The Best Open Back Headphones | Everything You Need to Know

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Open back headphones are a drastic departure from closed, noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones or in-ear earphones. Audiophiles love the warmer, richer, more immersive sound that open headphones offer, with instrument rich music styles like symphony and jazz showing the most improvements with this technology. Since they are open, they aren’t going to be your choice for use at the gym or on the bus; they let air pass through, so you’ll still be aware of conversations going on around you, and people will be able to hear what you’re listening to pretty easily. But for home use, you’ll reach for these every time, and it’s incredibly easy to sink into your favorite record and spend hours enjoying what seems like a brand new listen.

What You Should Know

  • Good for students
  • High Quality on a reasonable budget
  • Limited deep bass

A good all-around choice, these lightweight headphones are comfortable for long wear and, while not being the least expensive option on this list, are certainly more budget friendly than high-end domestically produced headphones. They’re a good choice for studying, working from home, or relaxing, and are particularly popular with reviewers for use playing music from a smartphone.

Review Highlights

“After 7 months of use, I can say that the hype on this headphone is not overblown. This set of headphones is significantly better than anything else I have tried at this price-point. “

Best for Gamers

What You Should Know

  • Fantastic 360 degree sound
  • Entry level price
  • 700X is the midpoint for this line, 500x and 1000x also available

Affordable but with excellent performance, Audio-Technica’s audiophile headphones make for a truly immersive experience. You’ll enjoy rich sound that seems to envelop in a truly 360 degree listening experience, making them a delight for listening to orchestra performances, but the earn the highest reviews from competitive gamers and virtual reality enthusiasts, who love the excellent directional cues, giving them an edge over the competition in stealth and survival based games in particular.

Review Highlights

“I don’t know how these Audio Technica ATH-AD700X have done it, but they nailed the directional audio. I can feel when someone is in front of me to the right… or behind me to the left. The way the noise hits in the headphones is amazing! It’s greatly improved my game since now instead of hearing footsteps and trying to guess where it’s coming from I can actually know” 

Bestl for Professionals

What You Should Know

  • Ideal for transcription or other spoken-word work
  • May minimize low notes or bass lines
  • Comfortable for long hours of wear

Writers, editors, transcribers, translators; there are a ton of careers that require you to perfectly understand every sigh, hum, and inflection in a vocal recording, and these Sennheiser headphones are a dream to work with. If you require true to life sound, and headphones that are actually comfortable enough to wear for a full work day, you’ll struggle to find a better all-around choice. At a price point that is daunting for many, they are definitely geared to audio professionals that not musicians, with a sound profile that many reviewer point out minimizes bass lines in music.

Review Highlights
“I love the clarity and the definition of the HD800S but also the smoothness of the highs… the 800S’ highs are silky smooth – especially the string sections of an orchestra which, to me, is the benchmark to check during listening tests.”

Best on a Budget

What You Should Know

  • Reviewers put them on par with headphones twice their price
  • Low to average burn in period
  • A great gift for budding audiophiles

Get hooked on open backed headphones with this entry-level model, and you may never find a need to upgrade to a higher priced option. Music lovers who can spend hours enjoying a favorite selection will find that the open-ear experience breathes a new life into established favorites.

Review Highlights

“I’ve owned and used countless headphones over the last 50 years. These are among the best I’ver ever used. Period. Not just at this price level, but at any price level.”

For PC Users

What You Should Know

  • USB only
  • Extremely affordable given their quality
  • 90 Days free Amazon Tech support included

Gaming while wearing an open back headset may make you more prone to real-life distractions, but it also makes it a lot more fun to game with friends and family, as these don’t isolate you from conversations going on in the room around you, but still fully immerse you into your favorite game. Though the PC platform only option may make them lack versatility, the value of being able to buy Sennheiser cans at less than 200 bucks cannot be overstated; after all, if you’re watching movies or listening to music on your PC you’ll still be using these frequently.

Review Highlights

“Recently upgraded from the Corsair Void pro to these Sennheisers. The difference in quality is astounding. I can hear things in games and music that I’ve never been able to hear before. They are comfortable, adjustable, and feel great during long play periods.”

Best for Musicians

What You Should Know

  • Tesla drivers
  • Two pairs velour ear pads with analytical sound
  • Great for music producers, recording sessions

Audiophiles rave over these headphones, regardless of their genre of choice. From classical symphony, to jazz and big band, the intense trebles give brass and bass both their due, and though they’re quite an investment, the high-quality German manufacturing makes for a durable, enjoyable piece of tech that you won’t be replacing any time soon.

Review Highlights

“From the moment I put them on, I had the sense that I was finally hearing the music as the engineer intended. No coloration. No tricks, no treats. Just the straight business (for better and worse, depending on the quality of the original recording). It puts you right in the studio, in the first few rows of the concert hall, or at that corner table close enough to share your drink with the drummer.”

What You Should Know

  • Some emphasis on Trebles
  • Your music will still be audible to those around you
  • Very affordable

A true hybrid, the K240 is a semi-open headphone that combines the roomy, depth of sound that we’ve come to expect with new XXL transducers, for a wider range and more dynamic sound that’s a pleasure to listen with. Some reviewers do note having to replace the cable earlier than expected, which, at this price point, isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.

Review Highlights

“These are designed for studio recording, and as a result have a very flat and even sound that doesn’t emphasize any particular frequency. They’re bright, but not ear piercing. They have bass, but it doesn’t drown out the rest of the music, even on an insanely bass-heavy album”

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