The Best Open Back Headphones For All Uses

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Open back headphones are a drastic departure from closed, noise-canceling 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 want to reach for these every time. We’ve compiled a list of the best open back headphones we could find so you can sink into your favorite record and spend hours enjoying what seems like a brand new listen.

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Best All-Around Choice
Best for Gamers
Best for Professionals
Best Budget Options
Best For PC Users
Best for Musicians
Best Production Options

Best All-Around Choice

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 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 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 you in a truly 360-degree listening experience, making them a delight for listening to orchestra performances. Still, they 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.” 

Best 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; many careers require you to perfectly understand every sigh, hum, and inflection in a vocal recording. 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 are not musicians, with a sound profile that many reviewers 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 Budget Options

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

“Grado knocked these out the park. They improved on every single category, from build to sound signature, while retaining what makes their cans some of the best on the market. These are game changers.”

What You Should Know

  • Hi-Res Audio Certified with extended response frequencies

  • Engineered double-layered ear shells with pre-tilted speaker plates

  • Replaceable deluxe memory foam ear-pads with breathable velour

These Philips over-ear open-air headphones sit at a great price point for their quality. While some reviewers note the sound quality may not be as superb as some others, the comfortable style and detachable cable for easy replacement parts make this a solid budget-friendly choice.

Review Highlights

“These cans are possibly the most comfortable you’ll ever wear. You can wear them for hours effortlessly. Excellent build quality — you can really feel the durability when you pick them up. These are built to last.”

For PC Users

What You Should Know

  • USB only

  • Extremely affordable given their quality

  • Two-year warranty when purchased from an authorized Sennheiser dealer

Gaming while wearing an open-back headset may make you more prone to real-life distractions. Still, 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, you’ll still use these frequently if you’re watching movies or listening to music on your PC.

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 of 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. 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 we’ve come to expect with new XXL transducers. For a wider range and more dynamic sound, that’s a pleasure to listen to. 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.”

Best Options For Production

What You Should Know

  • Outstanding linearity and transient response

  • High spatial resolution

  • Compatibility with Neumann KH Line speakers

Whether you’re producing a podcast or in the music studio, the Neumann NDH 30 open-back headphones could be your best bet. They are praised for their quality in demanding audio tasks like mixing and mastering. An added perk – they are foldable making them easier to transport.

Review Highlights

“Sounds great you hear the dynamics perfectly the best headphones I ever owned.”

“You can make mixing decisions with these! Soundstage feels large but no massive. Not the intimate in your head sound you get with most headphones.”

What You Should Know

  • Individually matched 40 mm neodymium drivers

  • Lightweight construction, ergonomic dual-frame with a padded headband

  • Include storage case, ear pad replacement set, and threaded adapter

These open back headphones from Shure have rave reviews from musicians and music enthusiasts alike. The company touts individually matched drivers to boost acoustic performance, making it ideal for mastering. Reviewers have called these headphones the best set they’ve ever had for under $1,000, but we’ll let you be judge!

Review Highlights

“These headphones are phenomenal. Full stop. The imaging and sound quality are absolutely superb. The best way to describe the experience is “creamy” with a smidge of brightness, with an amazing open stage and crystal articulation. The bass is solid and ample, but not overbearing (exactly in line with its purported flat response curve).”


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