Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones: Which Are Best For You?

Shopping for headphones? You must be excited yet overwhelmed with so many choices at the same time.

You must have come across a few cool features, like active noise cancellation, longer battery life, multi-Bluetooth pairing, and so on.

Those features are great to have, for sure.

However, before you get down to business, you must first decide whether you want an open back vs closed back headphones.

What Are Closed-Back Headphones?

Closed-back headphones are designed in such a way that the back of each earcup is covered with an insulated shell of plastic.

The primary purpose of this is to block airflow so that the sound waves have nowhere to go but into your ears.

As a result, closed-back headphones produce a sound that’s whole, crisp, and isolated.

What Makes Closed-Back Headphones Special?

Closed-backs and open-backs offer a completely different listening experience to users.

If you like the feeling of getting into a trance when listening to your favorite music, a pair of closed-back headphones is all you need.

Since the back of the earcups is entirely closed, air cannot pass through them.

That said, you get the entire sound all for yourself to enjoy. How cool is that?

Check out the following advantages of closed-back headphones:

Reduced Noise

Perhaps the most significant advantage of closed-back headphones is that they do a great job at reducing ambient noise.

This isn’t to say that they can completely eliminate noise from your surroundings.

You must note that active noise cancellation is a different thing and simply covering the back of the earcups is not enough to shut down external noise.

For clarity, most closed-back headphones can reduce ambient sound by 10 dB on average.

Combined with active noise technology, they provide excellent noise-blocking capabilities.

Immersive Listening Experience

When choosing a headphone, you should always take into account the listening experience you want to have.

If you use your headphones primarily for relaxation, leisure, and entertainment, you probably want something that will get you in the zone.

Enter “immersive listening.”

Since closed-back headphones dampen the sounds of the outside world, you can fully immerse yourself in music as if the music is in your head.

The experience is more like an auditory dream.

Loud and Punchy Sound

Now, let’s talk about sound quality.

With the back of the earcups completely sealed, closed-back headphones tend to produce a louder and punchier sound.

With this style, the bass is quick to play and doesn’t linger long on the sound field.

However, closed-backs tend to produce sound like it’s edited in a studio with a bit of echo.

In other words, expect to hear sounds that are less natural-sounding.

Closed Back Headphones: Best Applications

Featuring a punchy, loud sound and lesser external noise, closed-back headphones are perfect for the following applications:

Audio Production

The ability of closed-backs to create punchy sound and isolate noise makes them a king in the world of audio production.

Since these headphones can make you feel “one” with music, creating the perfect track is possible.

This is very important when recording quiet instruments and vocals or creating electronic music using a digital workstation.

Listening in Public or Noisy Environments

If you take a daily commute to work or you constantly find yourself in loud environments, you might benefit from a pair of closed-back headphones.

Units like Audio Technica ATH and Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are two of today’s most popular closed-back models.

As mentioned, they don’t completely dampen external noise, but these headphones greatly improve your listening experience, especially in noisy environments.

Since there’s minimal sound leakage, you can enjoy your favorite playlist even when you’re outdoors.

What Are Open-Back Headphones?

Maybe, at this point, you’re starting to love closed-back headphones for their studio-quality design.

And maybe, you’ve made a bias judgment already about open-back headphones.

You probably think they won’t provide you the kind of pure, loud, and punchy sound you expect from their closed-back counterparts.

We beg that you don’t.

That’s because open-back headphones have distinct characteristics that make them ideal for specific scenarios.

Depending on your needs and preferences, you might even find open-back headphones more suitable for you.

What Makes Open-Back Headphones Special?

As mentioned earlier, open-back headphones have perforations or holes at the back of the earcups.

They are meant to promote airflow so that the sound produced by the driver can escape both ways.

This means the sound gets into your ear and out into your surroundings.

Here are reasons to love open-back headphones:

More “Open” Sound

If it feels like the music is in your head when you’re listening with closed-back headphones, with open-back headphones, the opposite happens.

In a way, it would feel like you are in the same room with the artists performing or watching them at a live concert.

That said, open-back headphones encourage a more natural sound ideal for critical listening.

Noise Leakage

Since they generate a more open sound, these headphones are prone to leakage.

It might sound like a disadvantage, but in reality, the increased space in sound leads to a different listening experience.

Unfortunately, it follows that other people will also hear what you’re listening to.

That means if you’re boarding a plane or riding a bus, the person sitting next to you may or may not be comfortable with the sound leaking from your headphones.

Better Sound Quality

In open-back headphones, air can travel through the back of the earcups, which means pressure can’t build up and affect the sound quality.

The music you’re listening to doesn’t sound boxy or full of echoes.

In short, they will sound more natural and clearer.

The only downside with this design is that since sound waves can pass through the earcups, your headphones won’t be able to filter sound from your surroundings.


Sometimes, wearing closed-back headphones for long periods make your ears feel a bit warm.

On the other hand, open-back headphones are a lot more breathable.

This improves listening sessions, allowing you to enjoy your favorite playlist without experiencing ear fatigue.

Goodbye, sweaty ears!

Open Back Headphones: Best Applications

Since they produce sounds that are more natural and clearer, open-back headphones are perfect for a variety of applications, such as:

At-Home Listening

Open-back headphones are great for enjoying music at home.

They produce better sound quality than their closed-back counterpart, so you’ll have a great time listening to your favorite playlist.

All these you can enjoy without feeling bothered by the fact that other people might find it rude.

Furthermore, since open-backs are less noise-isolating, they are a good option if you need to hear external sounds, such as conversations, alarms or notifications, and phone calls while listening to music.

Thus, if you’re working from home and attending to your kids, you can still be mindful of your surroundings.

Mixing and Mastering

We said that closed-backs are ideal for audio production.

However, there are some aspects of producing music where open-backs are preferable.

They include mixing and mastering.

Open-backs are great for mixing sessions because they produce a more natural sound.

They also don’t have low-end pressure issues like closed-backs do, helping you get a good grasp of the stereo field.

Plus, they represent how your tracks will sound from your listeners’ headphones or speakers.

Just make sure to choose open-backs for studio use, such as the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro or Sennheiser HD 600.

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones: Which Are Better?

When deciding between closed-back and open-back, you must take into consideration your lifestyle and preferred usage.

To summarize, open-back headphones are an ideal choice if:

  • You are recording at a studio or in your home studio.
  • You are always on the go or in a noisy environment.
  • You are constantly hooked into your headphones, whether at home, in the office, library, or a public place.
  • You prefer an immersive listening experience where you are one with music.

On the other hand, closed-back headphones are preferable if:

  • You prefer at-home listening.
  • You are mixing and mastering tracks.
  • You’re a solo listener or a gamer.
  • You like to listen to music naturally and more clearly.
  • You love a unique listening experience like you’re in a private concert with your favorite artists.

At this point, the case with open back vs closed back headphones is resolved.

The only thing left to do is for you to decide which is the better choice that will match your listening needs.


With top manufacturers making both types at similar price ranges, you might find yourself choosing between open-back and closed-back headphones.

At a glance, open-back headphones have a similar design to closed-backs, but there’s a crucial distinction between them.

Typically, open-back headphones have perforations at the back, while closed-back models are completely sealed.

It may appear like the presence or absence of perforations are just a matter of design preference.

In truth, there is more to this than meets the eye.

To summarize, while they look very similar, these headphone styles are unique from each other in terms of the listening experience, sound quality, and applications.

Your final decision will then depend on your personal preferences and needs.

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