Headphones can be found in a large variety of shapes, sizes and with several different features. High quality over the ear headphones make listening to music a pleasurable experience. Mainly there are two types of over the ear headphones: open back headphones and closed back headphones. Although less common, there is another type of headphones which try to mold the best from both worlds, and they’re called semi-open headphones.
While the two terms are pretty clear, they correspond to the physical design of the headphones; they don’t do a great deal to make us understand how that effects the listening experience of the end user. There are pros and cons to every type of headphones. Before spending the dough, its best suggested to know the differences if you’re in the market for new headphones. So, are you wondering which type is right for you?
Table of Contents
What are Open Back Headphones?
Open back headphones don’t really offer much noise isolation from your environment. The air is easily able to flow in and out, and it leaves your ears feeling fresh. When your ears have been enveloped, you’ll still be able to hear mostly what’s going on in your background, and if there’s anyone around you, they’ll be able to hear your music as well.
Depending on the model to model, some can allow you to hear your surroundings way more than others. This is particularly useful for people who want to enjoy walks or jogging while relishing their music and be safe at the same time.
An open back headphone can be identified by how the ear cup enclosures will often have a see-through quality. But to make sure you have to put them on and give them a go.
The strong point of open back headphones is completely the opposite of closed back headphones. The grills on open back headphones allow air to freely pass in and out of the headphones.
The biggest advantage of using open back headphones is the presentation of the sound. The space in the cups is not confined, sound can travel freely and is perceived to be more natural. This results in a larger, deeper and airy soundstage. A good pair of open back headphones will sound akin to stereo speakers. The music will be immersive, and it won’t sound like it is coming out of your head. If you’re a fan of natural and realistic sounding music, then open-ended headphones will be more suitable for you.
Also, if you live in a hot and humid environment, then open ended headphones are your only options. The let your ears have space to breathe which means you can use them hours upon hours. The vents in the cups allow heat and moisture to escape which makes the headphones monumentally more comfortable to wear than closed-back headphones for a long period of time, so you don’t have to take breaks.
Open back headphones aren’t as commonly found as closed back headphones as most of the users want sound isolation which open backs can’t provide.
- Better situational awareness as you can listen to what’s going in your background
- Soundstage is natural
- Ears don’t get sweaty in hot environments
- Low amount of isolation from background
- Music leakage disturbs people around you
- Low noise cancellation can mean volume can reach dangerously high potentially damage ears.
The AKG K7XX is a custom limited-edition pair of open back headphones that you can get. They offer an amazing natural sound signature that reminds you of the craftsmanship the brand is capable of.
You get access to high quality construction, stellar drivers and of course the custom configuration that allows you to get a fine-tuned audio experience.
Sennheiser HD 598
Sennheiser is a brand with a reputation that precedes itself and it’s no wonder that the HD 598 offers everything that you’d experience from the brand in its open back design. The velour earpads are comfortable and can offer you hours if listening without fatiguing you.
The sleek and lightweight design means that you can even carry them around very easily. When it comes to performance the HD 598 is one of the very best in its price range and can throw a punch at some of the best headphones in the market. It also has a closed-back variant if you are interested, which offers the exact same features with the added benefits of a closed design.
- Premium, audiophile-grade over-ear, open back headphones
- Padded leatherette headband and luxurious velour covered ear pads perfect for long listening sessions
- Compatible with virtually every audio device including phones, tablets, computers and stereo components
What are Closed-Back Headphones
Most of the headphones sold in the markets or online will be of the closed back type. Although the number of models for the open back design is increasing, they’re still dwarfed by the ginormous number of models that closed backs have.
It’s usually easy to identify closed back headphones as you can look at how the cups are shaped, but this isn’t always the case. By virtue of the design, closed back headphones block a minimum of 10 dB of sound, and some block even more.
Closed back headphones offer the most isolation, which means that after you’ve put them on, there will be a complete around both of your ears (no air movement either). With closed back type of headphones, most of the outside nose will be blocked. The amount of outside noise activity blocked will depend on the type of materials used and the density of the cups.
Closed back headphones are perfect for people who listen to music or content while traveling or in busy places such as bus stops, airports, railway stations, etc. Being able to pick up minute detail becomes way easier with external sound marginalized, and you can do so with minimal volume so you can keep your ears safe as well.
There are certain limitations to closed back headphones as well though, like the sound waves in the cup have nowhere to escape to, which affects how the music is heard making it seem a bit unnatural. The sound stage of the headphones seems less airy and smaller when compared to open backs. The sound can often be felt like it’s coming from inside your head rather than from the drivers of the headphones. The degree of this effect differs from one headphone to another.
It should also be noted that one shouldn’t be suggested closed back headphones if you want to wear them while walking or jogging outside as it can be really dangerous as you won’t be much aware of your surroundings. One can end up in a bad accident without the sense of sound.
On a physical level, closed back headphones trap more heat and moisture than any other type of headphones. If you live in a cold environment, this can be rather comfortable, and you may not even have to carry your earmuffs, but if you are from a hot and humid environment, then this can get really uncomfortable fast. You may have to take frequent breaks taking your headphones off to cool down, or you may not even want to use closed backs during the summers.
- Great noise isolation for noisy environments
- Music can be enjoyed at significantly lower volumes
- Music can be listened to in privacy
- Lower level frequencies are boosted
- Music isn’t as accurate or clear as Open Back Headphones
- Music seems inside of your head
- Ears can get hot and sweaty as there is a lack of fresh air
- Can be dangerous as you can’t listen to your surroundings
Audio Technica M50X
The Audio Technica M50X is one of the best products that you can get your hands on if you are looking for a studio monitor pair of headphones that offers you stunning audio quality. They offer a solid sound signature and come with a variety of cables to customize your setup.
If you want a well-built, entry-level audio experience then the M50X is definitely the right pick for you thanks to the well-rounded sound in an affordable package.
- Critically acclaimed sonic performance praised by top audio engineers and pro audio reviewers
- Proprietary 45 millimeter large aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and copper clad aluminum wire voice coils
- Exceptional clarity throughout an extended frequency range, with deep, accurate bass response
If you want the best in class closed-back experience in a wireless setup then the Skullcandy Crusher is one of the very best. It offers all the featured you’d want out of a wireless pair of headphones and has an astonishingly powerful sound signature.
The Skullcandy Crusher has powerful bass and large drivers to offer you a perfect audio experience that you definitely do not want to miss out on.
- Bluetooth wireless technology
- Rapid Charge: 10 Minutes = 3 Hours; 40 Hours of Total Battery Life
- Adjustable Sensory Bass
What are Semi-Open Headphones?
A Semi-Open headphone is a middle ground to the above two, sort of like a hybrid. Some would say that Semi-Open headphones are just a marketing ploy, but there is a little more to it than just that. It’s just another technique how sound is produced.
Semi-Open headphones will have slots or holes in the back of the cup, so there is some partial music leakage, and the cup is partly closed.
Due to there being some air passageway, it doesn’t leave you as hot and sweaty as when you use closed backs, but it’s not as good as open back headphones either. This is the true middle ground, and if you don’t want to compromise on either, then this should probably be your choice.
Difference between Open back and Closed Back Headphones
The main difference between open back headphones vs. closed-back headphones is quite clear by just reading the name.
The small speaker drivers inside of the headphones drive sound in both directions (towards and away from your ear). Closed back headphones block the sound from going out which may make the sound seem unnatural. Open back headphones let the sound go which makes the sound more natural and make it seem like you’re in an actual room listening to the music.
The open back vs. closed back debate is never ending with millions of people on either camp. Either camp has a lot of people on their side, and there are people who would never choose a headphone from the different camp. Being part of such a camp is bad, and you shouldn’t have such prejudices. It’s best to try and test everything and then to choose whichever you like best.
Last update on 2020-10-21 at 18:17