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The 5 Best Open Back Headphones in 2021

What Are Open Back Headphones?

Open-back headphones are unique in that they enable air to flow freely between the ear cups and the speaker. Because open-back headphones don't block out ambient noise like closed-back headphones do, you'll be able to enjoy a more immersive sound experience. Due to the lack of pressure build-up, the sound is likely to be more natural and high-quality.

Because of their design, open back headphones leak sound, allowing others in the vicinity to hear what you're listening to. If you're used to closed-back headphones, this may not sound enticing, but the value is in the immersive sound experience you'll enjoy.

Open back headphones offer a sense of room, as if the musicians are all seated around you, but closed back headphones create a sense of being imprisoned in the recording booth. For those trying to get the most out of their listening experience, open back headphones are a popular choice.

When opposed to closed back headphones, open back headphones are more easily sensitive to moisture and are frequently seen as more fragile. It's recommended that you leave them at home or in the studio if you're planning on getting a pair. They can, however, deliver remarkable and natural sound quality, allowing instruments and vocals to sound more detailed than ever before.

You might not even know where to begin with so many possibilities! We've compiled a list of the best open back headphones now available to assist you in selecting the ideal one for your needs. If you want the best of all worlds, we've included two terrific semi-open back alternatives.

Sennheiser HD 600 Open Back Headphone

Sennheiser HD 600
Sennheiser HD 600

The Sennheiser HD600 requires no introduction if you're an audiophile. Some consider them to be the most well-known open-back headphones ever made. The HD580 debuted in 1993, and it served as the cornerstone for all subsequent open-back model releases, including the HD580 in 1995, the HD600 in 1997, and the HD660S in 2017.

Build Quality

The Sennheiser HD600 is largely plastic, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a high-quality feel to it. It has a far higher quality feel than competitors such as the Beyerdynamic DT880 and the AKG K701. The Sennheiser HD600 is tough and well-made, as evidenced by the metal articulation between the ear cups and headband.

The drivers are shielded from the elements by external grills, and the ear pads are made of high-quality velour. The good news is that they can be removed and replaced if necessary. After a few years of use, you may replace the batteries and the headphones will feel like new.

Durability

The Sennheiser HD600 definitely stands out when it comes to durability. Every item, including the ear cushions, is easily replaceable and can be found online. You won't have any trouble getting parts for these headphones because they've been around for nearly 20 years. In fact, some users have stated that they still have their original HD600 headphones, which are still in fine working order! Others have stated the same thing, claiming that all they've done is change a few cables and ear cushions throughout the years.

Comfort

The Sennheiser HD600 reigns supreme in terms of comfort, with only the K501 and DT880 posing serious competition. When wearing these headphones, there is no need to take a break; you can wear them for days at a time (take them off while showering though).

We mentioned the velour ear cushioning before, and aside from the comfy fit, your ears will appreciate it during those long summer sessions. The earpads are oval in form and about half an inch thick. The mold's flexible contouring will delight those with larger than average ears. The headband is very strong, with four large foam parts.

Finally, the HD600 weighs 9.17 ounces, making it one of the lightest over-ear headphones available. The weight of the headphones is also equally spread throughout, which adds to their comfort.

Connectivity

A detachable Kevlar oxygen-free copper wire is included with the Sennheiser HD600. It has a 3.5mm connection and comes with a 1/4” adaptor. The build quality of the headphones is excellent, but the cable quality is not. For such a pricey pair of headphones, the supplied cable feels cheap. They're delicate, and it appears that they could break down in a short amount of time.

The good news is that the cables can be swapped out and that the HD580, 600, and 650 cables are all interchangeable. So, if you have an additional set of wires around the house, you may swap them out or order new ones online.

Impedance

Impedance is a measurement of how much power will be required to drive the headphones. It's a whopping 300 ohms in the case of the Sennheiser HD600, when most consumer headphones are less than 50 ohms. You might wonder how this is beneficial. As a result, the headphones will be able to withstand higher levels of amplification. To get the most out of the HD600s, you'll also need an amplifier or a playback device capable of putting out a significant amount of power.

As a result, if you plan on plugging these into your smartphone, you won't receive nearly as much volume or dynamic range as you may think. The headphones were built for professional studio reference monitors, so this shouldn't come as a surprise.

How Does The Sennheiser HD600 Sound?

The Sennheiser HD600 boasts one of the most transparent and genuine sounding presentations you'll ever hear in an audio system. The bass and treble are beautifully aligned, and they're highly balanced and neutral.

Starting with the lows and bass, there is a slight but noticeable bump around 100 Hz, which is followed by a roll-off between 70 Hz and 100 Hz. When listening to ‘bass-heavy' modern music, the HD600s will perform admirably, whereas other tracks will sound ‘bass light' in comparison to comparable headphones in this price range. This isn't to say the bass isn't good; it's still amazing with no distortion, but the mid- and upper-bass boots can leave you wanting more if you're like that sort of thing.

String instruments and vocalists are well-served by the middle, which provides fullness and no graininess in the 100 to 500 Hz range. However, there are certain downsides in the upper-mids; high density genres around 3000 to 5000 Hz might sound excessively raised and piercing at times.

When it comes to the highs, it goes on for a long time, being well-calibrated and free of sibilances. Lower-treble is similarly silky smooth and pleasing to the ear, with no shortage of air or subdued sound. Instruments and vocals have depth and location in the soundstage. The HD600, despite being an open-back over-ear pair of headphones, nonetheless provides the desired ‘open/ dimensional' experience.

Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO

Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO
Beyerdynamic 459038 DT 990 PRO

Every now and again, a pair of headphones comes along that gives you a lot of bang for your dollars. The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones are among the best open-back headphones available for under $200. These headphones are handcrafted in Germany using high-quality materials and painstaking craftsmanship.

Those interested in professional mixing, editing, and mastering might choose the DT 990 Pro. Their transparent, expansive, and powerful bass and treble are ideal for studio use while also ensuring comfort throughout long sessions. If you can go past the antiquated style, these headphones could be exactly what fellow audio makers and music fans are searching for.

Build Quality

When you first look at the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, you'll note that it has a really strong build that feels solid when you put it on your head. There's no wobbling as you could get with larger headsets that are too light for your head. While we're on the subject of stability, these headphones were not built for sports or active situations; if you try to run with them on, they'll fall off your head. However, if you're only planning to use them for casual listening sessions, you shouldn't have any issues.

Durability

The DT990 PRO headband includes a metal frame that assures it won't shatter if you bend it, but we wouldn't recommend putting too much physical stress on it. Nobody would intentionally bend their headband, but keeping it in a small space in your backpack could have unintended consequences.

The open-back ear cups are made of plastic, but that shouldn't deter you from picking up the headphones; the remainder of the construction is highly durable and should withstand the occasional drop.

Comfort

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro's ear cups are highly padded and spacious, making them comfortable for listeners of all ear sizes. The headband, which might be a little too tight if not correctly set, is the only source of discomfort for most users.

It's worth noting that the 3ft coiled cable is pretty heavy. If you're going to connect these to your phone, make sure it's not in a place where it can be taken off. However, if you're connecting it to a computer, there should be no issues.

Connectivity

The coiled 3.5mm cable on the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is roughly 3.77 feet long. If you want to use the headphones with higher-end equipment, you can use the provided 1/4" adaptor. These headphones have a 250 ohm impedance, so if you're listening to music without an amp, having one to help push them a little further can be beneficial. As a result, you won't have to use your smartphone's maximum volume.

How Does The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Sound?

We boasted about the sonic quality when we first introduced these headphones, and you won't be disappointed! Considering its retail price, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro provides superb audio quality. The lows are excellent because they're not overly strong but still have enough kick and offer just enough bass.

Regardless of the genre you're listening to, vocalists and instruments seem clear and highlighted in the mids. Some songs have too much bass, which causes the vocals to be distorted. The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro excels at keeping the bass in balance while allowing the vocals to shine. Finally, clarity and distortion can be decisive factors when purchasing headphones. When inspecting the highs, we were relieved to see that there was no distortion or crackling.

However, as with any set of headphones, there are some limitations to being on a budget. Because of the leakage, the open-back design is not suitable for everyday use. If you aren't in a private area, these aren't the best option. Leakage can also indicate a lack of isolation. The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones do not provide any isolation below 1KHz due to their open-back construction. There will be a 4dB/Octave roll-off when traveling above 1Khz, which will have a small impact on blocking nearby noises.

Aside from leakage and isolation, there's a lot to be excited about in terms of sound quality when purchasing these headphones. They provide a spacious soundstage with detailed, clear, and snappy sound quality. The treble range is accentuated, resulting in well-received and balanced instruments, bass, and voices.

Sennheiser HD 599 SE

Sennheiser hd 599 se
Sennheiser hd 599 se

For the entry-level audiophile, Sennheiser's patented transducer technology ensures absolutely superb sound performance. The HD 599 SE (Special Edition) is identical to the standard HD 599, with the exception of the color scheme. The classic ivory and brown colors have been replaced with an all-black design with silver embellishments, making it more appealing to the general public. Apart from its appearance, the Sennheiser HD 599 offers a lot to offer, including great comfort and high-quality sound.

Build Quality

When we hear that a headset is totally composed of plastic, we immediately raise our eyebrows and dismiss the concept in favor of something that will ‘last longer.' Although the HD 599 is composed of plastic and weighs around 250 grams, it is not a toy. The build quality is so strong, resilient, and adaptable that we think you'd have to go out of your way to break these headphones.

Comfort

The headband is padded, and the ear pads are extra-large and pleasant for long listening sessions. If you wear glasses, you'll be pleased to learn that the headphones don't cause any discomfort even with a light clamping force. The open-back, over-ear design keeps true to its roots, providing an open spatial presentation that enhances your listening experience.

Connectivity

The HD 599 SE comes with two cables: a 9.8-foot 6.3mm jack cable for use with a home entertainment system, and a 4-foot 3.5mm jack cable for use with phones, tablets, PCs, and laptops.

How Does The Sennheiser HD 599 SE Sound?

If we had to sum up the Sennheiser HD 599 audio quality, we'd say it's mature, with adequate bass, extended treble, and a vibrant midrange. As previously indicated, the Sennheiser 38mm, 50-ohm transducers are guaranteed to produce exceptional detail, dynamics, and clarity.

The headphones feature a frequency response of up to 12 – 38,500 Hertz when it comes to frequency response. They're incredibly open and wide, making it a superb performance for competitive video game players. When you first put on the headphones, you'll notice a lot more detail in the corners than you normally would.

The bass is obviously present whether listening to pop, rock, jazz, and blues, and these headphones should not be labeled as "light-bass." Bass enthusiasts may miss the earth-shattering wallop they anticipate from headphones with full extension when switching the playlist to electronic dance or hip-hop. This should not deter you; it's only a precaution for a headphone that prioritizes clarity and overall sound quality.

In a range of up to 1kHz, the mids are very neutral; they are comparable to the H600, with a bit less energy in the upper mids but more in the low mids. Vocals, especially in acoustic soundtracks, are clear and have a fluid quality to them. Finally, the treble is subdued yet extremely detailed. Sennheiser has managed to get it just right, with no piercing sound or undue harshness.

Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X

Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X
Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X

We previously discussed the excellent sound quality of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro, which retails for under $200. But what about the best open-back headphones for less than $100? The Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X headphones, for example, may get close! These headphones provide exceptional versatility and quality for the price, making them an excellent choice for anyone new to audiophile headphones.

The Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X headphones are ideal for gamers because of their accurate positioning and wide soundstage. These headphones may be all you need as a newbie audiophile, thanks to their comfy design, excellent audio quality, and absurdly outstanding value for money ratio.

Build Quality

The Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X is fairly huge, and your first impression may be that it will be quite weighty. Quite, for such a large pair of headphones, they are surprisingly light. The headphones are made of simple but robust materials. Aluminum is used for the casing, magnesium for the frame, soft fabric for the earpads, and toughened plastic for the rest of the components. The headphones are also equipped with huge 53mm drivers that are housed in open-air cans that contour to your ears with plenty of room to spare. The headphones are extremely big from an aesthetic standpoint. We would probably recommend using them at home or in the studio. We would probably recommend using them at home or in the studio. It would be inconvenient to travel with them frequently to and from.

Comfort

The ATH-AD500X definitely stands out when it comes to comfort. You won't even notice them on your head because they're only 8.32 ounces. The breathable cushioning keeps you cool and allows you to wear them for long periods of time without becoming uncomfortable. When it comes to earpads, they are large, soft, and spacious enough to accommodate any ear size. The fabric used is actually better than plush-leather or real leather earmuffs seen on more expensive headsets, as it doesn't make you sweat in hot weather. Finally, the 2-rod headband features a self-adjustable wing system for superior fit and adjustability.

The cable is permanently attached, which is the only disadvantage we discovered. With them, there's a small risk that if you mistakenly tug on it too hard, you'll break the cable completely. We only mention this since the wire on these specific ATH-AD500X headphone models appears to be a little loose when pulled on. The majority of headphones are wired, thus there are rarely any complications in this area.

Connectivity

A gold-plated 3.5mm connector is permanently attached, and a separate 14 adaptor for amplifiers is included. Because the ATH-AD500X has a 48 ohm impedance, owners should be able to use a 3.5mm port to power them in most cases. The 9.84-foot cable length may not be optimal for casual listeners, but it will be useful for users monitoring and mixing.

How Does The Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X Sound?

The audio fidelity of the ATH-AD500X headphones surpasses that of many more expensive rivals in terms of overall sound quality. We'd venture to say that the audio quality is better than Beats, albeit with less bass and a more trendy look. We recommend staying away if you're looking for thunderous bass, as these headphones give warm mids and crisp vocals for all genres.

The bass is still present, but there is no distortion or overpoweringly drowned out sound, as is the case with certain other headphones. The sonic signature is fairly bright, allowing vocalists and mid-range instruments to shine. It's generally considered to be neutral. When it came to the highs, we noticed that they were never overly sharp when listening to various types of music. If you don't care for treble spikes, the ATH-AD500Xs will suffice.

These headphones are also a wonderful alternative for gamers, as we said earlier. Sound separation is a major assist for distinguishing opponent footfall and movement, according to research and playing first-person shooter games.

The headphones function similarly to many open-back headphones in terms of sound isolation and leakage. The ATH-sound AD500X's isolation is non-existent, whereas sound leaks are common, and anyone around will be able to hear what's going on inside your headphones.

GRADO SR80e Prestige Series

GRADO SR80e Prestige Series
GRADO SR80e Prestige Series

Grado Labs may not be a household name in the world of headphones, but it hasn't stopped them from producing high-quality products. The GRADO SR80e open-back stereo headphones are an improvement on the SR80i from a few years ago. Grado Labs, unlike the majority of manufacturers, does not mass-produce their headphones in Chinese factories. Instead, they're a small, family-owned company based in Brooklyn, New York. The GRADO SR80e are another pair of superb beginner open back headphones that are ready to wow you with their price to performance quality ratio.

Build Quality

The first thing you'll notice about the GRADO SR80e is how retro-inspired they are. You might even wonder if these were manufactured in the last decade. However, times are changing, and the headphones do have a distinct design that will appeal to the majority of people. Don't worry, they're not out of date; they include all of the features you'd expect from a modern pair of open-back headphones, plus they come with a warranty.

The GRADO SR80e also fits with the "vintage 80's theme" that the Prestige Series is based on, thus these weren't created using older materials by accident; everything was done on purpose. Aside from the looks, how do the headphones stack up in terms of build quality? The earcups have foam ear pads and are perfectly spherical. When most of us think of foam ear pads, we immediately think of call center agents with their headset on one ear and microphone ready to go. When compared to a leather replacement, foam ear cushions are unquestionably less expensive. Grado has made their ear pads removable, so this isn't always the case.

In comparison to leather, the foam pads are significantly larger and thicker, and they provide a much cooler sensation when you're in a heated area. Although some people claim that foam earpads are readily damaged, getting a sharp object near your headphones isn't exactly usual. Grado offers replacements, or you can obtain earpads from third-party manufacturers if this happens.

Returning to the design of the headphones, the earpads extend beyond the plastic driver unit, making them suitable for most ear sizes. The drivers are additionally protected by a wire grill, which allows you to view them. Finally, the faux-leather headband is attached to the headset via metal prongs, giving it a radio headset vibe.

Comfort

The GRADO SR80e does not necessarily wrap around your ears like conventional headphones do. Rather, they provide an on-ear fit. This isn't to say they aren't stable; the metal rods protruding from the headband adjust to your head instantaneously for a secure fit. The sections that must be made of metal are made of metal, but the remainder is made of plastic. Costs of production must be reasonable, especially at this price point.

Connectivity

The GRADO SR80e is fitted with a robust and sturdy rubber cable. It's about 7 feet long, and the severe strain relief can be seen at the straight jack. The Y-splitter, on the other hand, is a weak area, since it displays pinching around the plastic case.

Finally, the headphones are equipped with cords that link each earcup. Because the wire isn't overly long, it shouldn't interfere with regular duties. These aren't necessarily commuting headphones, but they'll perform nicely in terms of wire management if you're planning to sit at a desk.

How Does The GRADO SR80e Prestige Series Sound?

Rap, pop, and even classical music sparkle on the GRADO SR80e, with rap, pop, and even classical melodies performing admirably. When listening to EDM, for example, the GRADO SR80e, like many other inexpensive open back headphones, falls short due to a lack of bass punch. The SR80e is on par with $200 headphones when it comes to dynamic music without bass. Songs like ‘Radiohead – Creep' have such outstanding sound separation that the guitar and male vocals can be clearly heard over the headphones.

The midrange has a lot of depth, and the high mids are almost as good as closed-back headphones. The highs shine brightest in the strongest range! Given the GRADO SR80e's high-end sound, which you'd expect to pay more for in a more premium pair of headphones, the treble is quite impressive. It's worth noting that the SR80e headphones can sound a little rough at higher volumes, which could be due to the foam pad design.

Aggressive guitar lines and vocals may dazzle you with their crispness and clarity while also challenging your hearing with their occasionally rough texture. In general, if your playlist is jam-packed with dynamic and sophisticated music, you're in for a treat! If the music is heavily influenced by EDM and bass, you should probably avoid it and seek out another option.

There are no surprises when it comes to noise isolation and sound leakage with these open back headphones. The GRADO SR80e leaks sound like a busted tap, and there's no passive noise isolation. As a result, choosing the proper atmosphere setting will be crucial when choosing your music.

Conclusion

Our suggestions above are what we believe are the best open-back headphones available right now for the majority of individuals. We consider price (cheaper headphones prevail over more expensive ones if the difference isn't worth it), visitor feedback, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

If you want to make your own decision, here is a list of all of our open-back headphones evaluations. Take cautious not to get engrossed in the minutiae. There are no such things as perfect headphones. Personal preference and taste will play a larger role in your decision.

About The Authors

Paolo Reyna

Paolo Reyna - Paolo is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in International Studies with a Latin American emphasis. During the fall semester of 2012, he had the opportunity to study abroad in Peru, which piqued his interest in international growth. He learned about the disparities that impact indigenous peoples, got a taste of Peruvian culture, and improved his Spanish skills. Mitchel interned with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, conducting research on food security in Latin America, after being inspired by his foreign experience. He wants to work in international development and for a government department, writing legislation. He loves playing intramural basketball and practicing for the Chicago marathon when he is not thinking about current events in Latin America.

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