Difference between Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones

If you are not an audiophile, almost all probably look the same to you. You might also think they work the same way, even after wearing them and listening to music.

But there are two big categories which are open-back headphones and closed-back headphones. And depending on what your purpose is, you should know which one works best for you.

This includes both extremes—those who are recording and mixing music and those who are looking for headphones for casual listening or purposes.

Here's the lowdown you needed on them both. Take a look.

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What Are Open-Back Headphones?

Both these categories of headphones are named in the literal sense so that even those who don't know what they are dealing with can make a quick decision. But their functionality is a little different and that's what we will focus on.

As the name indicates, these headphones have an open back. And as you would expect, that allows some of the output sound to leave from the back of the ear cups of the headphones.

This means that the sound will have a more organic feel and theoretically speaking, the sound clarity will be better. But if you are looking for a pros and cons list, here's where they are most used and when they absolutely don't work.


  • Your listening experience with open-back headphones will be quite organic. They are made for people who are serious about listening to music and don't really mind that there is a little sound leakage that happens from the back of the ear cups.
  • The open back means that ambient noise does not get blocked. It also means that the people around you can hear everything that you do. But the advantage is, if you are listening to music, you will feel like you are in a private concert with the artist.
  • These headphones eliminate acoustic crosstalk. They are great for mixing music in the studio. The same is true if you are listening to files of good quality.
  • The air outside reaches your ears which makes listening to anything for a long time more comfortable. There is breathability because it does not feel as clammy which is why gamers like them a lot.
  • They are also lightweight which means you don't notice the weight over your head.

Possible Problems

  • They are not great when you are out in public because the sound leaks and people around you can hear everything in great detail. So, they are not great for commuting or in airplanes or offices or the gym. This is also unhelpful when you are in a loud studio setting.
  • If you are outdoors in harsh weather like rain or snow, the particles will seep into the headphones and possibly damage them. That's because there is no plastic cup to protect the speakers.
  • They don't block noise as well as closed-back headphones.
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What Are Closed-Back Headphones?

These, as you can guess by now, have a plastic cup that keeps them closed in the back. They are great in some situations, but not always. But overall, they have more advantages than disadvantages. Take a look.


  • These headphones are used by recording artists in a studio because they do not allow sound from the microphone to bleed. This makes them a good choice for casual listening during a commute, in the office or in a studio recording setup.
  • The idea is to isolate you from your surroundings which means the ambient noise gets blocked and makes for a good intimate listening session even when you are outdoors.
  • The bass will be slightly more boosted because of the isolation. The ear cups that seal the noise reproduce the sub-bass which makes it comparatively a little like noise-canceling headphones. But the experience does not feel as organic as it does with open-back headphones.

The high-end models contain planar magnetic drives which are great for deeper lows which is a factor of the bass sound.

  • They are great when you have to listen to bad audio files or when you need to concentrate in a place that is not very quiet.
  • These headphones work very well when you have to record with instruments because the sound does not get picked up by the microphone.
  • They are a lot more affordable which makes for a good purchase for those on a budget.

Possible Problems

  • Closed-back headphones are not very breathable which can make you sweat from your ears if you use them for a long period of time. This is particularly unhelpful for gamers and musicians who often use them for long periods of time.
  • The sound tends to reflect off the ear cups which might add a little echo to the sound you are listening to. This means you might hear the sound as a little less organic.

This works when you are listening to something casually but it is not for critical listening. It also means you might experience relatively higher ear fatigue.

Best Closed Back Headphones

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Last update was on: September 29, 2023 1:49 am

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Parting Thoughts

If you are trying to decide which one is the better option, you need to consider what your objective is. If you are looking for better quality of audio, objectively speaking, open-back headphones are better because they don't reflect or echo the sound.

They also don't cause you to sweat. Open-back headphones also keep your ears ventilated, which makes it a good experience over a long period of usage.

But they are not as practical if you are outdoors or in a noisy place. The design of closed-back headphones works better in any environment in comparison. So, their noise isolation methods work better for listening to stuff during the commute or in the gym when you want it to be your business. When you are listening at home, open-back headphones are great, but in public, closed-back headphones win the contest.

If you can afford them, you could get one of each of these headphones, but if you can buy only one of them, get closed-back headphones also because they are more affordable.

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