8 Best Open Back Headphones: Picks for Superior Sound Quality

Table of Contents

Last Updated on February 7, 2024 by Muisc Pro Editorial Team

Open-back headphones are revered by audiophiles for their exceptional sound quality and natural listening experience. Unlike closed-back designs, open-back headphones allow air to pass through their ear cups to the speaker element. This design reduces pressure buildup and echoes, resulting in a sound that’s more natural and true to the original recording. Ideal for critical listening, these headphones offer a larger soundstage, making them perfect for enjoying high-fidelity music and sophisticated audio in quiet environments. When assembling a music recording bundle, the choice of open-back headphones is crucial due to the vast array of options available. This article aims to guide you through the top picks, highlighting their unique features, sound quality, comfort, and overall value to help you find the perfect pair for your audio experience.

Our Choice for:

Sennheiser Consumer Audio HD 599 Open Back Headphone

Sennheiser Consumer Audio HD 599 Open Back Headphone

Design and Comfort

The HD 599 features a timeless ivory color scheme with matte metallic accents and brown stitching on the headband, presenting a sophisticated look. The headphones are designed with a padded headband and luxurious velour-covered ear pads, ensuring comfort during extended listening sessions without exerting pressure on the ears.

Sound Quality

Leveraging Sennheiser’s proprietary transducer technology and aluminum voice coils, the HD 599 excels in delivering high efficiency, excellent dynamics, and minimal distortion. The open-back design contributes to an impressively natural spatial performance, making them ideal for audiophiles seeking a near-audiophile sound experience.

Connectivity and Build

These headphones come with multiple connectivity options, including a robust 3-meter detachable cable with a 6.3mm jack and an additional 1.2-meter detachable cable with a 3.5mm jack. The premium components and solid build quality reflect Sennheiser’s commitment to durability and versatility.

Usage Scenario

Perfect for home entertainment and critical listening, the HD 599 is tailored for users who value sound quality and comfort over portability, given their larger size and wired connection.

Pros:

  • Exceptional sound quality with natural spatial performance.
  • Comfortable for long listening sessions due to the plush ear pads and padded headband.
  • High-quality build with a luxurious and elegant design.
  • Multiple cable options enhance connectivity flexibility.

Cons:

  • Not suitable for on-the-go usage due to their size and lack of wireless connectivity.
  • Open-back design may not be ideal for noisy environments as it allows sound leakage.

Evolution and Comparison: The HD 599 stands at the pinnacle of Sennheiser’s 500 series, showing marked improvements in sound quality and comfort over its predecessors. Its focus on audiophile-grade sound and luxury design sets it apart from competitors, especially in its price range. For those considering options, the HD 599 is best suited for indoor use, offering a premium listening experience.

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HIFIMAN Edition XS Full-Size Over-Ear Open-Back Planar Magnetic Hi-Fi Headphones

Samson Semi Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones

Sound Quality

The Edition XS showcases HIFIMAN’s innovative Stealth Magnet Technology and NEO supernano Diaphragm, resulting in a wide, natural soundstage. This technology minimizes interference and distortion, offering a pure, detailed sonic output. The thinner NsD (80% thinner than its predecessors) enhances the fast response, providing lush, full-range sonics with detailed imaging.

Comfort and Design

The headphones feature a lightweight, ergonomically accurate headband made of refined matte black material with high-grade memory foam interiors. This design ensures maximum comfort for prolonged listening and maintains a comfortable fit over time.

Build and Durability

The structural design of the Edition XS emphasizes durability, retaining a comfortable fit for years. The 3.5mm sockets and user-changeable cable align with common audio devices, enhancing user convenience and longevity of the product.

Usage Scenario

These headphones are ideal for audiophiles who appreciate detailed sound quality and comfort during long listening sessions, particularly in quiet, indoor environments where their open-back design shines.

Pros:

  • Exceptional sound quality with reduced distortion and a natural soundstage.
  • Comfortable for long-term wear, thanks to the ergonomic headband and memory foam.
  • Durable build with user-replaceable cables.
  • Stealth Magnet Technology and NEO supernano Diaphragm set it apart in sound clarity and detail.

Cons:

  • Open-back design not suitable for noisy environments due to sound leakage.
  • Larger size and wired design may not be ideal for portable use.

Evolution and Comparison: The Edition XS represents a significant upgrade from its predecessors, particularly in sound technology with the Stealth Magnet and thinner NsD. These features distinctly set it apart from competitors, especially in its price bracket, offering high-end sound quality at an accessible price. Ideal for audiophiles seeking a blend of luxury, comfort, and superior sound fidelity, the Edition XS stands out for its technological advancements and ergonomic design.

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PHILIPS Fidelio X3 Professional Studio Monitor Headphones

PHILIPS Fidelio X3 Professional Studio Monitor Headphones

Sound Quality

The Fidelio X3 shines with its wide, natural soundstage, offering an uncolored and lifelike sound. Equipped with 50mm multi-layer polymer diaphragms with dampening gel, these headphones deliver detailed highs, smooth midrange, and impactful bass. The Hi-Res Audio certification ensures compatibility with high-resolution sources for a true-to-life auditory experience.

Build and Comfort

The open-back design, featuring acoustically transparent Kvadrat speaker fabric, enhances the spaciousness of the sound. The headphones boast premium finishes, including sustainably sourced Muirhead Scottish leather on the headband, ensuring both luxury and ethical responsibility in its materials.

Connectivity

Ready for diverse usage, the Fidelio X3 includes balanced and unbalanced inputs, making them versatile for both high-end headphone amps and everyday mobile devices. The inclusion of detachable 3m oxygen-free cables (both balanced and unbalanced) and a 3.5 to 6.3mm adapter adds to its flexibility.

User Experience

Designed for audiophiles and professional studio monitoring, the Fidelio X3 is an exemplary headphone for recording, perfect for users seeking detailed sound reproduction in a comfortable, high-quality build. Its spacious soundstage and transparent audio reproduction make the Fidelio X3 ideal for critical listening in quiet environments, ensuring that every nuance and detail in the recording is captured with precision.

Pros:

  • Exceptional sound quality with a wide, natural soundstage.
  • High-resolution audio certification for detailed and lifelike sound.
  • Comfortable and luxurious design with responsibly sourced materials.
  • Versatile connectivity options, including balanced and unbalanced inputs.

Cons:

  • Open-back design may not be suitable for noisy environments due to sound leakage.
  • The premium build and materials might not appeal to users seeking a more utilitarian design.

Evolution and Comparison: The Philips Fidelio X3 represents a significant step in Philips’ audiophile headphone lineup, offering superior sound quality and build over previous models. Its attention to detail in sound reproduction and commitment to high-quality, responsibly sourced materials set it apart from competitors, particularly in its focus on ethical luxury. The Fidelio X3 is a top choice for those who value sonic fidelity, comfort, and ethical considerations in their headphone selection.

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GRADO GW100x Bluetooth Open-Back Wireless Headphones

GRADO GW100x Bluetooth Open-Back Wireless Headphones

Sound Quality

The GW100x, featuring Grado’s 4th generation drivers, offers improved soundstage and clarity. These headphones stand out for preserving harmonic integrity, with a magnetic circuit, voice coil, and diaphragm designed to enhance efficiency and reduce distortion. As the only open-back Bluetooth headphones on the market, they provide a superior sound experience compared to their closed-back counterparts.

Design and Comfort

The on-ear design is lightweight and comfortable, suited for extended listening sessions. The padded headband adds to the comfort, making them ideal for long-term use.

Connectivity and Battery Life

Equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, aptX adaptive, AAC, and SBC codecs, the GW100x offers versatile connectivity options. The headphones boast an impressive battery life of up to 46 hours on a 2-hour charge, and include a 3.5mm headphone cable for wired listening if needed. Notably, the GW100x introduces multipoint pairing, enhancing user convenience in switching between devices.

User Experience

The built-in microphone and easy-to-locate controls on the earpiece make these headphones user-friendly for both music listening and taking calls. They are well-suited for users who value the freedom of wireless headphones without sacrificing open-back sound quality.

Pros:

  • Exceptional sound quality with a natural and expansive soundstage.
  • Long battery life and fast charging.
  • Comfortable, lightweight design suitable for extended use.
  • Versatile connectivity with Bluetooth 5.2 and multiple codecs.

Cons:

  • Open-back design may not be ideal for noisy environments due to sound leakage.
  • On-ear design might be less comfortable for some users compared to over-ear models.

Evolution and Comparison: The GW100x represents a significant advancement in Grado’s wireless headphone lineup, particularly in driver technology and battery life. It sets a benchmark as the only open-back Bluetooth model available, offering a unique blend of wireless convenience and high-fidelity sound. For users seeking the best of both worlds – wireless freedom and open-back audio quality – the GW100x is an exceptional choice.

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Sony Open Back Reference Monitor Headphones

Sony Open Back Reference Monitor Headphones

Sound Quality and Performance

Sony’s Reference Monitor Headphones are designed for mixing and mastering immersive/spatial and stereo sound. They boast a wide frequency response from 5Hz to 80kHz, ensuring accurate high-resolution and well-balanced sound reproduction. The newly developed HD driver units, optimized for an open-back structure, deliver a rich low frequency range, making them nearly identical to a speaker-based production environment.

Design and Comfort

The headphones feature a lightweight and extremely comfortable design, ideal for extended periods of use. The soft suede ear pad material adds to the comfort, and the secure fit ensures stable usage during long studio sessions.

Durability and Connectivity

They come with a detachable cable made of high-quality machined aluminum, enhancing their durability. The inclusion of a bundled mini-jack plug adaptor provides versatility in connectivity options.

User Experience

Tailored for professionals in audio production, these headphones are perfect for creating detailed audio mixes in studio settings. The neutral and high-resolution acoustic characteristics allow for precise sound element reproduction.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally wide frequency range for accurate sound reproduction.
  • High-resolution audio capability, ideal for professional mixing and mastering.
  • Comfortable for long-term use with lightweight design and soft ear pads.
  • Durable construction with high-quality detachable cable.

Cons:

  • Open-back design may not be suitable for recording environments where sound leakage is a concern.
  • Focused more on professional studio use, which may not cater to casual listeners or those seeking portability.

Evolution and Comparison: These headphones represent a significant advancement in Sony’s audio technology, specifically tailored for professional studio environments. The combination of wide frequency response and high-resolution audio sets them apart from competitors, especially in the realm of professional audio production. For users seeking precise sound reproduction for professional audio work, Sony’s Reference Monitor Headphones stand out as a top choice.

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Sennheiser Consumer Audio HD 650

Sennheiser Consumer Audio HD 650

Sound Quality

The HD 650 excels with its specially designed acoustic silk, ensuring precision damping across the frequency range and reducing total harmonic distortion to an incredible 0.05%. The improved frequency response (10 – 39,500 Hz) and high power neodymium magnets deliver exceptional efficiency, while the lightweight aluminum voice coils ensure a very fast transient response. These features contribute to a balanced, transparent, and exceptionally natural sound, making the HD 650 ideal for hi-resolution recordings and audiophile listening.

Build and Comfort

These open-back, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones boast a high-quality titanium/silver finish. Their circumaural design and optimized contact pressure ensure comfort during extended listening sessions. The detachable cable made from highly conductive OFC copper, Kevlar-reinforced and with low handling noise, enhances the overall user experience.

Usage Scenario

The HD 650 is particularly suited for hi-fi stereo systems and is favored among mastering engineers worldwide. Its natural, spatial, and accurate sound reproduction makes it ideal for both professional and casual audiophile use, particularly in quiet, indoor environments.

Pros:

  • Exceptional sound quality with low distortion and a wide frequency range.
  • Comfortable for long-term wear, suitable for extended listening sessions.
  • High-quality build and elegant design with a titanium/silver finish.
  • Detachable, high-quality cable for flexibility and durability.

Cons:

  • Open-back design may not be suitable for noisy environments due to sound leakage.
  • Requires high-quality audio sources to fully appreciate their sound capabilities.

Evolution and Comparison: The HD 650 represents a significant improvement over its predecessor, the HD 600, with a broader frequency response and lower total harmonic distortion. These enhancements make the HD 650 a top choice for audiophiles and professionals seeking a headphone that combines comfort, build quality, and outstanding sound performance.

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PHILIPS Fidelio X2HR Over The Ear Open Back Wired Headphone

PHILIPS Fidelio X2HR Over The Ear Open Back Wired Headphone

 

 

Sound Quality: The Fidelio X2HR is Hi-res Audio Certified, offering an extended response frequency range. It features 50 mm high definition neodymium drivers with an LMC diaphragm, ensuring impeccable clarity and detail. The acoustic open-back architecture contributes to a natural and expansive soundstage, providing an immersive listening experience.

Build and Comfort

These headphones are designed with engineered double-layered ear-shells and pre-tilted speaker plates for optimal sound delivery. The replaceable deluxe memory foam ear-pads with breathable velour finishing, along with a lightweight self-adjustable hammock with 3D mesh and genuine leather outer headband, ensure maximum comfort even during prolonged use.

Connectivity

The Fidelio X2HR comes with a 3.5mm detachable oxygen-free cable (3m) for a pure sound transfer, and includes a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter and cable management clip, offering flexibility and ease of use.

User Experience

These headphones are ideal for audiophiles seeking high-resolution audio in a comfortable and durable design. They are particularly suited for home listening and studio monitoring, where the open-back design’s natural sound can be fully appreciated.

Pros:

  • High-resolution audio certification ensures superior sound quality.
  • Comfortable for extended listening with deluxe memory foam ear-pads and ergonomic design.
  • Durable construction with a detachable, oxygen-free cable.
  • Open-back design delivers a natural and spacious soundstage.

Cons:

  • Open-back design may not be ideal for noisy environments due to sound leakage.
  • The larger size and wired design might limit portability.

Evolution and Comparison: The Fidelio X2HR represents Philips’ commitment to audio excellence, building on over 50 years of headphone acoustics heritage. Its combination of high-resolution sound, comfort, and build quality sets it apart from competitors, especially for those who prioritize audio fidelity and comfort in their listening experience. The Fidelio X2HR is a top choice for users who value a blend of traditional design and modern acoustic performance.

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Samson Semi Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones

Samson Semi Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones

Sound Quality

The Samson Studio Reference Headphones are equipped with proprietary large 50mm drivers with rare earth magnets, delivering an extended frequency response and great dynamic range. This design facilitates solid bass response and ultra-clear highs, making them suitable for professional applications like tracking, mixing, mastering, and general music playback.

Design and Comfort

These semi-open headphones feature a circumaural, over-ear design with velour cushioning, which provides outstanding comfort for long listening sessions. The self-adjusting headband ensures an optimal fit for various head sizes, enhancing the user experience during extended use.

Build and Durability

The build quality is focused on professional studio use, with durable components and a design that balances comfort with the rigorous demands of studio work. The included 1/4″ stereo adapter adds versatility for different audio equipment.

Usage Scenario

These headphones are ideal for musicians, sound engineers, and music enthusiasts who require accurate monitoring and extended wear comfort. The semi-open design offers a balance between the immersive experience of open-back headphones and the isolation typical of closed-back models.

Pros:

  • Extended frequency response and dynamic range for professional-grade audio.
  • Comfortable over-ear design with velour cushioning, suitable for long sessions.
  • Self-adjusting headband provides a universal fit.
  • Semi-open design offers a balance of sound immersion and environmental awareness.

Cons:

  • Semi-open design may allow some sound leakage, which might not be ideal in very quiet or very noisy environments.
  • The larger size and specific design may limit their use to studio settings, reducing their versatility for casual or portable use.

Evolution and Comparison: Samson’s SR850 represents a strong option in the realm of semi-open-back studio headphones, particularly for those on a budget. Its combination of professional-grade sound quality, comfort, and robust build quality makes it a competitive choice in its category, especially for users who are starting in the field of audio production or who need a reliable secondary pair of studio headphones.

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Introduction to Open Back Headphones

Open-back headphones are distinct in their design, featuring ear cups with external grilles or perforations. This design allows air and sound to pass freely through the ear cups, unlike closed-back headphones that isolate the listener from external noise. The primary impact of this design is on sound quality and user experience. Open-back headphones offer a more natural, spacious soundstage, closely mimicking the experience of listening to live music. This design reduces resonance and offers a purer, more authentic sound. However, it also means that they leak sound and provide less noise isolation, making them less ideal for noisy environments.

Sound Quality Analysis

The sound quality of open-back headphones is often superior, especially in terms of soundstage – the perception of the spatial location of sound. The open design contributes to a more expansive, airy soundstage, making it easier to pinpoint the direction and location of different instruments and vocals. Bass performance in open-back headphones can be less pronounced than in closed-back models, but it is usually more natural and accurate. The midrange, where most vocals and instruments lie, tends to be clear and detailed. Treble in open-back headphones is typically crisp and well-defined, without the sibilance or harshness that can occur in closed-back designs.

Use Cases and Environments

Open-back headphones are best suited for environments where sound leakage is not an issue, such as in quiet home studios or during personal listening in a secluded setting. They are ideal for professional audio mixing and mastering, as they provide a more accurate representation of sound. In home settings, they enhance the enjoyment of high-fidelity music, offering an immersive listening experience. However, for outdoor environments, public spaces, or noisy workplaces, open-back headphones might not be the best choice due to their sound leakage and lack of noise isolation.

Advanced Features and Technologies

Modern open-back headphones often incorporate advanced technologies to enhance their performance. Planar magnetic drivers are sometimes used for their ability to produce a highly accurate and responsive sound. Some models include noise-canceling capabilities, although this is less common in open-back designs due to their inherent sound leakage. Bluetooth connectivity has also become more prevalent, offering the convenience of wireless listening while still providing the superior sound quality associated with open-back headphones. These features, combined with traditional open-back characteristics, create headphones that are both technologically advanced and sonically exceptional.

FAQ Section for Choosing the Best Open Back Headphones

Q1: What are open-back headphones?

A: Open-back headphones have ear cups with external grilles or perforations, allowing air and sound to pass freely. This design offers a more natural and expansive soundstage, closely mimicking the experience of listening to live music.

Q2: How do open-back headphones differ from closed-back ones?

A: Unlike closed-back headphones, which isolate sound and block external noise, open-back headphones allow sound to pass through, offering a more natural listening experience. However, they also leak sound and provide less noise isolation.

Q3: Are open-back headphones suitable for professional studio use?

A: Yes, open-back headphones are ideal for professional studio use, such as audio mixing and mastering, due to their accurate sound representation and expansive soundstage.

Q4: Can I use open-back headphones for everyday casual listening?

A: Absolutely, open-back headphones are great for casual listening, especially in quiet environments where their sound leakage won’t be an issue. They provide an immersive and authentic listening experience.

Q5: Are there wireless open-back headphones?

A: Yes, some open-back headphones come with Bluetooth connectivity, offering the convenience of wireless listening along with high-quality sound.

Q6: Do open-back headphones have good bass?

A: Open-back headphones typically deliver natural and accurate bass, which might be less pronounced than in closed-back models but is usually more authentic.

Q7: Can open-back headphones be used in noisy environments?

A: Open-back headphones are not ideal for noisy environments due to their sound leakage and lack of noise isolation. They are best used in quieter settings.

Conclusion

In conclusion, open-back headphones stand out for their unparalleled ability to deliver a natural, spacious soundstage that elevates the listening experience to a level that closely resembles live music. While they are particularly well-suited for professional settings like studios, they are equally capable of enhancing personal listening experiences in quieter environments. The choice of open-back headphones should be guided by considerations such as sound quality, comfort, build, and additional features like wireless connectivity or advanced driver technology. However, it’s important to remember their limitations in terms of sound leakage and noise isolation. For audiophiles and music enthusiasts seeking an authentic and immersive audio experience, open-back headphones offer an excellent choice, provided their unique characteristics align with your listening needs and environments. Whether for professional use or casual enjoyment, the right pair of open-back headphones can transform how you experience music, bringing you closer to the heart of the performance.

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