Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones: Choose the Best Sound

Reviewed by
Last updatedLast updated: June 11, 2021
Prime Sound is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

There are many reasons that you may want to invest in a good set of quality headphones. Whether you use them for hands-free conferences at work, the ultimate gaming setup or for recording podcasts and studio albums, the possibilities are endless.

Many people wear headphones while working out at the gym, while cycling or hiking. They will even be useful when using public transport or on a long flight. For a device that you probably use every day, you want to invest in a decent quality product.

There are so many options available on the market that it might be confusing trying to find the right option to suit your needs. In this article, we will look at open back vs closed back headphones. We also mention the benefits and drawbacks of each kind and how they work. This should help you to make an informed decision on which kind to purchase.

Closed back headphones – what are they?

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones: Choose the Best Sound

Closed back headphones were given that name because the back plastic covering is closed. Sealed by solid plastic, the sound is trapped inside the headphones. As much as it keeps the music in, it keeps other external noises out.

Most musicians that record albums in a music studio use headphones such as the Sony MDR7506. This allows them to hear the music clearly, without any interruptions or interference from outside noise. DJs performing in a noisy club would use them to cancel out the screaming crowd.

A drummer would also benefit from closed back headphones because they can concentrate on the music without any distractions. If you’re learning to play the digital piano you can benefit by isolating yourself with closed back headphones. Get lost in the music, with no distractions so you can concentrate and appreciate the music.


Any other sound will be blocked from entering your ears so you can fully concentrate on what you’re listening to.

The sound won’t leak and be heard by people nearby.

The music sounds like it is in your head and you are completely isolated from the world around you.


There is little to no ventilation, so your ears can become painful.

You might feel hot and sweat more easily.

You can lose sense of time.

Opened back headphones – what are they?

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones: Choose the Best Sound

As the name suggests, these headphones are not solid plastic. Instead, they have small holes or perforations that allow air to pass through them.

Many people prefer this type of headphones because they don’t isolate you from the world’s noises. This is helpful when for activities like running where you still need to hear and pay attention to the traffic around you. Headphones such as the Sennheiser HD 599 are a comfortable long-wear option.

If you like listening to the world around you while listening to your favorite music then open back headphones will be perfect for you.


They have an improved sound clarity and don’t sound muffled.

Allow air to pass through them so your ears don’t get hot.

Gives your ear room to breathe so you don’t need to schedule breaks too often.

You can wear them for longer periods of time without straining your ears.


People near you will be able to hear what you’re listening to because the sound escapes.

They are vulnerable to moisture and rain.

Not ideal for music producers as you will hear distracting noises.

Which are better for you?

So you know what is the difference between open and closed back headphones. But which is the better option? There is no correct answer. It all depends on what you’re going to use your headphones for? How often do you use them and do you prefer ventilation? Are you willing to sacrifice ventilation to get lost in the music? All these questions you need to determine your own answers for.

In an ideal world, you could purchase both and use each one when you need it. If you have the ability to do so or work in the music industry then you should consider buying a pair of each.

If you need to pick, think about what you will be doing when wearing your headphones. Closed back headphones could be perfect for pumping iron at the gym, but maybe a bit dangerous if you’re running and need to navigate busy roads. If you work in a call center in close proximity to others who are also using phones, then closed back headphones may be the practical solution.

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones: Choose the Best Sound


Open back and closed back headphones come in a wide range of prices from entry level for under $100 to professional-grade that may cost you a few thousand dollars.


Closed back headphones often sound a bit muffled or hollow because they trap the sound inside the earcup. They do an excellent job at blocking out any other sounds. They won’t leak sound so you can use them in public or crowded places with high noise levels.

Open back headphones allow air to flow through them. This means that sound pressure can’t build up inside the headphones. If it did, such as in the case of closed back headphones, it can affect the sound quality.

Most top range and designer headphones are open back headphones because they have superior sound quality.


There are a wide range of options available in a variety of different qualities and price ranges. In general, open backed headphones are a bit flimsier and more fragile than their counterparts. They can also be affected by moisture so it’s not recommended to wear them when it’s raining.

Even a light drizzle could potentially damage them, if the water were to enter through the perforations. Closed back headphones are more solid and less likely to be damaged.

Field of use

Open back headphones are ideal for:

  • Listening carefully to audio recordings or lectures.
  • Running and sporting activities.
  • Listening to music at home.

Closed back headphones can be used:

  • When listening to music in a loud crowded place.
  • Listening to music while working.
  • Listening to music while commuting.
  • For sound engineering and mixing.
  • Recording podcasts.

Noise isolation

Closed back headphones are the perfect solution if you’re trying to achieve noise isolation because they block out any other sounds. Open back headphones don’t provide any noise isolation and allow outside noise in.


Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones: Choose the Best Sound

Both kinds of headphones are portable and can be used almost anywhere. Open back headphones should not be worn without protective plastic coverings. Wear them under your hat or hood if it’s raining.

Extra features

Open back vs closed back headphones for gaming, which option is best? Open back headphones are a real hit for gamers because they have better stereo imaging. This gives a more realistic sound experience and makes it sound like the music is coming from inside the room.

Other extra features include mode setting options such as sport, office, or gaming and built-in sound balancing. Most sets are wire only options.

Closed back headphones can include special features such as noise-canceling capabilities, Bluetooth, heavy bass acoustics, integrated microphone and recording options. They come in battery or wire-only options.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, this article helped showcase the difference between open back and closed back headphones. With this information you should be able to ask yourself the important questions such as, what am I going to be doing when using the headphones? Also think of how long I plan to wear them for every day. Which option will be suitable for what I need them for? How important is noise cancellation? And how much am I willing to spend?

If you just want to use them to listen to music while chilling on your bed, then open backed headphones will be perfect. If you plan on recording a podcast or mixing your own beats, then investing in a quality set of closed back headphones may help you progress with your project.

Open back vs closed back headphones, which is better? Ultimately the choice is up to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *