What are the Best Open-Back Headphones This 2021?

48 Headphones Tested
600+ Hours of Research
4k+ Reviews Examined
Unbiased Reviews

There’s no denying that open-back headphones are among the most sought-after audio equipment in the market. And while it’s famous for better sound quality than closed-back headphones, not all can offer superior sound and endure the wear and tear of ordinary use. 

Luckily, our experts did the legwork and tested the best open-back designs so you won’t waste money on a unit that deteriorates after a few uses.

Premium Option
Audeze
LCD-2
Editor's Choice
Beyerdynamic
DT 990
Budget Option
Samson
SR860

Reviews of the Top Open-Back Headphones

1.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Open-Back Headphones

Utmost comfort and audio quality are crucial features you should look for when shopping for an open-back headphone, and that’s what Beyerdynamic gave us during the tests.

If you’re into mixing and editing, the precise sound performance of these over-ear headphones will blow you away. Its ultra-soft ear cups especially caught the attention of our audio testers.

On top of that, these pads are replaceable as well. Operating with a frequency response of 5 to 35000 Hz, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Open-Back Headphones reproduces a more detailed sound and bass than most closed-back headphones. Given that it has an open design, its sound isolation isn’t too overbearing.

Pros

Cons

2.

Audeze LCD-2 Open-Back Headphones

You may not know it, but open-back headphones often come at higher pricing like Audeze LCD-2. Made with high-quality materials and speaker elements for critical listening, our sound engineers couldn’t help but gush over its exceptional performance.

It doesn’t matter if you like listening to classical music or hip-hop music. You’ll get a natural sound experience through its Planar Magnetic drivers. Adding up to its great sound quality is its headphone design and build quality, which features steel suspension headbands and glass nylon rings. 

The open-back headphones’ wide range of bass responses enabled our testers to enjoy such an immersive sound experience, making its audio quality suitable as studio headphones. 

Pros

Cons

3.

Samson SR860 Semi Open-Back Headphones

If you want an authentic sound experience without breaking the bank, our resident music lovers suggest buying Samson SR860 Semi Open-Back Headphones. There’s no question that its excellent sound quality comes from 50mm high-sensitivity audio drivers. 

Upon closer look, our audio testers found absolute delight in the outstanding build quality of these semi-open headphones. Its self-adjusting band and secure fit enabled us to have easy and comfortable listening sessions. 

Compared to closed-back headphones, this mid-range audio device produces a more well-balanced sound that’s precise and natural. Considering its open design, there’s no need to worry much about sound leakage when listening at a louder volume. 

Pros

Cons

4.

HIFIMAN HE1000se Adjustable Headphone

From unique design to comfortable pad material, HIFIMAN HE1000se got it all covered. Seeing its premium metal structure,  we weren’t so surprised after knowing that these headphones have some pretty high price tags.  

Its asymmetrical earpads that are constructed to follow the natural shape of human ears were an impeccable experience for us to try. You wouldn’t need to buy extra wires because they already included three sets of cables upon purchase. 

On top of all that, this headphone is customizable as well. Its user-replaceable connectors make the cable swapping process a lot easier, giving it a longer lifespan.

Pros

Cons

5.

Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR Headphones

As a product coming from a tech giant, it’s no surprise that Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR made it to our list of the best open-back headphones in the market. For a surprisingly lower price range, the sound produced from its drivers is immersive enough to impress our audio testers. 

In fact, this Philips Audio unit is a great option to consider if you’re looking for open-back headphones for gaming. Besides its impeccably detailed sound, its build quality consisting of pre-tilted drivers enables minimal sound leakage. It has passive external noise cancelation as well.

Our resident audiophiles find its detachable cable quite convenient along with its replaceable earpads. 

Pros

Cons

6.

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Open-Back Headphone

Long listening sessions are no problem for an open-back headphone with a self-adjusting wing system like Audio-Technica ATH-R70x. Besides that, our audio team could attest to its neutral sound performance highly owed to its copper-clad aluminum voice coils and 53mm drivers. 

Like other open-back headphones on the list, this one’s quite affordable as well. Despite the lower price tag and lightweight construction, it’s relatively easy to wear and doesn’t put much pressure on the user’s ears. 

Far from the muffled sound of closed-back headphones, Audio-Technica ATH-R70x produces spacious audio that carries high and mid frequencies quite well. 

Pros

Cons

7.

HIFIMAN HE400SE Over-Ear Headphones

Unlike the conventional open-back headphones, the soundwaves produced by HIFIMAN HE400SE are owed to its special Stealth Magnets. Thanks to this, the wave turbulence interrupting the sound reproduction was much less. 

The vast compatibility of these open-back headphones is what impressed our team the most. To our absolute delight, connecting it to different devices wasn’t much of a hassle as it was already equipped with high-performing cables. 

It has a durable casing as well, adding an extra layer of protection to the headphones for lasting usage. And while it’s another affordable option, it doesn’t lack convenient features such as an adjustable headband and high-sensitivity functions. 

Pros

Cons

8.

SENNHEISER HD 599 Open-Back Headphones

Among the open-back headphones that we tested, SENNHEISER HD 599 is undoubtedly one of the most unique in aesthetics. Along with its sophisticated ivory color design, it has an Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement feature that allows natural sound balance. 

Our series of sound tests also concluded that this open-back headphone has extremely low distortion. Given the fact that it has aluminum coils, it’s no wonder why its audio reproduction is so dynamic and efficient. 

While other open and closed-back headphones don’t have detachable wires, this audio package comes with two cables—one solely dedicated for home theater setups and the other specifically engineered for devices like phones and laptops. 

Pros

Cons

9.

Philips Fidelio X3 Premium Over-Ear Headphones

If open-back headphones with high audio fidelity are what you seek, then you might as well buy Philips Fidelio X3. Its neutral sound is something we already expected on this headset considering its exquisite open-back design. 

Connecting these headphones to other devices wasn’t as hard as we imagined because this product has various inputs ready to accommodate any connection. We were able to integrate it with an amplifier without any hassle. 

You may not know, but its natural soundstage is highly owed to the Kvadrat speaker fabric plaid on its construction. And upon closer inspection, it was the one preventing the build-up of air pressure, thus developing into a spacious sound. 

Pros

Cons

10.

SENNHEISER HD 660 S Headphone

Specifically engineered for the musically expressive, we couldn’t help but include SENNHEISER HD 660 S in the list of the best open-back headphones. Noticeably enough, its neutral sound reproduction is superior from the get-go. 

Like other options under this design, it has a free airflow that makes listening easy on the ears. Although priced a bit higher than its competitors, this premium open-back headphone proved its worth with its extremely advanced transducers.

Thanks to its voice coil made from steel driver frame fabric, this headphone’s transient response delivers a more enhanced sound. And while it has a lightweight construction, rest assured that it’s made up of durable materials. 

Pros

Cons

11.

GRADO SR60x Wired Open-Back Stereo Headphones

As a product priced under 100 bucks, our audiophile team couldn’t help but be curious at what GRADO SR60x has to offer. Considering that it’s made with synthetic materials, our initial thought is that this product looked like the typical open-back headphones out there. 

Delightfully, it has an adjustable headband that makes our testing more comfortable. The sound it produces is pretty decent as well, and it’s not a surprise given that it operates with 44mm drivers. 

Like other headphones under this product line, GRADO SR60x has the capacity to cancel transient distortions. During the test, we were also impressed with the detailed sound and clarity that is rarely found on options at this price range. 

Pros

Cons

12.

SIVGA P-Ⅱ Open-Back Headphone

When it comes to visual aesthetics, SIVGA P-Ⅱ Open-back Headphone leads by a long shot. Its design consisting of a magnetic diaphragm driver and the black walnut chamber is definitely one of the first things we noticed in this unit. 

Its premium materials allowed the production of impeccable audio quality. And like what you’d expect from an open-air design, its sound direction flows quite naturally and produces rich audio details. 

Besides all that, we also noticed that its surface is made from high-protein leather, making ear cups and headband sheathing very comfortable to use. 

Pros

Cons

13.

Monolith M1070 Open-back Planar Headphones

For a lightweight option, Monolith M1070 is quite packed with the features our testers are impressed with. From its planar drivers that deliver precise audio and less distortion up to its airy soundstage, everything it has makes it worthy of being included in this roundup. 

It’s customizable as well, letting users replace and upgrade its ear pads according to their preference. The construction is lightweight, ensuring that it wouldn’t pressure your ear even when used for long hours. 

More than anything else, its delightful audio reproduction is mainly owed to its frequency response ranging from 5Hz to 50kHz. 

Pros

Cons

14.

AKG K 240 MK II Stereo Headphones

Another affordable headphone our testers found while searching is AKG K 240 MK II. Despite drowning in such an impressive product line, this unit caught our attention with its leatherette and velvet earcups. 

There’s no doubt that this headphone is specifically designed for audiophiles considering its extra-large transducers that are meant to produce accurate highs and lows. 

It also features a self-adjusting headphone band, enabling our team to test its quality in complete comfort. Thanks to its gold-plated connectors and standard plugs, it provides impeccable conductivity. It also has high compatibility with different professional equipment used in the music industry. 

Pros

Cons

15.

Fostex T20RP MK3 Professional Studio Headphones

For sharper sound production, Fostex T20RP MK3 Professional Studio Headphones are among the ones we would recommend. Despite the bulkier size, users can expect maximum comfort with these headphones as they feature low repulsion ear and head pads. 

It has a Regular Phased (RP) technology that enables more accurate sound monitoring. The audio driver integrated into its system includes a copper polyimide film and a neodymium magnet meant for powerful audio performance. 

Above anything else, we can assure you that it can comply with the requirements of professional audio applications as it’s engineered with 3000mW max input levels. 

Pros

Cons

16.

Sennheiser HD 560 Audiophile Headphones

The true charm of open-air design is its natural audio waves processing, which is why we included Sennheiser HD 560 in this list. As a headphone operating with such an articulate soundstage, it most definitely can deliver a signature sound highly tuned for utmost precision. 

While other speaker options tend to struggle in producing deep bass, this audiophile headphone can reach low frequency ranges from 6 to 38000 Hz. 

Owed to its angled driver alignment, users can experience the optimal music quality often heard from high-definition loudspeaker setups.  Instead of a confined sound, the audio waves from these headphones flow smooth and free.

Pros

Cons

17.

Audeze LCD-X Over-Ear Headphones

If you’re not looking for budget buys and are keen on premium models, you must check out Audeze LCD-X Over-Ear Headphones. These reference-quality options are among the main choices of professional recording engineers because of their planar magnetic audio drivers.

In addition to its efficiency, the ergonomic and luxurious leather earpad design of this headphone definitely justifies its higher price tag. Although it’s not as affordable as other brands, anyone can tell its apparent superiority from its near-zero distortion.

And did you know that it has its own patented Fazor elements? Through this, the headphone’s sound waves can avoid resonances and prevent inaccurate waveforms. 

Pros

Cons

Open-Back Headphones Buyer’s Guide

Sound Quality

As far as open-back headphones are designed for, it is definitely not meant for blocking background noises. As you may notice during our team’s evaluation, these types of audio equipment offer a clear and spacious sound. 

Unlike its alternative, the audio reproduction on open-air designs delivers better sound dynamics and imaging. Its clear soundstage produces less muffled quality that’s very critical for mixing and editing. 

Rather than isolated audio, headphones constructed with an open-air design tend to have a more natural sound. If you’re the type who prefers lighter pressure on ears, this is the type of headphones our testers would recommend. 

Generally, these headphones deliver a relatively louder sound quality than their competition. Because of this, it’s more suitable for private rather than public listening sessions. If you’re an audiophile like us who likes to listen to highly detailed audio files, the clear and precise quality of these headphones will surely delight your day. 

Sensitivity and Impedance

When shopping for audio equipment like the best open-back headphones or speakers, you’ll notice that their product labels often include sensitivity and impedance ratings. Although some may think that you’ll need to be an expert to understand how it affects the sound quality of your headphones, it’s really not that complicated. 

Most headphones and earphones in the market nowadays operate at a range of 8 to 600 Ohms impedance rating. You should know that the power transfer of your audio source must match, or else there will be a loss of current. When that happens, the voltage or power will be lost as well. 

Lucky for you, headphones deliver more power than they usually need, which is why power loss is not critical most of the time. If the audio equipment is made for mobile devices, expect it to have a lower impedance rating. This means not much power is needed to operate the headphones. 

While lower voltage is usually a good thing, our resident audiophiles would like to remind you that it’s often the cause of vibration or background hiss you hear along with the sound. 

On the other hand, sensitivity is the one feature that indicates the efficiency of your headphone’s signal conversion. This process includes converting electricity into acoustic signals. Given that open-back headphones are naturally loud, users can expect higher sound pressure levels from them. 

However, our audio experts advise you to heed the warning of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about potential hearing loss when exposed to high SPL. There’s no specific standard for it, but it’ll help to test beforehand which sound level your ears are tuned to. 

Frequency Response

According to science, the human hearing spectrum can detect audio frequencies from 20 Hz to 20 kHz [1]. So if you’re a fan of heavily detailed music pieces, we advise you to get an open-back headphone with a great bass response. 

Although it’s not the only indicator of impeccable sound quality, having headphones within that frequency range could enhance your listening experience. It’s also crucial to consider what kind of music genre you’ll be listening to. 

Fortunately, our audio testers found various open-back selections that deliver a wide range of lower register frequencies. With this feature, users can get the most from music that includes heart-pounding bass, one of the crucial audio details crucial for immersive listening. 

Microphone

Some open-back designs include a built-in or boom microphone. If you’re keen on using the device for communication, this could be a helpful feature to consider. However, given that these types of headphones have sound leakages, it’s important to have noise-canceling microphones.

With this feature, audio leaks and any background at a low-frequency level wouldn’t be picked up on the microphone no matter what. On another note, keep in mind that mid and high-range sounds can’t exactly be canceled altogether. 

Design

There’s no denying that open-back and closed-back headphones have very similar designs. However, upon closer look, our audiophile team noticed that this type of headset has a housing with built-in gaps. Unlike its closed alternatives, those gaps enable the sound and air to move freely on the earpads and eliminate pressure on the ears. 

Without the pressure building up on your ears, the headphone can deliver natural-sounding audio. If you noticed during our roundup, we often described their sound as airy and spacious. It doesn’t feel muffled at all, which is quite a common problem for closed headphones. 

Weight and Comfort

Typically, open-back selections come in lightweight construction. Considering that it doesn’t weigh as much as others, it’s comfy to wear and doesn’t add pressure to the ears. This type of headphone is an ideal option for extended listening sessions. 

Aligned with its lightweight construction, there are also options under this design that include ultra-soft earpads meant to bring ease to your listening sessions. On top of that, we also found headphones with replaceable pads, enabling a more customizable user experience.

Connectivity Options

When we talk about the connectivity of headphones, it all comes down to their cable quality. This feature is often overlooked, but it plays a crucial role in the integration of your headset to other devices. 

While most of the options in this list are wired, some brands have wireless connectivity features. These selections operate with batteries and Bluetooth connections. Even though it’s pretty convenient for casual listening, we wouldn’t recommend it for critical sound tasks. 

On the other hand, the cable and adapter quality are the ones you have to look out for when buying wired open-back options. Although some products don’t need an amp to operate, it’ll help if your headphones can seamlessly connect to one without any hassle. 

You may not know it, but these cables vary from copper, gold, or silver. Depending on the material, it’ll indicate the sound’s tightness and speed. The most common one you’ll see in the market is copper. 

Copper and gold cables tend to execute a weighty signal transfer, but the silver ones have a more brilliant and thinner sound. Nonetheless, there’s no denying that copper wires are less expensive than all its alternatives. You can also find hybrid headphone cables, which have the mixed features of these three options. 

All headphone cables will eventually wear out, so our team recommends getting ones with detachable wires. 

Price

Like any other audio equipment, the price range of open-back headphones varies depending on the material used on them. And while it’s enticing to buy cheaper ones, always keep the quality in top consideration. 

There are very few options under $100, but you can surely find one once you comb through the available selections. The most common ones range from $100 to $250, and these options already include models with comfortable earbuds and durable build. Premium headphones, on the other hand, are priced around $300 or higher. 

What are Open-Back Headphones?

If you’re not familiar with different audio equipment, chances are you are not aware of why open-back headphones differ from closed-back headphones. While they appear similar at first glance, the first thing you’ll notice is their built-in gaps that its alternative doesn’t have. 

Through those gaps or perforations, the airflow can freely go in and out of the earpads. And while they’re often prone to audio leakages, these types of headphones deliver a more natural soundstage. It produces more resonance and builds up more low frequencies. 

If you have noticed, most premium-priced headphones have this construction. It doesn’t seal your ear as well, leading to a more comfortable audio experience than its closed counterparts. In retrospect, open-backed options can be compared to studio speakers and monitors.

When you wear it, you can enjoy accurate sounds and be aware of your surroundings at the same time. The external noise blends with the music, so it’s not for you if you’re the type of listener who likes being swept off of your feet.

Benefits of Open-Back Headphones

First and foremost, let’s talk about the construction of open-back headphones. From the get-go, our testers already noticed that its selections are lighter than other alternatives. With less weight, it gives lesser pressure on the ear and leads to a more comfortable listening session. 

The open-back headphones’ open earcup design is specifically constructed to produce a richer and detailed soundstage. When listening to high-quality music recordings, you’ll notice that its reproduction is more immersive and clear. 

This type of headphone also reigns superior in sound quality as it delivers lifelike output. And because it has less air pressure, its audio signal responsiveness is more efficient and quick than closed designs. 

And while its alternative has a punchier sound, the open-air construction of these headphones contains more clarity and details. They also emerge as a better option in terms of soundstage depth. 

Despite being priced higher than the other design, it’s great audio equipment to use for studio mixing. Given that it produces such a neutral output, you’ll get a better grip on how your music sounds on playback systems. 

Rather than feeling the music enclosed in your ears, open-back headphones deliver a more surround-sound experience. Because of this, most professionals in the industry prefer using it. 

FAQ

Are open-back headphones any good?

Yes, open-back headphones are good. In fact, audio engineers use these headphones for critical listening. Considering its open construction that allows airflow to move freely, its output sounds more natural and less muffled. It’s designed lighter as well, giving less pressure on the ears during listening sessions.

Do open headphones sound better?

Yes, open headphones sound better. Its sound quality contains more clarity and details because it isn’t designed to seal the air and external noise out of your ears. Instead, these types of headphones let the audio leak to create a more neutral sound reproduction. It delivers better dynamics as well. 

What are the best budget open-back headphones?

The best budget open-back headphones are Beyerdynamic DT 990 and Samson SR850. Despite lower pricing, these headphones offer the utmost comfort with their plush velour earpads. On top of that, both products produce a studio quality sound that every audio engineer look for nowadays.

Do open-back headphones have noise-canceling features?

No, open-back headphones do not have noise-canceling features. Because of its open design construction, it can’t block the noises coming from the outside. As a matter of fact, these types of headphones purposely designed their open drivers closer to the speakers to produce a bigger and immersive sound. 

Our Top Pick For a Pair of Open-Back Headphones:
Beyerdynamic DT 990

The best open-back headphones don’t always come from tech giants, and this is what Beyerdynamic DT 990 Open-Back Headphones proved to our audio experts during the roundup. After a series of testing, this headphone won our vote not only for its affordability but also for its comfy earpads, gaming compatibility, and crystal-clear sound quality.

For related products, we have the following list for you: 

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Writer

Willie Greer
Willie Greer
Willie Greer is the founder of The Product Analyst. A cinephile, he has made it a personal quest to achieve the awesomest home theater possible. He now shares what he has learned through the years on the site, and has enlisted the help of tech-savvy colleagues in providing more insight about today’s most sought-after gadgets.