10 Best Open-Back Headphones And Why You Need Them

There’s no shortage of options for headphones these days. According to Statista, between 2013 and 2020, the number of global headphone shipments experienced yearly increases. Among rapidly changing headphone technology, you may have heard the buzz about open-back headphones.

In this guide, we’ll explain how open-back headphones work and show you our top ten picks.

What’s an Open-Back Headphone?

You may be under the understandable impression that the more a headphone earpiece surrounds the ear, blocking out external noise, the better the sound experience. However, closed-back headphones actually decrease sound quality because they build up pressure in the ear and make you feel like you’re in a confined space.

For this reason, open-back headphones are trending. By not blocking noise around you, you’ll experience higher-quality audio and feel more immersed in what you’re listening to. When people describe wearing open-back headphones, they say they feel like the musicians are surrounding them and playing the music.

open back headphones

Advantages of Open-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones deserve their hype for many reasons. Below are some of the advantages of owning a pair of these headphones.

  • Offers a more immersive sound experience
  • Excellent breathability for your ears
  • You’ll feel like you’re in the room with a singer/podcaster versus in a confined space
  • When you’re using them in a quiet environment, you’ll be able to achieve excellent sound quality in exchange for a lower volume than you might typically use
  • Great option for studio mixing so that you can see how your music might sound on other playback systems

When Not to Use Open-Back Headphones

Open-back headphones are ideal for many situations, but certainly not all of them. Below are some circumstances when it’s better to use close back headphones:

  • Crowded, loud public spaces, as you’ll hear the background noise through your headphones
  • Quiet areas, such as libraries, since the noise from open-back headphones leaks
  • Commuting and other situations when you may be in a combination of loud and quiet spaces

It’s also important to note that open-back headphones tend to be less durable than closed-back headphones, mainly because they’re more prone to water damage.

open back headphones 3

Open-Back Headphones vs. Semi Open-Back Headphones

We’ve established that open-back headphones create a surround sound-like experience by letting exterior noise in, whereas closed-back headphones cup around the ear, offering private but lower quality sound. However, there’s one other style of headphone to consider—the semi-open-back.

As you’ve likely guessed, semi-open-back headphones combine features of their open and closed-back counterparts. The speaker has a partial seal, meaning that it offers a modified immersive sound experience and prevents more—but not all—sound from exiting into your surroundings.

While semi open-back headphones have their place on the market for undecided consumers, more often than not, people prefer to go all out with open-back or closed-back headphones.

Best Open-Back Headphones             

We’ve done the hard work for you to discover the best open-back headphones currently on the market. Without further ado, below are our ten top picks.

beyerdynamic DT 990

1. Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO

The professional-looking Beyerdynamic 990 open-back headphones are ideal for high-quality studio sounds. They have a three-dimensional sound capacity and are ideal for mixing music thanks to one-of-a-kind tonal depth.

A single cable connects with these headphones, which makes it easy to remove them without entangling wires. A spring steel headband ensures that the headphones remain in place, while soft-sided adjustable ear cups ensure comfort. You may need to play around a little with the headband adjustment to find a size that fits well.

Handcrafted in Germany, the DT 990 has a solid build and offers a balanced bass and treble. It maximizes a spacious feel so that whether you’re using them for work or pleasure, you can be sure you’re receiving the clearest sound.

What does it come with?

  • Beyerdynamic DT 990 headphones
  • Carrying case
  • Adapter

Sennheiser HD 600

2. Sennheiser HD 600

The lightweight Sennheiser HD 600 headphones look like a stereo turned inside out with its aluminum voice coils. They serve as both a trendsetter and to ensure that they optimize sensitivity to their surroundings. These audiophile-grade open-back headphones remove standing waves, which help to produce a crisper sound.

A unique feature of the HD 600 is that it has a computer-optimized magnet system. That helps to offer a more dynamic response to the environment. Customers love the HD 600 for its balanced sound. The bass and treble are excellent, without one overpowering the other.

Despite having a composition of mostly plastic, these headphones have a high-quality feel and a long lifespan. That said, you may want to replace the velour earpads every few years, which you can easily pop off.

What does it come with?

  • Sennheiser HD 600 headphones
  • Adapter

Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X

3. Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X

Does it get any better than affordable open-back headphones that have powerful CCAW voice coils to produce natural sound? The honeycomb aluminum casing is lightweight so that you can wear these headphones for hours without discomfort.

The Audio-Technica has an oxygen-free copper cable with an elastic sheath which helps reduce the potential for tangles. Get ready to be the center of attention when wearing them—the gold-plated stereo and 3D wing support make them stand out from regular headphones.

Gamers love using Audio-Technica headphones because they offer an outstanding in-game soundstage. Oversized 53mm open-air cans ensure the audio covers every inch of your ear, while the open-back design offers excellent natural sound. These headphones are an excellent value and are therefore an excellent option for anyone wanting to dip their toes into the open-back headphone world.

What does it come with?

  • Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X headphones
  • Adapter

AKG Pro Audio K702

4. AKG Pro Audio K702

AKG has over 65 years of experience producing top-of-the-line headphones for homes and studios. The sophisticated AKG Pro K702 is classy enough for professional environments and trendy enough for personal use. They built it for people who spend many hours a day using their headphones, so the 3D-foam ear pads ensure a comfortable fit.

The K702 is a unique open-back headphone set because it has a patented Varimotion, a dual-layer diaphragm that focuses on maximizing high and low-frequency ranges. Additionally, a flat-wire voice coil offers improved sensitivity and treble functions.

A detachable cable allows you to charge up these headphones and then toss them to the side so you can wander around freely with them on. 

What does it come with?

  • AKG Pro Audio K702 headphones
  • Charging cables

Sennheiser HD 599 SE

5. Sennheiser HD 599 SE

All you need is one look at the Sennheiser HD 599 SE to see that it’s a solid, high-quality open-back headphone. Its ergonomic acoustic refinement offers both outstanding comfort and excellent audiophile sound. 

The 599 SE has soft velour cushions that your ears will thank you for during long-term use. Additionally, a wide padded headband ensures these headphones don’t dig into your scalp.

People wanting maximum options from their open-back headphones will love the HD 599 SE. It has two detachable cables. One cable is 3m and contains a 6.3-millimeter jack for entertainment systems. If you want to hook your headphones up to your phone, tablet, or laptop, no worries—the 1.2-millimeter cable and 3.5-millimeter jack offer you that flexibility.

What does it come with?

  • Sennheiser HD 599 SE headphones
  • Two detachable cables
  • Adapter


6. Philips SHP9500 

The Philips SHP9500 is an expensive-looking open-back headphone for an economical price. It has massive 50mm, neodymium drivers to cover your ears, so you receive a complete sound range. The ear cushion is also breathable, making this a great option for multi-hour use.

These headphones contain gold-plated cable connections, which allows you to connect them with any smart device, laptop, or home setup. You can rest easy knowing these headphones can withstand a drop, thanks to a steel headband and double-layer cushioning. 

Philips designed the SHP9500 to weigh less than 11 ounces and have angled drivers. That way, these headphones naturally fit your ear’s geometry, augmenting the quality of your listening experience. Overall, these are an unbeatable value for budget-minded open-back headphone seekers.

What does it come with?

  • Philips SHP9500 headphones
  • 1.5-meter cable
  • 6.3 – 3.5mm jack adapter

Audio-Technica ATH

7. Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X

The Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X has a unique look compared to the other open-back headphones we’ve discussed here. They feature mini self-adjusting 3D wings, which serve as their intended support for the head, although the style certainly isn’t for everyone. If you like the look, though, you’ll get to enjoy outstanding treble and midrange sound.

Thanks to an aluminum honeycomb casing, these headphones have a lightweight feel. Additionally, the raised and flexible earpads offer added comfort. No matter how loud you increase the volume, CCAW voice coils ensure excellent sound quality.

Gone are the days when you have to worry about cord snags. With the help of OFC elasticity and a TPE sheath, the single cord will stay tangle-free. To top it all off, you’ll have a beautiful gold-plated stereo connector with a 6.3mm adapter.

What does it come with?

  • Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X headphones
  • Adapter
  • Warranty card

GRADO SR125x Prestige Series Wired Open-Back Stereo Headphones

8. GRADO SR125x Prestige Series

The GRADO SR125x isn’t for the casual headphone user; these open-back headphones are pricey, but their quality and sound experience are outstanding. The first thing you’ll likely notice is that these headphones are brown instead of standard black or grey. Furthermore, they have a leather headband and engraved Mahogany around the earpieces.

The wood you see isn’t just for looks—it helps dissipate resonances, ensuring that you receive a richer, full-body sound. Thanks to improved proprietary curing, the SR125x is more lightweight than the original design. 

Handmade in New York, audiophiles will appreciate that these headphones have a de-stressed driver to improve the vocal sound and allow you to hear even the faintest sound when using them to listen to music or a movie. 

What does it come with?

  • GRADO SR125x headphones
  • Adapter
  • Warranty

Shure SRH1840

9. Shure SRH 1840

The modern-looking Shure SRH 1840 headphones offer an extended, high-quality bass sound. They contain wide stereos that provide outstanding depth of field and sound. Durability is at the forefront of the SRH 1840; it has aircraft-grade aluminum and stainless steel grilles, so it’s a perfect option for people who have electronics that tend to get a bit rough-housed.

Regardless of the volume that you listen to with your SRH 1840 headphones, you won’t have to worry about internal resonance. That’s because they have a steel driver frame that supports sound linearity.

Shure understands that ergonomics is essential for people who use their open-back headphones often. For this reason, they offer an adjustable padded headband and padded earpieces. You’ll also get to enjoy dual-exit cables with sturdy MMCX connectors.

What does it come with?

  • Shure SRH 1840 headphones
  • Dual-exit cables
  • Threaded adapter

Philips Audio

10. Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR

It wouldn’t be right to put together this article on the best open-back headphones without including the Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR. These headphones come with 50mm or 40mm drivers, depending on your ear’s size and the surround sound quality you’re after.

Given its economical price, the X2HR comes with a variety of impressive features. It has deluxe memory foam earpads with breathable velour, so you don’t have to worry about them feeling too hot with prolonged use. 

The X2HR’s pre-tilted speaker plates and LMC diaphragm contribute to a crisp, immersive sound experience. If you doubt its sound quality, simply turn to the Japan Audio Society, as these headphones meet the society’s Hi-Res Audio standard. What does that mean for you? An impressive and guaranteed bandwidth of at least 40 kHz.

What does it come with?

  • Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR headphones
  • Cable management clip
  • Adapter

Wrap Up

Purchasing a comfortable pair of headphones suitable for your surroundings is critical to avoid noise-induced hearing impairments. Open-back headphones are an excellent option for individuals who plan on using their headphones in a quiet environment and want to maximize their immersion and sound quality. The headphones we covered here are excellent choices for people with various budgets seeking high-quality performance.


Born and raised in Austin, David is a dedicated writer and avid fragrance lover. When he's not trying out perfumes, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.

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