What Are Open Back Headphones?

open back headphoneWhat are Open Back Headphones?

Open back headphones, as the name suggests are just that… earphones with the cups that are open.

They allow some of the sound to escape from the back of the cup giving it the characteristics of an open soundstage.

In this article you will learn about the pros and cons of these studio headphones.

The Pros and Cons of Open Back Headphones

Pros

Open back earphones refers to the type of cups used on the earphones which makes a substantial difference in the overall sound quality and pricing of the earphone. This means they are allowing external/ambient sound to enter to some extent and they have a more speaker-like feel and effect on your listening.

Quite obviously, these cannot provide you isolation in any way. Instead, they give a spacious insight to the sound as if it is coming from around you as opposed to from within you (as would be the case in closed back earphones).  

This is because - unlike closed back earphones, the open eared counterparts do not reflect the sound back into your ears.

This can also mean that open backed earphones provide you with better sound quality because their soundscape is more realistic and doesn’t make the audio sound like it is ‘inside your head’.  Instead, you get a higher fidelity and aural quality because the soundscape has a spread and more natural tonal quality to it.

Cons

Their cons would obviously include that these aren’t the earphones that will fulfill all your studio needs. These also don’t provide sound isolation in any way.

On the contrary, they allow quite a bit of ambient noise to enter by simply not having any means to prevent it from doing so. So they may lead if you use them as reference earphones while recording (leading to leaks and click bleeds etc.).  

Another problem with the ‘open’ soundscape that is often complained about is that the treble or the highs may be very shrill and the bass is ‘lost’ in the mix to a certain degree. The bass, due to the inability of these earphones to seal the sound, may appear to be feeble.

Some experts and researchers also suggest that the open backed earphones rid the listener of the temptation to needlessly pump up the volume because of the spread. Closed back earphones are known to cause fatigue if used for a considerable amount of time, the ease on the ears is significantly better with open back earphones.

Other things to consider

Price

Open back headphones will, in most cases, cost more than closed back earphones. The good ones can easily cost $500+ and go up to $1500. Grado, an American earphone brand, makes hand-made open backed earphones that have been quite acclaimed. Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica and AKG are some other brands that are known for their high quality open-back earphones. Below is some recommendations if your interested in getting yourself a pair.

Of course, there is not fair comparison (or even the need for one) between closed back and open back earphones. Each of them serves a different purpose and addresses a different need.

For example, you may want to use closed back earphones if you want to listen to music in the subway, on your way home from work. Open earphones would be loud and would disturb people around you. At the same time, if you are home and there is no one around you, you could easily enjoy open back earphones and the supreme quality that they provide.

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