headphones despite the low impedance. They’re loud when used with an Apple product but not as loud as others in the market.

Pros:

  • Clear, accurate sound for fine-tuning sonic details
  • Broadcasts extended frequency range up to 54 kHz
  • Large 53mm transducer for ample headroom and dynamic range
  • A strong magnet system provides precise and powerful imaging
  • It has a comfortable fit and a soft open mesh headband

Cons:

  • The sound isolation of the headphones is not that great
  • A travel case does not come with headphones

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Open Back Studio Headphones

Best Open Back Headphones

The DT 1990 Pro is the open-back version of the DT 1770 Pro. This headphone has a matte black metal with intricate offset cuts. It also comes with two sets of earpads that slightly affect the frequency response, depending on what you’re feeling. The pre-installed ear pads are “balanced”, but the extra “analytical” ear pads are more comfortable to use. 

As mentioned, the two sets of earpads can slightly affect the frequency response. Use the “balanced” ear pads for a more emphasized low-end sound. Do take note, though, that the changes are only subtle. Low and mid-range frequencies are excellent through these headphones. The lows are neutral with a minor bump on the upper-bass notes, while mids are clear and sound fantastic. 

Pros:

  • Comes with soft, replaceable ear pads and a headband for long studio sessions
  • Features 2 ear pads with different sound characteristics 
  • Maximum comfort
  • Comes in a premium hard case
  • Features single-sided, detachable cable with mini-XLR connectors
  • High-resolution sound

Cons:

Conclusion

The best open-back headphones produce excellent sound quality and are also very comfortable and built to last. They provide rich bass, detailed highs, and a transparent mid-range. It is also the best for critical listening, and monitoring, and is very lightweight to use for long periods. 

The best open-back headphone I’d recommend is the Sennheiser HD 800S Open-Back Stereo Headphones. It’s very sturdy and has a durable build quality. On top of that, the headphones have a very comfortable design. If you want a premium product that delivers excellent mid-range frequencies, emphasizes vocals, and invokes audio transparency, definitely try the HD 800S out. Plus, it comes in a well-made large wood-like case to protect your headphones when not in use.

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Alex Shute
EDITOR
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.