Open-Back Headphones are designed to deliver an immersive listening experience by reducing the level of isolation between you and your environment. This means open-back headphones produce a spacious soundstage and give you the impression of listening to a good speaker set up in an ideal room. However, they also leak a lot, which may distract the people around you. Below are our recommendations for the best Open-back headphones we have tested so far.
Best Open-Back Headphones $600+
The Sennheiser HD 800 S are excellent sounding open-back reference headphones. They have a crisp and clear reproduction of instruments, vocals, and bass. They do a great job with stereo imaging and create a broad and spacious soundstage. They're one of the best critical listening headphones we've measured so far. Unfortunately, they're slightly bright and also quite expensive.
The HifiMan Edition X deliver a comfortable critical listening experience. They sound great and reproduce tracks with remarkable fidelity with a bit more bass than the HD 800 S. Additionally, the low impedance planar magnetic drivers do not require an amp and can be powered by your mobile device. However, they're one of the bulkiest headphones we've reviewed so far, so they feel a bit cumbersome.
Best Open-Back Headphones $300 to $600
The Sennheiser HD 650 are excellent headphones for critical listening. They deliver an outstanding sound quality that accurately reproduces bass, instruments, and vocals. They also create a spacious and open soundstage that makes what you're listening to more immersive. However, they're not as durable or comfortable as the HD 800 S but they're a lot cheaper.
The HiFiMan HE-400i sound great and deliver a comfortable listening experience. Like the Edition X, these planar magnetic headphones can be powered by your mobile devices thanks to their low impedance. They have a well balanced audio reproduction and a decently sturdy design. However, the premium you pay for planar magnetic drivers does not enhance the bass response all that much compared to the Sennheiser HD 650.
Best Open-Back Headphones $150 to $300
The AKG K702 are comfortable headphones with a good sound and a spacious soundstage. Bass, instruments, and vocals are well balanced and feel like they are part of your environment. They sound similar to the K701 but with a slightly weaker bass-range. However, unlike the K701s, these headphones have a detachable and replaceable cable, which slightly increases their durability, even if the overall build quality is a little weak.
The Sennheiser HD 600 are almost the same as the HD 650 but have a less comfortable and weaker headband. They also perform a bit worse soundwise, especially with bass. However, they still have a good audio reproduction that shines with instruments and vocals. They're also much cheaper than the HD 650 for a very similar sound profile.
Best Open-Back Headphones $75 to $150
The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO deliver a superb audio reproduction at a great price. Their sound quality is well balanced, open and spacious. They're sturdy, durable and well-padded headphones. Sadly, they're a bit tight on your head, and the audio cable is not replaceable if it gets damaged.
The Sennheiser HD 598 deliver a very comfortable critical listing experience. They're well-padded, lightweight and offer a good, open sound that rarely distorts. They're less balanced and suffer a bit to reproduce phase in a stereo image, unlike the higher-end HD 600 and 650, but they're also much cheaper.
Best Open-Back Headphones below $75
The Philips SHP9500 have a surprisingly good build quality and a phenomenal audio reproduction for their budget price tag. They have a wide and open soundstage and a decently, well-balanced representation of bass, instruments, and vocals. They're comfortable and lightweight, but the ear pad cushions feel a little cheap. Their bass also isn't as punchy as some of the pricier headphones on this list.
The Koss Porta Pro are a little unique when it comes to open headphones. They have a lightweight, compact on-ear design and open ear cups that give them a fairly spacious soundstage. That combined with the decently balanced audio reproduction gives these headphones an above average sound at a very budget price. Unfortunately, their build quality is not the most durable and they look a bit cheap.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best open-back headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
A few examples of critical listening headphones that didn't make the cut:
- Sennheiser HD 518. Good, open sound and a spacious soundstage. They're a viable and cheaper alternative to the HD 598, but they're not as well designed. See our review
- AKG K701. Slightly better bass than the K702 but the audio cable is not replaceable. See our review
- Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X. Above average sound and unique design. They look and feel a bit cheap for their price. See our review
- Bose SoundSport In-Ear. Comfortable and open in-ear fit. Lightweight and stable headphones for sports use, but they lack a lot of bass. See our review
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for open-back headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no perfect open-back headphone. Personal taste, preference will matter more in your selection.