Find the best open-back headphones on the market, and enjoy the open spacious sound.
Sennheiser HD 800 S Best overall
Wired 3.5mm & 6.3mm
Philips Fidelio X2HR Runner-up
Philips SHP9500 Great value
Sennheiser HD 660 S Best classic
Wired 3.5mm & 6.3mm
Audio-Technica ATH-AD900X Best for gaming
Wired 3.5mm & 6.3mm
Grado SR80e Best under $100
Wired 3.5mm & 6.3mm
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO Best for studio
Wired 3.5mm & 6.3mm
AKG K240 Studio Affordable for studio
Wired 3.5mm & 6.3mm
Sennheiser HD 560 S Best neutral
Wired 3.5mm & 6.3mm
Samson SR850 Best cheap
Wired 3.5mm & 6.3mm
If you’re searching for your new pair of headphones, you probably came across some open-back headphones. If you don’t know in particular what exactly is the deal with this type of headphones, let us clear up a few things.
As the name suggests, open-back headphones are physically different from the typical closed-back pair that you probably have at home. That means that the headphone’s driver isn’t enclosed inside the earcups, giving the sound more room to “breathe”.
In many cases, the driver inside the open-back headphone can be visible with a naked eye. Sometimes you can even see through the cup when you use a flashlight to shine on the other side. Drivers are usually protected with an aluminum mesh since touching them can cause damage.
Open-back headphones have many advantages over closed-back ones. Since the air, which the driver pushes, isn’t trapped inside the earcup, there is a lesser chance of sound distortion.
The soundstage is also an area where open-back headphones excel. They can portray you a massive soundscape that feels very natural, especially if you like to listen to live recordings or classical music. Not only that, but big soundstage can also benefit all music genres.
Frequently, open-back headphones have velour earpads (however, that is not always the case). With the combination of textile pads and no barricade behind the driver, your ears sweat considerably less than the closed-back option with leather pads.
Having no enclosure, the sound is also airer. It feels less congested and easier to listen to.
Because of all those benefits of the open design, this type of headphone is also the most expensive. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a great deal even under $100.
Open-back headphones are fantastic for:
Studio work: If you work in a music studio, you must know how important it’s to listen to your mix with neutral headphones. Since the closed-back solutions tend to have a slightly colorized sound due to bass boost, open-back headphones can more easily achieve the perfect neutrality.
Of course, this type of headphone isn’t suitable for monitoring your singer’s voice, since the sound leak might be audible in the microphone.
Home listening: Since open-back headphones produce sound leaks, while also getting a lot of the environmental sound in, the best place to listen to them is at home. In a room where no one can bother you, you can enjoy your favorite music in peace. Enhanced levels of details and big soundstage will give your music a whole new dimension.
- Absolutely best headphones
- Best studio headphones
- Best headphones for mixing
- Best audiophile headphones
- Best headphones under $100
The Best Open-Back Headphones
1. Sennheiser HD 800 S
Overall best open-back headphones with precise sound quality.
One of the best pair of open-back over-ears from Sennheiser.
- Outstanding audio quality
- Big soundstage with good imaging
- Robust construction
Sennheiser hit the right frequency response with HD 800 S. Nothing sticks too far out to cause sibilance or distortion. While dynamic drivers do have their physical limitations, this is definitely their best headphone implementation.
Sennheiser is known for designing out-of-this-world-looking headphones. HD 800 S are a clear example of that. However, thanks to their design, they’re perfectly shaped to fit human ears. Dense earpads with soft fabric provide a fantastic comfort you never get tired of.
The build quality of these open-back headphones is also top-notch, with a quality plastic body, aluminum cups, and removable cables. With good care, these can last for multiple years.
Even after all these years, these are still a gold standard of how an accurate headphone should sound like.
2. Philips Fidelio X2HR
Best open-back headphones under $200.
If you’re looking for the best open-back headphones under $200, Fidelio X2HR are by far your top choice.
- Great sound quality
- Comfortable for long listening sessions
- Sturdy construction
- Velour pads get dirty quickly
Open-back headphones are notorious for lacking low-end, but Philips somehow managed to make these quite bassy.
Thankfully, the bass doesn’t bleed into the midrange or treble, where you can still find tons of details. The soundstage is massive, making them suitable for gaming too.
Fidelio X2HR open-back headphones are built incredibly well. There is very little plastic on them, providing a premium-feeling experience when you hold them in your hands. Compared to other audiophile headphones, these are also very easy to drive from a phone.
Once they’re on your head, you can feel exquisite comfort provided by generous padding inside the velour pads. Since the dirt gets build up quite fast, check how to keep them clean.
Because of that, your ears don’t sweat at all, ticking another box under the “great comfort” section.
3. Philips SHP9500
Best open-back headphones with amazing value for money.
A more budget-friendly open-back alternative to Fidelio X2HR, with similar sonic capabilities.
- Excellent sound for the price
- Big soundstage
- Detachable cable
- Cushy earpads with breathable fabric
- Not very portable due to bulkiness and open design
- Lots of sound leakage
Like the Fidelio model, these open-back headphones offer great frequency response, a well-balanced sound signature, and a massive sound stage.
They are an excellent pick for gaming headset and music, especially if you want to hear all the small details in your favorite tunes.
The earpads’ fabric is extremely breathable, preventing them from getting too sweaty after extended listening sessions. They’re also generously padded, providing a cloud-like sensation when you wear them.
Their build quality is also exceptional for the asking price. Drivers are covered with a metallic mesh, on which you can also see big imprinted L/R letters. 1.5m copper cable with gold-plated connectors is replaceable.
SHP9500 were much more expensive, costing well above $100, making them a steal at their current $75.
4. Sennheiser HD 660 S
One of the best open-back headphones under $500 price tag that audiophiles will love.
Another fantastic open-back headphone from this German brand, providing an amazing audio experience.
- Audiophile sound quality
- Comfortable velour earpads for long listening sessions
- Fully replaceable parts
- Amp might be necessary for optimal performance
HD 660 S combines everything good from HD 600/650 and makes it a little better.
Bass has a better impact and control, the midrange is a bit more detailed, and the treble range shows slightly more resolution.
Overall a well-balanced performance worthy of a reference headphones title.
These pair of open-back headphones share an almost identical design compared to HD 600/650. The good thing about that is durability.
You can easily rock these for decades since the spare parts are always available. The cool thing is that everything is replaceable on these.
Earcups are huge, providing a comfortable fit for even the most gigantic ears around. They come with velour memory foam earpads, which feel incredibly on your skin, and can also prevent sweating.
5. Audio-Technica ATH-AD900X
Best open-back headphones for gaming.
While you probably know Audio-Technica because of their M50x model, these are actually very typical looking headphones from this brand. 3D Wing design might look weird, but the sound is incredible.
- Airy, detailed sound
- Impressive soundstage
- Comfortable and breathable
- Light on bass
- Non-detachable cable
They lack a bit of bass response, but they make up to with a superb mid-range and treble. They’re incredibly resolving in those frequencies, which is why many users use them for gaming since you can hear enemies long before seeing them.
These are the most unique looking headphones on this list. While those 3D Wing flaps look flimsy, they’re doing a good job keeping the AD900X in their place.
Headphones have substantial circular earcups with velour earpads that sit gently on your ears. Ear cups are large enough to go around your ears nicely.
These headphones offer excellent breathability, with drivers so thin, you can actually see through them. Headphones come with a 6.3mm adapter.
6. Grado SR80e
Best open-back headphones under $100 with on-ear design.
They look like someone brought them from the previous century, but they sound amazing.
- Near audiophile quality
- Wide soundstage
- Lightweight design
- Good sound quality at all volume levels
- No ambient noise isolation
- Earcups pivot but don’t hinge
These open-back headphones produce an amazingly lively sound that puts you right in front of your favorite artist’s stage. Overall, you can expect a very balanced sound.
The bass is controlled, with decent punch, while the treble provides tons of air and detail up on top. The midrange is where the magic happens because it sounds so natural and effortless.
SR80e Prestige Series are mostly plastic, with foam ear pads that gently rest on your ears. Headphones are small and lightweight, so you barely feel them during usage.
The construction feels sturdy, despite the headphone’s simple look. You shouldn’t fear too much if they fall on the floor. The cable is permanently attached, but it’s of good quality.
7. Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
Well-built open-back headphones for mixing.
If you need a trusted pair of headphones to reveal all the flaws in your studio mix, you should check the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro.
- Robust build, made in Germany
- Very detailed sound
- Non-detachable cable
- Bright sound can get sibilant
Bass delivers a good punch and attack, not disturbing the midrange, which is incredibly detailed and accurate. The same goes for the treble, which is boosted to add clarity, although at times it can be sibilant.
All studio monitors from Beyerdynamic headphones are made in Germany, which ensured a greater level of quality control. They’re built like a tank, with robust hard plastic earcups and a metal frame, dressed in padded leather.
DT 990 Pro come with velour earpads with thick padding. They’re so comfortable you feel like wearing a pillow on your head.
For slightly more than $150 (or less), you’re getting a fantastic mixing and mastering tool that you can genuinely rely on.
8. AKG K240 Studio
Fantastic open headphones for a studio on a budget.
These headphones are proving you don’t need the latest and greatest to get great sound quality. Once a more expensive model is now much cheaper, making it an excellent choice for a music producer on a budget.
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Replaceable ear pads and detachable cable
- Exceptional frequency response, even suitable for mixing and producing
- Generous 2-year warranty
- Open soundstage and good acoustics
- Blocks out some external sound
- Doesn’t have the most powerful bass frequencies
- No waterproof protection or sweat resistance
- The earcups can get tatty and frayed over time and therefore need replacing
The sound signature is great for working in a studio, where you need your headphone’s frequency response to be as flat as possible.
That also means that the bass is quite shy, which might turn off people who like to bang their heads to the rhythm.
K240 Studios have a signature AKG look, with a semi-open-back circular design and a gold/black color scheme. Housing is made from plastic that feels sturdy enough. Many users have them for years without anything breaking off.
You can replace a few things on them, such as earpads and cable. Earpads can get stiff after a few years, so having the option to swap them for fresh ones is excellent.
9. Sennheiser HD 560 S
Extremely well-balanced open-back headphones.
Sennheiser nailed it with the HD 560 S, giving you exceptional neutrality for the price as well as big soundstage.
- Exceptional neutral sound
- Big soundstage
- Velour earpads
- Detachable cable
- Can get sibilant at times
A welcoming new addition to the Sennheiser HD lineup, the HD 560S offer excellent neutrality under $200.
They’re slightly warm, have natural sounding midrange, and plenty of detail in the treble. They’re the new audiophile’s choice on a “budget.”
The design is similar to other HD headphones in this price range. They’re lightweight and have comfortable earpads, making them a perfect choice for hours of listening to music.
Their open-back design ensures breathability and also widens up the soundstage. With a detailed treble, you can easily use the HD 560 S for gaming.
Also, the cable is quickly detachable if you even need to upgrade.
10. Samson SR850
Semi-open headphones with well-balanced sound.
If you’re on a really tight budget and seek the best price-to-performance ratio, Samson SR850 are what you should get.
- Fantastic sound for the price
- Lightweight construction
- Decent durability
- 6.3mm adapter included in the box
- All-plastic construction feels cheap
- Below average comfort and fit
- Bad noise isolation
For the price, the audio fidelity is outright fantastic. While you can get similar performance from other best cheap headphones like Superlux HD668B, Samson’s neodymium drivers are more balanced, with more bass and controlled treble.
Supposedly, these use the same drivers as some much more expensive headphones. To cut down the cost, build quality is only decent.
They’re entirely made of plastic, which can also be a good thing. That makes the headphones very lightweight for their size. Comfort is also decent, especially if you don’t wear glasses.
SR850 are also quite durable. We have them for years now, and the only thing that feels slightly loose is the spring for the self-adjusting headband.
Popular headphones with excellent sound performance for their price point. They feel a bit cheap since they’re mostly made from plastic, but they come with a removable cable, which adds to overall durability. (Check HD668B price)
Sennheiser HD 600/650
Both models are classics among music lovers, with HD 600 providing one of the best vocals on headphones, and HD 650 being the kings of laid-back sound. Sadly, they don’t make HD 650 anymore, but you can still get them on a Drop website. (Check HD 600/650 price)
Beautifully crafted headphones, with superb comfort, and a neutral-to-warm sound signature. Tuning is mostly suited for vocal-oriented music. However, they’re a little hard to drive, and they’re also a bit soft when it comes to rendering electric guitars. (Check ATH-R70x price)
HIFIMAN HE-400i (2020 Version)
The new version comes with an improved headband design with better padding. Sonically, they’re the same as the previous model. The sound from planar magnetic drivers is nicely balanced, with a clear focus on intimate vocals and instrument rendition. (Check HE-400i price)
Headphones are built exceptionally well, with a beautiful design that never gets old. The bass is tight, controlled, with a powerful impact. Realistic midrange and treble, combined with an accurate soundstage, provides a feeling of sitting in a room with the band right in front of you. (Check Ananda price)
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
Open-back headphones that are made for critical listening, with detailed frequency response and slightly brighter overall sound. They’re expensive, but an excellent addition to your music production workflow. (Check DT 1990 Pro price)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Are the Differences Between Open and Closed-Back Headphones?
Compared to closed-back headphones, the main disadvantage is bass-extension. Enclosed ear cups can help develop a more powerful bass impact, while also extending deeper into the sub-bass region.
Open-back headphones can be very detailed and natural, but can’t reach those deep notes to make genres like hip hop or rap sound exciting. Therefore, they aren’t suitable for bass lovers.
Isolation is also a huge problem when you have nothing in between the driver and the surroundings. That is why this type of headphone makes a poor choice for public transport or even the office.
Not only can you hear everything around you, but people around you are also able to hear your music loud and clear.
What About Semi-Open Headphones?
These are a sort of hybrid between the closed and open-back headphones. They should be better at providing noise isolation while also leaking less sound. Even though they resemble more a closed pair of headphones rather than open, their drivers are not entirely enclosed, like in closed-back design.
In practice, the difference is noticeable, especially in the bass, which is much deeper than a fully open design. However, isolation is only slightly better. Therefore, semi-open headphones are still not suitable for taking on a bus and jamming your music out loud.
How to Pick the Best Open-Back Headphones for You?
As you can see, open-back headphones aren’t only limited to premium prices. You can get an excellent pair for as much as $40. However, we know it can be tricky to find yourself a perfect headphone without trying them upfront.
If you haven’t found your next headphone on our list, try to follow these pieces of advice when browsing through the web.
First, you need to know why you need them. Is it for casually listening to music, watching movies, playing games, or professional work?
Lots of these things can stir you in a different direction when it comes to headphone search. For instance, if you need something for a studio, you should probably look for headphones with a flat sound. If you need them for movies, you’re better off with a more bassy headphone, or even trying out some closed-back options.
Give yourself a budget limit. Everyone wants the latest and greatest, but you can quickly find yourself browsing through expensive headphones that you can’t afford. It’s easier to tell yourself that you want, for example, something under $100, and then start searching.
That way, it’s much simpler to browse, since many websites, including ours, sort headphones based on their prices. And we always try to present you with the best price-to-performance deals for a given price bracket.
Reviews and Forums
Try to seek reviewers that aren’t biased. Thankfully, there aren’t as many of them, but some might still favor a specific brand without knowing, giving a false product image. Seek for reviews that are honest and don’t only talk nice things. No headphone is perfect, and there are no perfect scores.
Forums can also be helpful when trying to decide if you want to buy that specific headphone or not. However, people tend to like different things, and while some might love a particular headphone, you might end up hating it entirely. So try to search through many forums before forming an opinion.
Can You Improve Your Existing Cheap Headphones?
Thankfully, there are ways to improve your existing headphones by changing their earpads with compatible ones, like in the Samson mentioned above. The Earcup shape is precisely the same as the AKG Kxxx lineup. That is how you can achieve the sound and comfort of a $100 worth of headphone with an upgrade that cost you around $10.