Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones: Which is Better?

Open-Back Vs Closed-Back Headphones may be a simple concept. Yet, you will rarely see a detailed review on which type to buy. This article will focus on it!

by Derrick Reeves | Updated: September 12, 2021

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Let’s take a deep look at open-back vs closed-back headphones in this writing. I had stumbled on this matchup for quite some time and decided to conduct a deep investigation on it. After days of research, I would like to share what I know about the topic with you.

Both are expensive. Thus, you need to know the differences between them before sinking your hard-earned money. Without further ado, allow me to start my sharing!

Here Is A Quick Answer For Which Headphone Type Is Suitable For You

Your choice between open back vs closed back headphones depends on where you use them.

Closed-back headphones are ideal for loud environments. You will find it often in public places, like subway commutes, open-space offices, etc.

On the flip side, open-back types immerse you in the surroundings while listening. This type is great for home listening and studio recording. These applications all involve the use of high-quality audio files.

Let’s Explore Open-Back Headphones

Simply speaking, open-back headphones let air sift through their ear cups. This perforated housing prevents pressure from building up and influencing your audio. Also, you will experience little echoes inside your headphones.

All high-end brands produce open-back products in their product categories. Their open-back offerings produce clear and natural sounds. My recommendation for you is the Beyerdynamic DT-990.

However, as air can reach inside the headphones, so do the internal audios and external noises. That means you and nearby people will hear everything you are enjoying.

Thus, it is not a good idea to use open-back types in public places like the office. Your colleagues may hear and complain about your music taste.

Beyerdynamic DT-990 open back headphone



  • Generating natural and clear sounds
  • Little echoes in the audios
  • Spacious sound feelings


  • High chance of sounds leaking out to the surroundings.

What About Closed-Back Headphones?

Unlike open-back headphones, closed-back types have completely sealed housing. It helps block out external noises and bath your ears with favorite music. They have a big insulated plastic shell to cover your entire ears. This is called the headphone noise cancellation mechanism.

Due to such a limited sound space, most closed-back variations offer a noise reduction of about 10 dB.

They are perfect selections for your daily commute or public listening (like on a train, in a car, on an airplane, etc.)

Yet, as they block out nearby sounds, their generated sounds would not be very natural. You may also experience some imperceptible echoes.

Plus, using closed-back headphones for long sessions will make your ears hurt and warm.

If I have to name a suggestion, I will root for Sony MDR7506, a true industry workhorse.

Sony MDR7506 Closed-Back Headphones


  • Blocking out nearby noises
  • Ideal for listening in loud environments
  • Allowing for better focus


  • Not good for long listening sessions, as your ears will get hot

Open-Back Vs Closed-Back Headphones: A Comprehensive Journey

Open-Back Vs Closed-Back Headphones A Comprehensive Journey

In this section, I will walk you through all the differences between the two headphone types. This journey promises to help you understand both types thoroughly.

1. Design Structure

One distinct feature of both designs is their driver's ventilation. The driver helps transform electrical signals into sounds.

If you see gaps in the outer housing, you are likely looking at an open-back headphone.

Its perforated structure allows air and sound to sift through effortlessly. Thus, it kills all built-up pressure and brings a more natural sound to your ears.

This structure is also a factor that makes open-back headphones more lightweight. They are ideal for long listening sessions compared to their counterparts.

Unlike open-back headphones, closed-back types have an outer housing. It is completely sealed to block sounds. Your music will not leak out, and the external noises will not interfere with your listening. This sound isolation trait is the signature of closed-back headphones.

However, this structure makes the device bulkier to wear. Also, closed-back types can hurt your ears after a long listening session.

In short, open-back headphones have perforated design, while their closed-back counterparts do not.

2. Durability

Closed-back headphones are more durable than their counterparts. Thanks to the sealed structure, closed-back types can shield against moisture. Moisture is the detrimental killer of sensitive electronics.

On the other hand, external sounds and moisture can penetrate open-back headphones. Thus, the device is more vulnerable and fragile. Thus, treat them with great care.

headphone Listening Experience

3. Live Music Listening Experience

It is tough to say which type of headphones offer a better listening experience.

Open-back vs closed-back headphones is the battle of listening preferences. You can have either “in the world around me” or “in your head” listening experiences.

Specifically, open-back headphones allow ambient noise to penetrate your cups.  Their perforated design has no sound isolation.

You will be able to hear everything around you together with the music. It feels as if the headphones are off your head, creating an “in the world around me” listening experience for you.

Plus, there is an increased space when using open-back headphones. You won’t feel like you are trapped in a private concert with a singer. Instead, all surrounding sounds will bleed into your ears. You will hear such things as birds chirping or wind rustling.

On the other hand, audiophiles can experience the "in your head" feelings with closed-back headphones.

Their sealed structure makes the music you are listening to take center stage. No nearby noise can sneak into your ears, owing to their noise cancellation trait.

Closed-back headphones isolate you from the surrounding world and boost your concentration. You will feel like you are at a private concert or a studio booth, where there are only you and your favorite music. This in-the-head intimacy is the signature of closed-back headphones.

4. Applicable Location

Open-back headphones are for private places, whereas closed-back types are for public locations.

You should use open-back headphones to enjoy your favorite albums at home. It is not a good idea to use them outside your home or in other quiet spaces (like libraries, closed-space offices).

On the flip side, closed-back equipment should be your top choice for public places. Simply speaking, unless you see a door, stick with the closed-backs.

You can enjoy your screamo music wherever you want without bothering nearby people.

It is also a good practice to use closed-back for occasions involving a microphone. For example, you can use them for video conferences, gaming, etc.

This headphone type prevents your sounds from leaking out. Thus, the risk of your sounds being picked up by the microphone is removed.

Closed-back types are also king for studio recording. You can hear vocals and instruments at the highest quality. That is why they are good for professional audio file mixing.

headphones Background History

5. Background History

Closed-back models have a longer history than their open-back counterparts.

Initially, the closed-back structure was used in the military back in 1937. Then came the first commercial closed-back named Beyerdynamic DT 48. However, it was unable to play audio in stereo.

Since then, manufacturers have been offering headphones with better sound and noise isolation. Koss SP/3 Stereo was the first modern closed-back headphone to hit the market in 1958.

Open-back headphones’ history started later. The first consumer-grade model launched in 1968 - the Sennheiser’s HD 414. It is lighter and less boxy-sounding. The world immediately falls in love with the new design, creating a huge demand in the market.

Famous manufacturers offering open-back headphones include Focal, AKG, and Beyerdynamic.

FAQs About Open Back Vs Closed Back Headphones

This FAQ answers your inquiries about open-back vs closed-back headphones matchup.

1. Do open-back headphones sound better?

The answer depends on your listening preferences. But, open-back headphones will give you more natural sounds. They offer better dynamics than their closed-back counterparts.

2. Are closed-back headphones bad for your ears?

Closed-back headphones provide better external sound isolation. They give you better control over the volume level that you are listening to. Thus, to some extent, it is healthy for your ears unless you engage in long listening sessions.

3. Can you hear yourself talk with open-back headphones?

Yes, you can totally hear yourself talk when putting on your open-back headphones. Their ventilation airways allow air to travel around the cups’ drivers.  Your voice can do the same thing and end up in your own ears.

4. Are closed-back headphones good for gaming?

The answer depends on where you are playing the game. If you love to enjoy gaming alone in your room, it is better to switch to open-back headphones. However, if you play games in public locations with huge background noises, closed-back headphones are the ideal choice.

Final Verdict

There is no better option in the matchup of open-back vs closed-back headphones. At the end of the day, your preference and listening habit will determine your suitable type.

Here is a quick recap: if you enjoy listening to music in a more private and personal environment like at home, you should go with open-back headphones. But, if you love to enjoy music blending in with external sounds, closed-back headphones are the must-go-to option.