What are open-back headphones? And are they worth buying?

Looking to buy a new pair of headphones? Find out why open-back headphones are different, and whether they may suit you.

When it comes to enjoying music, nothing beats listening with a set of quality headphones; the surround sound and depth of the audio is often unparalleled.

You may have owned a pair of headphones before, but the chances are that they were closed-back headphones. Open-back headphones are less popular and very different from closed-back headphones.

If you’re wondering what these types of headphones are, and whether or not you should get yourself a pair, read on. 

What are open-back headphones?

As their names suggest, open-back headphones have their back covers open. The headphone earpiece usually has two sides – the inner part you put on your ear and the closed outer part. In open-back headphones, these outer parts are open, allowing air to pass through the ear cups. 

The significance of this open-back design is that airflow prevents pressure from building up in your ear. People often experience an uncomfortable increase in pressure inside their head as they use headphones.

You may have experienced it yourself; you feel like you have to remove your headphones once in a while to keep your head from exploding.

What are the benefits of open-back headphones?

Open-back headphones have several advantages over closed-back headphones. The most significant of these is that they sound much clearer. Because air flows into the speaker elements, open-back headphones can deliver a clearer and higher quality sound than closed-back headphones.

They are designed for critical listening and are best suited for people who work with sound all day like DJs, for example. 

Another benefit of open-back headphones is that they look cooler than closed-back headphones. Because everyone is already used to the closed-back variety, your open-back headphones are bound to get you some glances and compliments.

What are the disadvantages of open-back headphones?

Having headphones with an open back does cause a few problems. In fact, if you’re already used to closed-back headphones, using an open-back headphone can feel weird at first.

As they allow air into the earpieces, you’ll hear everything in your surroundings. Even if you’re in a quiet environment, you’ll still be able to hear small noises like the air conditioner or the fan. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People with headphones tend to zone out, and being able to hear what’s happening around you can be good. However, they are going to be virtually useless if you’re in a noisy environment and just want to block out the noise.

Additionally, open-back headphones tend to be more fragile than closed-back headphones. This makes sense since they don’t have an outer covering. They are more susceptible to things like dust, liquid, and other potentially harmful substances.

This means you need to handle them with care. But then, as they are often expensive, you’re probably going to handle them with care anyway!

Should you get open-back headphones?

The experience with open-back headphones is very different from what you are familiar with from using the closed-back variety.

The audio delivery has a much better quality, so if you love good music, you may want to consider getting a pair of open-back headphones. Before making a purchase, it’s a good idea to review a list of the best open-back headphones to help make your decision easier.

Photo by Alex Gruber