Best Open-Back Headphones

5 Best Open-Back Headphones For Musicians (Updated 2022)

Whether you’re a musician, professional audio engineer, home studio enthusiast, or simply an audiophile, a quality pair of headphones is an essential pick-up.

While reference monitors are an important piece of equipment that any studio should have, owning a good pair of open-back headphones will grant you a different perspective — allowing you to hear things that you might not pick up in your monitors.

This begs the question, which headphones should you buy?

There are two main types of studio headphones: open-back and closed-back. They are largely the same, but have a few distinct differences — and one can be better for mixing while the other can be better for recording. This article will explore open-back headphones, how they differ from closed-back headhones, and several fantastic models you should consider purchasing.

What Are Open-Back Headphones?[ps2id id=’definition’ target=”/]

Open-back headphones are headphones that do not have material covering the back of the ear muffs — where closed-back headphones do.

They look just like “regular” studio headphones, with the only difference being a transparent, usually mesh, covering over the back of them that allows air and sound to come in and out of the headphones. This can make them great for mixing, as this can help take into consideration your room sound. They also won’t trap in and overemphasize certain frequencies (particularly bass), which can help give a truer representation of your mix.

When Would You Want To Use Open-Back Headphones?[ps2id id=’when’ target=”/]

The best scenarios to use open-back headphones are for studio mixing and at-home listening. Air is allowed to flow through the headphones, making them more comfortable to wear for long periods. Also, you are able to hear the ambient noise around you; something that can’t be done nearly as well with the more insulated closed-back headphones.

Importantly, since the closed-back headphones allow sound to bleed in and out, what you are hearing is more representative of what the average listener will hear when they play back the track you’re listening to. Closed-back headphones will give you more low-end and isolated sounds, but the open-back design will give you a more holistic perspective.

Compared to closed-back headphones, their open-back counterparts are a far more natural representation of the music and closer to what it would sound like if it were being played on stage.

Open-back headphones are not good for recording, though, as sound can escape from the headphones and bleed into your microphones (especially when recording vocals). I recommend anyone that is serious about mixing and mastering music to pick up a pair of open-back headphones — even if it’s just to double-check your mixes.

The Top 5 Best Open-Back Headphones [ps2id id=’top-headphones’ target=”/]

ImageProsFeaturesPrice
#1 Overall Pick
Shure SRH-1840

Shure SRH-1840

  • Guaranteed Shure quality
  • Several useful accessories
9.5
View Price
Editor's Choice
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Open-Back Studio Headphones

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Open-Back Studio Headphones

  • Shockingly low price given its impressive sound quality
  • Most parts are easily replaceable
9.5
View Price
Best Ovular Option
Sennheiser HD 600 Open-Back Headphones

Sennheiser HD 600 Open-Back Headphones

  • Lower priced similar product to the SRH1840
  • Ovular earpads
9.5
View Price
Editor's Choice
AKG K701 Open-Back Headphones

AKG K701 Open-Back Headphones

  • High-end sound with innovative technology
  • Beautifully designed and colored headphones, with a convenient cradle included as well
9.5
View Price
Most Unique Design
Avantone Pro Planar Open-Back Headphones

Avantone Pro Planar Open-Back Headphones

  • Planar drivers offer a unique technological alternative
  • Stylish design that was specifically created for lightweight comfort
9.5
View Price

1. Best Overall Pick: Shure SRH1840 Open-Back Studio Headphones

Shure SRH1840 Open-Back Headphones

Pros:

  • Guaranteed Shure quality
  • Several useful accessories

Cons:

  • Not wildly expensive, but not cheap
  • Ear padding is slightly thin

Description

It’s hard to go wrong with any Shure product and the SRH1840 headphones are no exception. These open-back studio headphones are phenomenal and are known for their natural and speaker-like sound. They are designed for extreme comfort and have a specially designed, oxygen-free cable that also detaches if need be.

These quality headphones are in the $500 range. They also include a hard case, replacement ear pads as well as an extra cable, and a threaded ¼” cable adapter.

Key Specs

Type: Wired
Connection: ⅛” plug, ¼” adapter
Color: Black
Cable Type: Straight
Detachable Cable: Yes
Material: Velour Earpads
Accessories: Hard Case
Dimensions 11.26 in. W x 10.43 in. D x 6.57 in. H (286mm x 264.92mm x 166.88mm)
Weight: 0.59lb. (0.27kg)

2. Editor’s Choice: Beyerdynamic DT 990 Open-Back Studio Headphones

Beyerdynamic DT990 Open-Back Headphones

Pros:

  • Shockingly low price given its impressive sound quality
  • Most parts are easily replaceable

Cons:

  • Not as quality sounding as more expensive options
  • Less people prefer a coiled cable to a straight one

Description

The DT 990 open-back headphones by Beyerdynamic are a highly-rated pair of headphones at the lower end of the price scale. They feature circular, silver earpads that are known for being very comfortable and are completely replaceable, as is nearly every other part of the headphones.

These headphones sound great and are a great find for someone looking for their first pair of open-back headphones or need a low-budget option for their home studio.

The DT 990 headphones also come with a ¼” stereo jack adapter and a soft drawstring travel bag. Purchase these awesome headphones here.

Note: These are the open-back headphones that I personally use, both for listening and mixing and mastering. You can check out recordings that I’ve mixed and mastered using these headphones on Spotify here.

Key Specs

Type: Wired
Connection: ⅛” plug, ¼” adapter
Color: Black, silver earpads
Cable Type: Coiled
Detachable Cable: Yes
Material: Velour Earpads
Accessories: Adapter, drawstring bag
Dimensions 21 in. W x 15.5 in. D x 10.5 in. H (533.4mm x 393.7mm x 266.7mm)
Weight: 0.55lb. (0.24kg)

3. Best Ovular Option: Sennheiser HD 600 Open-Back Headphones

Sennheiser HD600 Open-Back Headphones

Pros:

  • Lower priced similar product to the SRH1840
  • Ovular earpads

Cons:

  • Adapter is its only accessory
  • Bass may be too light for some

Description

The Sennheiser HD 600 headphones are a great pair of open-back headphones that are a lower-priced, comparable option to the Shure SRH1840. They share many of the same features and qualities, including shockingly natural sound, a ¼” cable adapter, and velour earpads.

The shape of the earpads are the main difference. While the Shure earpads are circular, the HD 600 features pads that are ovular, creating a different feel for the user. The HD 600 headphones are also cheaper than the SRH1840.  Find these headphones here.

Key Specs

Type: Wired
Connection: ⅛” plug, ¼” adapter
Color: Black
Cable Type: Straight
Detachable Cable: Yes
Material: Velour Earpads
Accessories: Adapter
Dimensions 12.4 in. W x 10 in. D x 4.33 in. H (314.96mm x 254mm x 109.98mm)
Weight: 0.58lb. (0.26kg)

4. Best High-End Pick: AKG K701 Open-Back Studio Headphones

AKG K701 Open-Back Headphones

Pros:

  • High end sound with innovative technology
  •  Beautifully designed and colored headphones, with a convenient cradle included as well

Cons:

  • On the more expensive end compared to other headphones
  • Non-detachable cable

Description

AKG is another excellent and historic name in audio and the K701 headphones do not fail to live up to expectations. The headphones feature the revolutionary flat-wire voice coil technology, which gives its soon profound accuracy, most noticed with low-end frequencies.

The design is a beautiful white, with a self-adjusting leather headband and 3D-form earpads that fit with maximum comfort. The cable is bi-wired, allowing for a wide dynamic range with minimal distortion. Each pair of headphones is individually tested and numbered, and they even come with a desktop cradle that holds your headphones aesthetically and efficiently.

Though they are at the higher end of the intermediate price range, you should absolutely consider purchasing these wonderful headphones here.

Key Specs

Type: Wired
Connection: ⅛” plug, ¼” adapter
Color: White
Cable Type: Straight
Detachable Cable: No
Material: Leather headband
Accessories: Adapter, cradle
Dimensions 8.35 in. W x 7.83 in. D x 4.45 in. H (212.1mm x 198.9mm x 113.03mm)
Weight: 0.51lb. (0.23kg)

5. Most Unique Design: Avantone Pro Planar Open-Back Headphones

Avanton Pro Planar Open-Back Headphones

Pros:

  • Planar drivers offer a unique technological alternative
  • Stylish design that was specifically created for lightweight comfort

Cons:

  • The radical looking style may not be for everyone
  • Sound can be “boomy” at certain frequencies

Description

The Avantone Pro Planar headphones are a stylish option that look as unique as their technology is. Most open-back headphones use coil drivers, but this Avantone model uses planar drivers instead that offer high clarity, low distortion, excellent bass, and an overall spacious soundstage.

These headphones are larger than their typical counterparts, while remaining extremely lightweight and comfortable. The headphones feature a detachable cable that can connect on either side of the headphones. They also include an eco-friendly carrying bag, as well as a ¼” cable adapter.

These excellent headphones are at the lower end of the intermediate price range and can be bought here.

Key Specs

Type: Wired
Connection: ⅛” plug, ¼” adapter
Color: Red, black earpads
Cable Type: Straight
Detachable Cable: Yes
Material: Velour Earpads
Accessories: Adapter, bag and extra cable
Dimensions 11 in. W x 9.5 in. D x 5.5 in. H (279.4mm x 241.3mm x 139.7mm)
Weight: 1lb. (0.45kg)

Honorable Mentions[ps2id id=’honorable-mentions’ target=”/]

Sennheiser HD 800 S Open-Back Headphones

If you are in need of a very high-end option, these headphones by Sennheiser are a stellar option. They are specifically designed for professional studio use, featuring an aerospace headband, microfiber earcups, and an incredible frequency range with dynamic highs and lows.

The headphones come with a two-year manufacturer warranty, extra cable, carrying bag, and a jump drive. This is the most expensive model in this article and they are at the high end of the price range.  Find these headphones here.

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Open-Back Headphones

The ATH-R70x model is Audio-Technica’s flagship studio headphones. These headphones are extremely versatile and commonplace among professional and home studios alike. They are tuned for a neutral and flat response and feature an excellent, form-fitting headband that provides great comfort during use.

They feature a detachable cable, carrying case, and a very breathable earpad material. Purchase them Purchase these headphones here.

Mackie MC-450 Open-Back Headphones

The MC-450 headphones are a great pair of open-back headphones for someone at the beginner to intermediate level. They are competitively priced in the $200 range and feature a padded leather headband with memory foam earpads. The headphones also come with a 10’ straight cable, 10’ coiled, and a 3’ straight with a microphone.

The MC-450 also has a collapsible design for convenient travel and storage. The price is on the low end and can be found here.

Which Open-Back Headphones Should You Buy?

Open-back headphones are a lovely type of audio equipment that any home or professional engineer should have in their repertoire. Even audiophiles who desire a comfortable, quality pair of headphones to simply listen to music will find any of these options enjoyable and worthwhile. Their closed-back counterparts are far more popular, but the added comfort and natural sound of open-back headphones offer something different.

Like all other pieces of gear, deciding on the right option to buy entirely depends on your needs and preferences. This list features products by respected brands with strong histories and guarantee a baseline quality in their products. Weighing the differences in price, sound quality, accessories, and special features will guide you when it comes to making your open-back headphone purchase.

If you’re looking for a lower-priced option, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 open-back headphones are a good fit. If budget isn’t as much of a concern, and you’re looking for an all-around good pick, then go with the SRH1840 headphones. But any of the headphones in this list would be a good pick up, so make sure to weigh the pros and cons of each!

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