Are Open Back Headphones Right for You?

Did you know that the first set of headphones was developed in the 1880s for telephone operators? And those headphones weighed an average of 10 pounds? The first headphones were officially created in 1891 by French Engineer Ernest Mercadier; he even suggested using a rubber ear pad cover for ear comfort. Thankfully we no longer have to carry around a 10-pound headphone system, but it is interesting to see where technology started and where we are today.

This article will explore two types of headphones: open-backed vs. closed-back. You’ll learn what to look for when purchasing headphones like price, size, aesthetic, wired vs. wireless, cable lengths, Bluetooth options, and more. 

Headphones Over the Years

Headphones have come a long way from their inception in the 1880s to the current studio headphones. From rudimentary construction in 1910 by Engineer Nathanial Baldwin at his kitchen table to mass production with superior sound, headphones have enhanced the listening experience for everyone from the military, celebrities, and civilians worldwide. With the progression of noise cancellation technology and scientific discoveries through clinical musicology, headphones are now being used in the operating rooms for patients to be enveloped into a “sonic cocoon.” Allowing the music to soothe the patient during invasive procedures prevents the procedural noises from affecting their state of mind during surgery. With the transformation in the industry over the years, it will be exciting to see how headphone technology continues to progress and serve many other sectors such as studio recording, school reading programs, sound therapies, and more. 

Difference Between Open Back and Closed Back

There’s a wide range of headphone options on the market, but today’s focus is on open-back headphones and why you may prefer them over closed-back headphones. The differences that arose between open-back and closed-back ear headphones are due to their design as well as their purpose. Remember that each option has pros and cons, depending on the application, features, and design you are looking for. Here’s a closer look at a few of the details.

Person holding closed back and open back headphones

Open Back Headphones

Open-back headphones allow sound to escape out the back of the ear cups to provide a better sound quality for the listener, depending on the application. With this design, the intention is to experience a more organic sound. Remember that when using open-back headphones, whatever you are listening to, the person next to you will be able to hear it depending on your volume levels. Open-back headphones are fabulous for mixing music in a home or professional studio setting. 

Key Points: produce open sound, excellent for AMR, mainly used for mixing in studios

Closed Back Headphones

Closed-back headphones keep the sound inside the ear cup. These are the type that is typically used by recording studios. They not only allow for a louder mix for an artist to sing with but also prevent sound bleeding, which can ruin a recording session. Keep in mind that your ears may sweat or feel stuffy if not properly fitted due to the fit of closed-back headphones.

Key Points: offered in over-the-ear and on-the-ear style options, blocks average environmental noise; the sound is enclosed and sealed.

Woman listening to music wearing closed back headphones

Advantages of Open Back Headphones

Industry professionals and everyday users have many positive opinions about open-back headphones. They’re considered audiophile headphones because they’re the preferred option for true music enjoyment. Open-back headphones have a high level of comfort due to the open design and lightweight material, which also supports ventilation and allows heat to escape the headphones. The sound they produce is organic and airy while keeping the sound pure and clear. The deep bass and frequencies do not dominate each other but create a studio sound quality. Open-back headphones also create an audible experience of music surrounding the listener. 

What To Look for When Buying Open Back Headphones

There are a few things to consider when purchasing any ear headphones. Make sure you research price, function, material, wiring, internal speakers, and Bluetooth capabilities. Here are some essential items to consider before making your final open-back headphone purchase.


Open-back headphones prices range anywhere from $79.99 to more than $6900.00.  may run you between $18,000 and $36,000 for amplifiers or reference systems. 


Since we mentioned additional equipment like amplifiers, ensure that if you choose a wired set of open-back headphones, the cable jack size will fit the equipment you already have or are purchasing. 


Open-backed headphones come in various visually pleasing choices, from basic black or white to a more high-end look such as wood or hydro-dipped. The options are endless, from neon colors to camos; there’s no doubt you will find a pleasing aesthetic for your open-backed headphones.

Wired vs. Wireless

For many years there has been a debate as to which is best, wired headphones or wireless headphones. Here we will list a few things to consider when buying open-back headphones. 

Wired headphones are truly plug-and-play, while not many mobile devices have an AUX port anymore. With wired headphones, there is usually better sound and no need to go through the steps of pairing to mobile devices. Remember that you can only go as far as the length of your AUX cable when using wired headphones. 

Wireless headphones have pros and cons. For example, there are no cables to get tangled up, and they are easy to pair with smart devices. However, there are also challenges with wireless headphones that can impede your sound experience. Loss of signal, increased cost, and battery usage should influence your purchase.

African American man listening to music wearing wireless closed back headphones

Bluetooth Capabilities

Bluetooth, which makes one device talk to another, has become a staple in the digital age. However, other options may be helpful depending on your equipment and setup. You may have heard about IR Headphones (Infrared) and RF Headphones (Radio Frequency); while each has its challenges and uses, Bluetooth is the most effective and user-friendly way to connect. 

Long before the internet, we would ask our friends or industry professionals how well a product worked for them and what the user experience was like. Now that we have the internet, we can research to get advice and thoughts from more than just our immediate circle. Product reviews from the manufacturer or supplier may provide vital information such as the product’s lifecycle, usage, and customer service support. Reviews from online forums are a great way to see how the product works in real-time and garner feedback for challenges with the product. 


The style of your headphones may not be necessary to everyone, but many people use headphones as an accessory to their outfits. There are countless options for stylish headphones to choose from. Some are colorful, bright, and bold. Others are minimal, slim, and less intrusive. You want to find a pair of headphones that you enjoy and match your aesthetic. It’s important to note that not all headphones will be made of the same material, and just because a pair looks aesthetically pleasing doesn’t mean it’s a high-quality device. Always test a pair of headphones and find out what material it’s made of before purchasing. 

Can You Use Open Back Headphones for Exercise?

Any headphones can be used for exercise, and it is up to the user to pick the most comfortable and durable. However, as mentioned before, there are features to compare to make sure that open-back headphones are the best choice for you. So, can you use open-backed headphones for exercise? The short answer is yes. The best feature of the open-backed headphones is that you will continue to have situational awareness. Because the ear cup is not sealed to your ear, you can hear what is happening around you. This is an advantageous feature should you like to run or hike; you will be able to listen to people or bears approaching. Another positive quality of the open-back headphone is that it allows music to encapsulate the listener, increasing the experience of meditation or mindful relaxation after an intense work-out. 

Are Open Back Headphones Good for Listening to Podcasts?

Open-backed headphones are fabulous for listening to podcasts but not for recording podcasts. Due to the open nature of the headphones and the exposed drivers, when speaking or editing, the headphones will pick up any sound leaks, producing an echo. So if you are looking for headphones you can use at home for your favorite podcast, check out the Sennheiser HD options. Remember that open-back headphones create a listener’s experience; by using open-back headphones, it will be like you are in the studio with your favorite podcast host.

Woman singing in recording studio wearing open back headphones

Are Open Back Headphones Good for Gaming?

While headphones are the user’s choice, gamers prefer open-backed headphones because of the experience they offer. They provide the best audio quality capability and offer noise isolation. You can still hear what is happening around you but not be distracted. Here are a few features to look for in gaming headphones. Position of the sound plates, driver capabilities, Hi-Res, comfort, adaptability, durability, sound experience, anti-noise or sound isolation levels, price, warranty, weight, portability, wireless or not wireless, replaceable parts like ear pads, color, brand, frequency response range, and construction. Don’t forget to reach out to fellow gamers to see what they use and recommend, especially if you are new to the gaming world. 

Are Open Back Headphones Good for Listening to Music?

The simple answer is yes; open-back headphones are fabulous for listening to music. Some of the best-sounding headphones are open-backed headphones, and with the open drivers able to breathe, the listener experiences sound closer to HiFi speaker systems. Open-back headphones create an immersive experience, offer high quality, and excite any audiophile. Check out your local retailer to try different headphones, as most have demo units available to try in-store.

Here’s what Andrew Scheps, a prominent engineer in the music industry, had to say about the importance of headphones and listening back to music:

“Headphones are also really good because you don’t have to worry about the acoustics of your room. You are wearing the studio on your head, and it always sounds the same wherever you are. The important thing with mixing on headphones is that it translates. It doesn’t matter exactly what it sounds like in the headphones; you have to adapt and know how to make it sound good. No matter where you listen. I use the Sony 7506; they are cheap, so worth trying. For me, they work. I can feel the low end in them, which I can’t do on other headphones. If you mix on headphones and then go to your speakers and notice many problems. Go back to your headphones and ensure you can still hear those problems. If you can’t, you should try a different pair of headphones.” -Andrew Scheps.

Someone holding a pair of open back headphones over workspace

How Long Do Open Back Headphones Last?

Open-back headphones can last if they are well maintained and constructed of higher-grade materials. Higher-end or name-brand open-back headphones will likely last longer than cheaper versions, but it also depends on how you care for the product. When looking at open-back headphones, look at where the parts connect. Is it their glue or stitching? Are there areas that are more flexible than they should be? Is the material synthetic or leather? Look at the cable connection. If there is one, does it wiggle or have excessive space? This is one place that wears out first due to the cable getting tangled or pulled on. 

Another area that may wear out more quickly is the speakers. If the speakers are constantly pushed with excessive power, this can result in the speaker coils going bad sooner; check to see if the speaker coils are a replaceable part of the open-back headphones you chose. Make sure to look at your warranty on your headphones to see if the coverage is inclusive, non-inclusive, requires a 3rd party to fix them, or if it only covers the first 30 days from purchase. Suppose you are offered additional protection on your product. In that case, paying the small upfront fee and the set repair cost (deductible) may be beneficial besides buying new open-back headphones.

Consider Trying a Pair of Open Back Headphones

You’ve covered a lot of information in this article, from when the first set of headphones was invented to the longevity of a pair of open-backed headphones. Look closely at the differences in each type of headphones and their applications. Connect with other people in the industry through online forums and visit stores that offer demos so you can ask questions and get a feel for the construction of the headphones. Before you purchase your new headphones, make a price comparison online vs. in-store. Don’t forget that if you have little time to shop, check out the sales during holidays or the un-boxed section of your local big-box store—size matters for fit and comfort. 

No one wants to record themselves practicing the guitar or singing in the studio and get a headache from a pair of headphones that don’t fit right. Looking for a unique aesthetic for your headphones? Look at cost, usage, and connectivity. Some parts can be dipped if not custom ordered in a specific color or pattern. Wired or wireless, it depends on what you will be using your headphones for. Adapt adapters can extend cable lengths if you need just a few more inches to reach your sound equipment. 

Ensure your headphones come with the Bluetooth capabilities that we all depend on. Check the product box for the Bluetooth signal or online when filtering product features. And while you are online, check out those reviews. Remember to view those reviews with discretion and not only look at the mainstream reviews but also at the manufacturer and the retailer selling the product. 

pair of open back headphones lying on table

Stay Aware With Open Back Headphones

When it comes to open-back headphones, there are many advantages. You can use them to record music, exercise, listen to a podcast, games, and listen to music. Their unique design is lightweight and durable while offering an audible experience like no other. While using the open-back headphones, the listener can record themselves playing the guitar and enjoy music or their favorite podcast while still having crucial situational awareness. With the options available on the market, you are sure to find open-backed headphones that fit comfortably within your budget. As with any product, care and maintenance will help your open-backed headphones last longer and keep playing your favorite music.

In an industry that continues to grow past 25.1 billion dollars per year, there will be new and innovative ways to enhance the listening experience and to create products that better serve the consumer. From the music industry to the medical field, from the classroom to the hiking trail, headphones generate a powerful experience that transports the listener into the moment and creates a special moment to be cherished. 

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