Top 10 Open-Back Headphones of 2021

Dave Mostert
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Open-back headphones are great if you want a detailed soundstage with lots of "air" and some level of noise isolation. If you enjoy classical music, jazz, blues, or just want to have your environment in the background with your favourite tunes playing at the same time, these might be for you.

As long as you’re not listening to abrasive, bass-heavy music, these are generally considered a safe option due to their light pressure, oval ear cups, and light clamping force.

More details about each one of them can be found below.

NameCategoryProduct
Philips Audio Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear HeadphonesBest OverallPhilips Audio Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear Headphones
Koss 155524 UR40 Collapsible Over-Ear HeadphonesBudget PickKoss 155524 UR40 Collapsible Over-Ear Headphones
HIFIMAN HE1000 Over Ear Planar Magnetic HeadphoneUpgrade PickHIFIMAN HE1000 Over Ear Planar Magnetic Headphone

1. Philips Audio Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear Headphones

Our rating: 9 / 10

Philips Audio Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear Headphones

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Pros:

  • Different color options
  • Great noise isolation
  • Lightweight
  • High-quality and stylish
  • Perfect for any age group

Cons:

  • Overpriced
  • Design issue… difficult to carry around

The Philips SHP9500 Over-Ear HiFi Headphones are the best open-back headphones in 2020. They look great, they deliver quality sound, they’re comfortable to wear, and since they’re semi-open, they’re excellent at blocking out extraneous noise. Perfect for studying, relaxing at home, and commuting to work without people hearing your playlist, these headphones are easily the best sound investment you can make.

The sound of these headphones is exceptional and will have you convinced that you’re listening to an expensive system in a well-appointed music studio. Listening to instrumental music, vinyl, and streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify will have you captivated. If you’re a basshead or a fan of hip-hop/R&B, you’ll be equally pleased with the results.

2. Premium Over-Ear Headphone

Our rating: 8 / 10

Premium Over-Ear Headphone

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Pros:

  • Quality sound and great treble
  • Value for the price
  • Hi-Res certified
  • Comfortable
  • Stylish design
  • Sound isolation

90 days No Question Warranty.

This product is loved by many customers. It offers great music and is very comfortable. This is a stylish product with excellent sound. It is great value for the price. The sound isolation is excellent. It is a durable product and has a stylish design.

3. GRADO SR60e Prestige Series Wired Open-Back Stereo Headphones

Our rating: 8 / 10

GRADO SR60e Prestige Series Wired Open-Back Stereo Headphones

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Pros:

  • Great all-round listening experience
  • Good organic, warm tones that sounded clear and natural
  • Not as bright as other headphones in the same price range
  • Highly rated and well reviewed by customers

These headphones are extremely easy to drive, so if you have a cheap MP3 player or phone, they’ll probably drive these just fine. As expected with Grados, the SR60e delivers a natural sound that’s uncoloured by the use of bass and treble. The open back design helps you get a sense of being in the music, which is great if you’re looking for good headphones for shows or editing in the studio, as you don’t have to worry about bleed.

The headband does not extend very far, but thankfully the large ear cups are comfortable enough that the adjustment range is not as much of an issue. The headband adjustment works best for people with larger heads, with a little less adjustment space left over when things are tight.

The build quality feels solid without being heavy. The cables are thicker than most, and the plug is an all-metal affair that feels well-made and sturdy.

4. HIFIMAN HE-400I Over Ear Full-Size Planar Magnetic Headphones Adjustable Headphone

Our rating: 8 / 10

HIFIMAN HE-400I Over Ear Full-Size Planar Magnetic Headphones Adjustable Headphone

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Pros:

  • Very accurate audio reproduction
  • Comfortable to wear for long listening sessions
  • Great value for the price
  • Great open-back sound for hip-hop and electronica
  • Lightweight build with soft earpads, great for long listening sessions

Cons:

  • The cable could be better as it’s a little thin
  • Response could be better at the high end, but with the price of this headphone it’s nothing to complain about…

Here’s a great-sounding pair of headphones that are very affordable, and with a comfy fit. The cans can be worn over-ear or with the earpads resting on your ears, whichever is more comfortable.

The HE-400i cans are incredibly flexible, with the back of the cans folding down flat for easy storage.

They have a very smooth design and feather-weight feel – they’ll fit under a coat easily.

5. Samson Technologies SR850 Semi Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones

Our rating: 8 / 10

Samson Technologies SR850 Semi Open-Back Studio Reference Headphones

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Pros:

  • Great sound quality – awesome bass and clear mids and highs
  • Great value for the price
  • Very comfortable, even for extended use
  • Lightweight, which is especially great if you’re on the move or working out
  • Solid build quality (metal headband, metal barrel hinges)
  • Detachable cable with a 1/8" (3.5mm) connection

6. Sennheiser HD 800 S Reference Headphone System

Our rating: 8 / 10

Sennheiser HD 800 S Reference Headphone System

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Pros:

  • Newly redesigned ear cushions and headband
  • Superb sound quality
  • Impressive sonic transparency
  • The ear cushions are extremely comfortable for a circumaural design
  • Extremely good customer service
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • The unconventional design takes some getting used to
  • Much more suited to private listening in a quiet environment

The HD 800 S is a classic open-back design that has a reputation of being one of the best headphones for music production in the market. It comes with an exposed ear cup design with an open back and a transparent ring that allows you to look inside the earcup and see the miniaturized 53mm transducer. The HD 800 S is a circum-aural design, which means the ear pieces wrap around the ears.

The ear cushions are made of Alcantara leather and lamb skin-soft ear pads. These cushions are very soft, so they’ll never press too hard on your ears. They’re also very comfortable for long-term use. The ear cups swivel and have a brand-new design that reduces clamping pressure. They also have a brand-new headband, which has a similar design to the one used on the HD 700 model.

7. Koss 155524 UR40 Collapsible Over-Ear Headphones

Our rating: 8 / 10

Koss 155524 UR40 Collapsible Over-Ear Headphones

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Pros:

  • Quiet yet clear audio
  • Lightweight with a solid feel
  • Two speaker drivers that are well made and powerful
  • Very comfortable to wear over long periods of time
  • Perfect if you have smaller ears

Cons:

  • They do not collapse as compactly as consumer models
  • They feel heavy and bulky when folded

The Koss UR40 headphones are durable and exceptionally well made. They are easy to use with solid controls and a good sound quality.

The only issue is that they are not as compactly designed as some other models are on the market. Also, they feel heavy and bulky when folded, so they do not fold up as small as some models are made for traveling.

8. Superlux HD668B Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones

Our rating: 8 / 10

Superlux HD668B Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones

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Pros:

  • Good value for money
  • Compact and light fit
  • Excellent sound quality, still manages to be very clear
  • Good bass response
  • Great for extended wear without any comfort issues

Cons:

  • Open-back design leaks a lot of sound
  • Poor build quality, weak joints and cables
  • Even though the impedance is quoted at 39 ohms, it still shouldn’t be used with your smartphone

The Superlux HD668B is a brilliant pair of open-back headphones with a nice design and build quality, and above average sound quality. Unlike many famous earphones, the earpieces have the well-known 45-degree incline that makes them more comfortable for shallow insertion. Also, due to the design of the headband, these earphones have very low clamping force. Therefore, this has made them a great pair of headphones for extended uses, which makes them ideal for use during your daily commutes.

The Superlux HD668B earphones have very soft, pliable ear pads that rest comfortably on your ears for extended wear. These ear pads have an open design that leaks some noise out, but not enough for the people around you to hear unless they’re really quite close to you.

9. AKG Pro Audio K612 PRO Over-Ear

Our rating: 7 / 10

AKG Pro Audio K612 PRO Over-Ear

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Pros:

  • Professional quality
  • Adjustability that can fit any head shape
  • Affordable
  • Comfort and versatility

We tried out a lot of headphones, but this model by AKG came out on top because it checked off a lot of boxes in terms of features and comfort. The headphones were sturdy and, even at an affordable price, they can get the job done.

A huge benefit is that these headphones are completely adjustable to fit any head shape and size, which is great if you’re shopping for your kids, friends, or family members. You also get a few different ear pads in varying sizes that you can swap out to get the best fit. Plus, the headphones themselves come with a beautiful black finish.

These ear pads are made from high-quality leather, so if you have any allergies you don’t have to worry about uncomfortable irritation. In terms of sound quality, these headphones sound great for all kinds of music genres and are great for purists out there.

10. Status Audio OB-1 Open Back Studio Monitor Headphones

Our rating: 6 / 10

Status Audio OB-1 Open Back Studio Monitor Headphones

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Pros:

  • Great sound stage
  • High-quality audio
  • Comfortable ear pads
  • Ability to fold up, making it easy to travel with
  • Adjustable headbands
  • 8.5mm drivers produce more accurate sound
  • Extended maximum frequency range from 5Hz-50kHz
  • Very good build quality

The Status Audio OB-1 studio monitor headphones are far heavier on the comfort side than most of the headphones in this price range. They are designed for long-term use in the studio, for which their large ear pads were made for, and the over-the-ear design makes them really comfortable. They are made with leather on the inside, and the headband also adjusts to fit all head sizes.

The ear cups can pivot slightly to let you find the right angle.

The sound of the OB-1s is balanced, sure to be suitable for most users. They do not produce the thick bass of some other higher-end headphones.

11. HIFIMAN HE1000 Over Ear Planar Magnetic Headphone

Our rating: 5 / 10

HIFIMAN HE1000 Over Ear Planar Magnetic Headphone

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Pros:

  • Hi-Res certified which makes listening to music a great treat
  • These headphones are specifically designed for listening to music or any sound that is rich and with a high frequency range
  • The headphones are not only visually appealing since they are handmade, but they are also very durable
  • These headphones are capable of penetrating deep into your ears and showcase different dimensions in the music that you have been listening to
  • These headphones are also the world’s first over the ear planar magnetic headphones which is advertised to remove ear fatigue faster and prevent soggy ear pads even after long use
  • The seamless design ensures that there isn’t a gap between ear cups and the ears and it is also very comfortable
  • You don’t have to be a audiophile or a music lover to appreciate how good these Hi-Fi over ear headphones are

Cons:

  • This headphone is not very portable since you will have to carry around the amplifier separately as it is not wireless
  • The amplifier is quite big so it is not the best option for traveling around
  • The price of this headphone is also on the higher side which is going to be a drawback for those who are looking for budget ed headphones.

(Cherry)

Using these headphones is a great way to enjoy listening to your favorite music tracks if you are an audiophile.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the best open back headphones?

The best open back headphones take many design considerations into account. They strike a balance between frequency response, comfort, and sound quality. They also need to consider the type of material that will be used for the diaphragm.

Are open back or closed back headphones better?

First, we have to clarify what we mean by open-back headphones.

Closed-back headphones have the earpieces covered in a solid material that prevents sound from escaping through the headphones themselves.

Open-back headphones are designed differently. Instead of relying on a covering to keep the sound in, open-back designs have perforations in the earpiece called sound vents. The idea is that the venting will prevent sound muffling.

Standard, closed-back headphones are typically used for listening to music because the covering helps to isolate ambient noise. This is helpful for those who want to concentrate on a single track.

Open-back headphones, on the other hand, are best for movies and TV since they allow a larger surround sound.

Can you hear open back headphones?

One of the popular misconceptions about open-back headphones is that they leak sound. That is not the case. Because they have holes in the back, the sound can get out easily. They do not, however, leak high-end nuances when someone is talking to you.

The average person should have no problem with someone talking over music blasting out of their headphones. What you’ll notice is how aware you become of the environment around you. The sound leaking out of the headphones will allow you to hear people talking at a normal volume, nearby traffic, and less noisy situations such as sitting around a campfire. So, while it is a perception issue when in public, more of the surrounding sound will get to your ears with open-back headphones than closed-back headphones.

Do open back headphones have bass?

Absolutely, but the resonating chamber is different. With open headphones you get much more ambiance and less direct sound. The result is a more broad soundstage with the same detail and accuracy you expect, but less of the punchiness that closed back headphones are known for.

In practical usability, open headphones can be used in more situations than closed can. Travel, office, and daily listening are all significantly better with an open back headphone. The natural quality of sound heard with open back headphones is unrivaled among other types. They also tend to be a little lighter, which lets you listen with them on longer.

Conclusion

Open-back headphones are very enclose. A large portion of the back of the earcups is actually open to the air, which means external sounds will not be deafened out by the sound within the headphones. This makes them ideal for times where comfort and privacy are required as you listen to your tunes.

The sound coming out of the headphones is not completely isolated though which means that the sound from your open-back headphone could easily leak out and be heard by others. In addition, the open-back design has been known to drastically affect the sound quality. This is exactly why you can often find studio-grade headphones to have a closed-back design.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Philips Audio Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear HeadphonesBest OverallPhilips Audio Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision Stereo Over-Ear Headphones
Koss 155524 UR40 Collapsible Over-Ear HeadphonesBudget PickKoss 155524 UR40 Collapsible Over-Ear Headphones
HIFIMAN HE1000 Over Ear Planar Magnetic HeadphoneUpgrade PickHIFIMAN HE1000 Over Ear Planar Magnetic Headphone